Have you ever had company over at the last minute – or maybe not the last minute – not giving you enough time to properly clean your house? Have you ever held your breath during an entire visit, mentally begging your guests not to open the guest room door or the hall closet or the shower curtain?

One time we hid dirty dishes on our bed. I know! It’s ridiculous! It was right after we got married, and our first apartment didn’t have a dishwasher. And, well, the dishes piled up quicker than we wanted to wash them.

My housekeeping skills have improved a lot since then, but I still hate cleaning. And I tend to wait until the last minute to do it, even though half of my motivation for hosting any event in my house is to force myself to clean it!

I’ve written about cleaning at the last minute before, but today I want to talk about how to do the least amount of cleaning for the most impact.

How to Fool Your Guests into Thinking Your House is Clean

1. Get rid of the clutter. Toss it in a laundry basket or a box or a suitcase. It doesn’t matter exactly how you do it, but pick up all those things that don’t belong in each room and get them out of sight. (In a pinch, I use a laundry basket and stuff it in the garage.)

2. Vacuum the main areas. You don’t really have to clean every nook and cranny. And if, like me, you have both hard wood floors and rugs, it’s possible that you can do a quick sweep with the vacuum instead of breaking out two or three different cleaning tools. (If your vacuum cleaner is going to scratch up your beautiful floors, though, by all means get out the dust mop!)

3. Clean up your mess in the kitchen. Assuming you’re cooking for whatever gathering you’re hosting, I highly recommend doing it early enough that you can shove the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and wipe down the counters.

4. Think about coats. Where will you put your guests’ coats? Don’t be caught off guard (or horrified) by the thought of putting them on your unmade bed or in the guest room full of boxes and unfolded laundry. Clear a spot – even if it’s the banister to your stairs or an extra chair in the living room – for your guests’ coats and purses.

5. Make the bathroom sparkle! If you have extra time, spend it here. Wash your shower curtain, polish the faucet and wipe down every surface in the room! Mr. Clean has some new products for the bathroom, and I have to say they are awesome. The Magic Eraser Bath Scrubber is larger and more durable than the original eraser, and let me tell you, that’s a good thing for my tub. I’m too embarrassed to show you before and after pictures, so you’re just going to have to take my word that my tub was filthy before and is bright white now. And it didn’t even break my back (or my arm, which is what normally hurts after I break down and clean the bathtub!).

Mr. Clean also has a new Disinfecting Bath Cleaner with Febreze. So it cleans AND it smells good.

Those are the main areas to clean to make a good impression. Believe me, most people really won’t notice that you haven’t dusted your ceiling fans or cleaned the top of your fridge. And, seriously, if they do? I vote for revoking their invitations!

A few more tips for tricking people into thinking that your house is top-to-bottom clean:

6. Light a candle. Or two. Now, you might remember me lamenting the loss of Air Wick plug-ins at my local Walmarts. I’m here to say that I’ve officially converted to Febreze plug-ins. They are crazy expensive, and I almost choked when I realized how much I hated the apple-scented one. But now that I’ve found a scent I like, I’m mucho impressed with how long-lasting and strong the new plug-ins are. Obviously, candles will work, too. Just make sure you don’t mix too many scents. If you have multiple scents, keep them in the same family. This Friday night, my house will smell like cinnamon (the plug-in) and vanilla (the candles).

7. Dim the lights. Speaking of candles, they can also give your rooms some mood lighting. Which is warm and cozy – and also hides imperfections lurking under your couch. (Or, in my case, cat hair lurking under your couch.) If you haven’t put away all your Christmas decorations, you might think of re-purposing those white lights. Wrap them around anything and your room will immediately feel more festive!

8. Put out fresh towels. Whether you buy new ones or just use your nicest (cleanest, obviously) ones, fresh towels make the kitchen and bathroom seem more put together.

9. Fluff those pillows! Along the same lines, a new or refreshed set of pillows or a throw on the couch can work wonders to brighten up the room (or hide scratches and tears in the leather, if you happen to have cats with sharp back claws).

10. Smile, relax and have fun! Your guests aren’t really here to critique your housekeeping skills, are they? I mean, just because your mother-in-law literally wore white gloves with her winter coat doesn’t mean anything! (I’m kidding, of course. Nobody will wear white gloves – unless they match a scarf or something!)

Okay, those are my tips for tricking guests into thinking your house is super clean. How do YOU make your house seem cleaner than it is?

This post will be linked to Top Ten Tuesday at OhAmanda, and the photo above is by the italian voice. Also, I received free samples of the Mr. Clean products, but all opinions in this post are my own.

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