The Most Important Things to Clean When You Only Have 10 Minutes Until Company Arrives

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An unexpected visitor is a real double-edged sword. On the one hand, how nice! Company! On the other, what if they think you’re a slob because you didn’t have time to clean before their arrival? But even if you only have 10 minutes to prep before a guest arrives, you can still make a big difference in how the place looks. Here are some tips for making your home look clean fast.

Pick one area to focus on and clear surfaces

If your guest will be hanging out primarily in your living room, focus on that. Don’t get overwhelmed by concerns about other spaces, like the bathroom or kitchen, which you can address subtly once they’re comfortably on your couch. Make a plan to gently but firmly keep them in one room the whole time they’re over.

Next, look at the big picture. Any surface should be cleared as quickly as possible.: the floor, tabletops, and chairs or sofas. If there’s any clutter in these highly visible spaces, stuff it somewhere like a closet, into a laundry bag, or a cupboard. We’re going for the appearance of cleanliness here; you can deal with any secret messes you’ve made later. In a pinch, stuff all the clutter right under your couch.

Dust and wipe down the surfaces

Once laundry is removed from “the laundry chair” and that stack of unopened mail is off the table, you need to make the surfaces gleam—fast. You don’t have time to do a full dust and wash. Instead, reach for some pre-moistened cleaning wipes (like these) or dampen a paper towel. The goal is to remove excess dust and grime from visible areas quickly, not perfectly.

Hit the backs of chairs, the tops of tables, the mantle, your shelving, and any other hard surface you can. Dust is a clear indicator of messiness! Bonus: Cleaning wipes will leave behind a stronger, fresher scent than traditional soap and water.

Dim the lights and grab a candle

Clutter, dust, and general disorganization will be much harder to detect with a little mood lighting. Turn off bright overhead lights and opt for table lamps—preferably ones with yellow bulbs. This whole event will go smoother if your unexpected guest is shrouded in cozy vibes anyway, and they won’t be able to see well enough to notice the stashed clutter peeking out from under the couch.

Candles are a nice touch. They’ll add some coziness to the ambiance, and they’ll also smell nice. A clean-smelling home is as good as an actually clean one; people can be easily deceived. Why not dedicate the last few moments of your 10-minute power-cleaning to scents altogether? Before you light that candle, run around the room with an aerosol air freshener or room spray. Hit your cushions, your curtains, and anything else soft enough to retain the spritz. Once the fire hazard of the aerosol is out of the way, go ahead and light your candles.

If confined to one room that smells nice, is dimly lit, and doesn’t contain any clutter, your guest will be blissfully unaware that just minutes ago, the place was a total mess.

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