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Totally Together

How to Company Clean–in 30 minutes or less

March 26, 2009 by  

Super Fast Way to Clean the Whole House in 30 Minutes or Less

I love parties, and I like having people over. We seem to entertain in some way a few times a month—-nothing fancy, just dinner or brunch with friends and family on the weekend.

It’s a lot more fun to entertain when your house is clean.

If you’ve been using the Daily 7 everyday, or pretty-much-everyday, your house is already clean. There will be incidental clutter here and there, but the house will not be in chaos, and you can feel comfortable having guests in your home.

I don’t really like pop-ins. They occur here and there, but for the most part, I prefer a head’s up before company arrives. I’m going to share what I do right before company arrives.

Occupy the Children/Pets.

Put on a DVD. Shove them in the yard. Give them a tub of frosting and plop them in the highchair. Something. Anything. Keep them away from you while you quickly move from room to room tidying. If they are old enough to help, let them, but don’t waste time micromanaging.

Hide Stuff.

Yes. This isn’t cheating, this is practical, and the better you get at the Daily 7 and with PROMing, the less you will have to hide. Grab an empty laundry basket or storage bin, and start at the front door. Toss in random papers that have congregated on the side table and the floor: the umbrella, the one pink rainboot, the string cheese wrapper, and the IPod headphones (or whatever happens to be in your front entry. These are the things in mine at the moment…) Continue putting things into the basket or bin as you walk through the front entry and into the house. Keep the basket/bin out while you quickly tidy up the front room. Fold throw blankets, fluff the couch cushions, clear off the coffee table, and put any scattered toys or strewed items into the basket. Put this container into the master bedroom closet, or similar hiding spot that is off-limits to guests. Do yourself a favor and attend to this basket/bin promptly—-the last thing you want is a stack of “hidden” item containers!

Guest Bathroom.

This is the only place where your guest(s) will be alone. If you are up to speed with the Daily 7, you’ve been wiping down the bathroom daily, so you’re in phenomenal shape. If you haven’t been keeping up with this, it’s okay. Run some hot water in the sink, and use a hand towel to wipe up the sink bowl and surrounding surfaces. It’s okay to splash and get the floor wet. Put away bath toys. Use the wet handtowel to wipe out the bathtub and the ledges. Close the shower curtain or sliding doors. Re-wet the towel if need-be, and use it to quickly mop up the floor, taking care to get the dust bunnies out from behind the bathroom door. Remember that your guest is in the bathroom with the door shut, and if he/she is, um, sitting, the floor is on display.  If the toilet needs cleaning, do so now. Wipe or Windex off any large and noticeable splotches on the mirror or faucet. Change the towels.


People end up in the kitchen. You can try to keep them out, but they’ll find a way to get in there anyhow. Put away the random stuff on the countertop (hide paperwork, bills, anything personal you don’t want on display) and wipe it down with a disinfectent wipe or spray. If you have dirty dishes in the sink, load up the dishwasher and turn it on. If you don’t have a dishwasher, handwash the dishes if you have enough time, or hide them. Seriously. It’s okay, I won’t tell. Put them in a box in the garage, or in the oven (remember to take them out before preheating!!!!). Wet a dishtowel and quickly mop up any noticeable crumbs from the flooring.


Do not attempt to clean the play room, or the kids’ bedrooms unless you have time to do so. Kids make messes, it’s part of their job, and if you’re inviting more kids into your home, it’s pretty much a waste of valuable time and energy to tidy before they arrive. The best thing to do is to let them loose then have a 10-Minute Tidy before they leave. The parents won’t know who made what mess and your toy room will actually be in better shape then it was before the company came. If you have little kids on the way over, it’s always a good idea to make sure the marble games and other small-piece games are put up high and are out of reach.

Make the House Smell Good.

This is the last thing to do before company arrives. Light a smelly candle (I like vanilla, apple, cinnamon, or similar food-smells) or Windex something. The smell of Windex smells like clean. Vinegar works just as well to clean windows and smudges off of doorknobs and light switches, but Windex will create a powerful punch in the air, and your guests will think you’ve spent HOURS cleaning. This is a trick that realtors do right before showing a house that’s not in the best-of-shape. They Windex the front doorknob or the lightswitch right by the front door, so the second people arrive to tour the home they get a whif of “clean”—that smell triggers something psychologically and visitors feel/believe that even if the home is in disrepair, it’s clean.


There’s a school of thought that believes (and rightfully so!) that a good friend will not care what condition your home is in, the friend is there just to see you, and to enjoy your company. This is true. But you will be more comfortable, and will entertain more often if your home is put-together and ready for guests. You won’t have a sinking feeling in your stomach when you run into an old friend shopping and she wants to get together for coffee to catch up. You’ll invite the neighborhood kids in for a snack rather than watching from the window as they destroy your newly-sprouted bulbs. You won’t fly off the handle when your husband calls to say he’s invited his co-workers over for dinner. You’ll offer to host the next book club meeting.

A good friend will appreciate everything you do to make her feel comfortable, and will offer to help clear dishes at the end of a fun night and will make an effort to get the kids to help clean up. And then she’ll invite you to her house.



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Post a comment · 18 Comments »


18 Responses to “How to Company Clean–in 30 minutes or less”

  1. Connie on March 26th, 2009 3:27 pm

    Oh this is ALL great, I was already doing some of this and it makes me fill better to know I’m not the only one that HIDES stuff. Thanks for all your great ideas and tips!

  2. Sera @ Laughing Through the Chaos on March 26th, 2009 10:36 pm

    I love that your approaches to cleaning and your ideas are all so realistic. It’s just so REAL, and I love that. Hiding dirty dishes in the garage? I LOVE that! Thank you for these great ideas.

  3. Christina on March 27th, 2009 2:43 am

    This is awesome – and just in time! I’m having a dinner party on Saturday night, and I have only tomorrow to clean – but some weekend guests are arriving tomorrow evening, and I also have to shop for food for the party, and, and, and, and ….etc. I was already in the process of a major household reorganization and was feeling bad about doing the “hiding” trick (my soapmaking room is a disaster right now, but nobody needs to go in there)! Fortunately, my kitchen was already pretty well organized, and so was the dining room. But the living room is a semi-disaster . . . *sigh*

  4. Belinda on March 27th, 2009 2:06 pm

    oh I love this. I used to do flylady but I hated the emails, and I hated how sugar-coated she was with everything and how she made me feel bad for not wanting to “bless my family”. Thank you for being so normal and so real. I have enough guilt on a daily basis!

    • Susan on April 16th, 2010 12:26 am

      Belinda, I agree with you with Flylady. Was only on it for a few days and it depressed me reading on her group how some families could be so UGLY to each other! Nobody perfect! Part of loving your family members is accepting them as they are.

  5. GraceMom on March 27th, 2009 2:10 pm

    HA! I love the go go gadget picture. I totally need more hands

  6. gfe--gluten free easily on March 27th, 2009 3:25 pm

    I had to use some similar techniques on Tuesday when I’d been home sick all day (nothing contagious, thankfully) and had my support group coming that evening. I think because I just didn’t have the energy, I actually did better at not getting all “spun up” and trying to do much.

    I am good at doing a quick pick-up and hide myself! I had not heard about the Windex on the door knob trick … too funny!


  7. Sandy Cooper on March 28th, 2009 10:25 pm

    I like to vacuum before people arrive. I just like the way a freshly vacuumed carpet makes the whole family room look clean.

  8. Andrea Cruice on July 25th, 2009 9:56 pm

    a swipe of pine-sol on the counters also does the trick to give that “I’ve been cleaning all day” smell! I’ve told one of my friends about and she still falls for it everytime :-D

  9. A Magical Childhood on February 27th, 2010 9:45 pm

    Wonderful tips! Thanks!!!!!!!!

  10. Susan on March 20th, 2010 8:10 pm


    For my older sister, the smell of moth balls smelled like clean. So she’d put them under sofas, sofa and chair cushions, even put a few in the bag of her vacuum cleaner, so when she vacuumed, it would fill the house with even more of the odor. What she didn’t know is that moth ball smell is toxic. But you couldn’t tell her anything.

    I’m a fresh air fiend so I like to crack the windows open for a short while (1/2 hr tops) to freshen up the house: lets out excess humidity, cooking, showering thus, hopefully keeping the place from ever get mold (houses are built so tightly these days) no matter what season it is.

  11. Melissa on October 15th, 2010 8:07 am

    I’ve found a quick dusting works wonders as well. It’s immediately noticeable if you haven’t dusted but if things look clean…! I also open windows and do a quick once over on frequently touched surfaces with vinegar to refresh the house.

  12. Missy on September 4th, 2011 2:14 pm

    I LOVE the idea of having other people’s kids clean up your kids mess! So tricksy!

  13. Catt of the Garage on November 14th, 2011 11:00 am

    I didn’t expect a column on company cleaning to make me laugh out loud, but the bit about putting dirty dishes in the garage did it! Seriously, that would be suicide for us, our garage is already an irresistible black hole for unidentifiable clutter. If I once started putting dirty dishes in there, I’d never see them again!

    Was already thinking of getting your book, as I desperately need to get my house in order (literally) and this column makes me want to more. I can’t get upset when you tell me to clean the toilet because I always imagine you in front of your crockpot making toffee apples or something, and it’s such a cozy image that it makes me feel better about everything. Even housework.

  14. anne on January 13th, 2012 2:06 pm

    No pine sol, no Lysol, no windex !!!!! Moth balls are extremely toxic to kids and critters.
    Simmer some cloves and cinnamon on the stove for a few minutes or burn a candle, or open the window

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