Here's the scenario. It's 7pm. The phone rings. It's your husband calling to tell you he'll be home in ten minutes and, by the way, he's bringing his boss home for a quick beer. The boss has never been to your house and right now it looks like a war zone. You hang up (after a few choice words) and freak out. Where to start?
Do a fast survey of the area to assess the damage
Take a quick look around the place at the areas the boss might see. What kind of shape are they in? Piles of unopened mail and scattered bills? Dirty dishes? Messy counter? Dirty floor? Gross bathroom? You know he won't be going into the bedroom, so less to worry about there. Close those doors!
Bring in the troops!
If you have kids old enough to realize you're desperate, let them know you need all hands on deck to battle the invasion. Bribes are totally acceptable in this situation. No junior troops? Then you're on your own, and it's time to kick it into sixth gear. Use an organized plan of attack on surfaces, floors, yourself and finally the bathroom!
In one big sweep, clear all surfaces of everything that doesn't belong. Don't worry about returning things to their proper place – that's for tomorrow. Right now, you just want the clutter to disappear and that's what closets are for. Take an armful of clothes from the sofa and toss them into the nearest closet (just NOT the closet where Mr. Boss' coat will go.) Bedrooms are great for stashing stuff, since they're usually off limits to guests – AND they have a door… so, open door, toss, close door! Get the idea?
Do a quick dust on those surfaces near the front door and living room. "I'll dust any flat surfaces that shows dirt more easily but will skip the sides and bottoms of furniture." says Phyllis Cambria of PartyPlansPlus.com
Gather the offending mess together into piles and stash them in places like the dishwasher, pantry, cabinets and the oven. Yes. The oven is a good hiding place, but DON'T forget to remove the stuff as soon as your guest leaves. You'd hate to have it go up in flames the next time you preheat the oven. (This is important fire safety advice!) Give tables and counters a quick wipe down with a dust cloth, washcloth or whatever cloth is handy. (A t-shirt? Go for it. You can always toss it into the wash later.) Dirty dishes in the sink? Gather them together in a pile and file them in the dishwasher or the oven. Then take a paper towel and do a quick wipe down inside the sink.
Cleaning up surfaces should only take about 3 minutes... that is if you move quickly enough and have a good tossing arm. After all surfaces are clear, your next battle is the floors.
A dirty floor really shouts out "Yuck!" Grab the vacuum and do your fastest cha-cha around all visible parts of the floor. Don't worry about moving sofas or getting under ottomans. In the kitchen, grab a wet mop and swab the decks. While the mop is still wet, run it around the bathroom floor, and then find a convenient place to hide the mop. Floors should only have taken another 3 minutes, unless you got carried away in the cha-cha mode.
"Light a couple of scented candles or spray a room deodorizer. When your house smells clean the perception is that it is clean," says Cambria.
Now YOU are next on the list.
The place might look good, but your husband won't want to come home to see you looking like a rag. Finding 2 minutes to clean yourself up is crucial. If you absolutely need a shower, make it a 15 second rinse. Quickly dry-off, pull on something sexy but modest and run a brush through your hair. Don't forget a fast make-up zap and a swipe of lipstick.
Getting yourself cleaned up may have chewed a bit off your scheduled bathroom clean-up time. No problem. Here's where you gamble on the chances of whether or not your guest will use the bathroom. Do the best you can in the last minute or two with a quick wipe-down of the toilet and sink. Be careful to maintain your own fresh, clean, composed look. Throw dirty towels in the hamper and put out fresh ones. If everything passes your final inspection, you can stash the paper towels and cleaner in the cabinet under the sink.
You hear voices at the front door. They're home. Take a deep, cleansing, relaxing breath or two and then greet your hubby and the boss with your brightest smile. Chances are your guest will comment on what a great place you have, at which point your hubby may suggest a tour. Have it stop right there by saying, "We'd love to give you a tour, but let's save that for next time you visit. Right now, how about a beer?" If he's a smart boss, he'll catch the hint. You can deal with your husband later.
You did it!
The boss was impressed and your husband is happy. (No doubt, a little chat with hubby about spur of the moment guests might be in order after the boss has left.) Keep in mind, this rapid clean-up system can work in a variety of situations, whether it's a last minute visit from the boss, Auntie Flo stopping by for coffee, or the PTA president dropping off bake sale fliers. Just remember, desperate times can call for desperate measures… and you really can pass muster in only ten minutes time!