Real women speak: How I clean for company

Oct 25, 2011 at 3:52 a.m. ET

For most of us, cleaning is not fun. And when company's coming, it can get stressful. The best way to cope is to clean at your own pace. Some of us are speed demons, whipping through the house for a quick clean. Others are slow-and-steady scrubbers, systematically cleaning the house room by room. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, you're not alone. Here, three women share their cleaning strategies – from leisurely to zippy – for when company's coming.

cleaning tips from real women

Slow and Steady

Leslie Olyott, a computer programmer in Hudson, Massachusetts, describes her cleaning style as obsessive-compulsive. For company, she cleans methodically by walking through her house straightening up, putting things where they belong, and listing tasks that will take time or effort on a notepad. Meanwhile, her husband cleans the bathrooms.

Once the basics are done, she tackles food prep, then detail cleaning. "I check my list, making sure everything is crossed off, and then I try to spend a few minutes relaxing before my guests arrive," she says. "But I usually mill around, continuing to tweak things."

With unexpected company, Olyott attends to her biggest messes. "I run around putting dishes and dirty clothes away, hide some things in rooms that can be closed off and clean the sink. Then, if at all possible, once company arrives, I usher them quickly through the house and out to the garden."

Quick and Easy

Melissa Sweeney, an event planner in Washington, DC, takes a more casual approach. "I take a few hours the day before and knock everything out in one big cleaning spree," she says. "I ask my husband to help, and we can typically divide and conquer to get the place clean pretty quickly."

Sweeney also takes a few time-saving shortcuts, especially when guests are arriving with short notice. "Usually, I vacuum and clean the main common areas. Most likely, our guests will not be going into any of the bedrooms, so I can skip these areas. I have also been known to move clutter into the second bedroom to hide it from guests or tuck stacked paperwork under the couch." Despite her laid-back strategy, Sweeney makes sure her guests stay away from the bathroom in her master bedroom –- one of the areas she skips.

The Band-Aid Approach

Another tactic is simply to hide clutter. Erin Riley, an insurance underwriter in Carmel, Indiana, says, "[After vacuuming] I move things I usually leave out and on tables into another room while company is here."

She focuses her attention on washing dishes and removing cat hair from her furniture. "All the cat hair is usually on the furniture. It's so embarrassing," she says. Her strategy works because it allows her to focus on cleaning efficiently, while creating a tidy space for her guests.

Read more

4 Spaces to keep spotless when expecting visitors
Keeping things clean for drop-in guests
Dirty details: Detailing your house for company