No Time to Clean House? How to Fake It Before Company Arrives

Your friends call, and they'll be over in fifteen minutes. You look around your house and start to panic... how will you ever tidy up before they arrive? Between the dirty dishes and the cluttered counters, you need a solution, stat — and one that won't require breaking out any cleaning products. Here's how to give your home the illusion of cleanliness when you're short on time.

Living Room

  • Quickly organize a cluttered entryway by making neat stacks of mail, newspapers, and magazines on a console table or on the floor. Line up shoes against the wall and hang any errant garments on a coat rack or in the closet. As a last-ditch effort, casually drape coats, scarves, and bags over a chair.

  • To cover up pet hair on chair and couch cushions, flip the cushions over to reveal clean, fresh fabric. (Don't forget to flip them back after your guests leave, so you remember to vacuum them on the next round.) If your cushions are non-reversible, drape throw blankets over the worst areas.

  • To cover up stains and tears on upholstered furniture, strategically place throw pillows or blankets over them.

  • Fluff up throw pillows and fold up blankets that aren't being used to disguise problem areas.

  • Windows and sliding glass doors in need of washing? Open them wide so all you see is the view outside, or hide them completely by pulling the blinds or curtains.

Dining Room or Breakfast Nook

  • Straighten the chairs around the dining table and fluff up any chair cushions.

  • Move all the dirty dishes to the dishwasher, and while you're at it, do a lap around the house to gather up random glasses and napkins as well.

  • No time to scrub down a table with caked-on food and drink rings? Cover them up with placemats, a table runner, or a whole tablecloth.

  • If you can pick flowers from your own backyard, put a few stems in a vase (or mason jar or drinking glass) to brighten up the space.


  • If the dishwasher is full and you have an unsightly pile of dishes in the sink, stack plates and bowls on a large baking sheet, collect silverware in a small pot, and stow them away in the oven. Or, if the aftermath included a big pot of anything, dump all the dirty dishes into that pot with some soap and water before you hide it. (Just remember not to turn on the oven!)

  • If you have tea towels and dish rags hanging, turn them over to hide stains. Towels that live on the counter can be folded or rolled up.

  • Make a simmer pot with cinnamon, cloves, or citrus peels to mask the odors of last night's pungent dinner.

  • Got more papers taking over your kitchen counters? Unite them with the stacks of papers in your entryway, or make more stacks in one corner of the kitchen. Even when you have a lot of clutter, putting them into neat piles makes them appear deliberate and organized.

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  • Light a candle. Everything looks (and smells) better by candlelight.

  • Put down the toilet seat, draw the shower curtain, and make sure there's enough toilet paper on the roll.

  • If you have heaps of laundry and a mishmash of toiletries in the bathroom but no time to get to them, throw it all into the bathtub and close the curtain or door. (This gives good reason to have a few baskets or bins around the house to corral all your clutter.)

  • Organize your bathroom counter by arranging cosmetics and bath products in a tidy row along the wall. Reunite errant caps and lids with their containers, and give the vanity mirror a quick wipe with a damp towel.

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