How to Clean Your House for Unexpected Guests

A pile of cleaning supplies on a shiny wood floor.

There's no denying the holiday season can be a busy time. Between shopping and cooking, there is often little time left for cleaning when guests are on their way. However, you can speed clean your house when necessary. Following are some tips on how to tidy up your house for those unexpected holiday guests that may only give you an hour's notice before their arrival.

Create a Cleaning Caddy

The first item you should have on hand year-round for cleaning is a cleaning caddy—a small container filled with cleaning supplies that you can carry around the house while you clean. Keep it well stocked and store it in a closet or under a sink. You’ll have all of your cleaning tools in one place when you need to do a quick clean, and won't have to waste precious time gathering up your supplies.

Your cleaning caddy should contain the following items:

  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Glass cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • Sponge with an abrasive side
  • Duster or microfiber cloth
  • Antibacterial wipes

Now that you have your cleaning caddy and supplies, you can start speed cleaning before those guests arrive!

Remove Clutter First

Clutter can make a house look messy, which is often perceived as dirty. Determine which rooms of the house you and your guests will be using, and work on removing the clutter in only those rooms. In a living room, fluff the couch pillows, fold blankets, stack magazines, and put toys away. In a kitchen, put away unused small appliances and make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter. In the bathrooms, make sure there are no wet towels or clothes on the floor, and that any bottles on the counter look neat and organized. Once you’ve removed some of the clutter in your home, you can focus on cleaning.

Clean the Bathrooms

A chrome faucet being cleaned with a yellow cloth.

Bathrooms tend to get dirty quickly, and guests will likely need to use your bathroom at some point. However, you don’t need to do a full clean. Just focus on the basics. Wipe down the sink, mirror, and toilet. (Disposable antibacterial wipes are perfect for quick cleaning these areas.) Then, sweep the floor. If your guests aren’t staying overnight, skip the shower and tub. Make sure you leave out an extra supply of toilet paper and a fresh hand towel or two.

Dust and Vacuum

A woman dusting a shelf with a cloth.

Your next step should be to dust and vacuum your home. Again, focus only on the rooms that will be used (there is no need to clean the bedrooms if your guests won’t be seeing them). First, dust flat surfaces like coffee tables, side tables, the TV cabinet, etc. A microfiber cloth or duster is perfect for this job. Both can be shaken clean outside and can also be thrown in the wash. After dusting, you should vacuum or sweep areas that are especially dusty or dirty.

Focus on Used Rooms

After doing a light overall cleaning, your next step is to focus more detailed work on the rooms that will get used the most. This might be the living room, dining room, and/or kitchen. In the living room, you may want to vacuum upholstered furniture or wipe down leather furniture. In the dining room, you’ll want to make sure that the tables and chairs are wiped down clean. Also, check the floor for any dried-up food. In the kitchen, polish the sink and appliance exteriors.

Additional Tips

  • Think about what you notice in a home when visiting friends, and start there (most likely, it’s clutter).
  • Utilize closets to temporarily store clutter. This can be a great option for toys and other items that are often left out around the home.
  • Try not to stress too much about cleaning. Most guests won't even notice how clean or dirty your home is. They will likely be more focused on spending time with you.