You decide to throw a last-minute party, and your home is less than spotless. With only a couple hours to whip the house into shape, where do you start? We asked owners of local cleaning and organizing companies share their secrets for getting your house ready for unexpected guests.


■ Figure out where you’ll be entertaining guests, like the living room or kitchen, and concentrate on cleaning those areas. Turn off the lights and shut the doors to other rooms to make them off-limits.

■ Don’t forget to clean the guest bathroom. Put out fresh hand towels and wipe off the counters.

■ Dim the lights. Most of the time, you won’t notice a little dust on the counters if the lights are turned down slightly.

■ If you’re having guests outside, quickly clean off the patio. Use a blower or broom to send leaves and debris off to the side. Wipe down lawn furniture and use citronella candles instead of the patio lights.


■ Start with the rooms closest to the front door. Your guests will tend to gather in those areas first, so straighten them up before moving on to other rooms.

■ Contain clutter. Stack newspapers and magazines together in neat piles and organize any other papers or items lying around.

■ Concentrate on the main surfaces. People won’t notice if your windows or baseboards are dirty. Instead, make sure the floors and countertops are clean.

■ Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and make sure all trash cans are emptied.


■ Round ’em up. In the rooms where you’ll be congregating, look for obvious items that don’t belong. Carry around a bin and place those items in it, then deliver them back to their correct homes.

■ First impressions are key. Spend a few minutes tidying up the entry because that’s the first place your guests will see. Don’t forget a quick check for cobwebs outside the front door.

■ Give yourself grace. Remember that your guests came to see you, not your house, so don’t stress too much. Hospitality and good company go a long way.

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