10 Last Minute Cleanup Steps
1. Analyze your food and service requirements. If anything needs to be thawed, baked, cleaned, or dusted, do it now. Make sure you know what you are going to serve, and what you are going to serve it on so you have clean dishware, glasses, and silverware. Doing this step first gives your food time to thaw or cook, and your dishes time to air dry.
2. Define your areas. Decide where you are going to entertain your guests, and what areas you will not allow your guests in. Quickly look at your rooms to see which ones are in the best condition if you have several rooms to choose from. Many times an outdoor entertaining area is your best option. Think about bathrooms and coat storage as well at this time, not just the main area you will be using.
3. Light some candles or set our some potpourri. Adding some gentle scent to the room will make everything seem cleaner, and hide any mild smells you might have. If you have stronger smells to address, like your wet and smelly dog or last nights onion rings, use a neutralizing air freshener sparingly.
4. Isolate those areas you will not be using. If you are not going to be using a room, or even a section of a room, forget about it. Close any doors that you can to prevent viewing of unwanted areas.
5. Remove clutter. Grab a laundry basket, bag, or other large container and just toss (gently if items are breakable) everything that does not belong in any room your guests will enter or pass through into the container. You can sort it all out later, but right now the important thing to do is to remove it. Hide the basket in a blocked off room.
6. Once you know what area(s) you will be doing the major part of the entertaining in, give a good, but quick cleaning of the areas your guests will be in direct contact with. Wash down all the table surfaces, dust any chairs, clean any especially dirty surfaces, and tackle any problem areas. In my house tackling the problem areas in my living room would definitely mean straightening my slipcovers and removing the cat hair from my cat's favorite chair.
7. Attack the bathroom. There is nothing worse than subjecting a guest to a dirty bathroom. Put away all cosmetics, toothbrushes, and any other clutter that builds up on a day to day basis. Take a damp towel and wipe over all of the surfaces, including the floor if necessary, to remove any stray hairs, dust, and dirt. Quickly spray the sink and sponge clean to remove toothpaste residue or other grime. Make sure the bathroom is well equipped with extra toilet paper, hand towels, and soap.
8. Pick up and spot clean areas your guests might enter or pass through. This should include the foyer, kitchen, or rooms you cannot block off from the main area you will be entertaining in. Hide as much as you can, and just take a quick look for areas or things that are noticeably dirty. Smudged mirrors, fingerprinted walls, muddy spots, or dog sized dust bunnies should be taken care of.
9. Dim the lighting. This might seem like and odd thing to include on a list of cleaning steps, but closing the blinds or drapes, or making sure the lighting is not over bright will actually help you hide a multitude of sins. Bright sunlight shows dust and grime like a spotlight and is a slightly dirty room's worst enemy.
10. Assemble your food and drink. Get your food ready and on your serving plates. Lay out your dishes and other service items. If possible, transport everything to the main entertaining area so that your kitchen can remain hidden.
It seems horrible at the time to be doing such a haphazard job, but this list will make sure you cover the most important things that your guests would have noticed the most. A little dust here or there has never killed anyone, so just relax and enjoy your company once they arrive. Lively conversation and good company is actually the best way to prevent anyone from noticing any gaps in your quick clean up.
Sloan Adams is a freelance writer specializing in cooking and entertaining topics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.