June 30, 2013

Guest vroom: Tips for last-minute, pre-party cleaning

Prioritize tasks to get even the messiest house ready fast for an impromptu summer gathering.

By MELISSA RAYWORTH The Associated Press

Summer is the season of inviting friends over for impromptu barbecues and last-minute, casual get-togethers. That means it's also the season of cringing when you realize your house is in no condition to be seen by the guests who will be arriving any minute now. 

On summer evenings, "my husband will invite people over after golf," says interior designer Mallory Mathison. "He'll call and say, 'We'll all be there in 30 minutes."'

That's when she begins rushing around, quickly prepping their home for the soon-to-arrive guests.

What's the best way to use that half-hour or so before the doorbell rings to get even the messiest home party-ready? Try breaking it down like this:

10 MINUTES OF CLEANING

"Most people don't mind clutter," says Evette Rios, a lifestyles blogger and a correspondent on ABC's "The Chew." "But they mind grime."

So focus on wiping surfaces in your kitchen and bathrooms. Then grab an old sock or pair of pantyhose and use that to quickly dust surfaces in your living room and dining room.

Save time by only cleaning the rooms guests will enter, suggests Donna Smallin, founder of unclutter.com. And don't feel obligated to give anyone a full-scale tour of your home.

Got dishes in the sink? There's no time to wash them, so Smallin suggests keeping an empty bin available for stashing dirty dishes under your sink. Or stash them in the oven, assuming you won't use it during the party. (Just be sure to pull them out and wash them the following morning.)

Rios points out that having your dishwasher empty when the party is over will be helpful. But don't hesitate to fill it with dirty dishes if necessary.

If you have carpets, a minute of quick vacuuming in major traffic areas can make a difference, Rios says, especially if you sprinkle on a bit of carpet deodorizer.

10 MINUTES HIDING CLUTTER

Walk through all the rooms where guests will be and collect any clutter in an empty laundry basket, Smallin says. Stash the basket in a bedroom and close the door. If all that household clutter is collected in one place, it will be easier the next day to deal with it all and not lose track of anything.

Once major clutter has been removed, Smallin says, go through the rooms and stack remaining items neatly. Magazines look much better in a neat stack, for example, than in a messy pile.

Pay attention to your home's entryway, which makes a first impression, and to areas where guests will spend the most time.

If you work on your home's "clutter hot-spots" in advance, improving the way you handle things like junk mail and other items that pile up, you'll have less to deal with before a last-minute party, Smallin says.

10 MINUTES OF FINISHING TOUCHES

Scenting your space is fast, easy and has a huge impact, says Rios. She suggests placing a drop of lemon-scented oil or vanilla extract on light bulbs, then turning them on. The warmth will spread the scent throughout your home.

Mathison suggests lighting a few candles for their scent and flickering party atmosphere.

Other ways to add a fresh scent: Rios likes to tuck scented fabric softener sheets (the kind made for use in a clothes dryer) underneath couch cushions or inside throw pillows. If you have a kitchen garbage disposal, she suggests dropping slices of lemon or lime into it and running it for just a moment.

(Continued on page 2)

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