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

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Mathison recommends gathering a few small potted plants together in a basket or filling a basket with cuttings from your garden. It makes an instant centerpiece for a dining table, whether it includes flowers or just fresh greenery.

Then, scan your refrigerator and pantry for things to serve (if you haven't already sent a family member to the store). It's fine to be preparing and putting out food and drinks after your guests have arrived, but it's best to do the initial "what am I going to serve?" scrambling without an audience.

Mathison always keeps a few blocks of cheese and some thinly sliced prosciutto on hand, as well as a dessert that's ready to serve. She also suggests keeping extra drinks (bottled water, soft drinks, and wine or beer) on hand, preferably chilling in a spare refrigerator in your basement or garage.

Lastly, Mathison says, take 30 seconds to brush your hair, breathe deeply, and lighten your mood after rushing around cleaning and preparing. Guests will pick up on your stress, she says, so let it go before they arrive.


If entertaining outside is an option, usher guests outside quickly, Mathison says. It's much easier to de-clutter and clean up a patio or deck than to tidy up your whole house.

Smallin suggests keeping a pretty basket filled all summer long with good-quality paper plates, plastic utensils and serving plates. When guests ask how they can help, ask them to carry the basket outside and set the table while you finish preparing food.

Then, simply have fun.

"Life is messy," Smallin says. "Just focus on the friendships and don't judge yourself. Your guests probably aren't judging you."

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