It must be every home owner’s worst nightmare. You’re given an hours notice of a potential house buyer’s visit, or a mother/mother in law descending on you. Your partner suddenly announces they’re bringing a colleague home for dinner. You frantically scan the room and see the devastation the kids have wreaked. Here are ten secrets that can have your house looking more than passable in double-quick time.
1. Concentrate on the visible areas. In one visit, even prospective buyers are unlikely to open every drawer, cupboard or fridge. Out of sight, out of mind. If these are dinner guests, they won't patrol kids’ rooms, every bathroom or utility room. Focus on what they’ll see and work those rooms. Declutter using storage boxes, popping them out of the way.
2. Get the essentials right. Guests will need to use a bathroom, so make it smell fresh. Toilets, basins and mirrors need cleaning. Whizz around with a good smelling cleaning fluid and air freshener, pop bleach or a coloured toilet product in the bowl. Shine mirrors and taps with glass cleaner and buff them with a dry cloth. Arrange clean towels in a nice display, fill and level up the toilet roll.
3. Focus on where they’ll be most. This is probably the dining room and lounge. Those rooms need more TLC, dust and a run around with the hoover. You may dread having to do the kitchen: but guests won't mind a bit of mess if the smells of your cooking are there, and you can always make the excuse of your cooking to keep them out. Sling dirty crockery, pans and cutlery straight in the dishwasher and dirty clothes straight in the machine. You don’t even need to turn them on.
4. Do the little touches. Straighten pictures, lampshades and polish mirrors. Grab a handful of flowers from the garden and put them in a vase. Lay the table: a nice spread will cover a multitude of stains and they’ll never know you haven’t cleaned what’s underneath. Put some coffee or bread on, squeeze some lemons … so everything smells so lovely they don’t notice a little bit of dust.
5. Enlist help. Shout for a friend or rope in the kids. Many hands make light work. Someone can get on with quick dust and hoover, while you clean surfaces and the bathroom. Make children tidy their own toys and clothes. Give someone a bin bag to go around and collect up – and chuck – rubbish.
Numbers 6 to 10 are more about you. First, give yourself a few minutes so YOU look tidy. Brush hair, apply to make up, spray deodorant and scent then slip on a fresh outfit at the last moment. Number 7 is to take deep breaths and relax, so you don’t look flustered or dishevelled when the guests arrive. If you look great, they’ll be looking at you, not the state of the house. Number 8: don’t panic. You can achieve much in a short time. Given a whole day, the task expands to fill the available time. You’ll be stunned at what you can get done within an hour by following these tips.
Number 9? If a meal is involved, cook something straightforward. It doesn’t need to be ready the moment the visitors walk in, either. Make sure you’ve got the ingredients to hand, and stick with something you’ve cooked before. Number 10: get someone else to bring the drinks. This could be the guest if you know them well, and that may buy you a bit more time while they shop for them. Or, get your partner and that colleague to bring drinks – you can dress this up as being thoughtful, so the guest chooses their favourite.