If you’ve blown off cleaning your house for a few weeks, there’s nothing more chilling than a voicemail message from Aunt Millie informing you that she and her family are “on the way.” In fact, they’ll be ringing your doorbell in just 45 minutes.

Is it even possible to transform a domestic disaster zone into a comfy place for unexpected guests in less than an hour? Yes. But to get the job done, you’ll need a burst of energy, a few trash bags and a priority list focused on a handful of essential tasks.

broom and fur ball

Read on for 10 steps you can take to quickly turn a space that resembles a tornado’s aftermath into a tidy oasis that welcomes drop-in guests.

  1. Don’t waste precious minutes straightening rooms and cubbyholes that visitors might never see, said Rachel Seavey, owner of Collector Care. Instead, tackle spaces such as the living room and kitchen, where people congregate. Make the bathroom a priority, and declutter your home’s entryway, which forms everyone’s first impression.
  2. For a quick cleanup, walk around with a trash bag and collect empty bottles and cans, said Ellen Delap, owner of Professional-Organizer.com. Take out garbage and recycling to eliminate foul odors.
  3. For a messy kitchen, load dirty dishes and pans into the dishwasher or stow them inside the oven, said Kelly Modeer, vice president of sales and customer service for The Maids of Kansas City. Spray countertops and appliances with window cleaner to make them shiny. Run a vacuum over the floor and do a quick damp mop. “If you use super-hot water, it gets the stickiness off and dries faster,” said Modeer.
  4. To speed-clean bathrooms, wipe down horizontal surfaces with a microfiber cloth or paper towel and brush out the toilet. Suck up dust bunnies and debris from the floor with a handheld vacuum. Make sure you replenish toilet paper, hand soap and hand towels. If no one will be bathing at your home, don’t bother scrubbing the shower, tub and tile. Just hide it all behind a closed shower door or curtain.
  5. Collect loose clothing in a laundry basket and store it out of sight. If you have mountains of clothes on the floor and furniture, toss them into a spare room or the garage and lock the door, Seavey said. “It’s OK to have off-limit areas,” she said. If your space is tiny, use your car as temporary storage for clothes and clutter.
  6. Gather stray papers and unopened mail, Delap said, and zip them into a piece of luggage. Then wheel the suitcase into a hall closet and close the door. “No one ever wonders about luggage stored there,” she said.
  7. Make your bed if there’s any chance that company could wander into the bedroom. The bedroom also is an ideal space to stash laundry, along with items like paperwork that require too much thought or attention, Seavey said.
  8. Scoop up unopened purchases in the entryway and put the packages in rooms where they’ll be used, Delap said.
  9. If you’re a cat owner, empty litter boxes and sprinkle baking soda on top of the fresh litter to absorb odors, Seavey said. Move dog and cat beds—which can get smelly—to a room no one will visit.
  10. Open windows to welcome in fresh air and get rid of stuffiness and odors. “Lighting a candle always helps,” Modeer said.

Final Advice

Keep in mind that you’re allowed to close the door to just about any room, so there’s no need to get too stressed.

“Usher your guests into the living room and enjoy the time together,” Delap said. “No one came to judge you and your housekeeping.”

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