How to Company Clean–in 30 minutes or less

Okay. So it’s been a few weeks since we talked about implementing the seven daily chores —

and last week we talked about involving your children.

Today I’m going to talk about Company Cleaning.

Now this isn’t “Queen Elizabeth is arriving so I’m going to repaint the baseboards and shampoo the furniture and get my hair colored and my nails done”

company cleaning.

This is: You just ran into an old friend at the grocery store and spontaneously invited her over for coffee after she puts her freezer items away.

So you’ve got about 30 minutes.

No worries. We’ve got this!

first off:

Super Fast Way to Clean the Whole House in 30 Minutes or Less

I love parties, and I like having people over.

We seem to entertain in some way a few times a month—-nothing fancy, just dinner or brunch with friends and family on the weekend.

It’s a lot more fun to entertain when your house is clean.

If you’ve been using the Daily 7 everyday, or pretty-much-everyday, your house is already clean.

There will be incidental clutter here and there, but the house will not be in chaos, and you can feel comfortable having guests in your home.

I don’t really like pop-ins.

They occur here and there, but for the most part, I prefer a head’s up before company arrives.

I’m going to share what I do right before company arrives.

Occupy the Children/Pets.

Put on a DVD.

Shove them in the yard.

Give them a tub of frosting and plop them in the highchair.

Something. Anything.

Keep them away from you while you quickly move from room to room tidying. If they are old enough to help, let them, but don’t waste time micromanaging.

Hide Stuff.

Yes. This isn’t cheating, this is practical, and the better you get at the Daily 7 and with PROMing, the less you will have to hide.

Grab an empty laundry basket or storage bin, and start at the front door.

Toss in random papers that have congregated on the side table and the floor:

the umbrella, the one pink rainboot, the string cheese wrapper, and the IPod headphones (or whatever happens to be in your front entry. These are the things in mine at the moment…)

Continue putting things into the basket or bin as you walk through the front entry and into the house. Keep the basket/bin out while you quickly tidy up the front room.

Fold throw blankets, fluff the couch cushions, clear off the coffee table, and put any scattered toys or strewed items into the basket.

Put this container into the master bedroom closet, or similar hiding spot that is off-limits to guests.

Do yourself a favor and attend to this basket/bin promptly—-the last thing you want is a stack of “hidden” item containers!

Guest Bathroom.

This is the only place where your guest(s) will be alone.

If you are up to speed with the Daily 7, you’ve been wiping down the bathroom daily, so you’re in phenomenal shape.

If you haven’t been keeping up with this, it’s okay.

Run some hot water in the sink, and use a hand towel to wipe up the sink bowl and surrounding surfaces. It’s okay to splash and get the floor wet.

Put away bath toys.

Use the wet handtowel to wipe out the bathtub and the ledges.

Close the shower curtain or sliding doors.

Re-wet the towel if need-be, and use it to quickly mop up the floor, taking care to get the dust bunnies out from behind the bathroom door.

Remember that your guest is in the bathroom with the door shut, and if he/she is, um, sitting, the floor is on display.

If the toilet needs cleaning, do so now.

Wipe or Windex off any large and noticeable splotches on the mirror or faucet.

Change the towels.


People end up in the kitchen.

You can try to keep them out, but they’ll find a way to get in there anyhow.

Put away the random stuff on the countertop (hide paperwork, bills, anything personal you don’t want on display) and wipe it down with a disinfectent wipe or spray.

If you have dirty dishes in the sink, load up the dishwasher and turn it on.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, handwash the dishes if you have enough time, or hide them.

Seriously. It’s okay, I won’t tell.

Put them in a box in the garage, or in the oven (remember to take them out before preheating!!!!).

Wet a dishtowel and quickly mop up any noticeable crumbs from the flooring.


Do not attempt to clean the play room, or the kids’ bedrooms unless you have time to do so.

Kids make messes, it’s part of their job, and if you’re inviting more kids into your home, it’s pretty much a waste of valuable time and energy to tidy before they arrive.

The best thing to do is to let them loose then have a 10-Minute Tidy before they leave.

The parents won’t know who made what mess and your toy room will actually be in better shape then it was before the company came.

If you have little kids on the way over, it’s always a good idea to make sure the marble games and other small-piece games are put up high and are out of reach.

Make the House Smell Good.

This is the last thing to do before company arrives.

Light a smelly candle (I like vanilla, apple, cinnamon, or similar food-smells) or Windex something.

The smell of Windex smells like clean.

Vinegar works just as well to clean windows and smudges off of doorknobs and light switches, but Windex will create a powerful punch in the air, and your guests will think you’ve spent HOURS cleaning.

This is a trick that realtors do right before showing a house that’s not in the best-of-shape.

They Windex the front doorknob or the lightswitch right by the front door, so the second people arrive to tour the home they get a whif of “clean”—that smell triggers something psychologically and visitors feel/believe that even if the home is in disrepair, it’s clean.


There’s a school of thought that believes (and rightfully so!) that a good friend will not care what condition your home is in, the friend is there just to see you, and to enjoy your company.

This is true.

But you will be more comfortable, and will entertain more often if your home is put-together and ready for guests.

You won’t have a sinking feeling in your stomach when you run into an old friend shopping and she wants to get together for coffee to catch up.

You’ll invite the neighborhood kids in for a snack rather than watching from the window as they destroy your newly-sprouted bulbs.

You won’t fly off the handle when your husband calls to say he’s invited his co-workers over for dinner.

You’ll offer to host the next book club meeting.

A good friend will appreciate everything you do to make her feel comfortable, and will offer to help clear dishes at the end of a fun night and will make an effort to get the kids to help clean up.

And then she’ll invite you to her house.



Learn the Exact Strategies I use to Keep My House and My Family Running Smoothly

(without losing my sanity) by downloading this free cheat sheet for moms. Enjoy!



  1. Oh this is ALL great, I was already doing some of this and it makes me fill better to know I’m not the only one that HIDES stuff. Thanks for all your great ideas and tips!

  2. This is awesome – and just in time! I’m having a dinner party on Saturday night, and I have only tomorrow to clean – but some weekend guests are arriving tomorrow evening, and I also have to shop for food for the party, and, and, and, and ….etc. I was already in the process of a major household reorganization and was feeling bad about doing the “hiding” trick (my soapmaking room is a disaster right now, but nobody needs to go in there)! Fortunately, my kitchen was already pretty well organized, and so was the dining room. But the living room is a semi-disaster . . . *sigh*

  3. oh I love this. I used to do flylady but I hated the emails, and I hated how sugar-coated she was with everything and how she made me feel bad for not wanting to “bless my family”. Thank you for being so normal and so real. I have enough guilt on a daily basis!

  4. I had to use some similar techniques on Tuesday when I’d been home sick all day (nothing contagious, thankfully) and had my support group coming that evening. I think because I just didn’t have the energy, I actually did better at not getting all “spun up” and trying to do much.

    I am good at doing a quick pick-up and hide myself! I had not heard about the Windex on the door knob trick … too funny!


  5. a swipe of pine-sol on the counters also does the trick to give that “I’ve been cleaning all day” smell! I’ve told one of my friends about and she still falls for it everytime 😀

  6. <<>>

    For my older sister, the smell of moth balls smelled like clean. So she’d put them under sofas, sofa and chair cushions, even put a few in the bag of her vacuum cleaner, so when she vacuumed, it would fill the house with even more of the odor. What she didn’t know is that moth ball smell is toxic. But you couldn’t tell her anything.

    I’m a fresh air fiend so I like to crack the windows open for a short while (1/2 hr tops) to freshen up the house: lets out excess humidity, cooking, showering thus, hopefully keeping the place from ever get mold (houses are built so tightly these days) no matter what season it is.

  7. Belinda, I agree with you with Flylady. Was only on it for a few days and it depressed me reading on her group how some families could be so UGLY to each other! Nobody perfect! Part of loving your family members is accepting them as they are.

  8. I’ve found a quick dusting works wonders as well. It’s immediately noticeable if you haven’t dusted but if things look clean…! I also open windows and do a quick once over on frequently touched surfaces with vinegar to refresh the house.

  9. I didn’t expect a column on company cleaning to make me laugh out loud, but the bit about putting dirty dishes in the garage did it! Seriously, that would be suicide for us, our garage is already an irresistible black hole for unidentifiable clutter. If I once started putting dirty dishes in there, I’d never see them again!

    Was already thinking of getting your book, as I desperately need to get my house in order (literally) and this column makes me want to more. I can’t get upset when you tell me to clean the toilet because I always imagine you in front of your crockpot making toffee apples or something, and it’s such a cozy image that it makes me feel better about everything. Even housework.

  10. No pine sol, no Lysol, no windex !!!!! Moth balls are extremely toxic to kids and critters.
    Simmer some cloves and cinnamon on the stove for a few minutes or burn a candle, or open the window

  11. These are all great tips if you have company that will just be there for a few hours. If you have company for the weekend and only a day (or in my case, half a day to prepare) this is what I do… change the sheets (if you don’t have an extra set, now would be a good time to buy one.), hang the comforter out side for a little bit to air out or spray it down with fabreeze. Box up any clutter that doesn’t belong (with 4 kids, their messes tend to ooze into every corner of the house). Put the box in the garage or in a closet. Dust and vacuum the room. Replace comforter. On to the bathroom that will be used: remove rugs, spray with fabreeze and hang outside to air out. spray EVERYTHING with all purpose cleaner that works on glass, or a mix of vinegar and water. With microfiber cloths, start at the mirror and work your way down to the vanity. Use a paper towel if you have toothpaste gunk in the sink. Move on to the tub, just move the bottles out of the way as your wiping.. this is just to remove any obvious gunk along the rim of the tub. If your company bathroom is also shared with the kids, any bath toys can be placed in a tote under the sink for right now (or you can just say ‘hey i have kids’ and leave them there lol. Close the curtain or door. Scrub the toilet, sweep any dust/hair/etc out side the door.. just fling it out there. You will get to it in a minute. Spot clean any obvious spots on the floor, replace mats. On to the hall outside the bathroom.. just give it a good sweep to the center of the house or towards the livingroom or vacuum if you have carpet. Don’t worry about baseboards. Just vacuum the middle. Shut any bedroom doors on your way out, and with a new rag and all purpose spray get the handles and switch plates that need it, obvious finger prints on walls or outside of the door as you pass. This is quick, don’t get sidetracked scrubbing crayon marks, you have kids. Now to the livingroom, if you swept should have a small pile of dirt from the halls and bath near the area. Leave it for now. With an empty basket, pick up what doesn’t belong and put in your room or if you have an older kid or teen, theirs. They can take care of it for you later. Dust only what you can reach and below. If you have time and tools, get the ceiling fan blades and dust in upper corners only if there are cobwebs. If you can’t, don’t worry – you have kids 🙂 and just turn the fan on to hide the dust. Fold throw bankets, brush off crumbs/animal hair from couch (a lint roller is your best friend here). Fluff pillows and spray fabreeze. Wipe down tops of end tables and coffee tables if they have finger prints or obviously dirty/sticky. Stack any papers, magazines neatly. If there is some kids school work, place the good grades on top. If people see it, it is now a bragging point and not a mess :). Remove finger prints from TV with appropriate cleaner. Sweep or vacuum… whatever your room calls for. Don’t forget your hallway bathroom pile of dirt. So now, the main areas of where your guest will travelling through are straightened. If you have a mud room (I dont) or main entry, get a cheap tote from walmart, put shoes, (in my case 5 pairs of cleats and soccer gear, sweatshirts) and miscellaneous stuff that gets dumped by the door in the tote close the lid. With a marker, write ‘kids stuff’ on it. Labels make you look organized :). Leave it along the wall in the entry… you have active kids :). Sweep/vacuum entry if you didn’t get it with the livingroom. Only spot clean finger prints off doors, walls, and windows. Now to the kitchen. Company will probably spend most time at the table when in there, so focus on that. Clean that thing and chairs well. Unload dish washer if necessary, or load it up if empty. If short on time at this point, just toss it in. You can organize it after dinner. If there are too many dishes, them time your guests arrival while you are hand washing what doesn’t fit, you look like a good mom on top of things 🙂 have a small document box that I use to hide mail in. Put any paperwork, mail, school stuff in it or just stack it neatly with bills on the bottom. Leave it where you normally dump it that way nothing gets lost but remains hidden or looks nice. All purpose cleaner on counters. While quickly wiping them go over any small appliances that company will use (coffee maker, toaster). Clean the knob and cabinet door where you keep your cups. That should be the only cabinet they will touch. Sweep the floor. Mop only if you have time. If not, just use the rag and get the obvious spots. Light a candle, or wax burner, or simmer some orange slices, cinnamon, cloves on the stove. I know it sounds like a lot, but I just did this in under 2 hours. Any room that company doesn’t have to see, just keep the doors closed. When your kids come home, tell them to straighten up their rooms. If your kids are home they can do it while you are doing everything else… if all else fails and you can’t do it all (this is usually what happens)…. just apologize for the mess, sigh heavily, and say ‘it’s hard to do it all with so many kids, running in 4 different directions every day.

  12. this is Great advice, Kiki! I agree with the fingerprints! and LOL on the rag with the obvious spots — I do that ALWAYS. 🙂

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