How to Get Your Home Ready for Holiday Company in 30 Minutes
By Daisy Barringer
The holidays are one of the most fun, but also one of the most hectic, times of the year. Inevitably, you’ll get a text from a friend who wants to drop by and give you a little present, or you’ll suddenly realize that it’s Sunday, not Saturday, and you have people coming over for drinks in an hour. And when that happens, no matter how tidy you are, there’s a good chance that your home won’t be quite as clean as you’d like it to be for guests. You can’t get to it all, but you can do just enough to get your home looking clean and fresh in around 30 minutes.
The key is to focus your efforts on areas where your guests will be: the foyer, living room, bathroom/guest bath, and kitchen. As you clean, close the doors to any rooms you don’t want people going into and open windows to let in fresh air and get rid of stale odors.
Here’s a list of everything else you should prioritize. You likely won’t need to do every single thing in every single room, so you’ll definitely be able to get it all done in 30 minutes. This will leave you with just enough time to pour yourself a drink before the doorbell rings. And don’t forget: if you have helpers, be sure to delegate!
Entryway and Living/Family Room
The foyer is the first thing guests will see when they come in, so you want to make sure it’s inviting. Likewise, the living room is where everyone will congregate, so make sure it feels like a clean and welcoming space.
- Clear any clutter
Pick up any mail, toys, shoes, newspapers — anything that shouldn’t be in these spaces — and put them away. Ideally, if you have the time, then return everything to its rightful home, but if your guests are on their way, just throw it all in a bag or basket that you can stash in a closet or bedroom to sort out later.
Grab a damp cloth and a dry cloth and quickly wipe off all of the tables and any dusty objects. Start with the damp cloth and then go over it with the dry cloth. Don’t worry about dusting everything; you just need to get the places your guests are going to see.
- Arrange cushions and pillows
Quickly fluff your couch cushions and arrange the pillows. Fold any blankets and either put them away or drape them over the furniture.
- Create a space for coats
Guests in the wintertime show up wearing coats. If you plan to hang their coats in the hall closet, create space if you need to by moving your stuff to another room temporarily. Also, make sure there are enough empty hangers. If you don’t have a coat closet or don’t have time to make it presentable for guests, pick a spot where you’ll put everyone’s outerwear, whether it’s over the banister, on a bench, or somewhere else.
If you have time…
Vacuum major traffic areas
Your floor is probably fairly clean, but if you have time (or a pet who sheds), quickly run a vacuum over the major traffic areas in the entrance and living room.
Things you can do once your guests have arrived:
It’s always nice to put out coasters, light some candles, and play music, but those are also things you can do right before your guests walk through the door or after you’ve welcomed them.
If there’s one area you’re going to focus your efforts, it should be the bathroom. Not only is this the one place where your guests will be alone (with nothing to do except notice things), but it’s also the one place that feels extra gross if it’s dirty.
- Remove any clutter
Gather hairbrushes, makeup, blow dryers, curling irons, etc. and move them so that they’re out of sight. If you have dirty clothes on the floor, put those in the hamper.
- Clean the toilet
If your toilet has stains or grime, people will notice, and no one wants to see or use a dirty toilet. Squirt toilet bowl cleaner in the bowl and leave it until you’ve finished cleaning the rest of the room. You don’t need to spend a ton of time on this since this isn’t a deep clean; just take 30 seconds to scrub any stains/rings and then use disinfecting wipes to clean the seat and the outside of the toilet.
- Make everything shiny
Spray your mirror, counter, sink, and faucets with cleaning spray and wipe everything down with a paper towel or microfiber cloth to get rid of toothpaste splatter, dirt, and/or grime.
- Replace the toilet paper
If the toilet paper roll is almost finished, replace it. If not, place new rolls in a basket or under the sink — somewhere guests can easily find them.
- Put out fresh hand towels
Ideally, you should put out clean hand towels and clean bath towels, but hand towels are the most important since those are the ones your guests will be using. If you don’t put out fresh bath towels, fold them so they look tidy. If you like to use disposable guest towels, put those out as well.
- Shake out the rug or bath mat
Make sure any hair or dirt isn’t showing on your rug or bath mat. A good shake (in the shower or outside) should do the trick. If you shake it in the shower, be sure to do a quick wipe with a wet paper towel.
- Empty the trash and light a candle
If you have time…
Give the shower a quick clean
Take a quick look and clear the drain of any hair and wipe down spotty shower doors. If you have a curtain, close it and hope no one peeks!
As hard as you might try to keep guests out of the kitchen, they will congregate there, so you should make sure it’s as tidy as possible. Here are the places to focus your efforts:
Get the dishes out of the sink
If you have a dishwasher, put them in there. If you don’t, then you need to wash and dry the dishes. It may take more time than you’d like, but it’s the biggest thing you can do to make your kitchen look clean. If you have dishes that need to soak, fill up the sink with soapy water and come back to those last.
Clear the clutter that doesn’t belong in the kitchen
Just like you did in the living room, grab a bag or a basket and fill it with all of the clutter that doesn’t belong in the kitchen. Again, if you have time, put it back where it belongs, but if not, stash it in a closet until you can deal with it at a later time.
Put kitchen items back where they belong
If you have appliances out on the counter — like blenders, toasters, mixers, or coffeemakers — that don’t usually live there, unplug them and put them back in the cupboard.
Wipe down visible surfaces
Grab the cleaning spray and a sponge or rag and quickly clean your countertops, appliances, and sink. This is not the time to start cleaning crumbs out of the toaster or worry about the tops of cabinets. Just do the bare minimum to make the noticeable surface areas sparkle.
Sweep the floors
Quickly run a broom or vacuum over the floors to pick up any crumbs or dirt. Now is not the time to mop. If you’re also going to have to vacuum the living room, foyer, or bathroom, then save this step until the very end and do it all at the same time.
Take out the trash
If the trash is full, take it out and replace the liner.
Sink and Towels
Clean the sink and the faucet, then put out fresh dish towels.