Clean Sweep: The Twenty Minute Clean (AKA "When Company Attacks!")

It's 6:00. You've barely had time to walk through the door, drop your keys on the counter and breathe a sigh of relief when your significant other casually mentions oh-and-by-the-way-I-told-my-boss-that-he-and-his-wife-could-come-over-after-work.  What?!  Your mind spins, automatically taking an inventory of the disaster zones in the house and counting the days (Yikes! Weeks?) since the last deep clean.  Okay... (breathe in and out and count to ten!)... how long before they're here?  WHAT DO YOU MEAN TWENTY MINUTES?!?!

Time to spring into action! (No, not throttling your significant other.  Blood stains will only complicate the cleaning job.)  Here's how to make the most out of your time and make (or fake) a good impression:

Minutes 20 - 19: Light a Candle (or two). "A Candle?!" you say.  "Who has time for a freaking candle, lady? I've got REAL cleaning to do!"  Indeed! But one of the quickest ways to make your house seem clean is to make your house SMELL clean.  Lighting a candle first thing allows the fragrance to disperse within your home and create a warm atmosphere to greet your guests.  Stick with scents people associate with "clean": lemon, orange, lavender or linen work wonders!

Minutes 19 - 15: De-clutter the Main Areas. Grab a basket, tub or bag and jog through the living room and kitchen grabbing anything that doesn't belong in those areas.  Try to drop them into your basket according to the area of the house they belong in.  Scoop up dishes that have wandered into the living room and deposit them in the kitchen on your way through (we'll come back to those).  Once you've filled your bin, take it into a bedroom and close the door on your way out.  DO NOT leave the basket there after company has left!   Make sure that any baskets of assorted stuff get put away before you go to bed.

Minutes 15 - 10:  Beautify the Bathroom.  Grab disinfectant wipes and head to the all-important restroom.  While your guests will (hopefully) not be spending a tremendous amount of time in there,  there are few places you need to be cleaner (save, maybe the kitchen).
- Wipe down the toilet first.  It's the one thing that no one wants to think of as dirty. (Remember under the seat!!)
- Use another wipe to do a quick once-over of the counter, faucets and light switches. Quick Tip: Drying a faucet after rinsing it will make it really shine!
- Close the shower curtain, straighten the towels (or remove them if they look bad) and hang a fresh hand towel.
- Light another candle in here if possible.

Minutes 10 - 7: Disposing of Dirty Dishes.  Okay, yes, everyone has them.  But, much like an unclean bathroom, there's a definite "ick" factor about seeing other peoples.  If you have a dishwasher, Load 'er Up, you lucky son-of-a-gun.  If you don't - well, er -  hide 'em.

Okay, okay, it's not ideal.  But desperate times call for desperate measures! And by desperate measures, I mean an oven, a cookie sheet to stack on, and a (deluded) self-promise that you'll absolutely never let your dirty dishes go this long again.  Reminder: After guests leave, remove them immediately so you don't run the risk of someone accidentally pre-heating the oven!

Minutes 7 - 3: Wipe Down The Counters (and other surfaces). Grab a paper towel and a rag. Go through the kitchen and living room and wipe all of the main surfaces: counters, stove, kitchen table, coffee table, TV and TV stand (one of the first things people look at. Particularly male-type people), and end tables.  Yes, without a good vacuum you're only moving the dirt around and this, under no circumstances, qualifies as "clean".  But when you have little time, "tidy" becomes serviceable.  Quick Tip: Unless you're one-percent of the population, your significant other most likely has arms and legs and is fully capable of trailing you with a vacuum. If he begins to amuse himself by trying to "vacuum you up" (translation: running the Dyson into your heels) remind him of two words: Justifiable Homicide.

Minutes 3 - 1: Dash and Trash. A clean bin makes a world of difference. Grab the kitchen trash, bathroom trash and any recycling and dispose of them in your outdoor bins.

Minute 1 - 0: Stash the Evidence.  Now's the time to throw your rags in the laundry, stick cleaning products under the sink and wash your hands.
Flip your head upside down to brush and fluff your hair, apply some lip gloss and plaster on a smile (unless of course you're a guy, in which case that will probably only confuse your friends). 

"What? Of COURSE it's no trouble that you're stopping by! We love guests..."

Other Random Nuggets of Guest-Prep Goodness:
- When asking kids or significant others to help, give specific tasks.  Brilliant as they may otherwise be, some *ahem* genders, tend to be a little less prone to figuring out exactly what needs done.  But give them specific jobs and goals, and they're brilliant.  

- I've found it useful to keep a spare bottle of wine on hand for unexpected guests (Coffee and Tea are clutch too.)

- Having an easy-to-whip-up meal or some snacks available can be useful too, if you can manage it space-wise.  Capellini pasta, and a pesto or vodka sauce are easy, fast and elegant (and who doesn't like Italian food?)

- Remember that no matter what, your guests are there to see YOU.  If they're good (real) people they won't care that your house is a little disorderly!

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