Mother-in-law — military inspection. Same difference. There’s nothing like holiday visitors and scant free time to spark fires of panic. Your heart races and your mind scatters as dust bunnies spin across the floor like tiny, taunting tumbleweeds.
But fear not – only Marines and deposit-greedy landlords don white gloves. And, just as when you look in mirrors, you’re the first to spot flaws.
Follow these 8 tips I’ve gleaned over the years from cleaning services, Realtors and interior designers:
— Focus on attention-getters. Only clean where necessary, which usually means the entry and rooms where everyone gravitates, such as the kitchen, bathrooms and den or living room. And only fret about eye level. Guests aren’t likely to scan floors, ceilings or corners.
Vacuum high-traffic areas – including the front stoop, where the nozzle can catch loose leaves faster than a broom.
— Clear the decks. People spot clutter more than dirt. Grab a laundry basket and pick up as much as you can, be it knick knacks or dirty dishes. Then stash the trash out of sight — in the dishwasher, oven, refrigerator, laundry hamper, washing machine — anywhere but the hall closet, which you may open for visitors’ wraps.
If you can’t hide your objets de mess, put them in patterns, lining books along windowsills or stacking magazines in tidy rows on an end table.
— Shine the light. Though it sounds counterintuitive, opening curtains and blinds diverts guests’ attention to the outside. That Realtor trick also expands rooms, making them warmer and more inviting. Pink light bulbs cast a softer, romantic glow, especially if they’re cleaned with wet wipes, as they were in the movie Driving Miss Daisy.
— Go dark. Set out solid-colored Latin Prayer candles, available at most supermarkets. They’re cheap yet dramatic – like some of your relatives.
— Switch and bait. Bring out the ‘’goods’’ only for guests, such as new stovetop drip pans, duvet and throw pillows, guest towels and a dish of decorator soaps (cellophane-wrapped to stay dust-free). Otherwise, stick to liquid soap in the guest bath since soap dishes can be disgusting.
— Simplify. Instead of using multiple cleaning products, grab a microfiber cloth and glass cleaner, which works on sinks, tile, toilets and kitchen appliances without streaks.
— Make your bathroom your priority. Your visitors will. That’s where guests can observe without anyone observing them doing it. So pitch soap dishes and toothbrush holders in the dishwasher and scrub the toilet, mirror, counter and sink.
If you’ve got a few minutes, wipe down the shower door with a capful of lemon oil. It erases lime spots and soap scum. Or use lighter fluid to dissolve scuffs on tile, linoleum and hardwood floors.
— Use aroma-therapy. Throw visitors off the scent with a spectacular bouquet of flowers and fragranced candles. Put chopped lemon or orange rinds in the kitchen disposal; or how about a vanilla extract-soaked cotton ball inside the vacuum bag? Or try a Realtor ploy: Simmer a pot of water with orange rinds and a dash of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and Allspice on the stove. It smells like you’ve been baking.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll have time to go shopping!