Even though you may be perfectly comfortable with your lifestyle of messiness, having guests over always gives you that strange pang of self-consciousness: what will they think about me when they see all this? In your internal monologue you argue with this pang and dismiss it saying that your home looks like it has been lived in by a happy family, not like a sterile magazine cover picture, but still, the peer pressure takes over and you start getting nervous, mobilizing the entire family to tidy up.
Don’t worry. Half an hour of tidying up will not change anything, it will just clean out the visible, noticeable surfaces off most of the bits and pieces lying around, but your core disorganization is not in jeopardy. In fact the fun of trying to locate things you have hurriedly placed in closets and drawers is waiting just round the corner, after the visitors have left.
The sequence of steps to a quick de-clutter is simple and easy: move stuff out of sight, quick dusting/vacuuming, dishes in the dishwasher, a wipe of the kitchen surfaces, a change of bathroom towels and voila! – you are ready to receive the guests. Make sure you assign tasks to the whole family, so that everybody runs around and asks you questions all the time. The hurry and irritation usually leave a nice glow on your face, so when the guest arrive, you will not be a hostess of a lovely home, but a good-looking hostess of a lovely home.
I usually ask the kids to tidy their room which ends up with removal of all clothes, toys and precious rubbish (children never throw anything and around 40% of the stuff in their room consists of things that should be thrown away), and relocating it to their closets, drawers and toy boxes. Sounds good, right? But, not all the items, in fact, very few, are actually stored in the place where they should belong. This way, after the guests leave, the toy box will have around 40% of toys, 40% of clothing, including odd socks (I believe in Sock monster) and 20% of rubbish (paper, packaging, and, some fossilized food).
After the quick sweep, go around with a vacuum cleaner and just do the open surfaces, the visible ones. What’s under the couch and behind the armchair is none of your guest’s business, and the dust and lost objects should live there uninterrupted. Yes, there is a risk that guests will drop something on the floor and it can roll under the couch, but there is no time now to do the deep cleaning.
Next step is kitchen, where you should put the dishes in the dishwasher. I am pretty sure that this action will also fill your garbage bin as well. Wipe the tops fast and try to find a presentable bowl in which you will serve the snacks. I know that this is a difficult task, so use your imagination – it is nice to serve your guests in an original way as well.
Last, but not least, pop by the bathroom, flush, change the towels to fresh ones and remove only the visible clutter.
The entire operation should not take more than half an hour, and the result is usually spectacular. Of course, if the kids are in a good mood. If they are not, you will probably be asked to be the judge of their bickering and fighting over who is not tidying or who is doing the ever imperceptibly smaller amount of work than the others, and other, similar, life-important issues.
At this point, the pangs of obsessive tidiness will return to nag you that this is not enough, and you will promise yourself to be more organised in future. But, you will most likely forget that, because if the guests are people you enjoy spending time with, it will not matter anyway. Just like in The 1000 Awesome Things blog, the dearest guests are those that we do not need to tidy for: http://1000awesomethings.com/2009/04/06/794-people-you-dont-clean-up-for-when-they-visit/.