I love having people over to my house. That surprises even me seeing as I’m an introvert and all. Maybe I like it so much because, as an introvert, I can control the flow of the evening. You know, like when I start to get overwhelmed by being around people I can start cleaning up the dishes- the ever so kind way of saying this night is over. Maybe that’s it.
It might also be because I really love my home, and my sweet friends like to give me compliments on how it feels “homey” and “warm”. This is a discussion for another day, but your temperament and attitude have just as much to do with the homeyness of your house as your cozy throws do. Do what you’d like with that little nugget, we’re moving on.
Now I’m not saying your house has to be spotless in order to entertain or host. Hospitality is a mindset, one in which we’re opening our homes with a generous heart to others. Guests of our home look very different from day to day, our parents come and stay for a week, a friend needs to talk to someone over coffee, we host weekly Bible studies, we have cookouts with co-workers and friends, play dates. Each of us should be opening our doors for those we love.
Even though I never expect someone’s house to be spotless when I come over, there is something to be said for a tidy home. One with the couch cleared so we can sit and chat. A path to the bathroom. If I’m staying over night, then a bed that’s cleared of clutter. A tidy home feels lived in, but welcoming. Used but appreciated.
Today let’s talk about how to get our homes ready for hospitality. This 20-Minute Tidy method is not what I use when we’re having week long guests or hosting a big party, I usually spend a few days cleaning up for times like those. But in 20 minutes I can be ready for my husband to come home or a friend in need of companionship. I can happily welcome in the plumber and the neighbor who needs to discuss issues happening around town.
First Thing’s First
Identify Hot Spots
First thing’s first, you need to identify what areas of your home are the most “loved”. For me, it’s the kitchen. I spend a lot of time cooking and creating in there and it’s often a wreck. Another place is right inside the door. As I try and come up with a system that works for our family, we’re often left with shoes, bags, keys, and hats lying right inside the door.
Maybe for you it’s the living room because that’s where your kids want to play and do projects. Maybe it’s the TV room because everyone seems to congregate there during the evening. Identify your “hot spots” because if those are the places your family tends to congregate, that’s probably where you’ll take guests too.
Once you know where most of the traffic is happening, you can consider options for storage. I have a basket for each of us tucked into a repurposed dresser (now an entryway table) which also has a drawer for each of us for smaller items. So when I’m needing to speed clean, instead of gathering up all the clutter and putting it away, I put everything in the basket of the person it belongs to. Example: my husband’s hats, keys, wallet, water bottle, and gym bag all go into his drawer or basket and my book, glasses, coupons and lip balm get put into mine. Takes 2 minutes. Do this with kids too, this way if someone is ever missing something, they know where to look.
In the kitchen, most of the clutter is dirty dishes, but everything else has a happy home that again, is designated by appropriate storage whether it’s a small basket for fresh produce or wooden bin for baking supplies. When everyone knows where things belong, it’s easier for them to be involved in keeping things tidy.
Maybe you need to consider some fun options for toy storage–by the way, I love the idea of using a vintage trunk that can double as a bench for when larger groups come over! Maybe you need a small basket to help collect all the paper clutter in your home. Spend a few days figuring out first how you can declutter and rid your life of excess, then find the best storage options that will help you tidy in a hurry.
When I use the 20-Minute Tidy
Once you’ve identified your hot spots and acquired the appropriate storage, we are ready to set a timer. If you’re like me and you try to tidy the house before your husband gets home, then do a few trial runs. My husband almost always texts me when he’s leaving work so I get about a 35 minute head’s up. I usually finish what I’m doing, then give myself 20 minutes to tidy. This is one small gift I try to give him everyday after a long day’s work; 20 minutes of my time so he doesn’t come home to a disaster. I do my best.
If I’ve been busy with projects or worked outside the home on a day we are expecting dinner guests, often my house is not squeaky clean. Maybe I’m tired or don’t have enough time to really clean, I’m setting a timer for 20 minutes, doing what I can, then moving on.
Unexpected guests can be stressful for those of us who like to keep our homes tidy. In the middle of the week, my house tends to look pretty crazy between all the craft projects, home projects, and cooking sprees. But I don’t ever want to turn away a friend who’s in need of company because I’m afraid of what my house might convey. I’ll spend 20 minutes picking up and going over things that may need some attention.
If a professional is coming into my home, say to look at our water heater or fix a leak, then I prefer for my house to be somewhat clean. I take pride in our home and consider our provisions blessing from God, and I want people to see that when they come into my home–even if it’s just this once. Giving my home 20 minutes of my time is the least I can do.
The 20-Minute Tidy: How to Speed Clean any House
Step 1: Pick up clutter
This should take less than 5 minutes once you’ve identified the hot spots and put appropriate storage options in place. The idea of speed cleaning is not to put everything in its rightful place, that happens later. Right now, we just want to tidy, so tuck those toys in the bin, throw his stuff in his drawer, and stack papers neatly in the basket. The goal here is so quickly clear all flat surfaces of clutter, that includes tables, sitting furniture and floors.
Step 2: Tidy Kitchen
You’ll be surprised what you can get done in 10 minutes, and we don’t want to spend any more time than that in here for this speed cleaning method. In less than 10 minutes, I’m betting you can put all dishes in the dishwasher that can go in there, put away all other supplies in appropriate places, wash the rest of the dirty dishes (leave them in the sink to dry), and wipe down countertops.
If your tidying for a guest, chances are they’ll come into your kitchen. You may be offering them a glass of water, cup of tea, or small snack so be prepared to spend some time in here. If there’s not time to wash the dishes, at least fill the sink up with hot, soapy water and put the dishes in there. That way you can finish up later.
Confession: We used to host a weekly church in our home, it was tiny–800 square feet–so tidying up was a breeze. But we didn’t have a dishwasher and sometimes the dishes didn’t get done before our guests arrived. So guess what? The dirty dishes got shoved in the oven, out of sight. Yes, really.
Step 3: Quick Clean Floors
For those of us with pets or kids, you know how easily your floors get dirty. Floors are one of those things that may not get noticed if they’re clean, but they’ll definitely be noticed if they’re dirty. It’s worth a few minutes to clean them up.
This lightweight sweeper is great on both hard and carpeted floors (I don’t have super shaggy carpet, but it works great on our rugs). We can’t spend more than 5 minutes doing this, so we’re only cleaning the floors of the main living area. Since the clutter is picked up, this should be quick. Run the sweeper over the most used areas and be done with it.
Step 4: Quick Clean Bathroom
If your guests are staying longer than an hour, chances are they’ll need to use the bathroom. In a few minutes you can put things back where they belong, get out new towels, wipe down the counter and sink and quickly brush out the toilet. Nobody likes a dirty bathroom, and if the rest of your house is less than clean (which is okay) your guests will notice the attention you gave to a room you knew they’d use. I actually have a friend who would fold the end of the toilet paper into a triangle like they do at hotels, I always loved that! So thoughtful.
I keep my bathroom cleaning supplies in a centralized closet between my two bathrooms to make things easier. If you want to save money and reduce the toxic load in your house check out these Green Cleaning Recipes.
Don’t wear yourself out tidying your house, that’s not the point of tidying. I’ll be sharing my weekly cleaning schedule soon so you can see how I keep on top of housework and hopefully begin to make a schedule that works for you. By keeping up with the house as best I can, I can easily tidy up my kitchen and bathrooms, clean the floors, and clear clutter in 20 minutes. I don’t always wait for guests to do this 20-Minute Tidy, sometimes when life happens and the house is disastrous but I don’t feel like really cleaning, I do this.
What areas of your house are the most “loved”? What do you always try to do before guests come over?