I was always amazed at Samantha Stephens from ‘Bewitched’. Although she did sometimes use a bit of wizardry, she managed to keep her house perfectly clean and always ready for the impromptu dinner guests that Darrin brought home. At times, we all wish we could wiggle our noses and be ready on short notice. Today we are going to tackle a few tips to help you in your quest.
Impromtu or not, guests will remember the experience in your home with their senses. Address all of them and you are sure to be a hit.
Sight – This is where the cleaning comes in. You’ve got an hour or less before your guest arrives. What do you do?
- Start at the front door… outside. Make sure that it is inviting. At the very least, make sure it is tidy.
- Next, take on the entryway. If nothing else, this first impression must be the closest to perfect.
- Now, go in order around the house, but only address those areas that your guest will use or see. If you have a door to the back of the house, close it. If your upstairs needs addressing, save that for later. At the very least be sure that the trip from the door to the living room and from the living room to the bathroom is appealing.
- As a sidenote: one very good way to reduce some stress is to spend 15 minutes each day before bed tidying up. If you make a sweep around the place routinely, clean up won’t take up your entire weekend.
- A quick dusting should be done from eye level down at the very least.
- Regarding the guest bathroom… to get a quick, ‘fake’, super clean bathroom keep paper towels and rubbing alcohol on hand. Swirl a toilet brush around the bowl of the toilet and then clean all surfaces with a paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol. Be sure the toilet paper is full and replace the hand towel. Don’t forget to wipe up the floor.
- Carry around a bin or basket with you to collect up all clutter that belongs elsewhere. Remember to put those things away after your guest has gone.
Smell – Have some air freshener on hand. Consider burning a fragrant, good quality candle. I prefer Firewood by Henri Bendel for its homey scent. The key here is subtlety. As with personal fragrance, less is more. The goal is to create a pleasing environment, not clobber your guest with vanilla mist. Another good idea is to give a few sprays of odor neutralizer. Lastly, we often put a small pot of water with citrus slices and spices on the stove for a very fresh scent.
Sound – Have playlists ready. Make a few in whatever music software you use for just the right occasion. Make sure that you have a playlist that is long enough to last for hours in case your dinner lasts longer than expected. Here is one we did for a brunch you can use for inspiration. If you use an online service like Pandora, have some ‘stations’ set that will convey the mood you desire.
Taste – Keep snacks on hand that are guest-friendly. An assortment of cheese and crackers, nuts, olives, and some chocolates is a good start. Make sure these are either reserved for guests or replenished as necessary. Hummus and pita or bread is a good idea, too. Be sure to have a stocked bar and at least 1 bottle each of red and white wine on hand. Whether you drink it or not, always have coffee and tea in your home for guests… and offer it.
Feel – How does your furniture feel? Flip the cushions and fluff the pillows. If you keep your favorite (worn) blanket out to cozy up with for TV watching, stow it until your guest leaves. Keep a lint roller in your home and run it over the sofa to remove any small debris or pet hair. Also, how does it 'feel' to sit in your living room. Is it easy to place your drink on a table? Is the arrangement intimate enough for conversation? Move pieces around as necessary.
We all get sidetracked from time to time, and an unexpected guest can completely throw a wrench into our usual plan. By staying on top of routine cleaning, you will be ahead of the game. Get the family involved and assign tasks or rooms for everyone. Just be sure to rotate duties to keep it fair.
A few closing notes…
- Make sure you leave enough time to tend to yourself before your guest arrives. No matter how much you’ve done, it won’t matter if the first impression is you smelling of Ajax with a feather duster hanging out of your back pocket.
- If you stick to appealing to your guest's five senses you will create an experience that says you know how to entertain.
- Lastly, don’t stress too much. Of course, we all want our home to be a good reflection of who we are, but your guest is ultimately coming to see YOU. A certain amount of charm will trump a stack of dirty dishes every time.