How To Quickly Get Your Home Ready For Guests

How To Quickly Get Your Home Ready For Guests

Christmas 08 003

Written by Emily McClements, Contributing Writer

The holidays are in full swing, and along with holidays usually come guests.Β  It is a blessing to host others in our homes, whether for a week night family dinner, weekend party, or small group Bible study, but sometimes the preparation for guests can become stressful or overwhelming.

We get the feeling that we need to have the house perfectly clean and put together before our guests arrive, or we find out that company is coming over on short notice, and we look around our house and think, “Uh-oh.”

I’ll be the first to admit that my house pretty much never looks perfect, and is not company ready all of the time. As we talked about last month, I strive to maintain my home on a day to day basis, but that still often falls short of how I would ideally like my home to look if others are coming to visit.

We host a small group for our church at our home every week, and often have friends over for dinner. I used to get really stressed and spend most of the day cleaning to get ready to welcome our guests.

Those days became such a source of stress to me as I strove to make my home perfectly presentable. Instead of focusing on serving others by welcoming them into my home, I became frustrated that I had to work so hard every time we were having people over and came to dread those days. I knew I needed to have an attitude adjustment, as well as an adjustment in the way that I prepared for having guests in our home.

I do want my home to look nice, and be comfortable and inviting. But, on the other hand, I don’t like the idea of cleaning all day (or for multiple days) just so I can feel like my house is perfectly ready for guests. I think it is important to be able to spontaneously invite friends or family over, despite the condition of my home.

So, I developed a room by room plan for quickly getting our home ready to have guests. And this works for me whether we’re hosting 10 adults and 12 children for small group, or one other family for dinner. I can make my home presentable and inviting in a short amount of time, following these simple steps for each room.

Dinner party with Synne and Mike
Photo by Elin B

Getting Your Home Ready for Guests, Room by Room

In the Kitchen

Main focus – Clear Dishes and Counters

  • Clear dishes from counters and sink. Fill your dishwasher and run it to get dirty dishes off the counter. Or wash as many dishes by hand as you can.

* If you’re really short on time and don’t need to use your oven, you can put dirty dishes in the oven to clear off your counters – just don’t forget about them later!

  • Clear counters as much as possible and wipe them down.
  • Quickly sweep the floor, if necessary, but also remember that it will probably just be getting dirty again, so it may not really be worth it.

In the Dining Room

Main focus- Clear Off Surfaces and Tidy Up

  • Clear off table and other surfaces of any clutter.
  • Quickly sweep the floor if necessary.
  • Set the table, if you are having dinner guests, so that it is ready and looks inviting.
Living Room Photo by Emily McClements of Live Renewed

In the Living Room

Main Focus – Pick up and tidy, clear off surfaces.

  • Clear off coffee tables and end tables.
  • Pick up toys and any other clutter
  • Sweep or vacuum the main area of the floor.

In the Bathroom

Main Focus – Clean Up Quickly Without Using Cleaning Products

  • Scrub toilet bowl and wipe down toilet seat, just using water
  • Use your hand to splash water around and rinse down the sink
  • Use a microfiber cloth and water to wipe the mirror and any other surfaces that need wiping down.

In the Bedroom

Main Focus – Tidy Up

  • Make the bed.
  • Put dirty clothes into the hamper.

Around the House – The Main Things

  • A tidy/uncluttered home looks clean (even if it really isn’t – shhh!) So put stuff away, clear off tables and other surfaces, and pick things up off the floor.
  • Open your curtains or your blinds to let natural light in (if it’s daytime). Open windows make rooms look bigger, brighter and more inviting.
  • Light a few candles or turn on soft music to set a relaxing, welcoming mood.

For me, it has been really important to learn to let go of perfectionism, and lower my expectations. The truth is, that usually when you have guests, the house gets messy while the are visiting, whether kids playing with toys, crumbs on the floor, or dishes in the sink. So, I do as much on my list as I can, and I am okay leaving the rest undone.

While it is important, as we’ve talked about, to have a presentable and inviting home, it doesn’t have to be perfect, because chances are it will get messed up pretty quickly, and you’re just going to have to clean it all up again later. So focus on being a good hostess and enjoying your guests, not having a perfectly clean house. You will be happier and less stressed and your guests will probably enjoy themselves more too!

Open your home to guests this holiday season, but don’t get overwhelmed or stressed by the preparations!

How do you quickly prepare your home for company? Any special things you do to make your home feel more welcoming and inviting?

Top Photo by Abigail Batchelder

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  1. I love this, thank you!

    I’m also reminded of the “‘Betty Crocker’s’ Hostess” book I recently picked up at a thrift store. It’s from the 60’s and has a lot of information (some of it quite outdated) about being the ‘perfect’ hostess. One section really struck me as still applicable today: when guests arrive (even unexpectedly) never ever apologize for how your house (or your person) looks: It can make your guests feel unwelcome and like they’re imposing upon you. Instead, wear a smile and be gracious and your guests will have a good time.

    1. @Thomasin,
      Yes, that is so true about not apologizing for the state of your home when company drops by. More than anything, I think it forces the attention onto how your house looks, when otherwise, they may not have really even noticed. Like another commentor said, others don’t see the dirtiness of our homes that we see. That’s why I realized that it’s not so important that I deep clean every time we have company, but instead make sure things are presentable and then just relax and enjoy our guests. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am printing this article to put on my home planning notebook under the hosapitility tab as a reminder. Thank you for this:)

  3. lol! Once, as I was getting ready for our youngest’s birthday party, I stashed a tupperware container with some bread in it in my oven. About 2 days later, I preheated the oven for dinner and all the sudden, the house was filled with smoke and smelled like burned plastic. I had totally forgotten that I stashed that container in there! Luckily, my husband was able to get the melted plastic off the oven and oven rack. Oh, and the bread was still moist and springy when we extracted it from the plastic. Moral of the story, always open the oven before you turn it on :o)

  4. If I have 15 minutes I can quickly straighten my house to look quite presentable. I’m all about “smells” because I really believe if rooms smell good it makes a big impact. So, the first thing I do is light a candle in the area where guests will be greeted so that it can begin to do its job.

    In the bathroom I use a pop-up disposable wipe to clean the toilet (don’t forget to check the base too), vanity and sink. After quickly brushing the toilet, I pour in a couple drops of lemon scented liquid all purpose cleaner, which makes it smell fresh. Or I may just light a small candle in there, (be sure to have it in a safe place if you are expecting kids).

    After picking up clutter in main rooms I quickly run the vacuum in carpeted areas, just hitting the middle of the room. It only takes a couple minutes but has big impact.

    If I have time I will use some of the all purpose cleaner on a wet paper towel and wipe over any spills or spots in the kitchen so that it will smell fresher also.

    When needing a place to stash items I don’t have time to put away, I use the top of the washer and dryer.

  5. I have a similar way of cleaning the house on short notice. I have a little ODC which helps with not letting things get cluttered, but it still happens. We also have a very small house so picking up can be done quickly, (most of the time) unless I get morning sickness to the point that I spend many days in a row in bed. πŸ™‚
    We have 7 kids and one on the way, oldest is 9. Cleaning/picking up was really hard for me a few years ago because it mostly landing on me. I’m happy the kids are able to help now!

    Great post!

  6. Great ideas. I love the tip about putting the dirty dishes in the oven! It’s the culinary equivalent of shoving everything under the bed πŸ™‚

    Lately I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my house will just stay dirtier than the average person’s. We have a dog, we have chickens (not in the house but we’re out to their pens twice a day at least), we have a large garden that we actually eat out of and we cook from scratch. I clean every day but the floor still gets dirt on it as soon as I turn around! Many people I know have nothing but lawn, no pets, and they don’t spend time in the garden (thus no tracking in dirt) and when you cook from cans and microwave containers, there’s just not as much mess. So, I’m working on being at peace with this and just doing the best I can. Because really, at the end of the day, I would never trade the free range eggs, fresh vegetables, or whole food meals for a clean floor and less dishes!

    1. @annie, Wow, Annie. It sounds like we have the same exact life! I do get frustrated that I am not able to keep my home clean. (And I can’t exactly say that I really clean everyday…) I generally figure I am doing well enough when I am on top of laundry and dishes, even if the rest of the house is a disaster. But like you said, we are eating free range eggs, food out of our garden, and whole foods from scratch. That definitely takes priority!

  7. I was just talking to my mom about this as all my in-laws are coming tomorrow and I’m finding it hard to get to the cleaning with a new baby here. She said one year she just put EVERYthing [ie. random toys, clutter, etc.] in the laundry room and closed the door : )

  8. It is difficult to keep a house picked up when you have young children. Anyone that expects your house to be spotless probably doesn’t have kids. Whats more, most don’t see the “mess/dirt” that we see in our own homes. Anyone who cares more about the condition of your home probably isn’t a true friend.
    I homeschool my four kids, so we are home almost every day, all day…our house isn’t dirty, but it is lived in! It seems as soon as I pick up, there is another mess! That’s how it goes. That’s the season I am in, an one day I will wish the kids and all their mess was here.

  9. These are great ideas! I’ve already implemented some of the ideas from your last post about cleaning and its working out really well, so thank you! Its much better than it was before. I love learning how others do things since it gives me kind of a lightbulb moment- something I have been struggling with but don’t know how to solve!

    Honestly I used to worry more about guests than I do now. I simply cannot clean for days like I used to. It was crazy. I focus on picking things up on the main floor, wiping the bathroom surfaces and then I close the bedroom doors (since no one needs to go in there). But if it doesn’t get done I have been known to make a joke about it- “hey look at my house it actually looks like we live here!” πŸ™‚

    A friend told me that she used to (when she had small kids) grab a laundry basket and pick up everything, toss it in, and then put it in her bedroom closet to deal with later. πŸ™‚

    Also, we see our own dirt more than others do. I never look at the dirt at other people’s houses! Honestly even dropping in on short notice I’ve never seen a house I thought was completely out of line cleanliness wise.

    1. @Nola,
      Thanks Nola, I’m so glad these posts are helping you! I agree that sometimes it just helps to hear how others do things. Honestly, that is how I have learned a lot of what I do. I take tips and tricks that I read or learn from others, and then adjust and adapt them to fit my needs, my family, my schedule, my home. It’ s so important to figure out what works best for you!

  10. Wonderful post! And a timely one during the holidays. Friends and family are always saying, “we’re coming to see you, not your house”. Hmmm…no matter if that’s true or not, tidying up the house always feels good!

  11. i do many of the tasks mentioned and, in addition to those, i also empty the trash cans, pick up the dog blanket/toys and check all the lightbulbs. i have also surrendered to the fact that my house will never look like it’s ready for a photo shoot but i’m ok with that. i’d rather have a less than perfect but welcoming house than a perfect one!

  12. We all know our houses can take on an odor we don’t notice (cooking smells-stuffy musty odors) so letting in fresh air is vital. Unfortunately most people don’t realize their fragranced sprays, candles etc can be overpowering or agitate allergies. I’ve found boiling cinnamon powder on the stove makes the house smell like baking, and always makes people smile.

  13. I’ve been trying to shift my focus to making the visitor feel welcome and comfortable. I honestly think most people feel UNcomfortable in a spotlessly clean show-home-type house. I don’t want them thinking “Can I use this hand-towel or is it for show?”
    If I get too uptight about cleaning, I know it’s just because I’m hoping to make a certain kind of impression. But why shouldn’t people see our home as it usually is (within reason)? I want them to know the real me.
    Really grimy bathrooms, dirty laundry lying around, and cat-hair everywhere makes everyone uncomfortable. A bit of clutter or dust just says: I’m human, too.

  14. These are great tips, but I have to ask: Is it really so simple and quick for you to “clear off tables” and “pick up clutter”? What do you DO with the stuff that doesn’t belong there??? This is a big issue in my home because the other members of my family tend to leave their stuff lying around in total chaos, particularly on the dining table. If I just pick up stuff and stick it in another room, it’s still a problem, just one that can be deferred, and in my experience it may sit in the other room for YEARS while I never “have time” to deal with it but feel upset by the clutter. If I put each item away where it belongs, that takes a long time. How do you find balance?

    Thomasin makes a great point about not apologizing! I think the most useful advice on housekeeping I’ve ever heard is an offhand comment from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity about how worrying about what others think of your home can be the kind of Pride that is a deadly sin. I use that to remind myself that my goal should NOT be to have “a home I can be proud of” but to have a place where my family, my guests, and I feel comfortable.

  15. 1. Get dressed all the way to the shoes. Hair brushed. Face moisturized, clean, or maekup on. Do this. Don’t question it.. Put on some good working music. Not too fast, just slow and steady. peppy, but not aerobic. Light a candle that has a good scent or put on some spices on to boil on a very low heat.

    2. We are going to start in our kitchens. As the kitchen goes, so does the rest of the house.

    Set a timer and spend 15 minutes in the kitchen. If your sink is not clean and shiny, then shine it first, then you can fill the sink up with hot soapy water and start to clear off the left and right counters. Empty the dishwasher, When the timer goes off. Stop what you are doing and go to the living room.

    3. Set the timer again and do 15 minutes cleaning off the coffee tables or picking up toys or newpapers. Concentrate on one thing. Not all of it. Get a laundry basket and put the things that don’t belong in the living room in the basket. Take a garbage bag with you too. Start throwing away the trash. Don’t get caught up in the guilt we have about recycling this stuff. Just bag it up for now. As you get your home in order there will be plenty of time to recycle. For now we are focusing on getting the home presentable. You can’t do this if you are hyperfocusing on sorting and recycling. So get over this perfectionism attitude. When the timer goes off, head back to the kitchen.

    4. In the kitchen set the timer for 15 more minutes, continue to work on clearing the counters. Do Not Get sidetracked and want to clean out a cabinet. We are doing only surface cleaning.

    5. Now take a break and walk around and look at what you have accomplished in just 45 minutes. Set the timer for 15 minutes and drink a cup of tea or coffee or whatever you love and just relax. When the timer goes off. You are back in work mode for 15 more minutes.

    6. This 15 minute session is in the bathroom. Clean the bathroom sink first, swish the toilet, then pick up towels and dirty clothes and put them in the hamper Do Not Get sidetracked and start a load of laundry. Laundry will come later. Seriously.

    7. When the timer goes off, you are back in the kitchen. For 15 more minutes. We can do anything in 15 minutes. Keep working till the timer goes off. Then you go to the living room once again.

    8. In the living room, continue to pick up and put away.

    9. Every 45 minutes take a 15 minute break. Do you understand this?

    Summarized From

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