Clean Sweep

Drop-In Guests


Lenora Gim

Friends or relatives call out of the blue. They're in the neighborhood and would love to stop by for a few minutes. Don't panic if you're caught off guard; simply take a deep breath, and...

The Absolute Basics

  • Think horizontal. The quickest way to create order is to get junk off countertops, coffee tables, and floors. "Clearing your counter gives your kitchen an instant makeover," says Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple (Storey Publishing). "Surfaces automatically look cleaner if they're clutter free."
  • Use your dishwasher. But not to wash dishes. It's a fantastic short-term hiding space for kid clutter," Smallin says. Another option: a large dishpan under the sink.
  • Break out the laundry baskets. They're big, cheap, and a better option than shoving odds and ends into a closet. "Stuffing your closets just creates more work for weeks to come," Smallin says. Instead, she advises, sweep through each room to gather toys, magazines, and baby paraphernalia. Set baskets on the washer and dryer, where no one will notice them. Or go one step further, like Nikki Manning, of Columbia, South Carolina, mom to 3-year-old McKenzie. "I label one basket for each room -- the playroom, the bedroom, and so on," she says. "That way everything ends up in the right place later."

Extra Credit

  • Hit the sink. "Sparkling faucets give guests the instant illusion of clean," says Maria Gracia of Just wipe with plain white vinegar, then dry with a soft, clean cloth. While you're in the bathroom, check the toilet paper supply, and make sure all commodes are flushed. (Don't forget to empty the plastic potty as well.)
  • Stash the work-related stuff. Nothing puts a damper on the holiday mood more than looking at someone's paperwork, briefcase, or day planner. Your car is the ideal hiding spot.

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