Clean Sweep

Got guests coming? Focus your efforts on the things they'll really notice.

Easier Than You Think

clutter control

Lenora Gim

Inviting family over for the holidays sounded like a good idea, I blithely told myself last September. But before I knew it, December crept up on me, and the house was still the same pastel-pink, Hello Kitty-fied mess it had been for months. My relatives had to move nursing pillows out of the way to make room on the sofa and step around the Pack 'n Play to find the dining room table.

It's easy to feel defeated by kid clutter, but you don't have to spend days doing a top-to-bottom cleaning. "You'd be surprised how quickly you can straighten up in only five minutes," says Stacey Crew, author of The Get Organized Guide for New Moms (Clear Vision Organization). Put your efforts into the following speed-cleaning strategies, and even Great-Aunt Sylvia won't find fault with your house.

Drop-In Guests

cleaning

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 GetOrganizedNow.com. 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.

Overnight Guests

house guests

Lenora Gim

If your out-of-town visitors have kids, you can relax a bit; they'll probably bring some of their own clutter with them. But other guests (especially elderly ones), will probably appreciate at least one kid-free zone in your house. Try the following tips to make them feel welcome.

The Absolute Basics

  • Do a quick once-over. If you have time for nothing else, at least wipe toothpaste and soap residue from the guest sink, Gracia says. (Clorox or Lysol cleaning wipes are lifesavers.) Also high on the priority list: cleaning gunky hair out of the shower drain and hauling waterlogged toys out of the bathtub.
  • Provide towels. Stack clean towels in the room where guests are staying so there's no confusion about whose towel is whose.
  • Use grown-up bedding. Make the guest bed with clean sheets -- preferably ones without Thomas the Tank Engine on them.
  • Leave laundry for last. Wash the towels and sheets the morning before your overnight guests arrive; few things are more welcoming than a bed with freshly laundered sheets.

Extra Credit

  • Tidy bedroom bookcases. "Aligning books or DVDs toward the front of each shelf makes the whole room look neater," Garcia says. "It's a small touch that makes a big impact."
  • Set up a suitcase valet. Guests appreciate having a place to stash their stuff without putting it on the bed or floor, Smallin says. But if you don't own a hotel-style valet, use a toy chest covered with a decorative cloth.
  • Set up a minibar. Place an ice bucket filled with soft drinks, juice, or bottled water in your guest's room.
  • Include your guests. You don't have to do it all. They're happy to pitch in, even just holding the baby, if you give them a little bit of direction.

Next: Dinner Guests

Dinner Guests

cleaning

Lenora Gim

Even when you know company is coming, time can get away from you; all it takes is one missed nap or an exploding-diaper episode, and you're off track. Assuming you have the food itself under control (use takeout, if it's not), here's how to pull it together for dinner guests.

The Absolute Basics

  • Fake the clean. Spritz some Murphy's Oil Soap onto a cloth or paper towel, and run it quickly over any piece of furniture. The fresh scent will banish lingering odors of stale spit-up and diapers.
  • Rinse out the wineglasses. People notice wineglasses more than other tableware, and they unfortunately have a way of attracting extra dust in the cupboard. A quick rinse in hot soapy water takes just 10 seconds.
  • Roll it, baby. For guests' safety, clear walkways as much as possible, Crew says. Push baby swings, portable cribs, or anything else on wheels out of the dining room -- and fold up whatever you can to save space, even if you only stack it against the wall.



Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the December 2007 issue of American Baby magazine.

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