I have a confession: My apartment is not as clean as it looks.
I wish I could say that my kitchen counters are spotless, my floor is pristine, and my bed is made to perfection (complete with three throw blankets effortlessly draped on top!).
But in reality? My kitchen counter is cluttered with old seltzer bottles and invoices I have yet to file, my floor is covered in boxes, and it’s a good day if I actually make my bed. Thanks to my busy schedule and constant travel, I struggle with finding the time to give my home the cleaning I know it deserves.
So I’m usually scrambling to tidy my space right before people come over. Which, more often than not, is very touch-and go.
To save my future self some struggle, I asked Becky Rapinchuk, cleaning expert and author of Clean Mama to share her hacks for a seemingly organized home. And if you’ve been nodding your head in agreement to my confessional, chances are these tips will help you, too.
The “out of sight, out of mind” mentality may not work for, say, a looming deadline, or that chicken casserole in the oven, but it can certainly work when quick-tidying your space.
Rapinchuk recommends grabbing a laundry basket and placing the clutter around your house inside. If you’re in a hurry, just place the basket in the closet and deal with it later.
Not only will this help your home appear cleaner than it really is for company—it’ll also create a central place for your stray stuff. When your guests leave, bring the hamper out of hiding, go through what’s inside, and figure out what you’re going to do with all the clutter.
Don’t have enough closet space to stow an extra hamper? Opt for a suitcase, or even a cabinet.
Dusty floors and furniture can be dead giveaways of a not-so-recently deep-cleaned home. If you have just a few minutes to spare, take your vacuum out for a brief spin. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to hit every nook and cranny.
“Instead of vacuuming a whole room, hit the main spaces,” Rapinchuk recommends, saying you can forget about "corner to corner," for the purpose of this.
If you have a pet or haven’t cleaned your space in a long, long time, you might need to call in some reinforcements. “Grab a lint roller and roll area rugs and furniture to pick up lint, pet hair, and dirt,” she says.
Before your guests come over, do something about that cluttered countertop. Nobody likes to see stray papers scattered around, so go ahead and stick ‘em in a drawer.
“Clean and clear surfaces are the key to giving your home a clean look and feeling,” she says. “Quickly clear counters, the kitchen and dining tables, and any coffee tables. Empty space gives your home breathing room and a calm atmosphere.”
If you have bills or important paperwork you’re afraid will get forgotten in a drawer, stack them in neat piles and keep them out on a desktop. They’ll stay top of mind, but create the illusion of a neat space.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can’t hide your bathroom from your guests. Unless they’re only visiting for a couple minutes, there’s a good chance they’ll make a trip to the bathroom during their stay. And while a stray toothbrush or crooked towel is nothing to lose sleep over, you may want to give a little TLC to that dirty toilet. It may not be the most glamorous chore out there, but it’s certainly worth the extra elbow grease.
“Give your main toilet a quick spritz and wipe to make sure it’s clean,” Rapinchuk says.
The good news is that cleaning your toilet doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as you’d think. Just wipe down the seat and exterior with an all-purpose cleaner and quick-scrub down the bowl with a brush and bleach cleaner. Your toilet will look clean, and the entire process will take five minutes, total.
It’s no secret that lighting can make—or break—a room’s vibe, but it also comes in handy when you don’t have enough time to clean.
“Dim the lights and give your home a cozy feel, while taking the glare off the dust on your coffee table,” she says.
Turning off ceiling lights and illuminating an accent lamp, plus some candles, can have the same effect. Either way, your home will seem warm and welcoming—and nobody will be the wiser that you didn’t actually spend all day cleaning.