Your phone beeps with a new text. Your mother-in-law is in the area and would love to stop by to see you and the kids. She knows it’s short notice, but you won’t mind, of course. You love unplanned visitors. You sneak a glance around your home and cringe at the sight of Legos littering the floor, dirty dishes on the counter, dust bunnies in the corner, and shoes piled by the door. Don’t panic! Here’s how to fake a clean home when visitors are just minutes away.


Clean House

Whether you have 5 minutes or 50 minutes before your lovely guests arrive, you still have to do something! Start at the top of this list and work your way down as quickly as possible, until the doorbell rings. If you end up with extra time, you can go back and clean a room more thoroughly, grab a shower and get yourself ready, or just kick up your feet and relax!

Light a candle:

Take a whiff. Do you smell the lingering scent of dirty diapers and sour milk? That won’t do. Light a scented candle. Not only will it mask any offensive odors, it will make your home feel extra cozy and calm.

Product Recommendation

Try Mrs. Meyer’s line of soy candles. They come in amazing scents, and the jar can be used as a juice glass when the candle is finished burning. Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Shut the doors:

Most visitors that are staying temporarily will only be spending their time in your main living area. Go ahead and shut the doors to all other bedrooms and bathrooms. It doesn’t matter if your son hasn’t cleaned his room in months. They won’t notice the mess if it’s behind a closed door.

Focus on the main room:

Choose whatever room your visitors will mainly be in and focus your attention there.

  • Quick Declutter: Grab a laundry basket or trash bag and start dumping in anything that is not where it should be. When finished, stash the bag in a closet or somewhere out of the way. After your visitors have left, then you can go through and organize all the items, and return them to their proper places. Hopefully not back on the floor! (Quick Declutter will be used again in the following tips.)
  • Straighten and fluff throw pillows.
  • Any large pieces of furniture that are very visible (such as TV stands or end tables) and are covered in an inch of dust: run a dust cloth over them.
  • Quickly run the vacuum or Swiffer to capture any dust bunnies, stray Cheerios, or lingering pet hair.
  • If there are any obvious smudges on mirrors or windows, wipe them off.
You can make your own homemade window cleaner by mixing equal parts distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, or you can try this natural version by Seventh Generation.
  • Turn on a side lamp. Well lit rooms actually make things appear cleaner and tidier, rather than hiding your dirt in the dark.

Clean the guest bathroom:

It’s common courtesy to offer your guest a drink when they arrive. It’s also nice to make sure they have a clean place to relieve themselves of that drink. Only quick-clean the bathroom that you will be offering your guest to use.

  • Make sure the hand soap is full and there is enough toilet paper available.
  • Quick declutter.
  • Clean the toilet, focusing on the seat and inside the bowl.
  • Wipe down the counter and sink.
  • Straighten the hand towel and any other towels.

Clean the kitchen:

  • Quick declutter. If you have room in any extra drawers or cabinets, go ahead and toss your kitchen clutter in those. If you have tons of things littering your counters that you want concealed when your guests arrive, put it all in the oven.
Remember, this is only a temporary fix! Please don’t forget you shoved your week old bills in the soup pot. And don’t even think about heating up the oven if your camera and kid’s lunchboxes are hiding in there.
  • Dirty dishes go in the dishwasher.
  • Wipe down countertops.
Product Recommendation

Use Mrs. Meyer’s Countertop Spray as a natural, great smelling way to help keep your counters clean. Simply spray on and wipe off.


You did it! Take a deep breath, put on some lipstick, and open the door. Now you can welcome your mother-in-law with a happy smile and a “clean” home!

If you’re looking for even more ways to keep your home clean and orderly, check out Managing Toy Clutter and Keep a Clean House over Summer Vacation!

Photo credits: Bathroom adapted from KairosPhotography (CC BY 2.0), The Memoirs of Megan, Living Room adapted from Emily May (CC BY 2.0), Young House Love

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