“Your house, it looks so … lived in.”
This is something I hear when people drop by my home. I assume they are referring to the mountain of shoes by the door, smudge layers on the appliances and general disarray of things. Because yes, we do live here. Life is only tidy when you’re pretending it isn’t otherwise.
Endearing as life’s messes may be, the holidays are a good excuse to get it together. A house should be cleaned at some point anyway, and if anticipating the in-laws is what makes it happen, go with it. After all, it is one thing for a house to look “lived in” and another thing for it to look like it was abandoned to a bunch of monkeys.
With that in mind, here are a few holiday cleaning tips to make it appear you are more together than you really are:
Prioritize. When I’ve got a limited amount of time to clean the house, I’m not going for perfect — I’m going for “not gross.” Standards vary on this but here are things most of us agree are gross: cobwebs, mold, insect carcasses, food that is affixed to a surface and anything produced by you or your pet’s body. Remove these things from your home. Visible dust will get you secretly judged by a guest but it won’t have the same effect as if your toilet’s surfaces bear multiple colors.
Double check what’s on the wall. In your hurry to tidy up the floor and counter, don’t forget to take a quick peek at your wallspace. This is helpful if you, like me, occasionally hang “placeholder” frames on bare walls and forget to fill them. (It was months before a friend asked about it.) Or you put something on the wall as a joke and forgot to take it down. (Like the sign hanging over our toilet that reads “Here is where I want to be.”) If you’ve got energetic family members like I do, you’ll need to straighten your wall hangings a bit. And, if you have grandkids, make sure all the cousins’ photos are displayed with equal prominence, at least for the occasion.
First impressions matter. If the entrance to your home is clean and tidy, your guests are more likely to assume the same is true of your storage areas and life in general. Make their first views pleasant ones and they’ll be more forgiving of what follows. Have a place for guests to put their coats, and don’t forget to sweep the porch.
Vacuum. If your carpet is a disaster, vacuum all of it — or at least the parts guests can see. If your carpet is fairly clean, just vacuum the bit of carpet closest to the door — when your guests see the vacuum lines, they’ll assume you did the whole house. If your carpet stinks, sprinkle baking soda on it and let it sit for as long as possible, up to 24 hours, before you vacuum it up.