5 Ways to Trick People Into Thinking Your Home Is Clean

We’ve all been there: you’ve invited someone over, but then you realize your place is a total mess. You don’t want to look like a major slob — especially if this person is a gentleman caller. In an ideal world, you’d have a whole day to deep clean your entire house, buy nicer furniture, and lose 5 pounds. But this is the real world, and you have 15 minutes because he is already on the way over…shitttt!

Don’t freak out! Follow these five easy steps, and with only minimal actual cleaning you can trick even the most discerning guest into thinking you’ve got it together.

1) De-Clutter
Nothing makes a place look messier than a bunch of random stuff sitting out on all the surfaces. So, go around each room and pick up anything that’s lying about — magazines, dirty socks, used ketchup packets, etc. Stay focused and work fast — don’t get hung up opening all the mail that’s piled up or organizing things. If you can’t easily put it back where it belongs, toss it in a pile and then stuff that pile into a cabinet or closet. If you live in a tiny apartment and have nowhere to hide it, try this: pull some of your dirty clothes out of your hamper, put the clutter pile in there, and then put the clothes over the top of it. NOBODY HAS TO KNOW.

Pay special attention to the kitchen sink. Be sure to get all the dirty dishes out of it — doesn’t matter if you put them in the dishwasher, stick them (temporarily!) in the cabinet under the sink, or wash them. Just don’t leave them in the sink, because it makes the kitchen look messy even if the rest of it is clean.

Unless you are a hoarder (in which case you probably aren’t inviting people over anyway), decluttering will instantly make your home look 100x cleaner.

2) Swiffer is Your Best Friend
This one is obvious, but it works. Once you’ve picked up your clutter, grab a Swiffer and do the floors in any room where people could conceivably go (even the bathroom). If you don’t have a swiffer, a damp paper towel that you push around frantically with your foot works too. (Sadly, if you have carpeting in your main entertaining area, you might have to break out the vacuum. It’ll be worth it, I promise.)

Also, use a Swiffer cloth or damp towel to go over any tabletops, counters, and surfaces that your guests will be near. If you have pets, giving your sofa and chairs a quick once over with a lint roller is a good idea.

3) Make It Smell Nice
Even if your house doesn’t smell bad, making it smell actively GOOD will manipulate people’s brains into thinking the place is cleaner than it really is. Important: do not give into the temptation to douse your entire apartment in Febreze. That will only make it smell like weird chemicals and tip people off that you’re hiding something. (Same goes for air fresheners and really heavily-scented candles.) Here are some quick things to do:

-If the weather is even halfway decent, open all the windows for as long as you can stand. This will get the air circulating and get rid of any trace of stale humanity that might be lingering.
-If you have a garbage disposal, drop the peels from any kind of citrus fruit in and give it a whir. You can also gently simmer some water and citrus peel (or cinnamon sticks, or ginger, or whatever food item you have lying around that smells good) in a small pot on the stove for 15 or 20 minutes before people arrive.
-If you have a floor cleaner that smells nice/fresh, put a bit on a paper towel and rub it over a small patch of floor in any room where your guests will be spending time. It makes it smell like you mopped, but you didn’t!
 — I’ve never done this, because I don’t own a fan or a dryer, but my friend Miciah swears by putting a dryer sheet in front of a fan for 30 minutes. Just be careful not to use sheets with a strong floral scent — it’ll overwhelm the room with a sickly sweet smell.
-Bake something. If you want to go all out and actually make a cake or whatever, feel free. But really you can just buy pre-made cookie dough and pop it in the oven right before people come over. It will make your place smell extra homey — plus everyone will think you can bake.

4) Open and Close Things!
This is all about strategically controlling what your guests can and cannot see.

Things to open:
-The curtains/shades, unless it’s dark outside. Letting light into the house makes it feel brighter and more airy.
-The bathroom door. It helps air it out and makes it easier for people to find.
-Doors to rooms that are clean and/or you don’t mind someone seeing into.
-The door to your heart. Remember, as Jane Seymour has taught us, “If your heart is open, love will always find its way in.” What? I don’t know. It can’t hurt.

Things to close:
-The shower curtain. This hides a dirty bathtub and also makes the bathroom look neater.
-Closet doors. This makes your bedroom look more pulled together and hides any messes you’ve shoved in there.
-Doors to non-essential rooms that can’t be neatened up in 2 minutes or less. Nobody will try to go in if the door is closed, so shut it and don’t your waste time.

5) Put Out Some Flowers
Depending on where you live, you might not have time to go out and fetch flowers. But if it’s at all possible, do it. They don’t have to be expensive or even particularly attractive. Put them in a simple vase (or a glass), and place them on your dining table or in the middle of your entertaining space. They’ll make the room look fancier, and I can guarantee your guests will comment on how nice they look.

Phew! You’re done! That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now you’re free to enjoy your guest(s). Just remember to take the clutter pile out of the hamper when they leave!

Picture via Flickr