Unplanned, Drop-in Visitors? How to Fake a Clean House in 15 Minutes

The message arrives: “Hi! I know it’s short notice, but can we stop by for a quick visit?” Unexpected visitors don’t need to trigger a panic attack! Even though a regular cleaning routine is the best way to keep your house looking good, life gets busy, and tidying-up shortcuts are occasionally essential. 

By following these ten speedy steps, you can feel more confident about welcoming and enjoying company whenever it arrives on your doorstep.

1. Set a timer! 

A ticking timer instills a sense of urgency and helps you focus on completing each step before your guests arrive.

2. Clear and stash 

Since there’s not enough time to put every out-of-place item where it belongs, grab an empty basket (or two) and toss any shoes, jackets, papers, toys, etc. into it. You can sort things out later! Right now, the priority is collecting any visible clutter where visitors are most likely to see it—in the entry, living room, bathroom, etc. Hide your catch-all basket in your bedroom closet or some other out-of-the-way spot.

3. Kitchen kwikies 

It’s hard to keep a kitchen clean and tidy! Fortunately, you can use the same scrambling techniques to get yours company-ready in minutes. Stack any dirty plates, bowls, pots, or cups in your dishwasher and arrange them later. Everything else, including just-washed dishes, cereal boxes, and pot holders, can be quickly hidden under the sink, inside your oven, or outside the kitchen in a laundry area or garage.  

4. Dampen a rag 

Before leaving the kitchen, soak and wring out a rag and quickly wipe down any obvious countertop messes. Keep the rag with you, draped over your shoulder to deal with any noticeable dust or grime in the rest of the house. 

5. Straighten up 

As you pass through your living areas, look for anything messy or out of place. Arrange accent pillows, fold and drape throws, straighten book stacks, close closet doors, and cabinet drawers, etc. 

6. Bathroom essentials 

Now, quickly turn your attention to the bathroom your visitors may use and concentrate on the sink. Using hand soap, wash your hands into a lather and wipe down the sink, counter, and fixtures, using the rag to wipe everything clean and dry. You might also want to sprinkle a little toilet cleaner into the toilet bowl and wipe off any conspicuous spots on the toilet seat or rim.

7. Empty small trash cans 

if you keep a trash can in the bathroom or open living areas, empty its contents into a tall hidden trash bin inside a kitchen cabinet, laundry room, or garage.

8. Turn up the lights 

Generally, spaces appear cleaner and fresher with bright instead of dim lighting, so open your curtains and blinds and turn on more lights. Of course, dusty shelves, tables, and electronics will appear dirtier under a bright beam of sunlight, so you may want to adjust your curtains accordingly—or quickly dust those spots. 

9. Scan the floor for dust bunnies 

Before stashing that damp rag in the laundry, inspect your floors for any noticeable dust bunnies that have accumulated along baseboards, furniture legs, or out in the open. Use your rag to wipe them up quickly!

10. Final touches 

With at least a minute to spare, consider helping your home smell cleaner by positioning a citrus-scented candle near the door. The goal is to add a subtle suggestion of “fresh”—not a heavy scent that sensitive visitors might find overwhelming. Finally, turn on some background music and take a deep sigh of relief that you’re ready to relax and enjoy your company!