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Cleaning up for guests

It's common, accepted advice: Clean as you go. Put away mail as you open it, wipe down counters as you get them dirty, and wash dishes as you use them. But realistically, that's not always feasible. On occasion, you have friends coming over, and you have exactly five minutes to undo two weeks of damage. Don't worry, all is not lost! Remember, it's okay if your house still looks lived in when you're done with these tips.

Hit the bathroom

People can forgive piles of dishes or dusty baseboards, but chances are, they'll have to use the bathroom. Even when it's unintentional, guests always notice a dirty bathroom. Do you really want them making snap judgments about your cleanliness level (or lack thereof)?

For this reason, one of your top priorities should be removing those scummy lines around the tub and in the toilet. You don't have to deep clean — just tackle the dirt with a blast of cleaning solution. And if all else fails, shut your shower curtain. Also, wiping down the fixtures and counter in your bathroom can make a visible change in the bathroom's appearance.

Clear the sink

If you don't have time to run the dishwasher or wash all your dirty dishes by hand, at least make the pile look presentable. Place them all in the sink and consolidate the mess to lessen the overall untidy and cluttered look of the kitchen. On the other hand, if you have a dishwasher, don't be ashamed to jam-pack all your dishes inside, which is akin to sweeping the mess under your bed.

Sweep or vacuum

A pass over the carpet with a vacuum cleaner will pick up dirt you didn't even know was there. This instantly freshens up the room and is especially crucial if people are going to be sitting on the floor. It's unflattering for your guests to notice a clump of hair or a ball of pet fur on the carpet. If all else fails: Go outside.

Host your bash outside, if possible. Avoid the house altogether! An outdoor barbecue party is always fun (weather permitting). Use paper plates and plastic utensils to create the least amount of work when the party is over. Guests will clean up after themselves if it's easy to find a trash can, so place several trash cans and recycling bins where everyone can find them.

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