Do it: Mop the kitchen floor
Make sure your floors are clean enough that your guests aren’t scared to walk around without shoes on. “There’s nothing worse than walking into the kitchen and feeling like you’re stepping on crumbs or something sticky,” says Laura Bonucchi, director of interior design for Designed to SELL Homes, LLC. Check out these tips for cleaning hardwood floors and these tips for cleaning vinyl floors.
Do it: Wipe down the bathroom
“Houseguests are definitely going to notice bathrooms because they’re going to be using them,” says Maeve Richmond, founder and coach of organizing company Maeve’s Method. “It’s a good opportunity to look and see what the bathroom looks like, because that’s an area people take for granted. It’s hard to look at a bathroom with fresh eyes on a day-to-day basis.” Don’t go crazy, but absolutely make sure that the sink and toilet are clean, and that there’s toilet paper. (These are ways you might be cleaning your bathroom all wrong.)
Do it: Offer fresh bathroom towels
If you’re having overnight guests, make sure each person has at least one clean bath towel and washcloth. Women might want a separate one for their hair, so give extras, and let guests know where to put their dirty towels, says Bonucchi. Even if your guests aren’t staying the night, having people over can be a reminder to switch out your dirty hand towels, says Richmond. “We need triggers in life,” she says. “Tying the idea of new hand towels to guests is a good way to get a dirty job done that may be overlooked otherwise."
Do it: Open up dresser space
While you don’t have to clear out the guest room of every piece of clutter, you should make sure there’s enough space for your visitors to put their belongings. Provide hangers in the closet, and empty out a few drawers. “As long as the room is open enough to get around and not overly much clutter—you just want a basic, comfortable room with a bed and a place to put their things,” says Bonucchi. If you really want to go above and beyond, a fresh flower and a magazine are small, hospitable touches your guests are sure to notice, she says.
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Do it: Clear off the table
“So many people multiuse their table surfaces in life,” says Richmond. “The kitchen table is also used as a home office.” Instead of going through the time to look at every bill and paper—talk about overwhelming!—pick a spot in your home to be the temporary home for those sorts of files. After guests are gone, put the papers back to their original spot so you don’t forget about the unfinished business, says Richmond.
Do it: Get rid of odors
“Pay attention to the things you’ve gone nose blind to because you’re used to living in the house,” says Bonucchi. Especially if you’ve got pets, you might not notice a distracting odor in your home. Spritz a bit of air freshener, or light a candle in the kitchen and bathroom. You can get rid of these 27 gross smells with items in your pantry.
Do it: Clean out the fridge
You probably don’t think of the state of your fridge often, but visitors will peek in with a set of fresh eyes. To keep it looking fresh, take just five minutes to take out expired condiments and produce that’s past its prime, then quickly wipe down the shelves, says Richmond. “They’re things barely anyone thinks to do on a regular basis,” she says. “It’s a great incentive to clean up the other parts of the shelf.” While you're at it, keep these foods out of the refrigerator.
Do it: Offer a drink
Particularly if your guests have been traveling, they might be hungry or thirsty when they arrive, says Bonucchi. Offer them a drink or a snack once they’ve dropped off their belongings in their room.
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Do it: Change the bed sheets
“Houseguests definitely notice sheets,” says Richmond. “How could they not because they’ll be sleeping on this?” Prepare the guest bed with fresh linens that are free of rips and stains.
Skip it: Buying new linens
While you should always make sure the bedding is clean, don’t be embarrassed by the frumpy guest sheets your aunt gave you at your wedding. “In general, our stuff in our home tells a story of who we are,” says Richmond. “I enjoy seeing the sheets someone gives me because it gives me a sense of their life and home. It’s a cozy feeling to sleep on sheets you can tell someone has had for a while.”
Skip it: Hiding every toy
While no one would expect a parent’s home to look like a child has never stepped foot inside, consider designating one area of the house for playtime when you have guests around. “Of course children will continue to play and dump out toys, and there’s no stopping them from doing that because they’re living there too,” says Bonucchi. “Try and reign in the toys so they’re not all over the house.”
Skip it: Putting books on the shelf
iStock/Marc Rosario Venturing Autie
Leaving your current weekend read or your favorite magazines lying around can spark conversation, making a good icebreaker for guests. “Guests, believe it or not, like to step into a home and see things that are real,” says Richmond. “To take away magazines and piles of books, you’re not representing who you are, and detracting from the experience of interacting with guests.” Check out these expert tips for perfectly styling your bookshelves.
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Skip it: Dusting and vacuuming a clean home
If Sunday is your normal dusting day, don’t rush to get your chores done on Friday just because you have guests coming. As long as your home is generally clean, your guests probably won’t notice. But if you’re self-conscious about the state of your house, now is the time to put in some extra effort. “If you’re feeling uncertain or uncomfortable because you haven’t vacuumed or dusted in a while, do those because it will make you as a host feel more comfortable in your home when guests arrive,” says Richmond. “But you shouldn’t go crazy. They’re not there for the home—they’re there for you.”
Skip it: Making the mirror shine
Visitors likely won’t notice if your mirror is sparkling clean, so don’t stress if you don’t have time to wipe it down. That said, a sparkling mirror could give your home a subtle sense of cleanliness that makes a big impact. “If it’s clean, no one will know it’s been cleaned, but they will be gifted with a sense that the house is brighter, lighter, and cleaner,” says Richmond.
Skip it: Cleaning the master bedroom
If you know your guests won’t be stepping foot in the master bedroom or basement, don’t bother cleaning those rooms. “It’s better to focus on the parts of the house that they’re going to spend the most time in,” says Bonucchi.
Skip it: Completing unfinished projects
Being aware of how visitors see your home can make you panic about the things in your home in need of revamping. But don’t worry about painting that wall or fixing that leaky faucet just because you’ll have people staying with you. “The idea of having houseguests can trigger a lot of things for people,” says Richmond. “It’s great if the idea of having guests is motivating to finishing a project, but it doesn’t make sense in terms of a short-term houseguest.” Warn your guests of things like faulty doorknobs so they don’t think they broke something, but don’t stress about remodeling before they come.
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Skip it: Getting details spotless
You might be tempted to get your entire house spotless to prepare for visitors, but making sure you have basic amenities like toilet paper and towels should be your priority. No need to bother deep cleaning your baseboards or windowpanes. “It’s not stressing out about those fine details,” says Bonucchi. “It’s overall paying attention to the common comforts that people expect when they’re staying somewhere.”
Skip it: Buying new home goods
“Having people over is the number-one panic inducer for people when it comes to their homes,” says Richmond. But that doesn’t mean you need to rush out for a new shower curtain or dish container, she says. As long as the space is clean, it doesn’t need to be stylish.