We’ve all had this happen. You’ve been sick for weeks. Your husband has just come home from out of town, and your house looks like you were raised by a pack of rabid raccoons who couldn‘t take their heads out of trash cans long enough to teach you proper housekeeping techniques.
Your husband is just as panicked as you are, because he is bringing his boss, the new client, and the new client’s wife to your house for cocktails in a few hours. That scenario or something like it COULD HAPPEN TO YOU.
Do not panic. I have some tried and true tricks developed over the past twenty-five years that I use to spare myself the worst of any humiliation I might experience when visitors see my home at less than its best.
Important note: plan to stop cleaning in time to jump in the shower and get presentable before your guests arrive. There are lots of excellent reasons for not having a clean house, but less than perfect personal hygiene is a more difficult a fault to ignore.
1. Put a small pot of water on the stove. Throw in an apple, an orange, some lemon juice, pomegranate, grapes, whatever fruit you have lying about that smells nice. No durian. Add cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, whatever you have on hand. bring to a boil and simmer. Makes the house smell awesome. My daughters love it. Do not under any circumstance allow all of the water to boil off and scorch the fruit to a smelly black residue. Defeats the purpose.
2. Clean the toilet and bathroom sink. There is no way to cheat on that one. Swish-swish, and you’re done.
3. Get rid of anything smelly. Scoop the cat box, take out the trash and throw out last week’s leftovers so that every time you open the fridge for cocktail olives an odd and sour smell doesn‘t waft into the living room.
4. Throw away all of your dead plants. Buy more at the grocery store or other cheap plant place that’s less than three minutes away. Grab cut flowers while you’re there. More on that later. Buy a pile of ferns and flowering plants. Cluster them together here and there and be lush and fecund.
5. Gather all of the dirty laundry in baskets and hide them in your room. If you have no baskets, or not enough baskets, kick the laundry into your room. If you have no baskets and your room is upstairs, use trash bags.
6. Gather up all of the clutter and crap and hide it in your room.
7. Make your children work for you. It’s time that they learned how to vacuum and hide laundry in your room.
8. Put out vases of flowers. Put them out there like you mean it. Like you have fresh, white lilies EVERY DAY.
9. Light candles and make a fire. In the fireplace. Nowhere else, if you can avoid it. Unless you have an outdoor pit, maybe. This trick keeps the room dim and gives your guests something to stare at besides the cobwebs.
10. When your CLEARLY JUDGMENTAL guests arrive, be sure to arch a brow if anyone inquires after your bedroom (only a churl would actually mention a lady’s boudoir) and insinuate that it’s too sexy a place to share. “Let’s not talk about my bedroom.” Don’t go too far. You don’t want your expression to venture into leer territory. You want to suggest a silk negligee, not a leather hood.
11. Lastly and most importantly: no matter how much or how little you got done before people came over, casually apologize for all of the mess and say you didn‘t have time to properly clean. (Not a lie: if you HAD, your house would be in next month’s Architectual Digest, AM I RIGHT?) Their imaginations will make it cleaner.
My daughter told me that her friend at Harvard does this in her dorm room. Learned it from me. Yep, I’m educating America’s youth. No need to thank me. I do what I can for the good of the country.
So tell me, what slight-of-hand do YOU practice when unexpected guests catch you with your metaphorical pants down? Please advise. I need all the help I can get.