You guys know I love a clean home. But it’s hard to keep up with things, so every now and then – it looks completely trashed.  And more often than not, that’s when I get a phone call from a dear friend who happens to be in the neighborhood…


“Can I drop by in 10 minutes or so? I’d love to see you!”


My answer is always YES – and then I go into hyperdrive mode to make the house look presentable.  This exact scenario happened yesterday, and while I was tidying up, I realized that my “method” would be an awesome thing to share on the blog.  This technique is especially important for the holidays!


Now – “Drop-By Guest Clean” is not actually clean.  It’s about the appearance of clean.  But when you have family or friends stopping by in 10 minutes, that’s all you can really ask for.


Step 1:  Tackle Smells


In a small pot, combine 1.5 cup water, two tablespoons of cinnamon, and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.  Turn heat to HIGH and let it come to a boil.  This combo releases an AWESOME, ALL-NATURAL smell into your home and makes it seem like you were just  baking cookies.  Hah.  Very important – the last step in the “Drop-By Guest Clean” process is to remove the pot from the stove.  You don’t want it to burn!


Step 2: Tackle Clutter


Grab a reusable grocery bag and throw everythingon visible surfaces in it – toss in the mail, the piles of magazines, the books, the receipts, the field trip forms, whatever.  Then, toss the bag into your bedroom and close the door.  I prefer this method to making neat stacks of things because I think an empty coffee table looks cleaner than a “tidy” one.


If you have kids, you’ll also want to wrangle at least some of the toys.  You could drop everything into cute baskets, try my behind-the-couch method, toss stuff into a closet, or – again – throw the bigger pieces into your bedroom.


Step 3: Tackle the Guest Bathroom


Bathrooms are a scary place to clean – but the “Drop-By Guest Clean” process is super simple.  Light a candle and put it on the back of the toilet.  Grab two rags and an all-purpose cleaning spray.  Use the first rag to clean up the floor, wiping up stray hairs or dust.  Use the second rag to wipe down the mirror, then sink, and then the outside of toilet (plus under the lid, if a male is coming over).  If there’s a ring in the toilet bowl, quickly scrub it. If you have toothbrushes or anything out on the counter, put the junk into a drawer.  Refold the hand towel.  That’s it!


Step 4: Tackle the Kitchen


No time for dishes!  Instead – hide them.  I stash dirty pots and pans in the oven (just don’t forget they’re in there and turn it on later!).  Put dirty dishes in a large soup pot and stash it under the sink.  Or – do what my Mom does – and pile everything in the sink and drape a dish towel over the mess.  Then, wipe down the countertops and spot-clean any big messes on the floor.


Step 5: Vacuum Sneaky


Okay – we’re running out of time!  I skip this step if my floors look decent, but if they are in desperate need of a vacuum, I “vacuum sneaky,” which involves putting vacuum lines on the rug in my living room (where my guests sit).  This gives the appearance of a completely vacuumed house, even if it means I only ran it for 30 seconds!


Step 6:  Lights!


Turn off any harsh overhead lights and throw open the blinds or flip on table lamps instead.  It’s amazing how much cleaner your home will look in soft lighting!


Other fun cleaning posts:


Toy Control!

PicMonkey Collage

Simple Tips for a Cleaner House


Make Your Own Swiffer Pads + Solution




  • Kim October 31, 2014, 12:09 pm

    Wow, such clever ideas! Seriously! I never would have thought to stash dishes in the oven. I usually just apologize profusely to guests for the mess. lol

  • Liina October 31, 2014, 12:12 pm

    This is awsome! I especially love the tip about the bags for clutter.

    I would like to read about your ideas what you offer your impropmtu guests for snacks or refreshments on such short notice?

    • Caitlin October 31, 2014, 12:13 pm

      I usually offer up tea – we break out the tea set and I bring out honey, milk, and our wooden tea box with a ton of different tea bags. It looks fancy and it’s super easy.

      Anyone else have good ideas?

      • Catalina @ Shades of Pink October 31, 2014, 12:28 pm

        I always have a few extra bags of crackers in my pantry and some sort of cheese in the fridge. I usually combine some cheese, crackers and dates, it looks fancy, taste good, and takes no time to put together.

  • Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine October 31, 2014, 12:14 pm

    Love the smell idea!

  • Catalina @ Shades of Pink October 31, 2014, 12:27 pm

    All great tips, thanks for sharing, I especially liked the first one, a good smelling house makes it already seem cleaner and more comfortable.

  • Rachel October 31, 2014, 12:34 pm

    My husband and I are pretty good at tag-team cleaning our house in a jiffy. Our biggies are sweeping the floor in the kitchen (kids = crumbs!), cleaning the counter tops, fluffing the couch cushions and pillows and lighting candles. I’m a big candle freak and love burning pretty smelling candles. Chances are I have one burning regardless of anyone coming over. Just having the house smell good is a win for me 🙂

  • Tonya October 31, 2014, 1:15 pm

    This is such an unintentionally hilarious post! I love it. The tips are great and whole situation is so relatable. Think I WON’T use that cinnamon/vanilla tip? Think I HAVEN’T done the dishtowel thing like your Mom?? ha I could feel the ten minute timer counting down as I read this. LOL!

    • Caitlin October 31, 2014, 1:36 pm

      Hahah hurry hurry!!! we’ve all been there.

  • Holly @ Happiness This Hour October 31, 2014, 1:25 pm

    I love this! I do the same thing, but have never used such methodical approached. Great post! 🙂

  • kath October 31, 2014, 1:38 pm

    Lol Caitlin! I like all of these great tips but the dirty dishes. I don’t think I could put them under the sink in a pot I’ll then have to add to the hand wash list. Love you!

  • Katie October 31, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Super helpful! Thanks 🙂

    I’m curious, though. Do you confess that you just boiled some nice smelling water when they ask what that great smell is? I feel like they’d expect some cookies on the counter, with that smell!

    • Caitlin October 31, 2014, 4:22 pm

      haha no i tell them the secret 🙂

  • Carrie (This Fit Chick) October 31, 2014, 4:13 pm

    These are so clever! Love little tricks like this… I’m lazy when it comes to cleaning/picking up!

  • Diana Griffith October 31, 2014, 4:26 pm

    I love all these tips, especially the one about the dishes. Genius, pure genius!

  • Jenn October 31, 2014, 4:40 pm

    I thought you used a robot vacuum? Also, the thought of cramming dirty dishes under the sink or in the oven totally freaks out my OCD/cleanliness side.

    • Caitlin October 31, 2014, 4:57 pm

      I do 🙂 i use both. The problem with the Neato is its so slow you can’t use it for fast stuff like this.

  • Lacey October 31, 2014, 5:00 pm

    My friends understand that life is too busy and that friendships are more important than a clean house. Although I like your tips, and appreciate that most people want to have a home that at least looks clean when people have come over, I usually respond to the “can I stop by in 10 minutes” question with of course, but don’t expect my house to be clean. If they want to come by its to see me, not check to see how clean things are….just my two cents…maybe we all need to stop caring what other people think (through your blog and operation beautiful I have stopped caring what people think of me and have a better body image and I guess I have extended that to my home as well)

    • Caitlin October 31, 2014, 8:31 pm

      I like this attitude too 🙂

  • Caitlin @ Happy 'n' Hungry October 31, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Good tips! I feel like our place is always fairly “picked up,” but the dog hair is a different story. I could vacuum 10 times per day and wouldn’t get it all. So that’s a big priority — breaking out the vacuums before surprise guests drop by!

  • Lesley October 31, 2014, 5:12 pm

    IS it OK if i use these tricks 10 minutes before my guests arrive tomorrow morning, even though we made plans last week? 🙂

  • Jessie October 31, 2014, 5:36 pm

    My number 1 tip (that I’m surprised wasn’t on your list!) is to empty all trash cans. Not only will this help with lingering smells but an empty trash can is visually appealing.

    • Trisha October 31, 2014, 9:46 pm

      These are great ideas! I just boiled the water/cinnamon/vanilla and it smells great! But I managed to turn my back on it while it was still on high and the mixture completely boiled over and made a big mess on my burner. So now I have another mess to tend to 🙂

  • Alan October 31, 2014, 10:21 pm

    Step number X:
    Have Caitlin come over and clean it, because it is very clear that she does a MUCH better job than I can ever do 🙂

    As I have said during the pregnancy, I hope that you are feeling great and enjoy your last few weeks of single-child hood. Sorry that the Miami Canes have not cooperated with you.

  • Kari November 1, 2014, 6:41 pm

    You should look into getting a dishwasher. I was tired of having dishes on my sink so invested in one. Now I throw my dishes in as soon as I’m done with them, turn it on when it’s full and then am ready to start over. It’s reduced my kitchen clutter a ton.

  • Samantha November 2, 2014, 10:07 pm

    I love your honesty and your blog posts always have great ideas — but “vacuum sneaky” to give your house the “appearance” of clean? Aren’t we trying to be accepting of our authentic selves, untidy house and all? I apologize if this sounds critical because I know blog comments can be a mixed bag, I wish I could just give you a hug and say don’t worry about the vacuum lines! I have 3 kids (6, 5, 2) so my standards for “clean” are probably WAY lower than yours. 🙂

    • Caitlin November 3, 2014, 10:33 am

      Haha my standards for clean continue to drop the older my kid gets! 🙂

      I was raised in a home that places a lot of importance on a clean house, especially when hosting guests. A clean house is a welcoming house – it’s truthfully one of my personal priorities and just something that I put a lot of value on. I think guests are uncomfortable in homes that don’t look and smell at least halfway decent – I don’t demand perfection in my own space, but I do think it’s about creating a level of comfort for visitors.

      • Julie November 3, 2014, 11:21 am

        I’m the same way, Caitlin. It drives me crazy to have guests come over to a dirty house. I’m not over the top about it either, but do like to have the guest bathroom clean for them & have clutter & kitchen messes cleaned up (well, pretty much all the things you covered!). 😉 Our kitchen/dining/living room is all 1 big great room so I really try to have the kitchen cleaned up as much as possible all the time. Of course that doesn’t always happen w/ teenagers (& a husband!), but I do my best. 😛

        • Caitlin November 3, 2014, 11:22 am

          Hahah put those teenagers to work!!! I can’t wait to make Henry do chores. LOL

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