Your in-laws called. They’re in the neighborhood. They want to stop by. They’ll be there in five minutes.
Your current situation:
You just started three loads of laundry. The kids dumped all of their Legos all over the floor. Breakfast dishes are piled high in the sink. The baby just flung her Cheerios across the room.
The house is a wreck.
No sweat…You can handle this.
It’s about finding a manageable, palatable solution in the midst of the crazy reality. It’s not perfect. But it’s good enough for now.
In this case, you need to employ all of your tools, resources—and most of all, household hacks—to make your house look neat and organized when your guests pop in.
Focus on these five areas to cover the most ground:
1. Common areas: the laundry basket hack
Laundry baskets are an essential organizing tool. They hold a ton. They are easy to transport. They are easy to conceal. I have twins and, boy do I know, clutter can happen…just like that. Keep baskets in (or close to) your common areas, accessible for those “drop-in” moments.
Any clutter in those rooms goes right in the basket. The basket goes right into the laundry room. A nicely folded blanket goes right on top, covering up any evidence of clutter.
When your guests leave, you can return items to the appropriate room.
2. Playroom: center of all kid’s clutter
Toys! Toys! Everywhere. You. Turn.
Where to put it all?
The quick clean up is all about the playroom floors… keeping them clear for the unexpected walk-through or for when Mom-Mom or Pop-Pop wants to plop down on the carpet to play with the kids.
Large canvas tote to the rescue!
If your family is like mine, you’ll have several of these around the house. Use them to quickly store stuffed animals, toys, dolls, cars, action figures—anything you find lying around the playroom. Toss filled tote in a corner or along the wall to keep walkways open.
Make it a game! Grab a small broom and dust pan from your child’s play kitchen or clean up set. Use a timer to see how fast your kids can sweep up the mess.
And if you can’t spare a second, I've also been known to use a clean, fitted sheet to gather up all the toys on the floor—cinch it up and store away until your company leaves.
I'm glad my twins are now 10 years old and skilled at the quick clean up!
3. Bathrooms: clean up in a pinch
Bathrooms can get quite messy, especially if you have young kids. Keep a small spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner and towel in each bathroom, for quick clean ups. I hang the spray bottle from a small 3M hook attached to the side of the toilet. Make sure you label the spray bottle to ensure guests know it's not room spray. No more big bottles of cleaner in the bathroom, and you’ll always know where the supplies are!
Just remember, if you have very small children you should keep the cleaners up and out of their reach.
4. Kitchen: duck + cover
Have an overflowing sink of dishes and no time to clean them? Place a large cutting board right on top to hide the dirty dishes. Direct guests to the bathroom if they need to wash their hands!
5. Floors: stick-y is good
Skip the broom and invest in a stick vacuum, good for any surface, easy + light weight. If your kids are old enough, put them to work. Spot clean with wipes, no need to do the whole floor with mop and water.
Reminder! Give yourself a break. People know you’re a hard-working parent. No one is expecting perfection, especially during an unexpected visit. They want to see you and the kids and probably won’t care about how many dishes you have in the sink!
But the “pop-in” can be a great motivator to get your home organized. With kids, it’s always difficult but teach them young…and can you can lighten the load when it comes to cleaning and organizing your living space.