Procrastinators Guide to Housecleaning

Clear the decks. Decluttering kitchen counters is the single most effective thing you can do to make that space look and feel cleaner. Allow only the coffeemaker (aka Mommy's I.V.), bulky appliances like toaster ovens and stand mixers, and anything else you really, truly, swear-to-goodness use every day to remain. Put away the cooking oil, the Benadryl that's been on the counter for two weeks, and the clean dishes (which means, yes, you have to wash them first!). If that's too much paring down, aim for keeping things one-item-deep along the backsplash. Then do a thorough wipe-down of counters, sink, faucets and stovetop. If you don't know how old your sponge is, chuck it. And while we're at it, may we suggest you get in the habit of regularly sanitizing your sponges? Toss them (damp) in the microwave for 30 seconds, or put in the dishwasher every time you run a load.

Be a bathroom bully. Take an even tougher stance in the bathroom, since porcelain surfaces practically shriek out their dirtiness. Declutter first (toiletries, hair scrunchies, etc.), then scour out the scum in the soap dish, wipe the toothpaste spray off the mirror, and scrub the toilet bowl (if there are males in your house, check under the toilet seat because there will be pee stains). Spritz air freshener

Don't be a basket case. Remember the stuff in the laundry-basket? Put it all back where it belongs. If you're really strapped for time, stash the basket in a closet, raise your right hand, and swear on your youngest child that you will get it all to the right place as soon as your company leaves.

Hit the floor. Give your floors a quick swab with a Swiffer-type floor mop to get crud and crumbs off hard surfaces. Find the vacuum (you know, that noisy thing with the cord you can never untangle), and pass over carpet and rugs last, since all the dirt and dust you've just kicked up will settle on the floor. But this isn't the time to be lifting the sofa (you'll only hit that box of paperwork anyway): Stick to the areas you can either see or actually walk on.

Add a finishing touch. Divvy up a bouquet of supermarket flowers and place these mini floral arrangements between the entryway, the living room and the bathroom. Then do a final walk-through with a wipe in hand, and pick up or swab down anything that escaped your eye the first time. Spray air freshener in the main rooms. Straighten books and DVDs on shelves. If it can fit in a drawer (without the drawer exploding, of course), get it out of plain view.

Do you! If you really do have company coming—heck, even if you don't—clean yourself up. Seriously. You'll feel better about everything if you like what you're wearing and how your hair and face look. Then go pour yourself a drink—after that whirlwind, you deserve it!

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