A friend made a last-minute popover recently and said, “Does your house always look like this?”
I looked around for something weird. “Like what?”
“Like this.” She waved her hand in a broad gesture. “Clean and tidy!”
Ah. I smiled a little. Yes. Yes it does. But only when I have a 10—(or more)—minute warning.
I usually clean the house on Mondays. Top to bottom. Change the sheets, vacuum, dust, wipe down counters, scrub toilets, and water plants. I start dinner in the crockpot. If I have extra time, I’ll try to organize the always-present pile of recipes, bills, magazines and other paperwork. It kicks off the week in a positive way. And then, all I have to do the other six days is maintain.
But you know how it goes: The tidiness starts to loosen up a bit two days later. I mean, I don’t live in a museum with a full-time cleaning crew. Real life happens! The countertops get sticky in odd places. Dirt gets tracked in. Toilet paper gets down to four squares. Spiders weave webs in the corners overnight.
So when the phone rings and a friend says, “Hey—are you home? I’m in the area and thought I’d stop by”…I go into 10-minute-cleanup mode.
Most guests are happy to stay in the open-floor-plan living/dining/kitchen area. Couch cushions, blankets, slippers, and reading material are a very quick tidy-up: 2 minutes, tops. The dark wood floors ALWAYS need a sweep: 30 seconds. After I hide the pile of paperwork in the laundry room and store away errant cups, silverware and other dishes in the dishwasher, I wipe down the counters: 1 minute. The downstairs powder room always needs something—and sometimes more than “something”—so I give that area a solid minute.
That usually leaves me about five minutes to put out coffee, cookies/pastries, fruit, napkins—whatever I have on hand—for an impromptu casual chat. Guests never turn down that hosting gesture, and are usually delighted!
You know why? Because that 10 minutes of tearing around, getting things in order and putting out refreshments makes guests feel special. And they might just stay a little longer. We might get to laugh a little harder. I might learn something important—something life-changing.
To me, that’s far more important than any errand I needed to run, any news story I needed to read, any item on my to-do list. And I hope you’ll come to the same conclusion the next time a friend calls and says, “You home? I’m in the neighborhood…”