The end result should look like this shot from Lonny.
We're going to give you the benefit of the doubt. You're not a slob. But you may've been a bit lax on your housekeeping and just let things go for a bit too long. And now you've got guests coming over and your place is an embarrassing mess. You need to clean up. The good news is that if you're strategic, your home can look impressively tidy in as little as 30 minutes. So whether you want to be prepared for a date or you just need some peace of mind before you walk out of the door, here's how to make your place look presentable—fast.
Prep Your Cleaning Kit
You've already got a vacuum, right? And dish soap and some kitchen sponges? Good. What you might not have, but definitely need, are the following: small towels or wash cloths for cleaning (you'd go through way too many paper towels), an all-surface cleaning spray and a foaming bathroom cleaner.
Your Plan of Attack
You want your bathroom clean because it's the one room that nearly every guest will interact with at some point. Begin by removing everything from around the sink, the tub's ledge and on top of the toilet. Then spray down the tub, sink and toilet with the foaming cleaner and let it sit to do its work. Pick up any dirty towels or clothes and toss them in your hamper. Grab any old reading material and throw it away on your way to the living room.
Straighten up the couch cushions, fluff the pillows and neatly fold your throw blanket (if you have one). Clean up your coffee table by straightening any piles of magazines or books and corralling your remote controls. Toss any junk mail or catalogs that have piled up. On your way out, grab any water glasses or plates and bring them to the kitchen.
A sink full of dirty dishes will make your whole place look filthy. If you've got a dishwasher, load it up. If not, fill your sink with hot water and dish soap and let 'em soak while you tidy up. Put away any containers and cereal boxes and wipe down the counters with your all-surface cleaning spray. Then scrub down the dishes in the sink, drain the water and rinse them off. Dry and put them away (or at the very least, place them into your drying rack).
The scrubbing bubbles have worked their proverbial magic and now you've just got to wipe everything down with your towel. Next, spray down the mirror and metal fixtures with your all-surface spray and wipe them free of water spots and toothpaste splatter. Straighten (or neatly refold) your bath towels and put away anything you wouldn't want a guest to see.
If you don't have the time, simply close the bedroom door. But this shouldn't take long. If you haven't done so already, make your bed. Then make sure your night stand is tidy and your floor is free of any clothes.
Your mission is to eliminate the little crumbs, debris and dust bunnies that might stick to people's socks. Because that instantly makes your guests feel dirty. So run the vacuum in your entryway, through the living room and if there's time, get all the stray hairs that are inevitably in the bathroom. If you've got more time, you can be more thorough. The Sweethome tested several models, and found the Hoover Air Cordless 2-in-1 best for smaller homes and apartments.