We’ve all been there. The phone call from a friend or a family member who happens to be in the local area and thinks oh wouldn’t it be nice to just pop in and say hello.
And yes, of course, that would be absolutely lovely. Except that you’re looking around at the state of your house. The toys all over the floor, the dishes on the kitchen counter, the pile of laundry left by the washing machine ready to go in, the paperwork on the table – all the day-to-day clutter of a busy house.
“7AM, the usual morning line-up
Start on the chores and sweep ’til the floor’s all clean,
Polish and wax, do laundry, and mop and shine up
Sweep again and by then it’s like 7:15.”
(from ‘When Will My Life Begin’ by Alan Menkin & Glenn Slater)
However, whilst I’m not quite blessed with Rapunzel’s speedy scrubbing skills, there are a few tricks that I use to make my home look a lot tidier in the few minutes I have before the doorbell rings:
- Grab a big cardboard box and sweep all the paperwork into it before shutting it out of sight in the study (usually joining the other cardboard boxes from the last few times I did this!)
- Failing that, cupboards are great for hiding things in (unless they’re full from all the things I hid last time – are we spotting a pattern here?!)
- Dishes into the dishwasher (or hide in the oven if the dishwasher’s full!) and wipe the kitchen sides down with an antibacterial wipe.
- Hide laundry in the spare room
- Bleach down the loo, quick clean of loo and sink with antibacterial wipe and make sure there’s a clean towel.
- If the children are awake, I don’t worry too much about the toys other than to try and make sure there is at least some path from the living room door to the sofa. If they’re asleep and the living room looks like the Hamleys bomb has gone off, it’s a sign that I needed wine more than I needed to tidy. Time to find a storage box (preferably with a lid) and just sweep it all in and put in the corner.
Back in my pre-children days when my home was a lot tidier, I used to get very stressed about people popping in unexpectedly and my house not living up to my own self-imposed standards. Having children has been incredibly liberating in that sense – I feel like I’m “allowed” to have a messy home because I have small children who generally seem to make a mess faster than I can tidy it up!
Of course it is nice to have a tidy home when people come to visit and given enough notice, I usually managed to achieve that. But whilst I used to put myself under a lot of pressure to ensure my home was pristine, I now remind myself that my friends are coming round to see me, not to inspect my home or judge me on my levels of tidiness. Because quite frankly, if they were coming around to judge me on the state of my house, then they’re not exactly friends are they? And so I have learned to relax (and ignore the fingerprint marks on the TV that I spotted as soon as my guests sat down) and to just focus on spending time together.
The most important thing is that I make them feel welcome. What I don’t manage to achieve in tidiness, I’ll just make up for in friendliness, tea and biscuits instead.