We tend to spend more time cleaning up before a party than after, but it's important to know when enough is enough or you may find yourself greeting company at the door with mop and bucket in hand. Instead, allow yourself at least half an hour before visitors arrive to unwind and relax. Our cleaning cheats and hints will let you know when it's time to clean up and when it's okay to cop out.
Now is not the time to wallpaper the dining room or rip up those bright orange tiles in the front hall. Lower the lights, use candles and throw a rug on the floor. With great food and stimulating conversation no one will even notice the decor.
If the kitchen is less than glowing, don't worry. Guests will know you were hard at work preparing a spread especially for them. A sink full of soaking dishes actually shows how much trouble you went to.
One room in the house that is acceptable to look like a tornado went through is the one in which the kids play. If some of your guests are 'little people' send them in — they won't mind the mess.
If you only have time to really scrub one room, it should be this one. You can be sure guests will use it and have time to ponder the dust bunnies tucked behind the door.
Clean the 'public areas' (bathrooms, hallways, living room). If they sparkle, your company will think the whole house is clean.
The wonderful thing about a door is that you can close it. Simply shut off any areas that you didn't have time to tidy and particularly don't want anyone getting a peek at. Few guests will venture beyond a closed door to discover that you didn't make your bed.
Shoes and bags
Invest in a chest for the front hall. When guests are expected, you can throw the kids' shoes and knapsacks inside, shut the lid and any clutter is instantly out of sight.
If you can't bear to leave a sink-full, transfer dishes to a laundry basket, cover with a tea towel and place them in an off-limits area like the laundry room or garage.
Protect your pans
Line pans with foil when heating up appetizers or main dishes. You may not even have to wash them.
Fake it with Fragrance
Dishes of potpourri, room spray or scented candles will make the house smell great even if it doesn't look it.