A Real Mom’s Guide To Cleaning Before Company Arrives

by Sarah Cottrell
Originally Published: 

Here’s the deal. You made plans with your in-laws to pop over for an afternoon visit, but you forgot. They just called to say that they would be over in 30 minutes. You blithely respond with a cheerful, “Sure! See ya soon!”

And then you look around at the disaster that is the constant state of your home and you think to yourself OMG! THEY WILL BE HERE IN 30 MINUTES! This is when you go into turbo cleaning mode. But instead of just cleaning like a wild freak of nature while simultaneously chasing your kids, you can follow this simple and sure-fire plan to whip your house into a mirage of orderliness.

Distract Kids So You Can “Clean”

Pull out all of the stops and give your kids free rein over obnoxious games on the tablet, annoying kid shows on the TV, and fists full of chewy snacks to keep their mouths busy from complaining or asking for “more” while you run around like a crazy person hiding the evidence that you may or may not be a total slob when it comes to housekeeping.

Put Out All The Things

You know those ugly faux wooden figurines of women holding babies or that tacky “artistic” picture frame that looks like it just vomited Mod Podge and glitter? Yeah, those. Grab them from the deep recesses of the closet and put them out in some prominent spot. At the very least it will distract your mother-in-law from commenting on the pile of bills and unopened mail on the kitchen counter.

Hide Stuff

Grab all the clean laundry and cram it into the dryer. Grab all the dirty laundry and shove it into the washer—but don’t run the washer or you will probably break it from the overflow of dirty socks and soccer jerseys.

Stage the Mess

Just like a brilliant real estate agent would stage a house to be homey, you too can stage your living room to be the center of creative genius. Instead of trying to clean the freak show mess of toys and art junk strewn everywhere, just gussy it up by arranging it to reflect some cool “engineering” or “art” project that your “genius” kids are “working on.”

Plate Up New, Weird Diet Scheme

Okay, so we got the laundry taken care of, the toys rearranged, some ugly shit on the mantle. Now is the time to put out a plate of food for your guests. Except that you didn’t shop for crackers and cheese and you’re out of coffee. Run to the fridge and the pantry and grab whatever is edible and that can look sort of okay on a plate. When you offer your guest a pickled gherkin, two graham crackers, and a hard-boiled egg left over from yesterday’s lunch, you can tell her that you are on a new awesome diet you saw on Pinterest. Easy!


You run into bathroom and see that your dipshit husband has left wet towels on the floor again. Grab those and try not to toss them into the dryer where you stuffed 3 loads of clean clothes. Now, race back to the bathroom and light a match to hide the musk of morning scent left behind by all the morning traffic. Pull the shower curtain closed to hide the 83 bath toys still in the bottom of the tub. If your toilet is dirty then dump a bottle of Coke in the bowl, wait 30 seconds, and flush. Don’t worry; I saw that on the Internet so it must work!


Alrighty then! Your house is ready…enough. Since you have 3 minutes left and, therefore, no time to shower, quickly change into a clean outfit that is not yoga/sweat/mom pants. Don’t forget to put on a bra! Then drag a comb through your hair, spin it up into a bun, and slap on some lip-gloss. Quick! They just pulled into the driveway!


When all of that fails just offer a glass of wine as you tell your guests that you are really embracing your newfound love for shabby chic. At least the wine will help take the edge off.

When your guests finally leave and your awkward embarrassment subsides you can scarf down some gherkins and enjoy the wine while you figure out which load of laundry is clean and which is dirty. Good luck!

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