You don't have to be a neat freak or interior designer to get the house looking good. But if you tend to let things go till the 11th hour, fake a clean house with some quick compromises and distractions.
Step 1: Spray fresh Spray the rooms and carpets with freshener and dim the lights to cover the dirt. Use scented candles to enhance the effect. Get the bare floors quickly with a dry mop and, if there's time before guests arrive, wipe it down with watered oil soap.
Step 2: Flip cushions Fake them out and flip cushions to display their best, cleaner sides. Wet rubber gloves to quickly sweep off animal hair. Fold afghans or blankets over stained sofa backs and fluff up throw pillows.
Step 3: Cover lingering smells Cover lingering kitchen smells by boiling nutmeg or cinnamon in a saucepan. Stash dirty dishes in another room, the dishwasher, or in a box in the garage. Hang towels with stains turned in.
Step 4: Dust, wipe, pull Blow dust off objects on shelves or use a dryer sheet to get it up quickly. Wipe down the TV and all shiny surfaces with glass cleaner. Pull curtains to avoid having to wash all the windows.
Step 5: Use lint remover Roll a sticky lint remover over the bathroom carpet to pick up hair and other dirt. Stuff makeup and brushes in a plastic container under the sink. Wipe down surfaces with disinfectant and close the shower curtain.
TIP: Clean glass faster and better with vinegar and newsprint, rather than take a chance on having to re-do, or explain, streaky mirrors.
Step 6: Lose the debris Stow pajamas in the kids' room in a drawer or under a pillow, propped with stuffed animals. Gather up toys, puzzle pieces, games, books, and kid debris, and shovel them into a closet or stack as neatly as you can in a corner.
Step 7: Hide the laundry Toss dirty clothes in the washer and clean ones in a basket on top.
Step 8: Empty, dump, lounge Empty all wastebaskets and take out to the trash cans. Close doors to rooms. Now go get dressed casually and put a relaxed expression on your face so that it looks like you lounged around all day in your squeaky clean digs.
FACT: Daniel Hess is recorded as patenting the world's first vacuum sweeper in 1860.