How to Clean House for a Party in Less than an Hour

We love entertaining; we even host all of our friends and neighbors for a cocktail party every winter. If you’re like me, you may be short on time for a complete deep house clean before guests arrive. Even if you’re not short on time, who doesn’t like to clean less? I’ve found a way to quickly deal with the messes throughout our home and make it look like we were cleaning all day with a series of five to ten minute “clean hacks” to take the stress out of entertaining.

We are big fans of the “five-minute clean-up” in our home.

In five minutes, after our boys are in bed, we are often able to tackle the dishes, throw in a load of laundry, and quickly pick up any toys left on the floor by our three-year-old. When we first started our attempt at the five-minute clean-up, we were really amazed at all we could accomplish in five minutes if we worked hard to go from task to task without stopping. We even incorporate our three-year-old with his toys by making it a race or a game from time to time. 


When it comes to preparing for company, no matter how big or small the party, we take the five-minute clean-up to new heights and are able to clean the entire house in less than an hour. Some rooms may need ten minutes instead of five, but you should still be able to accomplish everything in under an hour if you stick to the basics and get creative with ambiance.

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Items you will need:

  1. Three or four small or medium inexpensive and/or pretty baskets placed in the following locations: Kitchen, family room, master bedroom, and mudroom or entryway. Bonus points if you have some easy toy bins in your kids’ rooms as well
  2. Cleaning supplies of your liking. Clorox Wipes, for example, are a great option for the bathroom and kitchen and will make clean-up extra speedy
  3. A vacuum or broom
  4. Paper towels or cleaning towels
  5. A couple of candles

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Here is how we do get our home ready for entertaining in five or less steps per room in our house and five to ten minutes per room.

Keep in mind that perfection is NOT our friend.


Bathroom (seven minutes):

  1. Wipe down sinks
  2. Wipe off mirror
  3. Wipe off toilet seat and back.
  4. Fluff the hand towel or replace it if you are able
  5. If there is time, sweep the floor quickly

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Kitchen (ten minutes):

  1. Empty the sink—either wash the dishes, stick them in the dishwasher, or hide them if you must
  2. Clear off counters. Mail is a big problem in our house. We have stacks and stacks on our kitchen island. I recently emptied out a kitchen drawer for last-minute mail clean-up, and it’s been perfect. If you can’t dedicate a drawer to last-minute clean-up, simply buy an inexpensive basket and toss everything from the counters into it. Set it in your office, under the coffee table, or even under the sofa or in a cabinet.
  3. Wipe down counters
  4. Wipe off appliances. Be sure to get the stove top, fridge (if you’re like us and have teeny tiny fingerprints all over), dishwasher, and microwave
  5. If you have time, do a once over on the floors with a broom or vacuum

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Master bedroom (seven minutes):

  1. Make your bed
  2. Hide any miscellaneous items from side tables and dressers in a basket
  3. Take out any visible garbage
  4. If you have laundry baskets in your room, put them in your closet or bring them back to the laundry room
  5. If there is time, vacuum or sweep


Family room (seven minutes):

  1. Put throw pillows back in place. My kids always mess them up, and this alone will make the family room look more polished
  2. Pick up any toys or miscellaneous items. If there are toys you want the kids to play with that day, put them neatly on the floor or ottoman so the kids can get to them
  3. Place any random items you don’t have a place for in a basket
  4. Dust off the entertainment center and any side or coffee tables quickly
  5. Sweep or vacuum if there is time


Entry or mudroom (seven minutes):

  1. Put shoes away in closets or shoe storage containers. If you don’t have any, I recommend a simple basket to help make your room look more polished.
  2. Put any outerwear on the appropriate hooks or in baskets.
  3. Wipe down any surfaces that may need it.
  4. Put miscellaneous items in a basket.
  5. Vacuum or sweep if there is time.


Ambiance (five minutes):

  1. Light one or two clean smelling candles. I love scents like lavender-vanilla, citrus, and other simple options
  2. Turn on lamps and lights that show your house “in the best light.” Pun intended. Lamps tend to hide things. If you didn’t have time to wash the floor or even sweep it, for that matter, lamplight is very forgiving
  3. Take a moment for a quick spray of room freshener on sofas or near trash cans
  4. If kids are invited, set out a few toys for kids so they know where to play
  5. Light your fireplace

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Food and drink:

  1. I always keep frozen cookie dough and other items in my freezer so that I can quickly whip up a little treat for visitors
  2. Set out a few coffee mugs along with cream and sugar so guests can help themselves to coffee or you can more quickly prepare it for your guests



Kids’ rooms (optional):

To me, any room that is on a separate level of the house and can have a door closed is optional, but if you do have time, guests often want to take a house tour and kids like to play in their bedrooms sometimes. Here are my tips for these rooms:

  1. Make the beds. You can even leave them a little messy. That makes it look more lived in
  2. Put away books
  3. Toss toys in a basket (another basket, yes)
  4. Put any miscellaneous items, clothes, etc., in the closet or top drawer of a dresser for now
  5. If there is time, vacuum the floors quickly, but don’t worry too much about this


Get yourself ready.

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Relax, enjoy, wait for your guests to arrive:

  1. Grab a hot cup of coffee or glass of wine
  2. Sit on your sofa or wait peacefully on your porch while the kids play
  3. Welcome your loved ones to a clean house!


Photo credits: Jessica Flannigan, Melissa Oholendt Photography and Leah Fontaine Photography