Speed Cleaning: The Cheat Sheet

Your friend calls and tells you she is coming over for a unplanned visit in 30 minutes, but your house is a mess.  What do you do?  Hopefully you are not put in this disadvantageous situation, but if you are I’m here to help!  You can panic for about 3.2 seconds (because that’s all you have time for), and then secretly wish you could just hose down the mess with a powerful garden hose.  Then get out your super-mom cape and try to remember what I’m about to tell you.

Right about now I would be posting about Spring Cleaning, but since we’ve posted very extensive cleaning checklists in the past, I thought I would just cater to those of you who might not enjoy cleaning as much as I do.  Basically, it’s a cheater’s way to “clean” your home in a pinch.  Or at least make it look put together in 30 minutes.

At the end of each “to-do” item, I have given the amount of time you should spend doing it.  Remember, move swiftly, purposefully and efficiently, and multi-task when possible.  Don’t lose focus (or you’ll lose your momentum), and don’t waste time on minor details or on cleaning things that don’t look dirty.  You are cheating your way to “clean,” not making it look perfect.  If your kids are old enough to help without stopping to ask you a question every 5 seconds, put them to work.  (Note: Swiftly means quickly not frantically.  Every time I frantically try to clean, I fumble and make messes, adding extra time.  In other words, try to avoid being frantic.)

  • Stick some store-bought cookie dough on a cookie sheet and preheat the oven. This will hide any lurking odors you may have in your kitchen and dually provides a warm and delicious snack to fool your friend into thinking you weren’t frantically cleaning before she arrived.  (2 minutes)
  • Get out of your pajamas, use mouth wash, put on some lip gloss and brush your hair.  Multi-task!  While you are getting ready, decide what rooms will be seen during the visit.  Focus on those rooms and close the doors to the rest.  Usually, the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room, and possibly where the kids play are the key places.  (3 minutes)
  • Picking up items off the floor makes a HUGE difference, so start there.  It will not only motivate you to keep going, but your home will look that much better right away.  Try to put them where they belong if you can run fast enough but don’t spend all of your time and energy there.  If need be, just stash items in the room where they are supposed to be.  If I am running out of time, I usually set up piles on the floor for the different rooms they go in.  By grouping all the items in their corresponding room piles, I save all the running back and forth to the same room.  While you pass by the kitchen, stick those cookies in the preheated oven and set the timer.  (10 minutes)
  • Grab a few cleaning rags or a paper towel roll, and an all-purpose cleaning spray (I use a non-toxic, homemade version).  As you run into each room, start spraying down the rag or paper towel to save time. (1 minute)
  • Turn off the TV, fluff up the cushions and pillows on the sofas and chairs.  Fold the throws and blankets.  Put away books and magazines or arrange them neatly in a pile.  Wipe down the coffee table as fast as possible.  Take all the dishes on coffee table and end tables back to the kitchen sink on your way out. (3 minutes)
  • Move to the kitchen.  Put all mail, coupons or anything else that doesn’t belong on the countertop in your catch-all drawer.  Wipe down kitchen counters (now is not the time to worry about getting behind or underneath anything that’s sitting on your countertops) and stovetop.  Clear the sink.  If your dishwasher is empty, load all of the dishes as fast as possible.  Don’t worry about scraping food particles or rinsing until after your friend leaves.  If the dishwasher is full or has clean dishes, just fill one side of your sink with soapy water and let them soak.  Clean the other side of the sink with a little dish soap and a scrubby brush.  Rinse and wipe down with a towel.  If the trash can is full, empty it out and put it in the garage.  Pull out cookies from the oven and set them on top of the stove.  (5 minutes)
  • Wipe down the bathroom counters with a rag, and use that same rag to wipe down the sink.  Re-hang the towels and straighten up the rugs.  Pick up any visible dust bunnies with a piece of toilet paper and put it in the trash.  If you have a lot of shedding hair on the floor, it’s easiest to wet a paper towel (or even a few sheets of toilet paper) and with a big wiping motion, “mop” the floor.  (Or most of it anyway.)  Wipe down the toilet seat.  Then use a toilet brush to quickly clean the bowl and flush.  Close shower door/curtains.  Take the bag of trash to the kitchen. (3 minutes)
  • Speed vacuum (as in almost run) in the living room and kitchen.  Yes, vacuum the kitchen – it’s faster than sweeping.  Focus on the visible (larger) particles and crumbs and forget the rest for now.  Be careful not to vacuum the children and pets. (2 minutes)
  • Light candles in the bathroom and living area. (1 minute)
  • If you have extra time (if your friend is late), clean-up the kids and/or pick up the toys in the play area.  However, if you don’t get to this, it’s justifiable.  Kids are notorious for making messes and looking messy.  Be sure to blame them.

Relax!  You’ve earned it.  Sort-of.  :)  Enjoy your “clean” home before the kids destroy it minutes later.  And try to remember to not get in this situation again.  I’ll write a post in the near future about keeping your home tidy and within 10 minutes of clean (for real!) on a daily basis.

Disclaimer: If you have young and/or whiney or needy children strategically hindering your cleaning efforts at every turn, add a full 30 minutes to each task.  You might want to pull out the “desperate and disheveled mommy” card when your friend shows up to explain why things look like a bigger mess than when you started cleaning. Or you can simply suggest meeting your friend at the playground instead.


  1. 1

    Ha! Brillaint post. My favourite make everything smell great trick is to put on a pot of coffee. I find it really masks the “you just used cleaning products” scent.

  2. 2

    Excellent suggestion. It takes less time and fussing than making cookies! Too bad I’m not a coffee drinker.

  3. 3

    Great tips, I love the speed vacuming the kitchen.

  4. 4

    Love this post, I think we’ve all been there…

  5. 5
    Jessica Parks Wiese says:

    I am going to try this out! I always vacuum my kitchen though. I don’t even own a broom, is that bad? :)

  6. 6

    Love it. Can’t count the number of times I’ve had to speed clean. I like that you’ve gotten it down to a science :-)

  7. 7
    Thomas Murphy says:

    great tips! I always need to find extra time.

  8. 8

    Too funny, yet brilliant! :)

Speak Your Mind