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Cleaning

Hosting company? Here's what to clean and what to skip

Only spend time cleaning what you need to

On left, wire basket filled with cleaning products and supplies. In middle, person walking through home indoors while holding clear bin filled with clothes. On right, person using vacuum to clean floors while barefoot indoors. Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / gorodenkoff / LumiNola / Anna Puzatykh

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There’s no better way to spend the holidays than having a house full of the people you love. Good company, good conversation, and an overall cheery feeling are the essence of the holiday spirit, however, prepping to host your family and friends can often feel stressful if you’re trying to clean your house in a hurry.

But do you really need a spotless home to impress your guests? The answer might surprise you and in fact, cleaning your entire house can be a big waste of time. Although there are a few critical cleaning tasks that your guests are sure to notice, there are just as many that they won’t.

Before you break out your vacuum, here is what you need to clean and what you can skip before hosting for the holidays.

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1. Wiping the kitchen counters

Our advice: Clean it

It might surprise you to know that the first thing your guests will notice after greeting your smiling faces are your kitchen counters. Assuming they come bearing appetizers, desserts, or drinks to share, your kitchen is where they will stop, assess, and begin to unpack.

Greeting them with clean counters will set a comfort level for how clean they feel your home is. Make sure that wiping down your kitchen counters with a surface cleaner is on the top of your cleaning task list.

2. Sanitizing the bathroom fixtures

Our advice: Clean it

Bathrooms can be a germy place and it’s also the only place your guest is likely to be alone and in private, giving them time to look around and assess the state of your bathroom. So clean, sanitize it with a toilet light and disinfectant sprays like Lysol, and provide your guests with a germ-free place to do their business; without giving them any time to judge yours.

3. Dust

Person wearing gloves and apron to dust and clean book shelf in home.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / PRImageFactory

With a Swiffer duster you can clean out those hard-to-reach spots–not that you'll need to.

Our advice: Skip it

Between balancing their filled plate full of goodies, admiring your holiday décor, and engaging in holiday conversation, no one is going to notice your dust.

If it really bothers you that much, run over any obvious surfaces with a Swiffer dust cleaner and call it a day, because no one is going to be looking behind your trinkets and picture frames while trying to eat a lasagna and catch up with Uncle Bill.

4. Vacuuming

Our advice: Clean it

Running a quick path through the main living areas of your home with a vacuum cleaner will assure that guests aren’t feeling crumbs and dirt crunching underneath their socks, but there’s no need to go crazy and vacuum the entire house. Guests will track dirt inside, crumbs will tumble from plates, and quite quickly the floors will have a new mess so just do a quick run through of the main areas or set the Roomba to work, but don’t worry about the rest.

5. Picking up the clutter

Our advice: Clean it

Clutter tends to take over all of the surfaces in out home from top to bottom. Before your guests arrive, pick up the toys on your floor, your shoes by your door, and papers on your kitchen table. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to remove all evidence of a family living in a home, but tending up to the big piles can go a long way.

Short on time? Make sure to pick up enough that guests can move about freely without tripping, have a place to sit, and have a place to set their plates and drinks.

6. Cleaning the stove

Person using pink rag to polish and clean in between grates on stove top.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / xefstock

A few remnants of leftover food should be the least of your worries this holiday season.

Our advice: Skip it

Cleaning the stovetop is one task that you can definitely skip, because any hosting event that involves food means pots and pans on the stove will either be covering the mess or creating a new one. In fact, let your guests see your dirty stove so you can show off all the hard work you did preparing for their arrival.

5. Wash the floors

Our advice: Skip it

Unless you have an obvious food spill, pet mess, or a spot that goes beyond normal floor grime, don’t even bother washing your floors because you are just going to need to do it again once your guests leave. Between shoes, a sloshed wine glass, and little kiddos running around with food in hand, the floor won’t stay clean for long so don’t even waste your time now.

8. Cleaning out the refrigerator

Our advice: Clean it

If you’ve ever played “refrigerator Tetris” you know how difficult it can be to fit an oversized platter or extra tall bowl into an already full fridge.

By planning ahead and cleaning out your refrigerator, you can get rid of the now forgotten meat loaf, expired eggs, and nearly empty ketchup bottle, making room instead for the dishes guests bring with them and storing the leftovers after your meal is over.

9. Making up the guest rooms

Our advice: It depends

If you’re anything like my grandmother, you’ll clean the upstairs of your home even if the party is downstairs. But whether you need to do that or not depends on whether your guests are staying overnight.

If they are, definitely put clean sheets on the bed and freshen the space where they will be staying and it’s also a generous gesture to provide a clean space where a nursing mom can find some privacy. But if you don’t have anyone planning to use your upstairs rooms, then don’t even bother wasting your time.

10. Cleaning the sofa

Person wearing gloves and apron to complete indoor cleaning on couch.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Mariakray

If your family frequents the couch for family movie or game nights, consider giving it a thorough once-over with a vacuum.

Our advice: Clean it

This shoutout goes to all the pet loving homeowners, take a quick second to vacuum up pet dander and lint roll the pet hair off your sofa.

While we can all agree that it’s the pet’s home first, it’s also nice to consider that although guests may really like cute furry friends, they may also have an allergy to their fur. It only takes a minute to help your guests remain sneeze free and enjoy their time with you, so don’t forget to add this task to the cleaning list.

11. Washing the windows

Our advice: Skip it

Repeat after me “my guests are here to see me, not my neighbors.” Cleaning the windows is another definite skip item, not only because most holiday gatherings occur at night when no one can even see out of your windows, but also because even if the daylight is still giving them a peek at the great outdoors, your guests will be too busy looking at everything going on inside to notice a few fingerprints on your windows.

12. Wiping down the cabinets

Our advice: Skip it

Wiping down the cabinets is another item where unless there’s an obvious spot, skip it because no one is likely to notice, and they are going to get dirty again anyway.

When you have a large group of people cooking, eating, and looking for items like plates, utensils, and potholders in a kitchen that they aren’t familiar with, the cabinets are sure to get smudged just as soon as the guests arrive, so skip this task for now and clean it later.

13. Prepping pets

Our advice: Clean it

Even animal lovers can struggle with a pet smell that isn’t one of their own or get annoyed when an overexcited dog jumps up and scratches them, so be conscientious of that and prep your pets the same way you shower before a guest comes over.

Give the pup a bath, trim his nails, clean out the kitty box, and clean up any pet messes before your guests arrive. Pets are loved family members so help them put their best paw forward.

14. Deodorizing

Our advice: Skip it

Don’t even bother washing the curtains or steaming the rugs because your home is going to smell like whatever delicious meal you are cooking; a meal that's going to smell a lot more festive than flower scented furniture spray. If you’re still worried, light a candle, like a delicious-smelling Yankee candle. This will easily fill your whole home with a pleasant aroma and create a relaxing ambiance.

15. Washing the baseboards

Our advice: Skip it

Skip it, skip it, skip it. If a dusty baseboard hasn’t bothered you up until this point, it’s likely not going to bother your guests now.

Your time is much better spent prepping the food than worrying about a few dust bunnies on a floor board, so for the sake of your time and sanity, cross “washing the baseboards” off of your cleaning task list.

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