I am really impressed when people with small children have really clean homes. I feel like no matter how hard I try to clean, Luke manages to destroy my good efforts within minutes. Whether its throwing Cheerios everywhere, taking things out of the refrigerator and breaking them or scattering dirty clothes all over the house, it feels like a hopeless battle.

We are fortunate to be renting a house with lots of rooms, so I have tried containing toys in the toy room or Luke's dirty clothes in his room, but I just don't feel like it's working as well as I would like.

Here's the larger problem: We invite people over and we don't want to look like the freaky messy people that we are. So, how do you clean a super messy house with a very active toddler in 30 minutes or less? While I struggle with many, many things, I feel like I am really starting to perfect the art of "surface cleaning" (my husband - and probably my Dad- would call this "Half-A$ Cleaning"). In other words, I can make the house look and feel really clean to a casual visitor, and sometimes even fool my husband!

My tips on how to quickly make your house feel clean for visitors, when it really isn't:

1. Cleaning smells are really important to the trick. Now you don't want it to be too overpowering. If you're house smells like an indoor swimming pool, then you have used too much bleach. Clean one window out of 10 and your house smells like windex, spot mop the floor and you have the bleach smell. Get the idea?

2. Pick a room (or closet) that you know your visitors won't enter and throw the clutter in there. Deal with that mess later.

3. Light candles in prominent places in your home. Your visitor's eyes will be attracted to the light. People (and fish) like shiny things.

4. Start the dishwasher to make it sound like you've been cleaning.

5. Put plants or flowers on the tables. Make sure they are alive. Dying plants (like the ones in my house) may make your home appear messier than it really is.

6. Vacuum your carpet enough to get those "freshly vacuumed carpet lines."

7. Put on some quiet background music.

If you have any other tips, please let me know. I feel like I am finally getting the hang of fooling people into thinking I am a productive housewife.


  1. Those are some good tips. Even though Jonah isn't moving around on his own yet, I still feel the same way. Here are my own tips: Clear off your kitchen table and put flowers on the center. A cluttered table can make your house feel just as messy even if the rest is clean. Since we have throw pillows an a couch cover, it looks much nicer when I straiten up the couch and fluff the pillows. Also just making your bed can make your room feel soo clean! (even if you have piles of laundry all around it!)

  2. no dirty dishes in the sink. cleared off kitchen table. and sometimes an organized mess gives the appearance of slight tidiness... like instead of a pile of shoes by the door, a line of shoes by the door. instead of a table covered in papers, a neat stack of papers on a table, etc.

    i always try to vacuum before company comes over. but i hate when people comment on the vacuum lines... i guess it's too obvious that i've JUST vacuumed for them. so vacuum, and then run through the room and make it look like you didn't just vacuum two seconds before they knocked on the door.

    making your house smell like cleaning products, reminds me of the movie clueless when she says you should always have something baking when a boy comes over and in the oven is a cookie log straight out of the nestle package, burning.

  3. (cristin's mom) Here are a few, just off the top of my head:
    1)Make sure your front door and porch are clean. Many neglect this, because they usually come in through the garage and don't realize how many cobwebs, leaves, and grimey handprints are all over the entrance to their home. First impressions DO make a difference.
    2)Have slice and bake cookie dough or frozen bread dough on hand to throw into the oven in a pinch to make the house smell good. Sorry, Windex, Bleach and Pinesol make me think that someone in the house is sick. REALLY sick. Vinegar is better and healthier than Windex for cleaning and doesn't smell medicinal.
    3)Burning scented candles works, but not when the sun is shining--that's weird. Put cinnamon and cloves in a small crockpot with apple cider and leave the lid off.
    4)Try to keep magazines, newspapers, knick-knacks, junk on your refrigerator and couches etc. to a minimum in your house, because if you have to de-clutter in a hurry, that stuff will always slow you down. If you get stuck, throw stuff in the washing machine, dryer, or use something like the rolling laundry cart I gave you for Xmas and push it thru the house, throwing stuff in it that is visible in the MIDDLE of living room,kitchen,and hallway, then hide it in the garage till guests leave.
    5)Always have nice (matching) bathroom towels and kitchen towels on hand to throw out at the last minute. By the way, if you keep your bars of soap in-between the towels in your linen closet, it gives them a fresh smell, when you pull them out for use.
    6)If you do a little bit everyday, as far as wiping off marks on the walls, light switches, and windows, it isn't so over-whelming.
    7)Make your bed first thing every morning, and train your kids to do the same. A made-up bed is always impressive, even with clean clothes thrown all over it, that you are "folding."
    8)Try to have one room in the house that is off-limits for kids playing. Even if it's your bedroom, keep it clean and off-limits and it will make you feel less discouraged to step into that room and get rejuvenated. Decorate that room the way YOU want to, with the colors that YOU like. (Erik can have the garage.) A side benefit, if the room is near where guests would pass by, you can leave the door ajar, and even if the rest of the house is trashed out, it is VERY impressive, and gives the impression that you are not at fault for the rest of the house---it's the kids or the husband, right?
    I'll admit it sounds easier in theory than in practice. I remember Phylis Diller saying that "trying to clean your house when your kids are growing, is like trying to shovel snow when it is still snowing."

  4. I have found my laundry room has been a lifesaver when it comes to cramming things somewhere really fast. I spot vacuum with my dustbuster, especially around Carson's dinner chair. Candles are also a great idea. I'll have to remember that. But for the most part, if I have to clean in a pinch, all the clutter ends up in the laundry room.

  5. Wow mom, when are you going to write a blog?

  6. I love it! I think I will go fake clean my house right now!

  7. I feel like i'm a pro at fake cleaning....its the after people leave part that kills me. I open up our bedroom where i've thrown all the clutter/junk/mess and then shut the door again!

  8. I love the background music idea...let this music distract you from my messy house.

  9. Great ideas! I also keep a nice supply of clorox disinfecting wipes, it takes two seconds to wipe down the kitchen, bathroom, etc and you get that great clean smell!

  10. (Jonathan) One of my friends drops some whole cloves into a heated pan of water. It always leaves a nice Faux-clean aroma. Vacuuming? Why? I saw one of Carrot Top's inventions that looked like a rake with wheels that makes tracks that look like you vacuumed! Now that is innovation! Carrot Top for President! Cristen, can you find his family photo?

  11. Great tips. I used to be a member of the "clean house club" but I gave up after Owen became mobile. He is a disaster. Yesterday I spent 4 hours cleaning. I left for 3 hours to get my hair a much needed cut/color and came back to a disaster. I give up. I am going to shoot for the appearance of clean now. Real clean is way too hard.



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