{Tips} Tidy for guests in an hour or less

Want to learn how to cheat at tidying up? Left it all to the last minute? Got guests coming over Christmas and want your home to look as good as the ones you see in beautiful home magazines? The tidiness you see on magazine pages is all an illusion, believe me. Here’s what our old house looked like a couple of hours before we shot it for Style At Home magazine back in April…



As a stylist on a photo shoot, I only tidy and clean where the camera sees, so everywhere else is generally pretty chaotic. And you can apply the same reasoning when you have guests over. You only need to tidy where their eyes can see. Here are my tips for creating the illusion of a spotless home, without having to put in much more than an hour’s effort…


  • Clean the bathroom. I wish I could tell you not to bother with this, but I think a clean bathroom is important, a) because people sit down in there and so will have a chance to notice grime and b) bathroom lighting is generally bright and unforgiving, highlighting the grime even more. A sparkling basin and tap, clean hand towel, and spotless loo will give the impression you’re totally on top of all the housework.
  • First impressions count. So tidy your hallway, entrance hall and stairs so that the first thing your guests see is a clutter-free home.
  • Clear clutter. Put it away where it lives if you have time, if not – try one of the following: spare room, under bed, wardrobe, washing machine, oven, car boot. I have hidden stuff in most of these places. It does help if you remember to remove the clutter before warming the oven or putting a load of washing on.
  • Dust at eye level and below. Even better, if people are visiting after dark don’t bother dusting at all!
  • Vacuum everything you can. I have even been known to vacuum kitchen worktops and use a soft brush attachment for quick dusting. I always like to remember I’m actually doing exercise while I vacuum, so there is a lasting benefit to the short-term pain.
  • Pop fresh flowers in a vase. Nothing says domestic idol better.
  • Spray some furniture polish around like room scent. Your house will at least smell clean and sparkling.
  • Go for mood lighting. This works best in winter time, when the light is dull anyway, and when the days are super-short. The main light is a sworn enemy of the tidying cheat. Employ table lights, floor lights, and flickering candlelight for a romantic glow that will seduce guests and ensure they remember the mood, rather than the mess.
  • Be generous with snacks. Bowls of snacks on the coffee table are a great distraction and give the impression you’re well prepared.
  • Ply your guests with alcohol as soon as they cross the threshold. Try to avoid plying the children with alcohol.
  • Let visiting children run riot immediately. Your guests will then feel bad that their children have caused the mess rather than realising it was there already.
Go forth and cheat. Good luck!


  1. December 21, 2011 / 7:30 pm

    I’m liking these tips, sound like something even I’d be capable of!

  2. December 21, 2011 / 8:46 pm

    Fabulous post Heather, I spotted the link on Twitter on my phone and scrolled back through to read it – am bookmarking for future reference!

  3. December 26, 2011 / 12:00 am

    You know I always hit the bathroom first when we have visitors coming. Doesn’t make much difference though… 🙂

  4. January 13, 2012 / 5:53 pm

    I loved this post Heather, excellent, a woman after my own heart. Like Kat above, I always hit the bathroom 1st, love to see shiny taps, clean hand towel and fresh loo; I have to check it again though if my husband’s been in there before the guests arrive!
    However, I’ve often lost things that have been hidden in the way you discribe, even finding them years later! If only the brain would remember those sneaky hidy holes!!!

  5. mamamialia
    January 17, 2012 / 9:55 am

    hehe! let the children run riot and have your guests think it was their doing, very sneeky! Dunny 1st, kitchen 2nd, clutter into laundry basket – in shed…

  6. January 19, 2012 / 2:07 pm

    Great ideas – love the one about spraying furniture polish around

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