How to create the illusion of cleanliness

We’ve all been there, done that. The asparagus is in the oven, ready to go, the potatoes washed, in the pan, not yet started, the salad done minus the dressing, the meats seasoned, prepared for the oven, and the hint of rosemary filling the kitchen air.

It’s 30 minutes out from the guests arriving when you go into the dining room and see all the things you did not see when you set up the table. Tracing back, you walk towards the front door and, like the stations of the Cross, piles of daily items scattered everywhere remind you of the little time you have during the week to deal with it all. Here it is all, unmoved, because nobody moved it, waiting, like you, for the guests to arrive. Oh! And you did not change yet, but luckily, you’ve showered. What should you do first?

Stay calm, don’t panic, don’t run around collecting things left and right and putting them in their places. With thirty minutes to go, you cannot really tidy up well, so you may as well not try. The best approach is to not aim for what you usually would if you properly tidy up and clean. All you need to do is get things out of the visitor’s eyesight. Much easier task!

What you need:

Baskets of sorts, anything from fancy to the Canadian Tire plastic variety, would do.

Few decor objects with personality. Like vases shaped nicely so they look great without flowers – assuming you did not get to buy flowers -candles and room incense, coloured coffee books or trinkets – not too many. And go big – larger sized – 14″ objects or so – rather than tiny – nothing under 8″ on either dimension unless it makes up in colour what it lacks in size.

Get going!

4 minutes – gathering

Two to three baskets are best to use because it is likely that some items you can’t combine with others. First, you pile everything in them and then take them to a room that guests will not walk into. Minimize your trips; focus on gathering first. The added advantage: once you can get to it later, all you have to do is walk with the basket around and place each object where it belongs. Saving time by moving systematically through the house while cleaning is grossly underestimated! 

5 minutes – decor

Grab those decor objects and group them in places where your eye would fall best as you look around the room. It may mean that you take some things out or put some things in, but the grouping is essential since too many objects in too many spots give a scattered, messy look, and too few, while minimalism is great, does not help you in this situation when you need to mask deficiencies that you will not get to. Plus, you don’t want to overthink it – this is not a styling exercise but a masking exercise.  

Because, yes, you may not get to everything. That’s the purpose of decor! Distraction. Believe me, it works. So glitz it up with colour, shape and bold items so that your eye picks it up when you go in, and there you have it! Guests that will not see the undone rest.

And think of this as a long-term time investment: once you know where to place things, next time will go even faster! Because let’s face it, there will be a next time…

4 minutes, the foyer

Last, you tackle the front door: removing some of the coats is a good idea; almost always, front foyer closets are overstuffed. Put them on any bed and keep the hangers empty. Same with shoes, get rid of some. Once the clearing is done, place a colourful umbrella next to the closet, or hang a bag over the door handle – depending on the look you’re going for. Having a deliberate “disorder” as you come in, and by that, I mean just one or two objects casually placed as if forgotten, you get the styled, laid back – yes, sure, I can do everything all the time, and I’m the super-woman, and things just look great always, really, while I do it – look.

2 minutes spritzing and touchups

Always spritz some incense. Yes, the meals have a tasty scent, but if mixed with some perfume or, better, soft clean room spray as a background only – do not overdo it! – it really gives the feel that you’ve done it all! 

10 minutes, getting ready

This one is for another blog! You have to fit it all in, hair, makeup, outfit.

5 minutes – regroup

I cannot stress how important this is. You do need it; it will make your evening just so much better. I realize how absurd it may sound to some, yet, after you practice a couple of times, you will not do without. Guaranteed!

Images courtesy of Dochia Media 

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