5 Quick Ways to Clean Up Before Guests Arrive

Chic touch: hand towels in a wine rackChic touch: hand towels in a wine rack

You need to be prepared for surprise visits, especially during the holidays: Cousins, friends, or neighbors may just drop in. Erika Lenkert, author of The Last-Minute Party Girl, shares her suggestions for getting your home ready for guests in 30 minutes (or less).

Related: 10 Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

1. Stealth Clean
Focus on rooms you'll be using (living room, kitchen, and bathroom), then close the doors -- literally -- on the rest. Corral stray gadgets, unopened mail, and other domestic detritus in a laundry bin to stow in a closet. Slip a sock on your hand for a swift dust-down. Hide dishes in the dishwasher or a basket beneath the sink to be dealt with in the A.M. Then smile: No one will ever know.

2. Go for the Glow
Turn off harsh overheads and use lamps or creative groupings of tiny tealights, or swap a few ordinary bulbs for pink LEDs -- they're flattering to every skin tone (and way easier than painting your living room coral).

Related: 6 Things You're Cleaning Wrong

3. Freshen Up the Bathroom
Cluster pillar candles in different sizes on shelves. Pipe in soothing music (the X-Mini II palm-size speaker hooks up to most mobile players).

4. Decorate by Numbers
Pull together a grouping of similar objects (think blue glass vases, an array of shells, silver-framed photos), then use as an accent anywhere.

Related: 12 Ways to Declutter Your Kitchen

5. Shop the Backyard
This time of year, it's easy to put together a tablescape with found objects -- dried leaves and grasses, fall fruit, unshelled nuts. Arrange on a platter, and you're done.

- By Paula Derrow

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