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).
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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