An older woman ringing the doorbell at a brownstone home with a crisis cleaning checklist for last-minute guests superimposed on it

Last Minute Guests? Use This Crisis Cleaning Checklist!

Pinterest Hidden Image

Do you have an out-of-town family member or friend who loves calling to say they just happen to be near you and will be stopping by soon? In my family, that’s Aunt Edna and she routinely triggers crisis cleaning mode.

See, one thing is guaranteed about my Aunt Edna’s visits: they are always timed for when I have slacked off on housework. She has a knack for knowing when that occurs. Seriously, it’s uncanny.

So, rather than give her anything to gossip about, I use my Crisis Cleaning Checklist to create the appearance of a freshly-cleaned home.

Crisis Cleaning is for Looks

What follows are the last-minute cleaning steps I take when I’ve got to whip my home into looking like I haven’t been ignoring it. The idea here is to fake a clean house by getting clutter out of the way and making sure the room’s focal points are tidy.

Well, that and a bit of germ control in the kitchens and bathrooms. Aunt Edna is annoying, but I don’t wish her harm.

Pro Tip

The point of cleaning for last-minute guests is to make your home look presentable, quickly. Don’t get bogged down in details or derailed by side-quests.

But First, Grab Your Supplies

When you’re in crisis cleaning mode, you do not have time to run back and forth between rooms looking for things, so grab them before you start. You will need:

Crisis Cleaning in the Kitchen

Cleaning your kitchen for last-minute guests doesn’t mean sacrificing food safety. Be sure to switch out cleaning cloths frequently, and use a separate one for food preparation surfaces.

1. Empty the dishes in the sink. Load and start the dishwasher. If there’s no room, and your guests won’t be staying for dinner, shove the dishes in the oven. Yes, really. Just remember to get them out when your company leaves. Wash the sink with hot soapy water and buff it dry with towel.

2. Stash clutter quickly. Put away only the things that belong in the kitchen. Add everything that belongs in another room to the laundry basket and set it outside the kitchen door for now. Your goal here is to get the counters as bare as possible—the whole kitchen will look tidier that way.

3. Wipe stuff. Clean the counters with all-purpose cleaner. Next, wipe the stovetop, the fronts of appliances and their handles. Finish by going over the island top, table and chairs.

4. Sweep and mop the big chunks. Vacuum high-traffic areas then spot clean the floor with a disinfecting wipe. Spray the air freshener.

Now, grab that laundry basket outside the door and head to the next spot your guests are likely to see.

Pro Tip

Clutter-free flat surfaces and shiny reflective surfaces create an overall impression of a clean home.

Emergency Bathroom Cleaning

Almost every last-minute guest will need to use a bathroom at some point. If you have several bathrooms they may see, start with the one closet to your home’s entrance. The idea is to clear the surfaces of clutter and debris then leave the room smelling fresh.

1. Clear the air. Turn on the bathroom exhaust fan and open any windows to remove lingering odors.

2. Stash clutter quickly. Grab stuff from the basket that belong in here, then shove the clutter in the bathroom drawers. This isn’t the time for organizing—this is about making your home look clean before last minute guest arrive.

Now, close the window and spray some air freshener. Then grab the laundry basket and your supplies, and head to the next room.

Get the Printable Checklist Sent to You

Getting the Guest Room Ready in a Hurry

If guests aren’t staying the night, you get a pass on this room. But if they’re like my Aunt, you’ll want to make sure the room is ready. I’m pretty sure she packs white gloves and a magnifying glass in her suitcase.

1. Clear the air. Open the curtains and window. Pull off used bedding so the mattress has a chance to air.

2. Stash clutter quickly. Put away things in the laundry basket that belong in the guest room, and add anything in here that doesn’t belong. Set it aside.

3. Wipe stuff. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the furniture. Pay extra attention to the headboard, nightstand, and dresser top.

4. Add some sparkle. Make those reflective surfaces like doorknobs, dresser pulls, and picture fronts shine.

5. Make it cozy: Add fresh sheets and fluff the pillows, close the windows and give the room a spritz of air freshener.

6. Clean the floor. Overnight guests will walk barefoot in the guest room at some point, so clean the floor thoroughly.

Now, grab your laundry basket and head to the next spot.

Pro Tip

Add a touch of hospitality to your guest room with a book they might enjoy, some bottled water, maybe even a snack.

Crisis Cleaning in the Living Room

You know how conversations go: there’s some chatting then a lull when everyone looks around like they’re trying to think up a new topic. Make sure your guest doesn’t spy any big messes in the living room when that happens.

1. Clear the air. Open the windows wide to let in fresh air.

2. Stash clutter quickly. Swap things from the laundry basket that belong here with things in the room that belong somewhere else. Set it aside.

3. Straighten up. Make your seating look inviting by straightening sofa pillows, fluffing throw pillows, and tidying the decor.

4. Wipe stuff. Wipe the coffee table, end tables, and any other flat surface.

5. Make it sparkle: Use the glass cleaner on window smudges, glass accents, and doorknobs.

6. Clean the big chunks. Vacuum the furniture then the high traffic areas on the floor. Spot clean the floor as needed.

Now, close the windows, spray the air freshener, and carry your laundry basket to the front door.

Pro Tip

Need to clean up pet hair quickly? Use a damp squeegee on your upholstered furniture or carpets.

Crisis Cleaning and Your Entryway

When your guests arrive, you won’t spend time chatting at the front door. That’s why we left it for the end. But, you still want to create a good impression. So, let’s spiff it up a bit.

1. Stash the clutter quickly. Straighten the shoes by the door but don’t stress over them. If the pile is big, add some to the laundry basket.

2. Wipe stuff. Use a damp microfiber cloth on the flat surfaces of furniture then the front door, inside and out. If you have a nearby coat closet, wipe that door, too.

3. Make it sparkle. Use the glass cleaner on the storm door inside and out then polish doorknobs and other reflective surfaces.

4. Clean the big chunks. Shake off the Welcome Mat and sweep the front step. Vacuum the floor then spot clean any spills. Now, let’s finish up.

Final Touches Before Last-Minute Guests Arrive

  • Put the basket of clutter you’ve been collecting in your room or somewhere else that guests won’t see.
  • Throw away the bag of trash.
  • Freshen up so you don’t look winded.

Pro Tip

Simmer slices of fruit, cinnamon and cloves in a pot of water on your stove to fill your home with an inviting fragrance.

And Breathe!

Once you’ve done your best tidying up and have tucked that basket of clutter out of sight, take a deep breath and relax. Spend a moment freshening up then put on some relaxing music.

You’re going to have a wonderful time with your guests, so enjoy it!

Similar Posts

Comment Policy

Comments are moderated. Not all are approved. Submitting a comment means you agree to the Terms of Service.


  1. Brilliance, as per usual.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Aw, thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:


  2. Catherine says:

    For his 50th birthday, my brother wanted to show us his favorite park, so we traveled across the country to Yosemite. The night before we left, I realized there was time to meet up with the parents of a friend, who we’d come to know over the years. But I had no cell phone reception in the park, or until we neared Merced. I finally called and asked if we could meet them for lunch at a restaurant. They were there in minutes, and after lunch Betty said, “Don’t order dessert. I have half a chocolate cake at home.” And she did! And took us into their immaculately tidy bedroom to see a wall of family photos.! That was 17 years ago, and I STILL have the goal to be as ready as she was, any time! Thanks for the emergency back-up plan!!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      What an inspiring woman your friend’s mother was!

  3. I would love a printable for this 🙂

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Will try to do one soon.

  4. You had me at “shove dishes in oven.” I LOVE your blog!

    1. So-oo glad I’m not the only one to chuck stuff in the oven. Or the understairs cupboard, or the bedroom, or under the bed, or in various boxes (really should sort thru them sometime!!) I’m a fulltime at work mum, hubby works away Weekends end up being time to properly clean, shop, change bedlinen, do the garden, cook bake, craft, prep for work!)

    2. Katie Berry says:

      You are definitely not alone!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *