Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Houseguests Secretly Think of Your Housekeeping Skills

Do you always feel like you need to have a spotless house when visitors come over? Maybe it's time to let go of this notion. I've done it recently and it's very freeing. That's not to say that I don't clean the bathroom, sweep the entry way and pick up a few toys before guests arrive. But, I do this stuff for my family on a regular basis anyway. I will not, however, dust, clean dog hair off baseboard heaters or vacuum behind the furniture for guests, typically (every now and again I get a wild hair).

What a Guest Thinks When She Enters Your House

To get inside a house guest's head, think about how you feel when you walk into someone else's house. Are you grossed out if there's a bit of dog hair on the floor, a stack of magazines on the end table or a few dishes in the sink?* No? Well, then your guest probably isn't either. Chances are, if you are visiting a home with some visible signs of clutter and dirt, you think the homeowner is a bit laid back. You may even feel quite comfortable there.

How do you feel if the home is spotless? Are you comfortable or afraid to sit on the furniture?

Which person are you likely to invite to your home?

*For the record, I'm not talking about people who really do absolutely nothing in their homes for various reasons, like what you see in a Hoarders episode. I'm talking about the average home and what it looks like when an average family lives there.

What You Think vs. What a Guest Thinks

We all tend to be our own worst critics. I used to spend two hours or more in a cleaning frenzy before a guest arrived. When she got here, I would apologize for my house being a mess. They probably thought I was crazy! Not only was I making myself look insecure, but I was creating an impossibly high standard for myself to live up to. 

The Right Amount of Clean

Have you ever been in a home that's way too clean? You know it's too clean if you find yourself wondering if the people who live there ever sleep or if they all have OCD. If the natural state of your home is a lived-in look, there's no reason not to present that to guests. Unless you do have OCD, hire a cleaning service or are truly never home, there's a good chance your house will not be spotless all the time. We're all human beings that do much of our living in our homes. We eat and create dirty dishes. We wear clothes and create laundry. To pretend to have a home that human beings don't live in seems like a huge falsehood. Yet, many of us do that when we have house guests!

When to Cross the Line into Sterile

Realistically, if you are comfortable in your lived-in home, most guests aren't going to mind one bit. But, where do you draw the line between okay levels of dirt and too much filth? That line tends to be in the bathroom and the kitchen. I think most people are okay if you didn't have a chance to vacuum the living room rug, but nobody wants to see toothpaste globs in the bathroom sink and icky stuff on the toilet. The bathroom should be your first priority when expecting guests. The best thing about this is that cleaning the bathroom takes about five minutes! 

If you're serving food, the kitchen should have a basic level of cleanliness, too. I like to think it's okay if there are a few dishes in the sink, but not okay if two-days worth of dirty dishes are lining the counters. There probably also shouldn't be dried food from last night's dinner on the counters and table top. I'm not saying the bathroom and kitchen need to be sterile, but they definitely should not be gross.

Letting go of your housecleaning perceptions before a guest arrives is freeing. Try it and see what happens!


  1. Lots of times things get done because guests are coming. I am trying to get to the point of tidy so that people can come at the drop of the hat.

    However, recently while we are recovering from a crash, going to a chiropractor, and arranging to go camping again, we don't have that standard. I am sure that the strategy you suggested of cleaning one drawer at a time, one messy spot, one room at a time, that we will be back to where we were eventually.

    I guess, Barb, it is a matter of making life flow, or just flowing with out-of-the ordinary things when they happen.

  2. Yes, Carol, that's it exactly. I think we all need to just remember that we are people, living our lives. Having a spotless house might not be at the top of the priority list for numerous reasons. And, we shouldn't feel guilty when it's not or jump through hoops to give the appearance to others that it is, especially when we have a situation, like your accident, that keeps us from doing our typical cleaning tasks. We all just do the best we can!

  3. It is good to have a spotless house, but it is impossible to have such along with a social life. There is just not enough time. I have seen my house after a professional Islington cleaning and it was gorgeous, but i don't have the physical time to get my house so... shiny as it was then. That's why I just organize the stuff, get rid of the clutter and dust and try not to leave any undone dishes. Of course, I realized a bit later, because at the first time I had been trying to clean my house and bring back that cleanliness the cleaners left. A spent about two months in cleaning but it was never clean enough. Along with that I almost lost my friends and my social life.
    Today I am not rushing and exhausting myself to clean and organize. I'm just sparing some time to organize a little bit and do the dishes. The next day I clean something else and so on.
    The perfect cleanliness means bad social life.