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!