My husband Caleb and I love getting to do ministry through our church and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Southeastern.

One of the best parts of ministry is building relationships with all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life. We enjoy getting to know the people we serve, and having them over at our house for a meal or a game night.

Most of the time, we know when the company is coming over, but there are times when we get a text that someone wants to come over within the hour for an unexpected visit. If you’re like us, our house is never ready for last-minute company, so we go from zero to 60, straightening up our common spaces.

Here are the things I prioritize when I get our house ready for surprise visitors in less than 30 minutes.

Leave a little mess. This strategic move makes guests feel at home. If your house is too orderly for a last-minute visitor, they may feel uncomfortable and think you’re a little crazy. Let it feel lived-in, but make sure your mess is clutter, not uncleanliness. Consider leaving out your kid’s recent test papers to make them look smart, or a book on your coffee table that makes you look interesting. Don’t leave out your oatmeal bowl that’s been on the kitchen bar since 8am this morning.

Clean the floors, but not too much. If you don’t have pets or kids, you might be able to get away with skipping this step. Since we have a dog that sheds, I’ll take the time to run our cordless vacuum through the kitchen and living room to pick up dog hair, crumbs, and dust. I typically don’t waste time with the Swiffer or a mop in these moments.

Close every door. No one needs to know what’s happening behind closed doors. If you have kids, skip the “clean-your-room” fight and have them help pick up things in the common spaces. A bonus of the closed-door policy is that you can hide whatever you want behind those doors. Throw the dog’s old bed in a bedroom. Shove loads of folded laundry you left on the kitchen table back into the dryer. Hide random things you left in your kitchen in the cabinets, pantry, or even the fridge. Just do what it takes to make things look good.

Touch up the guest bathroom. The only door to leave open is the bathroom your guests will use. Clean up what you can and do a smell check – but if a family member regularly uses that bathroom, no pressure to make it look like a home magazine in there. Last minute guests can’t expect a red carpet to the commode on short notice.

Do the dishes. You can customize the quality of your dish-doing-work based on how much time you have to clean. If you’ve got a little extra time, load your dishwasher and clear the countertop off. If you’ve only got two minutes, you can do what I like to call “The Sweep.” Just keep your arm parallel to the countertop, fingertips where the counter meets the wall, and the end of your arm at the edge of the counter. Then, move it across the counter in a horizontal motion, from the end of the counter to the sink, sweeping all of the dishes into the sink. As long as no one peeks their head into your sink, you’re golden!

Light a candle. This works wonders in a house, especially if you have children or pets. Invest in a few powerful candles and light it up when friends or family are on the way. It’ll mask a multitude of less desirable scents in your house, and will make your guests think you actually keep your house clean all the time.

Use your porch. If all else fails and your house is not in ship-shape, avoid letting your guest inside at all costs. Insist that the weather is good, no matter what the sky looks like, and invite your guest to enjoy the comfort of a stiff metal patio chair on your lovely back porch. Pro tip: be sure to close the curtains so they can’t see the real reason you’re getting eaten up by mosquitos.

I wish you the best of luck in your speed-cleaning endeavors. Enjoy whatever company you’re expecting (or not expecting), and remember to close your doors!

Emily Lay lives in the Hammond area.

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