How can I release my inner neat-freak and enjoy having people over?

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By: Bob JagendorfCC BY 2.0
I would love some advice from the Offbeat Homies! My guy and I work from home — well, I work from home, he works from the shop in the barn behind our house, and it’s SUPER awesome. People drop by all the time, and it’s not unusual to have folks over 3-7 nights a week (people stay over 1-3 nights a week).

I come from a pretty traditional background and a clean freak mom so having an open house like this REALLY stressed me out, because I wanted the house to be clean and have snacks out etc. I’ve relaxed my standards significantly and now I’m wondering what kind of life-hacks I should be using to be prepared for guests? What should I stock in the pantry to make last minute cheap/fast meals? How can I keep the floors from being a muddy mess? How do I let my inner clean freak go and enjoy the company?
-Sharon

The first question to ask yourself is whether your inner neat-freak is the problem: do you WANT to have all these people over? It’s perfectly acceptable to draw boundaries around guests and visitors. Assuming that you want the company, we’ll open it up to Homies: what tips do you have for keeping your home ready for drop-in guests?

Comments on How can I release my inner neat-freak and enjoy having people over?

  1. For me, I’m not a neat freak at all and our home is always pretty cluttered and messy but we have people over for game nights all the time.

    It would horrify my mom, but I realized that it can actually be a relief for our guests. It takes some of the pressure off them.

    It’s like the Facebook effect where everyone else’s life looks so perfect and well put together and you wonder what you’re doing wrong. When you visit friends and their home is like a page out of a super hip magazine, it can be really discouraging and make you feel shame about your own home.

    When you visit friends who are honest about how they live day to day, it’s much more relaxing!

    I also had a friend tell me that she loves how “lived in” our apartment feels.

    • We do not fall into the neat freak category either but I have had several friends tell me that they love that I am relaxed about the way my house looks. I will tidy a little if I have time or sometimes I will just say to someone before they come over that the house is messy. I am not a great house keeper and my husband doesn’t know housework needs to be done until I ask him to do something, he literally does not see that things need to done.
      Our house is really small so I can do a pretty quick tidy in about half an hour if I feel like I need to. I always start with the bathroom and if I am really pushed for time I will just pull the shower curtain and clean the rest of the bathroom. If I don’t have time to wash the dishes they get stacked beside the sink in a tidy pile and the clean ones get put away, floors get vacuumed and random papers, shoes and any other clutter is put away,( that could mean tucked into our bedroom until later.) In about a half an hour I can have the house looking good enough so that I feel comfortable with having guests.
      If we are having a party I will go the extra mile to make sure we give the house a good going over, but my husband’s office always looks like it was hit by a tornado so we just close the door.
      There are so many more interesting things that take up my time, that house work often falls to the bottom of the list, although lately I have been trying to do a little bit of house work every morning before I get busy with more interesting things like studio time or gardening.

      • I attempt to make the place sanitary and relatively dog-hair free, with enough room on the table for food-stuffs. That’s about where I draw the caring-line.

  2. I’m a bona fide neat freak and tend to go overboard cleaning (or even picking up) the house when I know company is coming over. I used to freak out and run around madly straightening up when an unannounced guest would arrive. I then learned I was making my guests anxious and uncomfortable about being at my home because I seemed so concerned about keeping it “looking nice”, it made them nervous about creating a mess for me to clean. So now, when the pop-in happens, I welcome guests with open arms, put down the dust mop and broom, offer a drink and focus on the person in front of me. If the weather cooperates, and the condition of my house makes me uncomfortable, my husband and I entertain outside. I also let it be known I appreciate the phone call or text that says “I’m stopping by”, so I can spend 5-10 straightening up the most unsightly messes.
    To feed the surprise guests, always have pasta, canned tomatoes, canned beans, olive oil, garlic and onion on hand. Pasta dishes can be cheap, tasty, filling and satisfying to both carnivores and vegetarians. I also tend to keep crackers, cheeses, hummus and vegetables for dipping on hand because those are snacks my husband and I enjoy.

  3. It sounds like you have the space, but if you have the time and inclination, I suggest planting a garden. Then at least all through harvest season all you have to do is walk outside and pick something to serve as snacks. When I was a kid this is what my parents had me do any time I had friends over – raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb, apples, bell peppers, green beans all make really good easy snack food straight from the garden.
    The garden can also serve as a conversation piece, or a meeting space for like-minded people.

  4. You said that your mom is a neat freak, so maybe that’s where your anxiety comes in. I am by no means a psychologist, but usually I find that people either want to emulate their parents or be nothing like them. At some point, you realize that you’re not going to be exactly like them (if that’s what you were trying to do) and that’s okay. On the other side, you realize that you probably do have some similar qualities (if that’s what you were trying to get away from) and that’s totally fine.

    I’m glad you’ve relaxed your standards a bit so you won’t stress out too much. My suggestion is to keep your house neat enough and to always pick up the things you wouldn’t want someone to see if they dropped over. That could mean anything you want it to mean from “Always put away sex toys after use” to “Always wash the dishes whenever a meal is over”. I personally don’t mind someone seeing that I have dirty dishes. It means that, “yes, I eat, and no, I don’t immediately clean up after it”. But I do try to at least get dishes to the sink so there aren’t glasses and plates piled up in random spots of the house. If you keep up with the things that matter to you that make you feel clean, you’ll probably feel a little less anxious.

    As far as your other question about what to keep on hand, that depends. Do you usually have the same people coming over all the time? Or is it always new, different people? If it’s the same people fairly frequently, I would keep their favorite beverage on hand, whether that’s iced tea, root beer, sparkling water. It’s one of the things I always did when I dated people. I’m a root beer person and almost never drink regular coke (unless it has rum or whiskey in it…) but when my now-husband and I started dating, I found out he ALWAYS ordered coke at restaurants, so I would just keep a 12-pack and throw a couple in the fridge, so he would have them at my house. It can be very welcoming to remember something like that and makes people feel more at home and comfortable.

    For food, perhaps when you’re planning meals for the week, just buy extra… It’s just as easy to make a meal for 6 as it is for 4, and if not as many people show up, there’s always left overs 🙂 Also, fruit and veggie trays make good snacks. Apple slices, carrot sticks, with dips appeal to a lot of people.

  5. Rugs will help with the muddy mess. I like to pair a mat on the outside of the door with a rug on the inside of the door. It’s amazing what a difference that makes with having dogs (notorious for not wiping their feet) going in and out.

  6. We always have some cheese, crackers, hummus, veggies, dip, salsa, chips etc. around since it’s what we take for lunch. Popcorn is great snack too since we have a stovetop popper and we can make a bunch of different kinds quickly. Pasta is my usual quick throw together meal. We keep a well stocked liquor cabinet and our regular guests always bring their own beer/wine.

    We live in a really small apartment so I’m a neat freak by necessity. The one place that usually needs some picking up is our coffee table since it’s also our dining table, my office and makeup stand. I keep a box under the couch that anything that is on the table can go into when there’s company. I usually give the bathroom a quick wipe down too, since that’s the only thing that really grosses me out at other, less tidy people’s homes.

    • I have to second both the stash box and a quick wipe down in the bathroom. What is it with people (ahem, HUSBAND and multiple other friends) storing nail clippers on the coffee table? I hate going to someone’s house to play cards and have to more the nail clippers or, much worse, nail trimmings from the coffee table. It took months, but my husband finally uses the stash box in our house now.
      As a guest, the other thing that creeps me out is a REALLY dirty bathroom. I always try to wipe down the counter and toilet before guests come over.

      • UG. I am so with you on this. You can do wonders by just grabbing a wad of toilet paper and running around the edge of the floor in a bathroom to snag the errant dead skin and pubes. I have been known to do this at friends’ houses after using the toilet, but before flushing. Just like, “Here guys: I’ll just swipe up some of this human detritus real quick here…”

        • Funny thing… I have cleaned up at other places too, but I usually forget to do it at my house. I just tend to notice other’s messes/dirt more. Which sucks because I try to keep up with all the dog hair and stuff in my house but my “eh, looks good” probably looks dirty to people who visit. Yeesh. o.O

          Brb, going to wipe down the human detritus in my bathroom! 😀

          • Yep, when you live somewhere, you tend not to see your own messes. You have a sort of blinder to it. I’ve never been a fabulous housekeeper, so I read a minimalist book and the author challenges you to leave your house for five minutes and walk in to look around as if you were a guest. What would you see? I have to say, I’ve been a bit of a pack-rat my whole life and lately, I’ve transformed my thinking! It’s been amazing. I will probably never get to a truly minimalistic number of possessions, but it’s made a drastic improvement to my life so far.

      • I saw a post somewhere (probably Pinterest) about cleaning bathrooms FAST. Obviously, baskets are handy to toss random things into…but other than that, a dry cloth (like the dirty hand towel that was on the holder but now you’re replacing with a clean one since guests are here) and some sort of spray cleaner like Lysol or Windex. NO WATER. Just spray a surface, and wipe with a dry cloth. I’ve been doing it wrong for years, what with trying to used a wet sponge or rag. A dry one picks up the random hairs and dust so much easier. I made it a thing…about the time the hand towel gets grody, I quickly use it after brushing my teeth in the morning to wipe down the counter.

  7. My husband is pretty insistent on the “open house” mentality too, and it bothers me to no end. I don’t like our privacy being so optional, and I don’t like cleaning up after other people all the time. So I second the editor’s question: Do you WANT to have such an open house? If not, tell your husband that and work on a compromise.

    Start with keeping your house at the same level of clean as much as possible. I don’t like cleaning before guests come. It makes their visits stressful and it’s fake. If they can’t handle the level of cleanliness we live in, then they shouldn’t come over. That said, I like living in a clean house. It’s better for my mind and our lives. Keep your house at the level of cleanliness you want it at for you and hubby, and expect your guests to appreciate that level or go away.

    Keep the guest areas (like the guest room) as ready to go as possible. Keep clean sheets on the bed, clean extra blankets in the drawers, and the floor swept. If you have a special room you entertain in and don’t do much else in, keep that ready to go. Games in the cabinets, favorite movies out where they’re easy to choose from, comfy pillows and blankets arranged prettily.

    I don’t feed our guests, but you’ve got some good suggestions here already. If you have the same guests all the time, tell them they’re welcome to leave some snacks at your house or ask them to bring something for everyone next time. Asking them to bring food may fall under the “bad hostess” category, but you also need to keep your own budget in mind. Feeding extra people several days a week can cost a lot, especially if you’re getting special food for them.

    My final advice is: this is YOUR home. You need to feel comfortable in it because you don’t have another one. So if you’re not happy with all the guests or cleaning up after them, talk to your husband. Maybe you can meet at one of their houses or a coffee shop. Maybe you can establish guest days and family only days. Maybe you can hire someone to come in and clean once a week so you don’t feel like you’re doing it all. Placing limits isn’t rude.

    • Thank you! I was wondering at all these suggestions of keeping all this extra food in your house… if your guests are that regular and if they’re drop-by, they should totally bring their own food! I would never just drop by a friend’s place and expect them to provide anything other than a cup of coffee or tea.

  8. My mom had a sign in the kitchen when I was growing up that said, “If you’re coming to see me, come any time. If you’re coming to see my house, make an appointment.” Still, most of our guests were by appointment (holidays, birthdays, etc), and we cleaned to pass white glove tests. As an adult, I’ve struggled with fibromyalgia and finally have adopted the motto of that kitchen sign, partly out of necessity (it’s no good if people come to visit and I’m confined to bed with terrible pain). Also, I figure if folks can’t deal with my clutter and stack of dirty dishes, they can always invite me to their home! (My mom also had a tit-for-tat rule about reciprocal visits, which I don’t adhere to. If someone else is more often hosting me, I do try to reciprocate by bringing snacks and libations, etc.). Which actually makes me think of another strategy for you – you could ask your friends to bring something (besides their delightful selves) to contribute to the table.

    And a final thought about life-hack strategies – extra laundry baskets or plastic storage containers make it easy to swipe everything off the kitchen table and stash it away til you have time to put it away properly. The trick is actually putting the stuff away properly in a timely fashion. 😉

  9. I love cleaning before guests come…because let’s be honest…I can never get my house as clean in a 10 minute period as knowing someone is coming over. Granted, it doesn’t ever get my house to a neat-freak standard, but I’m always amazed at how good it feels. I wish I could get that cleaning fire in my belly at other times during the week!!

    I like the idea of keeping easy snacks on hand…cheese, crackers, olives, are all things that keep pretty well. Popcorn is anaother good option. But I wonder, if there are people who come over regularly, if you should implement a ‘bring a snack to share’ or ‘bring a snack to contribute to the snack cupboard’ policy. Because shouldn’t hospitality go both ways? If someone really loves diet coke, couldn’t they buy a case to keep in your cupboard so they KNOW that it’ll be there when they come over, but you don’t have to scramble last minute?

    I also think that getting a soda stream is a really good idea. I’ve made Italian Sodas and even just flavored soda water (I like adding cucumber or strawberries, or citrus) and sinc e you make it yourself, it’s always fresh. Just pop it in a pitcher and it looks like something out of a fancy shmancy hosting magazine.

    • I used to ALWAYS bring snacks when I went to one friend’s house. I’ve stopped doing it as much lately just because our budget is tighter and sometimes I’m running pretty late. But it’s great when someone brings over something to share for nibbles, even if it’s grapes or cherries or whatever from their fridge.

  10. For your floor, make it a house rule (for you guys AND your guests) that shoes come off at the door and enforce it. Make sure you have a spot for shoes (a small rug or mat) and remember to leave some slippers around if you need/want them. I never need to clean my hardwood floors, I just sweep & vacuum.

    • To be perfectly honest, this is something which makes me super uncomfortable when visiting a house.
      If I’m asked to take off my shoes (what if my feet smell???!) I automatically get the impression that this house must be a super clean place and that makes me uncomfortable about smaller things (did I make a ring with my mug? Should I put that wrapper on the plate or find the bin? etc.) .

      Then again, we dont have very good weather over here so floors get dirty A LOT!
      Thats just my personal opinion and might not reflect how others feel.

      • Interesting!

        In my culture, we always take our shoes off going into people’s homes and so that’s my default. I never imagined it could make someone uncomfortable.

        • I’m the same. I just assume that shoes come off unless someone tells me I can keep them on or I’m only going to be there for a short time. I will walk through my mum’s house with my sandals on in the summer but I also may have to walk into the back yard to find her. But if I was staying my shoes would be off. Then again, this is probably partially because we can have snow for 8 months of the year and you ALWAYS take off your winter boots to avoid dripping water and salt and sand all over. My dentist’s office used to request you take off your shoes if they are dirty/wet and they had some sandals. Same with a previous hairdresser.

          • I don’t really mind taking my shoes off at people’s houses, usually, but the idea of communal slippers or sandals (which people/magazines/blogs always seem to recommend as a ‘compromise to make guests comfortable’ *totally* weirds me out. Just…. ew. Even if they’re washed, that’s like asking me to wear someone else’s underwear.

            Personally we’ve got two dogs so any hope of keeping the floor clean is totally shot anyway. As long as people wipe their feet if they’re wet/muddy, I don’t care.

      • Maybe it’s a culture thing…? In this part of Ontario Canada, everyone, and I mean, but EVERYONE, automatically takes off their shoes when they enter a house. I think it stems from not wanting to track snow or mud over someone’s new carpets in the winter. You know what, though? I hate how swampy my feet feel if I’ve just come from work in the summer, & I was hosiery-less in heels all day. So if a woman I know comes over, I take a quick look at her shoes/outfit, & just say, oh, don’t bother taking your shoes off – I need to sweep in here later anyhow. (I’m lucky that I have all hard wood on the main flr).

      • DUDE YES. MY FEET SMELL! It’s not a “what if”…it’s an almost always, unless I’ve just showered or I haven’t had on shoes for very long. I just have stinky feet. Also, on top of the smell, what if they look gross? Maybe I haven’t had time/money to get a pedicure or even do a little work on them myself in a while and they’re cracked, dry, no polish, chipped polish; what if i walked around outside all day and they’re dirty and I didn’t wash them off before slipping on my shoes?! I feel like I make the person’s home dirtier with my bare feet than with my shoes. Also, I hate shoes and don’t wear them unless I have to…but to me, one of the times I have to is when I’m at someone’s home.

      • Canada (my country) is mostly shoes-off. I feel better doing so unless I know the person I am visiting is basically filthy. I feel bad walking in a house in outdoor shoes, tracking in dirt and god knows what, germs? Bird crap? Dog crap? Gum?

        Frankly, with regards to your mug making a ring and your wrapper not making it to the garbage: you are a guest in someone’s home, and should automatically ensure these things do not happen out of RESPECT for that person, their home and their property… Which might actually be someone else’s. Assuming you want the people in question to be happy to have you over.

        Just because there was a stack of books and papers on the end table, did not!!! mean I wanted my friend to ensure that library book was sporting a new circle on the cover. (This actually happened, and no, I won’t invite them back anytime soon until I get over it.)

    • I can not WAIT to implement the no-shoes rule….primarily for my husband. He has an outdoorsy job, and muddy hobbies/side jobs. We bought a house where the main floor has NO mudroom entryway, or even a place for a mat (the entrance for that floor is a sliding deck door directly into the kitchen right next to the fridge). Eventually we want to finish the day-light walk-out basement to include a large, well functioning mudroom that will be the main entrance for the house (it might feel backwards to come in downstairs, and then go UP to the main floor…but it’s the only solution). The trick will be getting my husband to NOT go in through the kitchen door (which is closest to the garage) and instead go around to the front of the house and use the basement/mudroom door. AND THEN TAKE OFF HIS BOOTS.

      I’m ok with people leaving shoes on (I do) but there should definitely be a place where people can take off obviously dirty shoes.

  11. My man and I generally keep our apartment relatively clean and our rule is that we keep it to the ‘if my mother called and said she was coming over, it could be clean in 20 minutes’ standard. Day to day drop ins? Doesn’t worry me because its picked up enough. Obviously, if we’re hosting a party or something, then I go a bit nuts cleaning.

    I do always make sure our bathroom is clean though, nothing grosses me out more then a dirty bathroom at someone else’s house.

  12. The Fiance and I have been using UnF*ck Your Habitat to keep our home relatively clean, and it’s working out very well so far.

    • Yup! UfYH stresses small, short, un-terrifying work times periodically. You’ll be shocked what you can do in twenty minutes of focused cleaning. Plus, it emphasizes the power of routine. If, every day, you make wiping down the bathroom counters part of your bedtime activities, they’ll always be ready for guests. That way if you know someone’s coming over, all you’ve gotta do is wipe down the toilet and get out snacks. 🙂

  13. Okay, etiquette question: Do you take off your shoes when you go to someone’s house?

    If I’ve JUST cleaned the floor and people don’t take off their shoes, I get annoyed. If I haven’t just cleaned the floor, I don’t care. BUT if I go to someone’s house and frankly the floor is already really gross, I don’t like taking off my shoes. There are a couple friend’s houses that I actually bring slippers to in winter so I don’t bring in more dirt/wet snow, but I don’t get my socks dirty either. (I’ve got a thing about putting dirty socks back in shoes. I double sock at the airport. I know.)

    • Maybe this is different where I’m from (Canada) but here people ALWAYS take off their shoes before going into someone’s house. It probably has something to do with winter and the fact that for half of the year your boots are just a vehicle for water (no one likes wet carpets) and huge chunks of road salt.

      But seriously, it’s so weird to me when people don’t take off their shoes. It just brings all the dirt from outside into the house. Why would you do that?

      If someone came into my house past the front door and didn’t immediately take off their shoes (no matter what season) they would get a serious side-eye and a polite request. And probably a lot of complaining about them once they leave.

      My nana always wears shoes inside, but she has a different pair of shoes only for indoor use. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but at least they don’t track mud inside.

      I also had a friend when I was little whose parents kept an obsessively clean house, so no shoes or bare feet inside ever! They had extra slippers for guests to wear.

      I do think this is a cultural thing, but I seriously do not understand why people wouldn’t take off their shoes inside. Full disclosure: I still have a weird thing about feet and don’t like them anywhere near me, and I STILL think people should always take off their shoes.

      • I didn’t think about the seasonal difference, but that’s so true. I live in Upstate NY and we get “lake effect” snow…so maybe it’s like Canada Lite?

        My husband and I take off our shoes, and it really cuts down on daily cleaning. When we have people over, they normally bring their (invited!) dogs, so I anticipate having to clean afterwards. But it is nice when house guests staying for multiple days take off their shoes.

        In winter I bring slippers to other people’s houses, so maybe in summer I’ll start bringing clean inside-only shoes… give your nana a fist bump for me. 🙂

      • I like the idea of taking shoes off just to help cut down on cleaning for me but my husband is the only one who remembers to do it. I just can’t seem to think of it in time and then I’m halfway through the house and I figure why bother.
        However, and obviously some won’t agree… I like it outside. I like hiking and sitting down on the ground and digging in the dirt in the garden (granted, I wash my hands afterward) but I guess if shoes are okay for me to wear outside and I like it out there, then they’re alright inside too. (Unless I’m camping. No shoes in the tent! LOL)

      • I’m pretty sure if I showed up at someone’s house and they demanded that I take my shoes off AND put on their slippers, I’d have to leave. I don’t mind taking my shoes off, but I’m not gonna wear someone else’s ;-P

    • If the hosts’ shoes are off or there’s a clearly defined shoe removal area (a spot near the door and other people’s shoes) I take them off. I don’t wear shoes at home and we keep our shoes right in the entryway. We’ve never asked anyone to take their shoes off but most people do seeing that. Since most of my social circle went to college in upstate NY we all automatically take our shoes off after coming in from bad weather, it was something we did in our dorm rooms to keep the mess contained. I don’t know if that makes us all better trained or not.

      We do have one set of friends that I refuse to take my shoes off in their apartment or sit on the floor since their dogs are less than housetrained, but I think when they got the puppies they stopped asking guests to take off their shoes.

    • Yeah, I think “shoes off” is very much a regional/cultural thing. Here in Seattle, there’s always always a pile of shoes next to the door, and when I walk into someone’s home for the first time, I almost always ask, “…shoes off?”

    • Growing up we were very much a shoes off house! If I notice a host leaves their shoes off I do too. But my guy has a serious bare foot phobia-he ALWAYS has to have something on his feet. He keeps a pair of “inside flops” that he takes off and trades for his outside shoes on the back porch. But in general since we have all hardwood/tile floor I just let people do as they please at ours.

      • I used to always be a shoes-off in the house person, but now have “house flipflops” because the house into which we moved has carpets that make my feet turn black if I run around barefoot. They don’t LOOK dirty, but they blacken my feet. Strangely, my husband does not have this problem, just me. I don’t get it.

        We’ve only been here about a month, so I’m hoping it’s just dirt that I will eventually erradicate in my vacuuming, but until I get this under control I *can’t* be totally anti-shoes (and certainly couldn’t impose that on guests).

        My must-clean areas if I *know* someone is coming: bathroom, kitchen (I keep obsessively clean anyway), and I straighten things like slipcovers, pillows, and throws. Since I have a regular cleaning routine, I don’t think things would look earthshatteringly (new word.) messy anyway, but I like to put in a little extra effort anyway.

  14. Stash boxes/bins/whatever are great, as other commenters have said.

    Also, the idea of “never leave a room with empty hands”. That is, any time you move around the house, return something that is out of place to wherever it should go (particularly if that is where you’re going). If you have two+ floors, keep a basket or something at the base of the stairs for things that need to go up, and take it up with you to return things when you go upstairs for whatever reason. I’ve found that stray glasses and piles of papers and whatnot start to disappear (in a good way) when I do that. It doesn’t take hardly any extra time to set the glass next to the sink if I was going into the kitchen anyway, etc.

    It’s hard to stop thinking you need to clean, clean, clean when guests come over, but some of the best advice I read was “why do your guests deserve a cleaner house than you do? You deserve to live in the same state that you think your guests deserve to visit in.” Which, unless you have the tolerance of a sty (which it doesn’t sound like you do), means that it’s okay not to vacuum today for guests if you are going to do it tomorrow for yourself anyway. If you’re doing it today, do it for *you*.

  15. doors. just close the doors to the rooms that aren’t necessary for the visit. i almost always close our bedroom doors when folks come over, but sometimes i’ll just close off a room that isn’t cleaned up. sometimes we only hang out in the front room – it’s the one they walk in the door to, it’s the least-used so it’s usually fairly clean, and usually folks will sort of stay where you put them – especially if there’s a closed door, but even if you invite them to have a seat, or see if they want a drink and say something like “just a second, i’ll be right back with it” instead of going into the kitchen together. that’s not as effective with long dinner or overnight visits, but for an hour to chat and have a drink, it works.

    also, i’ve found that the folks who are offended if my house isn’t all cleaned up…are mostly judgmental jerks i don’t actually want to hang out with, so it kind of works out.

  16. I’m the question asker, and Wow! So much great advice and ideas! I’ve had a busy day and haven’t had a chance to be online as much as usual, diving in to read the comments now.

  17. This isn’t so much about “cleaning” but how you can manage the people in the house all the time. If you’re constantly having people over, you can either feel like you’re constantly entertaining, or you can feel like people are just joining in your life. I would opt for the latter, in your case. Hopefully people call before swinging by, and you can ask them to pick up some easy snacks on the way (beer? chips? blueberries from the farm stand that they pass?). Also you can have them help be part of the set-up/clean-up too. Ask people to help wipe down and set the table before dinner, or to clean up and put stuff in the dishwasher when you’re done. If you have guests staying overnight, leave some of that daily shower spray stuff and just ask them to spray it when they’re done.

    Obviously I wouldn’t have guests vacuum or wash windows or anything. But many hands make light work, and there’s no reason that friends shouldn’t chip in for casual easy get-togethers.

    • Yes! I love how you framed it as entertaining vs. joining in our life. And that really is the best description of what it is.

  18. So I know this point has been touched upon, but I have yet to host anyone at my home who hasn’t offered to help in some way – my husband has band practice here every Tuesday night and we always feed them a home cooked meal – and they always offer to do the dishes. My issue was getting over saying “nah, I’ve got it” to “that would be wonderful, thank you!”

    My main life hack for keeping my house clean (absolutely necessary when we had six adults and a very small baby in a home with one working shower and no dishwasher) was dividing up the rooms, then dividing up what needed to be done daily and weekly within those rooms. The result was:

    Daily: Dishes done as they are dirtied and put away before bedtime. Shower clean stuff sprayed after each shower. Clear all items that don’t belong from communal living area. Take trash out if it’s full (just do it, it’s a two second walk to the trash truck). Clean messes as they happen (so if you’re the one that didn’t cover the queso in the microwave, dripped coffee all over the kitchen floor, shaved and got tiny hairs all over the counter, or got toothpaste all over the sink, clean it up immediately, it’s easier that way).

    Weekly: I assigned areas of the house to different days of the week – Monday is big bathroom, Tuesday is office/dining room/mud room, Wednesday is living room/bar, Thursday is kitchen/laundry room/small bathroom, Friday is a rest day, Saturday is laundry (including towels and bath mats), and Sunday is a rest day. The specific days mean I pay special attention to general cleanliness, dusting, organizing, and doing the floors, and with this in place, I rarely spend more than half an hour cleaning.

    Also, one of my hacks is incense. Find a scent that works for you. I’ve found that if my house smells fresh, I’m less inclined to see it as dirty. Of course, I live in an old house with three large dogs and “musty” is a good way to describe what I deal with.

    As for foods – we always, always have chips and salsa and a variety of drinks on hand. Nowadays, we don’t get many visitors, so what’s best for us is stuff that doesn’t go bad.

  19. The two-thing rule. This is one of my husband’s brilliant ideas. Anyone going outside with the dog has to bring a second thing (garbage, recycling, laundry going out, reusable grocery bags back to the car, whatever). The two thing rule could also apply to going upstairs/downstairs/out to the garage/out to the barn/back inside. Just do one more thing that goes in a given direction or to a given space. Taking the garbage out, as a separate chore in an apartment, is a PITA but we’re taking the dog out anyway, right?

    And my thing is as follows, never procrastinate something that takes <2 minutes to do. I am a killer procrastinator, but this makes sure I have toilet paper stocked in the bathroom and on the holder, there's a clean hand towel in the ring, I refill the sugar bowl, I rinse the cooking pot out before the spaghetti sauce hardens (I might procrastinate the washing of dishes but there's no crust when I get to it!!). Best rule ever, I try to remember to do this every day but of course some are better than others.

    If you are bathroom sensitive, make it a habit to clean a thing (any thing: the soap dispenser, the toilet, change the towel) every time you are in there, that's the two-thing rule in action. Or whenever you notice the human detritus, you apply the <2 rule and do a quick swipe.

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