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Have you ever reached that all-out-panic “someone’s coming for dinner and the house looks like a war zone” mode?

I’ve been there (more than once), and while I love having a clean home, I’ll be the first to admit that my house is (more often than not) a landmine of toys. I have a cleaning routine (even if it is a bit lazy) that works for our family, but on the in-between days, it can sometimes be all-out panic mode if someone shows up unexpectedly.

If you’re struggling to get your home ready for the holidays, these six tips will help you speed clean your way to a happy home.

1. Keep cleaning products accessible

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a few extra seconds to clean and having to run downstairs and then across the house to dig out your cleaning supplies.

Especially in the bathrooms, it’s handy to keep a small supply of cleaning products, like Lysol wipes and a glass cleaning cloth for quick wipe downs. I also keep vinegar, which I use to clean almost everything, in the laundry room, and kitchen cleaners like appliance cleaners (I’m loving the Easy-Off Stainless Steel Cleaner and the Easy-Off Oven Cleaner) under the sink.

2. Follow a schedule

Take the guesswork out of cleaning. If you follow this cleaning plan, your house will sparkle from top to bottom.I have a daily, weekly, and holiday cleaning schedule that I follow. I wrote it out, laminated it, and placed it in my planner (get your copy of the cleaning schedule here). While this may seem like overkill, it simplifies my cleaning process because it’s one less thing that I need to think about.

When unexpected guests arrive, it also makes me feel a little better about myself if I know that beneath the toy pile and the stack of mail on the kitchen counter, my house is actually clean (and if they notice the three baskets of laundry waiting to be carried upstairs, at least they know we’re wearing clean clothes)!

A cleaning schedule also helps to avoid those moments when you’re sitting around the table on Christmas Eve, only to look up and see a massive cobweb hanging from the chandelier. Bon appetit!

My daily schedule consists of my basic speed cleaning routine: making the beds, doing the dishes, laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and a quick declutter. My weekly schedule includes more in-depth cleaning, like vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing the floors, etc. For the most part, I can finish my weekly cleaning in an hour or two, while the daily cleaning is completed by spending a few minutes here and there throughout the day.

3. Cut down on your cleaning frequency

Yes, I have a daily cleaning schedule, but for the most part, unless something needs to be cleaned, like a juice explosion in the kitchen (yes, that happened, right after I had cleaned the cupboards, no less), I save my detailed cleaning for Thursday night so that my house looks nice for the weekend.

The object of speed cleaning isn’t to make (or keep) your house perfect at all times. Your main focus should be on keeping your house at the point where it’s never more than 30 minutes away from being “clean enough.” A few daily tasks should be enough to keep it at that point.

4. Enlist help

My daughter has a love/hate relationship with the Roomba. She alternates between hiding from it and chasing behind it, clapping as it cleans.

My daughter has a love/hate relationship with the Roomba. She alternates between hiding from it and chasing behind it, clapping as it cleans.

Aside from making the whole family pitch in, you can also enlist the help of technology. I recently “borrowed” my grandma’s Roomba (she may or may not get it back). So far, I’m loving it! We’ve been using it in the family room every night after the kids go to bed.

While the Roomba doesn’t replace a thorough vacuuming (there’s nothing like a freshly vacuumed room with the vacuum lines to prove it), it’s perfect for those in between times (like after the kids’ popcorn parties).

I’ve also used it right before I knew someone was coming. It does a great job picking up crumbs from the middle of the room, and it fits perfectly under the couch (which I hardly ever move). Also, considering that my grandma’s Roomba (this is a similar model on Amazon) is 11 years old and still going strong, I know that they’re built to last!

5. Clean from the top down

I “deep clean” my house three to four times a year (before holidays and parties), which includes cleaning the walls, dusting the baseboards, ceiling fans, light fixtures, etc. While deep cleaning isn’t part of my regular speed cleaning routine, it helps to keep the house looking fresh.

I speak from experience by advising you to clean from the top down. 😉 Since I’m 5’2″, I normally recruit my husband to clean the light fixtures, but one year, he cleaned the light fixtures over my freshly scrubbed floor. It was not a happy moment.

To avoid scrambling at the last minute, I usually start deep cleaning one to two weeks in advance of any parties or events (and I often use these events as the perfect opportunity to whip my house into shape). I start by cleaning the ceilings, light fixtures, and ceiling fans, then move on to clean the walls, then windows, appliances, and finally baseboards. Every day I tackle a project or two so that I’m not totally overwhelmed.

I also clean my house in sections. I start with the bedrooms and then finish with the high-traffic living areas. By the time the holiday rolls around, the bedrooms may have a couple days’ accumulation of dust on the dressers again, but most of the party guests stay in the main parts of the house, anyway.

Unless you just moved in and plan on giving tours of your house, focus (and end) your cleaning on the main parts of your house. I finish with my regular weekly cleaning a day or two before the holiday or party, and then do a quick “speed clean” to put the finishing touches on the house an hour before guests arrive.

6. Declutter

One of the easiest ways to clean up is to clear your kitchen counter.

I’m read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and it really is an inspiring book (you can read my full review of the book here). The main principle of the book is to only keep items that you love and that continue to bring you joy.

While decluttering is a little difficult to implement with children whose toys seem to bring joy at different times (I’ve been known to put away a toy only to bring it back out at a later date), a simple, clutter-free home looks cleaner, even if it’s not. It’s also easier to speed clean if you don’t have to pick up a million random items (ahem, kids’ toys) first.

A mess of toys may be excusable at this stage of life, but I’ve always felt that a dirty kitchen is a direct reflection of my cleaning and decluttering ability. One of the fastest ways to make your house look clean (and keep it clean going forward) is to clear your kitchen counters.

I have a small kitchen, so I’ve been trying to be ruthless with paper clutter on the counters as well as the amount of “stuff” that I have sitting out on the counters. Every night, I open our mail over the garbage can, put unpaid bills in my planner, and then stack everything else that needs to be filed. My filing cabinet is currently in the basement, so I carry everything down there on my next trip (to be filed once a week after I pay the bills from my planner).

How happy is your home? Better yet, at any given time, how far is your home from “cleanliness?”