To prove that I'm not always despondent about cleaning the house, I share with you my own bonafide tip for making things look acceptable fast in the kitchen, the only household fix I've ever developed myself. This works for everyone: big families, small families, bachelors, roommates, anyone with a kitchen and people coming over shortly.
So you just got a call that someone's showing up in ten or fifteen or thirty minutes, and the kitchen is a disaster, and you don't know where to start. Do you go with your first instinct and tackle that counter full of dirty dishes? Don't get caught in that trap, or you'll be caught in the vicious cycle of unloading the dishwasher and loading it, and by the time you hear the knock on the door, there will be no discernible difference, and you'll be all hot and flustered for nothing. Here, try MrsDarwin's handy Quick Kitchen Fix:
Clean appliances first: Get your Formula 409 and your paper towels and wipe down the stovetop, the oven door, the microwave, the dishwasher, the fridge, the bread box -- any surface that you usually neglect because you're doing the dishes and clearing the counter and sweeping the floor. Everyone has dishes sitting around sometimes (most of the time); people understand that. If you have a clean stovetop and fridge and large vertical surfaces, it looks like you keep the place clean most of the time, but you're just behind on clearing the counter today. But if you have jam on the fridge and grease on the stove and fingerprints all over the dishwasher and smears of whatever on the oven, that's when it looks like you never clean the place, no matter how sparkling your counters are.
If you've done that, and you still have time, wipe any major spots off the floor. It doesn't matter if you've swept -- you're going to be wiping up the dirt with your paper towel anyway.
If you've done that, and you still have time, wipe down the sink faucet.
If you've done that, and you still have time, sweep the floor. Get the corners especially, so it looks like you always keep them clean. If there's junk on the floor that needs to be sorted through, sweep it into a pile and put it in a bag to look at later.
If you still have time, push all the dishes into the sink and fill it with soapy water so they look like they're soaking (and they are!).
Then wipe the dishes counter.
You're probably out of time now, or you would have just done the dishes first thing, but now your visitor is here and it looks like you keep mostly on top of things. After they leave, you get through the dishes and clean off the rest of the counters and pretend to yourself that the kitchen looked this clean the whole time, really.
Obviously, if the floor is so disgusting you can't even walk on it, you can start there first, but if it's passable at a glance, start by making the big vertical surfaces and the stovetop shine.
And that's how I roll.
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