Did your in-laws text and say they’re only 15 minutes away? Are your relatives paying you a surprise visit? Breathe. You can do this. The kitchen table may be covered in wrapping paper, and cat fur might blanket the stairs, but all is not lost. These people won’t be doing a white-glove inspection. You just need a few pointers on how to clean house fast.

These eight tips will help you get the house into shape in record time.

 1. Determine your priorities

Close the doors to bedrooms, closets, laundry room, and anywhere else you can (that’s where you’ll stash stuff until everyone has left). What’s left is probably the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and maybe guest rooms. Maybe a hallway or entryway too. What do visitors see first? Start there.

When focusing on how to clean house fast, remember to only clean what people will see and use. This means floors and tables in the living room, and the sink and toilet in the bathroom. Skip the shower unless people will be staying overnight.

2. Make it smell fresh

I know it’s freezing out, but crack open a few windows to get rid of any musty smells and turn on the bathroom fan. Light candles in various rooms to make the place start smelling nice while you clean. To banish kitchen odors, run warm water and half a cup of baking soda down the disposal. If you have time, throw a pot of water on the stove with a few drops of an essential oil, like lemon or lavender. If you don’t have essential oils, throw a sliced-up lemon and some cloves and cinnamon sticks in the water. The fresh aroma will fool guests into thinking it’s always clean at your house.

3. Hunt and gather

Armed with a trash bag or empty laundry basket, speed through the high-priority areas and collect clutter. Tidy books and magazines into stacks, or better yet, toss remote controls and similar items into a classy wicker basket. Things like shoes, kids’ toys, and other clutter goes into the basket to be tucked out of sight. And obviously, part of how to clean house fast is throwing trash away as you go.

4. Clean top to bottom

Professionals clean top to bottom and left to right. So before you vacuum, give the coffee table and couches a quick sweep to get all the crumbs onto the floor. And if you have time to dust, sweep any cobwebs in the corners first. Going top to bottom will prevent you from getting mad at yourself when dirty toilet water splashes onto the clean bathroom floor.

5. Speed-Clean the Bathroom

Squirt some toilet cleaner in the bowl and let it sit while you give the sink a quick scrub. (How to clean house fast: multitask.) Try quickly running a paper towel with rubbing alcohol on it over your mirror, sink, and faucets. If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, a half-water, half-vinegar solution works well too. (Glass cleaner will also make your faucets gleam.) Grab a different paper towel with rubbing alcohol and swab down the toilet seat and rim. Swap in a clean hand towel, and voila!

 6. Tackle the kitchen

Give the kitchen counters a quick wipe with a sponge and some baking soda. Hide counter clutter in the cabinets or drawers. (This is how to clean house fast, not do a deep clean.) If you have a bunch of dirty dishes, stack them in the sink or put them all in the dishwasher if possible. Toss out anything spoiled or smelly in the fridge, and finish with a quick sweep of the kitchen floor. You probably don’t have time to mop, but use a wet paper towel to clean up any spills. If you have big oven spills that will create smoke while you cook, use this guide to quickly clean your oven without doing the multi-hour self-clean cycle.

7. Tidy the guest room

Clean sheets and a made bed go a long way. After that, make sure side tables are clean. Open the blinds to let light in and make it look inviting. Put out a clean set of towels. Finish with the vacuum. Flowers, a fun magazine, or a nice candle make a sweet accent on the bedside table if you have them on hand. Take heart: You’re almost done!

8. Collect yourself

Your guests are coming to see you, after all, not inspect the tops of your picture frames. Give yourself a quick spritz of your favorite perfume, apply some fresh deodorant, or dust on some loose powder to freshen up after your cleaning frenzy. Pat yourself on the back for figuring out how to clean house fast. Now take a deep breath and smile. Is that the doorbell?

What are your secrets for tidying up in a hurry?

Top Image Credit: Charles Vincent George Architects