If You Only Have 20 Minutes To Clean The House

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Over the years, I’ve come to realize that cleaning is a huge stress-reliever for me. Not just the act of picking up or scrubbing things, either. I love the result! The house being free of clutter is what especially relaxes me. There’s just something about a clean, open, breathable space that calms my mind and allows my heart to focus on what’s really important.

But life is a busy, crazy thing – it hurdles at us with mail piles and receipts, dirty dishes and diapers…and people! People who want to spend time with us, and whom we love and want to be with! But who among us has countless hours to deep-clean the house before friends or relatives come over? Keep in mind – if these people truly know you and love you, then they will step into your home with a perspective of understanding and grace. They truly won’t judge you based on your shoe-pile or dishes in the sink.

Here’s the thing, though – it really is wonderful to have a bright, clean, useable space. There are so many pros to this, positives that affect not just others’ opinions of your house, but positives in your own life as well. For today, how about we approach this whole keeping-a-clean-house concept with a touch of grace, and attack the messes that truly will help your home be a hospitable one?

Today, I’m sharing with you the practical, tried-and-true, not-overkill ways you can prep your home for company in just 20 minutes. Although this does not mean these should be the only messes we ever give attention to, – deep-cleaning still has to happen! – here’s what to do when you find out that guests will soon be arriving.


First, the name of the game: put yourself into your guests’ shoes. What are the main rooms you’ll be spending your time in? What are the first couple things you’ll notice as you step foot into the house?

When I begin my guests-are-coming-soon cleaning spree, I have to get into the mindset of someone who doesn’t live here – I can’t just go by a mentality of, “Eh, that’ll be fine laying there.” I’ve got to choose to be a bit more picky (even if my guests aren’t).

Things guests tend to notice: piles (mail and shoes), dust, and dishes.

Here’s the plan of attack for the next 20 minutes, in order of what to accomplish. Ready? Set, GO! 🙂

If You Only Have 20 Minutes To Clean The House:

  • Conquer the dishes. Either do your dishes quickly or stick ’em in the dishwasher.
  • Simplify the visual space on all flat surfaces. Pick up and straighten items on coffee tables, side tables, the piano, the counters, and the dining and kitchen table.
  • Wipe all tables down. I use lemon-scented Clorox wipes because those work well for us!
  • Get nice scents going. I diffuse Purification or Lemon essential oil, but a Glade Plug-In or a candle would work nicely.
  • Neaten pillows & throw blankets.
  • Put away (hopefully, be able to throw away) mail piles and papers.
  • Vacuum/sweep living room floor. If you don’t have a couple minutes to do this, pick up any scraps by hand.
  • Get rid of piles. Consolidate things that are loose into purses or backpacks, ideally where they belong anyway. This includes straightening up shoes (a super easy task if you’ve got shoe storage crates like these!).
  • Sanitize the bathroom. Focus on the important parts: the sink, the toilet, the floor, and the mirror. Toilet paper should never be low. Now is also the time to make sure you have nice-looking soap and a fresh towel ready!

Time’s up! Yay! You did it!

If you find yourself with just a couple minutes to spare, these next couple items are…


  • Put nice music on – my default: a Gregory Alan Isakov record, or my Spotify station full of acoustic-y goodness. 🙂
  • Turn on ambient lighting – any fun lamps or candles?
  • Lay out fun conversation starter items on the coffee table.

This is the true list of what I do when people are coming over, OR when I just want to do a quick sweep-through of the house. (I totally just retested this 20-minute list TODAY, when my sis-in-law was coming over! 🙂 We have family over quite frequently, which is super fun! ) Perhaps you’ll want to do more extensive cleaning than this list, or – if you’re just plain awesome! – you may have to do even less!

But the goal is that if we get in the habit of straightening up like this, hopefully it’ll take a bit less effort each time, and our end result will be a place that feels homey, fun, welcoming, and ready for great food or conversation! 

Do you have guests over frequently? What are your go-to tricks for straightening up your home? Where do you turn your attention first when it’s time to clean? I’d love to hear your tips!




  1. This is brilliant! Despite the fact that I do have free time, I often feel that my time to clean the house is limited– mostly because I hate doing it! I love this prioritized list, Hannah! It’s a great idea.

    1. Thank you, Daisy! Yes, a lot of the time it’s not that we don’t have 20 minutes to clean – we just really want to dedicate only 20 minutes to cleaning so we can move on with our lives! Glad these were helpful for you 🙂

    1. You’re so right, Chelsea! I had some in the sink this morning so I made sure to do them before 9 am…and then right away, my whole outlook on the day and the cleanliness of the house changed! It’s funny how a little thing like that can make a difference.

  2. I close the bedroom doors and turn the Roomba on so it can vacuum while I do other things. I check to see that there are cold beverages in the fridge and add some if need be. I load the dishwasher, which may mean emptying it first, and wipe down counters. I grab a Swiffer duster and give flat surfaces a quick once over straightening piles as I go and stuffing throws and excess pillows in our storage hassock. I clean the bathroom and check supplies in there. I send the Roomba back to its dock. I pour myself one of those cold beverages to cool me down after the hustle and bustle. Done.

    1. It is so neat that you have a Roomba, Linda! I love hearing what your system is! I also really like how you check the fridge for cold beverages – little things like that can really be a day brightener! Checking for supplies is an important step. Thank you for sharing what you do to clean!

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