I like company. I don’t even mind unexpected, last-minute, “hey, I’m in your neighborhood” company. In fact, if I am home, I am almost always ready to receive guests, but my kitchen is another story. But even if there is a pile of dishes in the sink and a weird smell hovering in the air, I can get it in decent shape in about 10 minutes. Here’s how I do it.
Similar to the S.O.S.D. method—that’s “surfaces, oven, sweep (floors), and dishes”—I focus on just a few things: smells, surfaces, and the sink. Handling smells can be as easy as taking out the trash, but if something truly persistent is hanging out in the air, boil a couple of cups of water with some cloves and citrus peels, and add a few drops of essential oils if you have them. If you’re guest drinks coffee, put a pot on; nothing clears the air quite like the aroma of coffee. (If your guest doesn’t drink coffee, and you don’t feel like enjoying any, put a pot on anyway, then store it in the fridge overnight and drink iced coffee in the morning.)
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For surfaces, simply put stuff away, my friend, and stack any errant dishes in your sink. Wipe off crumbs with a dry cloth, then wipe counters, the stove, and appliances down with a wet cloth. (For the microwave, just wipe down the outside, and yell at anyone who tries to open it.) The floor is also a surface but, unless there is a really obvious pile of peels or a spill, a quick sweep or Swiffer should suffice, or you could just leave it alone entirely. Any friend who comments on the state of your kitchen floors after popping over unexpectedly loses all future popover privileges.
Finally, the sink. The sink is not something you clean in this scenario; it is where you hide your shame. Scrape excess food off the dishes, set them as neatly as you can in the sink, and squirt some soap in there. Use a lot of soap, because you want bubbles, which will obscure just how many dishes you haven’t done. (If you have a dishwasher, lucky you, just put your dishes in there and be careful not to flaunt your privilege.) If your secret shame is so great that it will not all fit in the sink or dishwasher, hide the rest in the oven. I have never once had a friend look in my oven. Once that’s all done, pour a glass of wine, put on some music, and practice your “so sorry the place is such a mess,” even though it isn’t, because that’s just what people say when they let others into their home.