How to Prep Your Home for Guests When You Only Have 15 Minutes

prep home for guests living room

Nina Vartanava / EyeEm / Getty Images

Are you guilty of constantly suggesting to meet friends downtown because you'd rather book a babysitter, venture out, and pay for overpriced cocktails than tackle the grueling task of hosting? Well, we're here to share that getting your place party-ready doesn't need to be a week-long process—in fact, there's plenty of prep you can accomplish in just 15 minutes! If you're preparing to entertain but are short on time, you'll want to keep the following seven tips top of mind. You might be surprised at how drastically you can transform your space into a festive hangout spot in less time than it takes to cook dinner.

Meet the Expert

  • 01 of 07

    Get Your Space Spick and Span

    clean living room


    As we all know, a quick clean can work wonders. But what spaces are most important to tackle if you're short on time pre-party? Kaitlin Moss, event stylist and founder of The Every Hostess, spilled the details. "Tidy up as much as you can—fold blankets, fluff pillows, and put away or neatly organize any items that are out," she advised. After all, you want your living room to appear welcoming and orderly; not as if you just awoke from an afternoon nap (even if that really is the case!).

  • 02 of 07

    Tidy Up the Loo

    clean bathroom

    Hannah Tyler Designs

    One room in particular that will need a little extra attention during the tidying process? The loo! "Whichever bathroom your guests are going to be using, make sure to give it a good, yet simple clean," Moss said. And don't forget to set out ample toilet paper and hand soap. There's no need to worry about selecting seasonal scents or pretty bottles; what matters most is quantity. That way, Susie won't have to awkwardly pop out into the living room mid-cocktail hour asking where she can locate a spare roll of TP!

  • 03 of 07

    Master Your Tablescape

    tablescape with flowers

    Dominique Gebru

    While we see pictures of extremely well-curated tablescapes and assume they took hours to create, you can execute a perfectly styled tabletop in just a few simple steps, commented Kathy Kuo, founder of Kathy Kuo Home. "Focus on a few eye-catching factors," she suggested, noting that vase full of flowers—perhaps blooms from your own yard—is a winning accent piece. And don't forget about a go-to appetizer. "When I'm super short on time, I go heavy on the charcuterie spread," Elizabeth Van Lierde of The College Housewife said. "Clear off your kitchen island or your dining table and make a large cheese board spread equipped with all of the meats, cheeses, and produce! It's an easy way to make a show stopping centerpiece, plus feed everyone, without the stress of making complete dishes."

  • 04 of 07

    Get Personal

    tablescape with placecards

    Emily Starr Alfano

    There's no need to order monogrammed place cards from a fancy stationery store weeks in advance just to demonstrate that you've made an effort pre-party. But it's true that personal touches do go a long way—no one has to know that you didn't actually prep for a gathering far in advance. "Personal touches are another great way to make your guests feel special," Kuo added. "Something effortless like handwritten place cards is a thoughtful addition and can be executed quickly!" So grab that colorful set of permanent markers and some card stock and get to it!

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Perfect Your Playlist

    living room

    Alvin Wayne

    The right tunes will set the mood instantly. "A good playlist can truly transform the evening," Kuo explained. "Throw on music that reflects the vibe you’re trying to create or food culture you are having, and the ambiance will feel complete." Having music on before guests arrive is also a smart strategy, as it will immediately liven up your home and have everyone feeling party-ready as soon as they unzip their jacket.

  • 06 of 07

    Address Your Lighting

    kitchen island

    Kate Marker Interiors

    Tackle those lamps and light switches. "The first step in creating a warm and welcoming ambiance for your guests is to dim your lighting a bit—avoid harsh lighting if you want to put guests at ease," Kuo shared. "Make sure you are using warm yellow light in the 2700 to 3000 kelvin temperature range." This tactic is useful in more ways than one—Moss notes that dimmed lighting is "a great way to hid any lingering dirt on surfaces or your floor!

  • 07 of 07

    Light it Up

    candles on console table

    Lemon Leaf Home Interiors

    Last but not least, for some extra oomph, grab those matches. "You can also try incorporating some candles throughout the room; this will help to set a more serene, upscale feel," Kuo added. And don't worry about going overboard with placement; the more candles, the merrier! Noted Moss, "I always have a candle going in my kitchen, living room, and powder room!"