Whether you’re hosting a big event or having a few friends over for dinner, it’s likely that the state of your home is top of mind. This is especially true if you’re not a naturally tidy person—or you live with others who struggle to keep things orderly. When prioritizing which spaces to clean before guests arrive, it might be helpful to know the messes that stand out most to guests.
If prep time is limited before guests arrive, you'll want to tackle the biggest eyesores, our experts share—but the problem is figuring out which of those eyesores stand out most to your guests. We turned to the experts to find out their suggestions and narrow down which items and areas should always get a refresh before the doorbell rings.
Meet the Expert
- Meredith Goforth is a professional organizer and the founder of House of Prim.
- Imane Fiocchi is the founder of event planning company Neon Lace.
Culprit #1: Small Piles of Mess
Small messes aren't a big deal, right? Professional organizer Meredith Goforth says otherwise. In fact, she says it's likely that small piles of clutter have become common blindspots to you, but could be immediately noticed by guests.
“We become accustomed to clutter in certain areas of the home, such as piles of shoes by the door, stacks of mail on the counter, or pet hair that always lingers on the couch,” Goforth says, who also warns that these are the exact messes we should address first. They're what will stand out the most to guests, who are entering your home with fresh eyes.
Culprit #2: Bathrooms That Need Attention
You might be able to shove clutter piles into cabinets ahead of a gathering, but Goforth says there’s one room in the house that requires a deeper clean: guests will absolutely notice a dirty bathroom.
“To go the extra mile, I also like to organize the bathroom cabinets with anything a guest may go looking for—like pain reliever, mouthwash, or feminine hygiene products,” Goforth says.
Culprit #3: Forgotten Exteriors and Entryways
It’s easy to get swept up in a clean interior, but Goforth also reminds us that the exterior and front entryway is your home’s first impression—and you shouldn't forget to keep it tidy and fresh.
“Add seasonal décor and a clean doormat, and remove any kids’ toys or dead plants,” Goforth says, who also suggests sweeping the front step as a nice touch for a put-together first impression.
Imane Fiocchi of Neon Lace agrees, noting that there are two major culprits that often affect your entryway: shoes and packages.
“I constantly have a million shoes at my entry, so I always make sure to tidy them before guests arrive,” she says. “Any unsorted mail should be put away out of sight, including boxes and deliveries.”
Culprit #4: Overcluttered Closets
Whether you have a spacious closet, are organizing your mudroom, or can repurpose a spare room for coats and bags, Goforth says this space is something guests will definitely notice—and they’ll probably visit it more than you realize.
“Prepare for people to be in and out of that area throughout the night as they come and go,” says Goforth.
Culprit #5: Food Prep Messes
When it comes to prepping your kitchen ahead of a party, Goforth says this is one area that’s nuanced. While she points out that it’s practical and helpful as the host to start with a freshly cleaned fridge, empty dishwasher, and clear trashcans, if you’re serving any food, it’s impractical to expect a sparkling kitchen.
“Some signs of food and drink preparation can be entirely acceptable, and can even create a more approachable environment,” Goforth says. “Small tasks in progress, like cutting lemons for cocktails or arranging appetizers, can add some approachability.”
But, she also notes this doesn’t give you an excuse to make a massive mess, either. Think: clean surfaces and clear clutter.
Fiocchi feels the same, though she has a great hack for creating the impression of an instantly clean and tidy kitchen: stash your countertop appliances away. “It just feels fresher to me to have my appliances hidden and my counter bare,” she says.
Our Advice: Prioritize Spaces Guests Will See
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you need to do ahead of a party or gathering, both Goforth and Fiocchi assure us that there are places you can skip.
“The reality is, prioritizing the areas of the home that guests will see is necessary,” Goforth says. “We can’t do it all.” This means, as you hit the problem zones above, you can strike other things off your list, like laundry, unmade beds, messy cars, and playrooms.
“If you don’t have any overnight guests, bedroom doors can stay closed,” Goforth says, who also notes that the garage isn’t likely to be a place your guests will wander, and playrooms are allowed to be reasonably messy—especially if it’s a kid-free event.
Fiocchi agrees, noting that even pet play toys are allowed some leeway. Plus, you can use certain spaces to divert messes if you’re really desperate for a quick tidy.
“No one really cares about the garage, so when all else fails, just store all the mess in there,” she says.