15 Minute Clean: How to Prioritize Last-Minute Cleaning

15 Minute Clean: How to Prioritize Last-Minute Cleaning

by Kyla Dewar

In an ideal world, we’d all have sparkling clean homes and all the time in the world to achieve it. But in reality, cleaning tends to be low on our list of priorities, often getting stuck in the inevitable “I’ll get to it tomorrow” infinity loop. 


For those who lead busy lives and don’t have the time in the day to clean or those who have messy family members, roommates, or pets, it’s all too common for cleaning to be delayed for much longer than it should. That’s why many homes may spend their time in varying stages of disarray, despite the best efforts.


But what happens when it’s been a few weeks since you last cleaned and suddenly a friend from out of town texts you? They’re in the neighbourhood and want to come by right now. If your initial response is “Oh no,” you’re not alone. 


When these situations arise, there are generally two trains of thought:


  1. Leave everything as it is. Your guests can deal with the mess.
  2. Make a mad dash to clean your entire house as quickly as possible.


Though the first option may seem appealing to some, if you’re the type of person who always wants to put their best foot forward and impress their guests, you’ll need to get cleaning. Fast


But merely picking a room and starting your regular cleaning routine isn’t going to result in an ideal clean for a last-minute guest. You need to prioritize and simplify as much as possible, as well as understand that your home won’t be spotless, but it can at least be presentable. 


The first step is to simplify. When you target specific areas of your home, use minimal cleaning tools/products, and set time limits for each space, it’s easy for anyone to get their house guest-ready in 15 minutes or less, no matter the mess. So if you want a 15-minute house cleaning checklist, look no further! Read on to find out how to tidy your home in no time at all.


Key Focus Areas


  1. The Bathroom. This should be priority number one. Just like in restaurants and businesses, many people will judge the overall cleanliness of your home based on how clean your bathroom is. As long as your bathroom is acceptable, most people will forgive minor cleanliness issues around the house.

  2. The Kitchen. If you’re going to be cooking for your guests or preparing tea or coffee, they’re likely going to follow you in to help out or to continue a conversation. Having a clean and tidy kitchen shows people you take their health seriously. Especially if you’re cooking for them, your guests will want to know the area their food is being prepared in doesn’t have a build-up of food stains and bacteria.

  3. The Living Room. This is likely where you’ll be spending the majority of your time with your guest, so ensuring this area is clean is a must. The last thing you want is to leave the room and come back in to see them trying to avoid the sock sticking out of your couch cushions.

  4. The Entryway. This is their first impression of your home, so you want it to be a good one. By just tidying up the shoes by the door, cleaning the floor mats, and organizing your various decorations, they’ll immediately have a heightened impression of your home.


Necessary Tools


  1. A duster
  2. A laundry basket/hamper
  3. Garbage bags
  4. Lysol wipes (or cleaning cloths with soap and water)
  5. A broom — preferable with a dustpan
  6. A vacuum


Your 15-Minute House Cleaning Timeline


The House Tour – 2 Minutes


  1. Take both a garbage bag and a laundry basket with you and walk around your house.

  2. Use the garbage bag to throw away anything that doesn’t need to be there — like food wrappers your kids have left under the couch. 

  3. Throw any out-of-place items — like toys, clothes, or dishes — into the laundry basket.

  4. While walking through your home, take things from the laundry basket and put them back where they belong.

  5. Close the doors to any rooms where guests won’t need to be. If they don’t need to see it, you don’t need to clean it.

  6. When done, put the garbage bag in its usual storage spot.


Bathroom Beautification – 4 Minutes


  1. Clean out the toilet first. Be sure to clean under the seat too.

  2. Wipe down the sink and countertops so that no residue remains — like toothpaste in the sink or hair on the counter.

  3. Quickly sweep or vacuum the floor to remove any hair or dust build-up.

  4. Shut the shower curtain. Unless your guests are staying overnight, they don’t need to see behind it.

  5. Take out the bathroom garbage and put in a new bag. This will make your bathroom seem even cleaner.


Kitchen Cleanse – 4 Minutes


  1. Wipe down the countertops to remove crumbs or stickiness.

  2. Clean off the stovetop to remove food stains.

  3. Remove dirty dishes from the sink (put in the dishwasher or hide out of sight).

  4. Wipe down the sink to remove any water stains or mildew.

  5. Dust appliances so everything looks fresh.

  6. Quickly vacuum or sweep the floors to catch anything that may have been dropped from the counter.


Lock Down the Living Room – 3 Minutes


  1. Dust your tabletops, knickknacks, and shelves.

  2. Quickly vacuum and/or sweep your living room — focus on the major sections like open spaces and in and around furniture.

  3. Fluff your pillows and/or couch cushions — this will make things look more inviting.

  4. Put out coasters, napkins, and snack plates for you and your guests.


Examine the Entryway – 2 Minutes


  1. Dust your shelves, windows, and knickknacks.

  2. Tidy up shoes, coats, and other miscellaneous items by the door.
  1. Take your doormat outside and beat it with a broom to get out caked in dust and dirt.

  2. Quickly sweep or vacuum the floors.



Time-permitting option: lightly spray your home with air freshener to mask any smells lingering in the air.

About the Author
Kyla Dewar
Kyla holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Ryerson University and has been featured in several newspapers and magazines since beginning her career as a writer. She currently works as a Care Communication Specialist at CareGuide and is the lead writer and editor for blog content on Housekeeper.com, ElderCare.com, HouseSitter.com, CanadianNanny.ca, PetSitter.com, and Sitter.com.