A reader asks: “Can you please share tips for tidying up quickly when an unexpected visitor rings the doorbell?”

Front DoorMany of us have experienced this scenario at least once. We’re listening to our favorite tunes, wearing a baseball cap, and doing something delightfully unexciting (read: folding laundry, doing a crossword puzzle, watering tomatoes, paying bills, watching golf) when the doorbell rings, revealing an unexpected guest. And as we prepare to greet this guest, we realize that the bathroom isn’t squeaky clean, the table is piled high with our latest project, and we don’t necessarily feel ready to welcome a visitor. Following are a few tips on observing your version of organizational bliss in this situation.

1. Leave everything as-is. This guest came over uninvited. They’re not expecting you to roll out a red carpet. And you’re not giving them white gloves with which to inspect your mantle. Greet them with a smile and don’t worry about the organization level of your living room at the moment.

But if you feel this situation calls for speedy clean-up measures, consider one, some, or all of the following tips.

2. Spot cleaning takes just a moment and makes all the difference. If having a squeaky clean bathroom is important to you when you have guests, welcome your unexpected visitor inside, offer them a beverage, and feel free to take a moment and step out of the room. Head to the bathroom and in a matter of seconds, spritz down the sink, faucet, and counter.

3. If that project piled high on the coffee table is making you squirm, organize things while conversing with your visitor. Your guest felt comfortable enough to swing by unannounced so they probably won’t mind if you simultaneously sort and chat.

4. If you deem it necessary, before answering the door tidy up by doing a few quick things. Fold the afghan on the couch in the living room, ignore the pile of mail in your home office and close the door, etc.

5. Long before an unexpected visitor arrives, mirror Mary Poppins’ ways whenever possible. Her approach helps me keep things tidy whether I’m hosting a dinner party, welcoming an unexpected visitor, or hanging out at home on my own. Following her ways will help you to not squirm the next time the ringing doorbell surprises you.

When someone swings by unexpectedly, handle the situation in whatever way feels right to you. Some people always want family and friends to call first. Others think it’s great when visitors spontaneously pop by. Be direct with family and friends about your preferences, embrace your version of organizational bliss, and then get back to your crossword puzzle.

* Photo by Peter Caulfield

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