The Clutter Coach


Getting Organized - or How to Prepare for Guests

Cynthia EstesBy Cynthia Estes, Mountain Democrat columnist
September 10, 2010
Reprinted with permission of the Mountain Democrat, Placerville, CA

Every summer my friend Kris comes from Oregon to visit.  You’d think I’d be prepared, since, just like Christmas, she comes every year. But again, just like Christmas, I wait until the month before (or later) to start remodeling and redecorating for her arrival (doesn’t everybody do that?).  This year, because I took my own organizing advice, I didn’t remodel, and I actually finished a few guest room projects long before she was coming.  I was feeling rather pleased that I still had a whole day to finish cleaning, until the doorbell rang and there stood Kris -- a day early.  Now in my book you only have two choices in a situation like this: 1. Tell them they have to come back tomorrow, close the door and hope they leave 2. Allow them to come into the cleanest room, tell them to “stay” until you come back, and then twitch your nose and try to channel Bewitched for speed cleaning.  I picked the latter, yelling to my wonderful partner Jim, “You can stop cleaning now, Kris is here!”  God bless him, without so much as a word from me, he sat her down in the living room and kept her occupied until I could at least finish cleaning the guest room.  Luckily, Kris considers herself family and was not at all bothered by the fact that there were no fresh flowers in her room.  Most people would laugh about it, but if you’re a perfectionist like me, it’s never really funny.  But the truth is, because we weren’t prepared for her early arrival, we relaxed and had the best time we’ve ever had together. So I learned something from this that may help other perfectionists (admitted or not).

They’re coming to see the house
Another friend and I used to kid each other that our guests were really “coming to see the house”. Both of us thought if we turned our homes into a charming, perfect bed and breakfast people might actually think we lived that way. Her ruse ended when they all sat down at the elaborate breakfast table, and her husband asked, “Since when do we eat in here?”  

Clean what’s dirty
Did you know that it’s clutter that really makes a house look dirty? Pick it up, hide it or get rid of it and you’re half way there. Face it, who can clean all day (or week) and still enjoy their guests when they arrive? Luckily, at our house we subscribe to the “only clean what’s dirty” theory (except we have to clean the WHOLE bathroom). We don’t empty and clean the bookshelves, we just dust the lower ones. Why clean the whole floor when there’s only a couple of spots? Your guests will see only a tidy, clean house, and no one but you will know that you didn’t vacuum the curtains.

Be your own guest
Now, about that guest room/office/craft room/storage room… A great way to make sure your guests have all they need is to pack a bag and stay overnight in your own guest area.  Yes, bring everything you’d take if you were going on a weekend trip. Notice what you really need: How accessible is your suitcase on the floor; wouldn’t a luggage rack be more convenient? Are there extra hangers or even room in the closet for your clothes and shoes? Do you have fresh towels in the room? Do you have to move things on the dresser (if there is one) to unpack your toiletries and jewelry? Is there a bedside table with a lamp, clock radio and accessible outlet to plug in your cell phone battery? Do you sleep comfortably, with extra blankets and pillows easily accessible?  By doing this, you’ll find out what needs to be changed and that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make your guests comfortable.

I learned that my friend’s early arrival and her indifference about the state of our house was a blessing in disguise. I realized that she came to spend time with me, not to be waited on. In the end, it’s your attitude that will determine how your guests feel about their stay.  When you’re relaxed, rested and happy to see them, the rest of it really doesn’t matter much to anybody!

Cynthia Estes is a Professional Organizer, owner of Uncluttered for Life, and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Uncluttered for Life serves clients throughout Western El Dorado County. 

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