These little tricks help make your home appear neat and tidy (even if it's secretly messy). 

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated March 29, 2018
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When a friend decides to stop by unexpectedly and you're scrambling to get your home in order before they ring the bell, these speed-cleaning tactics will help your home look clean—fast. By focusing on all of the areas and surfaces they're sure to notice, and saving the time-consuming tasks for later, your guests will think your home is clean, even if you're secretly stressing that you didn't have time to wash your sheets this week. Follow the five tips below, and your place will look neat in no time. For even more time-saving cleaning tricks, order a copy of Real Simple Spring Cleaning ($14;, a collection of all of the cleaning wisdom Real Simple editors have shared over the years.

Follow the Line of Sight

To maximize every minute of your pre-entertaining cleaning spree, focus on the places your guests are most likely to notice. Concentrate on the areas within their line of sight. If you'll sit on the living room couch, focus on straightening up the coffee table and side tables nearby. If you'll likely spend time in the kitchen, wiping down the center island and countertops is your top priority. Then, let go of sweeping under the furniture or dusting the ceiling fan they're unlikely to notice.

Always Give the Bathroom a Quick Clean

Even if you only have ten minutes to prepare, you'll want to give the bathroom a clean sweep. It's one room your guests are likely to visit, and when they're alone, they'll have a chance to concentrate on the space. First, focus on the essentials: Leave out extra toilet paper, refill the soap dispenser, leave out a clean hand towel, and close the shower curtain. Have five more minutes? Wipe down the mirror and counters, empty the trash, and Swiffer the floor. The quick trick for cleaning a bathmat? Run a lint roller along it to collect hair and dust (who knew a lint roller could be so helpful?).

When in Doubt, Conceal the Clutter

Now isn't the time to go through that pile of paperwork you've been neglecting. Instead, stash it inside an office bin. Hide dirty dishes from the sink in the dishwasher, and stash stray toys in a big basket that can slide under the bed. If the windows are dirty? Pull sheer curtains closed, so they can hide the streaks while still letting light in. Similarly, simply closing the shower curtain can instantly make the bathroom look neater.

Add a Fresh Scent

Take a trick from real estate agents who bake cookies before an open house by making your home smell fresh and clean. Skip the artificial air fresheners and light a candle in a light scent instead. Fragrances like geranium or lemon verbena will give your home that fresh spring feeling ($10;

Use Some Strategic Styling

Stack books or magazines neatly on the coffee table, and drape a cozy throw blanket neatly over the arm of the sofa (hint: place it carefully and it will also conceal any stains in the upholstery). In the kitchen, hide any counter clutter in the cabinets, leaving only your favorite items on display. And if you have time, adding some fresh flowers or greenery works wonders at making a messy home appear cleaner. If the overall impression is that your home is tidy, guests won't notice the dust lurking under the couch.

Want more smart ways to fake a cleaner home—or ready to actually tackle the real cleanup? Order a copy of Real Simple Spring Cleaning, your new home cleaning handbook.