Company is coming to stay for a week or a weekend, and the house is looking, well, a bit lived in. The perfectly reasonable excuse is that you’ve been busy living! And you haven’t had the time or incentive to do more than walk through your rooms and — if you notice them at all — wish they looked a little more like the ones in the magazines. Not that your relatives or friends would love you any less for your mess, but a person does have a bit of personal pride.
Make the house bright and welcoming and no one will notice that the carpet has seen better days or that the kitchen could have done with a makeover at some point since 1987. Here are some easy fixes if you want to spruce up just a bit without doing anything as drastic as painting or creating a major upheaval and spending major money:
Get Rid of the Clutter
Sound the trumpets and give everyone in the family a box in which to put everything of theirs that has migrated out of its proper place. Put things back where they belong, or, in a pinch, put the boxes in the garage. Martha Stewart will never know. It may be the quick and lazy way, but the good thing is that if no one misses anything for six months, you can toss the boxes altogether.
With the clutter off the surfaces and out of the corners, you can gather the troops again for some house cleaning. Or, if your budget permits, hire a service to do the big chores you’ve been putting off. Window cleaning inside and out, for example. It’s amazing what a difference that one thing can make.
Replace the Dingy Stuff
Now take a good look around and see what looks utterly sad and could use a modestly-priced replacement. When you live with things day in and day out, you become blind to how they’ve changed. It’s not for lack or attention or caring; it’s just that ordinary use takes its toll, as does the effect of whatever is floating around in the air. Let’s just get this out of the way: none of it is your fault!
Lampshades don’t last forever, and if yours have faded or have cracks on the inside, grab them up and take them with you to a discount, lamp, or home goods store so you can find new ones that are approximately the same size and shape. (You think you’ll remember what they look like, but faced with a big store display, you’ll otherwise be confused in no time.)
Kitchen curtains and valances are great grime-catchers and they never look the same after they’ve gone through the washing machine more than a few times. Before you head out to buy fresh new ones, assess your dish towels and pot holders, too. If the towels are worn thin and the pot holders have scorch marks and stains, it’s probably time to replace them, too. For just a few dollars you can brighten everything up and enjoy using them long after your guests have gone home.
This isn’t about going on a spending spree, but you’re probably going to be buying a few things, so if you plan to use a home goods store credit card, check the terms and decide whether you’d do better with a general credit card that might offer lower interest and better rewards.
Increase the Comfort Factor
Overnight guests don’t need to be pampered as if they’re visiting a four-star bed and breakfast, but it would be nice to get new sheets if the only spares you have are the Little Mermaid ones your college-age old daughter had on her bed when she was six. If the pillows are pancakes, replace them, too. You can buy new ones for remarkably little money, especially if you’re going to keep them for guests and not use them all the time.
While you’re at it, check out the linens in your bathroom. January is a prime White Sale month — though these days there are sale prices year-round — and you can cheer up the bathroom without a big hit to your budget.
Liven Things Up
Add a few fresh touches with fruit and flowers. A bowl of lemons or apples on the kitchen counter, a jug of posies on a table, and everything looks brighter and better. If you really want to go all out, consider the throw pillows on the couch. If they’ve been thrown around a few too many times, you may want to replace them. And if you’re in the mood and have the time for a little DIY, take a look at this article for some low-cost projects that will breathe new life into neglected areas of the house.
Don’t Forget the Front Door
Polish the handle and hang a seasonal wreath if that’s your style. Then put out a new welcome mat and you’re ready for company.