September has arrived, which means one thing: party season has begun! Football get-togethers, your annual Halloween party, Thanksgiving, dinner parties, cookie swaps, progressive dinners, cocktail parties, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve … it will be nearly impossible not host a party over the next few months. You spend hours choosing just the right decorations, planning the perfect menu, and sending out invitations. But wait – what about your apartment?
You apartment does need to be clean – but don’t go all out. You don’t want to spend hours scrubbing your apartment top to bottom just to have guests come in and dirty it up. You won’t be able to relax and enjoy the party, watching the guy from across the hall set his drink on your table without a coaster or your friend from the office that loves six-inch spike heels – even as they scuff up your newly-scrubbed kitchen floor. And if it’s a football or food-related party, you might spend your entire evening watching crumbs scatter across your freshly-steamed carpet.
Before the party, you want to do just enough – concentrate your efforts on where guests will be spending the most time. If you are having a dinner party, the kitchen and dining room will be your priority. For a football party, the living room will get most of your attention. The bathroom will need your attention in every situation.
If you don’t want to spend time scrubbing the bathroom when you’ll just have to clean it again after the party, do the basics – sink, mirrors, toilet – and then dip some cotton balls in a fresh-smelling liquid or cleaner (think lemon or lavender). Hide them around the bathroom where they won’t be seen and your guests will be “tricked” into thinking the bathroom is spotless. Add clean hand towels, check your toilet paper supply, and your bathroom is party-ready.
Hide the clutter – even if you just shove it in a closet or under the bed. Now isn’t the time to organize your closets or start a “donation” bag. You have guests arriving soon! Yes, you’ll have to conquer the clutter at some point, but for now – just hide it.
Figure out what you’ll need for the party and check to make sure it is clean. If, for example, you haven’t used your fancy wine glasses since last year's cocktail party, they may need to be washed. Those extra-large serving platters with the football motif will also need some attention, especially if they've been put away over the summer.
Now, go stand in the foyer. Pretend you are a guest, and look around as though you are seeing your apartment for the first time. Look up (any cobwebs in the corners?), look down (are the baseboards dirty? Are there dust bunnies in the corner?), and look around. Tackle anything that catches your eye.
And finally … dim the lights! Parties are messy. Dimming the lights has several benefits: it creates a relaxed atmosphere, it keeps guests from seeing the spots you forgot or that shelf you never got around to dusting, and it camouflages some of the crumbs/scuff marks/water rings your guests may be leaving behind, allowing you to enjoy the party. You'll have time to worry about clean-up after the guests leave -- although it may be a good idea to keep some stain remover on-hand in case a guest spills red wine on your white carpet. Mix up a solution of water, white vinegar, and dish soap and put it in a spray bottle. Keep it in a place where it is out of sight, but where you can still reach it quickly.
The party's over – and now you have a mess on your hands. First, make sure your dishwasher is empty. Then, grab an empty garbage bag and walk through your entire apartment, throwing out any left-behind napkins, paper plates and cups, etc. Take that out then do the same thing with a tray or plastic bin. Collect any glassware, left-behind dishes, etc. and take everything to the dishwasher at once. If things were moved around, put everything back in its place. Now, get a cleaning cloth and an all-purpose cleaner. Walk through your apartment again and tackle all of those spills and spots left behind by your guests. Sweep and mop the kitchen floor and vacuum your carpets. Don't wait until the next day to start cleaning up after your party – water rings and spills will leave permanent damage if not dealt with quickly.