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Strategizing for House Guests

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 18:19

To clean, or not to clean? That is the question.

Guests, even beloved, dear, wonderful guests, make messes. Here in Amagansett on a holiday weekend in gorgeous eastern Long Island, guests produce not only crumbs on the countertops and hair in the showers, but also sand on the floors. (And often sand in those showers, too.)

If, as a good host, you clean before guests come, you find yourself in an awful place, following them around with a sponge or a cloth, trying to deal with crumbs and sand and whatnot, thinking, “I just vacuumed that floor‚” instead of relaxing and enjoying yourself — and them.

On the other hand, if you clean after the guests go, you’re not only less stressed, but voilà! you’re instantly ready for your next guests or just the week ahead. If you’re like me and own a house in a location that’s House Guest Bait, and you actually enjoy having (most) house guests, your house won’t have time to get dirty before the next batch arrives.

This year, in a two-week period in June alone, I was hostess to a bunch of bridge buddies, my chocolate-factory-owning nephew and niece and their three adorable spawn, and my 20-something daughter and her gorgeous gal pals. Whew.

So I’ve developed this system: I clean after my guests go. And I mean immediately after they go. Sometimes the sound of tires crunching on the gravel driveway mingles with the sound of my vacuum cleaner, I’m so eager to get cleaning.

It’s not just about being a neat freak. Another reason I’m hot to get going with the vacuum and the Soft Scrub is because, that way, I can erase any traces of their visit. You see, the older I get, the more nostalgic and sad I feel when guests leave. If I pass by an open guest-room door and see a rumpled bed, I catch myself getting all weepy while thinking, “She was just sleeping there a few hours ago, and now I don’t know when I’ll see her again. Sniff.”

Why, the last time my daughter was here, I had her room all spic and span and ready for her next visit before her Jitney had even reached the L.I.E. — probably even before they had passed out the granola bars and itty-bitty bottles of Evian.

So, in hostess-y summery summary, if you’re expecting house guests, don’t waste time cleaning. Save your energy for what’s much more important: grocery shopping.

Alice Henry Whitmore was an advertising copywriter in New York City for many years. She writes a weekly humorous blog at

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