4 Ways to Create the “Illusion of a Clean Home,” According to Reddit

published Nov 20, 2023
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Over the past few years, I’ve let a lot of things go when it comes to preparing my home for people to come over. After not hosting others in my place for about two years during the pandemic, I craved the warmth and togetherness of hospitality, and I gained a new perspective on what matters: the people, together (and not much else). 

However, I still feel that getting my home ready for guests’ arrival is a way to honor them — and I like to do it. A messy home won’t prevent me from inviting people like my kids’ friends’ parents, for instance, inside for a chat. But if I’m preparing for a dinner gathering or another social “event,” I definitely like to get my place as reasonably clean and tidy as possible. 

However, there isn’t always time to do a thorough cleaning, especially during the busy holiday season, which often means several streams of guests and no extra time to keep up with the house. So when I came across this Reddit thread full of ideas about how to make your place look, feel, and smell clean, even if you don’t have time to actually clean it, I had to take a closer look. 

Here are some of the top tips on creating the “illusion of a clean home” without doing a full clean, according to Redditors.

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Deal with dirty dishes. 

According to many Redditors, getting dirty dishes out of sight is one of the top priorities when it comes to feigning a clean house. Of course, if you can wash the dirty dishes, do it. But if you can’t, there are other options. 

Many people suggest putting dirty dishes in the oven, but others warn against that, citing nightmare stories of ovens that are turned on with dishes in them or the dirty dishes being discovered. 

Instead, others suggest hiding the dishes in plain sight by putting them in the sink. User Mildly_irritated_cow takes this a step further by making the dishes look like they’re in the process of getting washed. She shared that sometimes she “might put soapy water in the sink to cover dirty dishes so it looks like I was soaking them.”

Similarly, User shorthairednymph offers the following tip: “If you can’t hide the dishes but there are a lot, just put them in little piles; stack your plates, and then stack your bowls on top. Those can go in the sink. Put silverware inside of tall glasses. Bam. Still a pile of dishes but it’s a contained mess.” 

Hide clutter.

Getting rid of clutter on surfaces also has a huge impact on the look and feel of a space. If you can clear surfaces off and put the items away, great! But if not, there are other ways to address the mess so you don’t feel like you’re bringing your guests into a disaster.

User FlightyMouse85 offers, “Any clutter you can’t throw into a closet or drawer, put it at right angles.” Similarly, mark-o-mark says, “Everything looks like it’s in its place if it’s at a right angle. The process is called ‘Knolling.’”

User KrampyDoo says to hide clutter in boxes: “For clutter: have a few (not too many) medium to large boxes to just toss clutter-y and floor-based stuff into.” Of course, there’s always the old laundry basket method. As ThisPurseIsATardis describes, “Grab all the laundry baskets. Put into them everything out of place. Hide these until later.” 

Redditor Baoceanfog has an unconventional suggestion: “Toss a blanket or sheet over a mess. It seems ridiculous, but if it’s like someone is coming over and there is no stopping them … put blankets or sheets over messes. Even if it obvious it is a blanket to hide a mess, it still is so much better than seeing the mess … Example situation: you have a massive laundry pile with other clutter like kids’ toys, etc. building up on couch, toss a blanket over it. Clutter building up in living room floor? Compile/condense it a bit and toss a blanket on it.” 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Make the air fresh.

Several Redditors on this thread affirm that having a house that smells clean goes a long way in giving the illusion of cleanliness. User Tamal3z has a couple of surprising suggestions: “Boil sweet and spicy tea for a natural homey scent or fill the kitchen sink with hot water and Pine Sol for a clean smell.”

Many advise opening the windows to let out stale smells and allow fresh air to circulate. “Open all the windows (just for a minute if it’s cold out),” Nummanummanumma says. “Fresh air makes a world of difference, especially since we’re sometimes blind to the smells in our own house.”

Many commenters also say that lighting a candle can make the home smell clean and feel cozy and somewhat put-together. As one user puts it, “Candles — just the smell and the look. Makes everything seem tidier.”

Don’t worry too much about it. 

A few Redditors completely eschew the idea of having to have a cleaned-up house for company. 

Jdith123 says, “Do what you can, then say sweetly, ‘Oh my dear, you know I tidy up much more than this before company comes, but you’re practically family! I knew you’d understand. You’ll have to take me as I am.’ Any residual feelings of embarrassment on your part or judgment on theirs will melt away.”

You might think you’d never put some of these ideas to use. But having these strategies up your sleeve when you have unexpected guests come by or you just plain don’t have the time or energy to clean can take the stress out of having people over.