(Real Simple) -- When you're short on time, here's how to give your living spaces the illusion of cleanliness.
The living room
-Reserve one side of sofa cushions to be shown to guests. Before company arrives, flip over the cushions to reveal good-as-new fabric. When guests are gone, flip them back.
-Rid the sofa of pet hair by wetting the fingertips of rubber gloves and gliding your hand over the sofa. The hair will stick to the rubber.
-Stack books, catalogs, and magazines in neat piles on the floor or arrange them in a deep decorative basket.
-To disguise windows in need of washing, pull curtain panels closed.
-Fold a clean blanket neatly and drape it over a stained sofa. Strategically placed throw pillows can also camouflage soiled upholstery.
-When the dishwasher is full and the sink is overflowing, stow dirty dishes and silverware in a stockpot and pull them out later to be cleaned.
-Cover up the lingering aroma of last night's supper by boiling nutmeg, cloves, or cinnamon and orange peels in a sauce-pan on the stove.
-Declutter the refrigerator by taking down notes, drawings, and magnets and throwing them in a plastic bag. Sort through it later.
-Fold hand towels to hide stains. Two tips: Hang the clean side over the oven handle (with the stains in the back), or roll towels in neat spirals and stack them pyramid-style next to the sink.
-Glide a sticky lint roller over the bath mat to pick up hair.
-Light a candle. Everything looks better (and cleaner) by candlelight.
-Hang a fluffy bathrobe on top of damp towels dangling from the hooks on the back of the door.
-Store a rattan or canvas basket on top of the toilet and throw in stray cosmetic brushes.
-Hang fresh guest towels. The humidity in this room makes textiles look droopy, even after a recent machine washing.
-Mound cosmetics and hairstyling products in a container underneath the sink. In a pinch, pile them in the tub and close the shower curtain. Cross your fingers that guests don't snoop.
The home office
-Stash stray office supplies, like pencils and pens, in decorative stationery boxes or filing containers on your desk.
-Take down calendars and notes from bulletin boards and file them in folders. Or align them so that the tops are all in horizontal lines.
-Rearrange crooked books so that all spines are facing the same direction and the titles all read from top to bottom.
-Stow the keyboard and the mouse in a drawer so only the computer monitor tops the desk.
-Temporarily hide wayward Post-it notes and to-do lists underneath the keyboard
The kids' room
-Stash scattered puzzle pieces in a drawer; stack the boards on a shelf.
-Stow pajamas under the pillow. This way, they're off the floor and ready for later.
-Put blocks in a handled shopping bag and hang it on a hanger or a doorknob inside the closet.
-Put homeless stuffed animals in extra pillowcases. Or prop them up behind shams.
- If your kids have a play tent, hide toys and clothes inside it.
-Pile books neatly on the floor, largest to smallest, next to a chair or a desk.
-Spritz a deodorizer spray around the diaper pail to eliminate odors.
The laundry room
-Fold clean towels neatly on the drying rack. Rope lingerie items on hangers, then place them in the bedroom closet, away from prying eyes.
- Drape a scorched ironing board with a clean white sheet, tuck in the edges to fashion a make-shift cover, and place the board in the far corner of the room or behind the door.
-Pile any laundry that needs to be folded in baskets or storage containers and lay them on the washing machine to be sorted through later.
-As for dirty clothes awaiting washing, simply toss them in the washer.
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