How to "fake" a tidy home when you’re short on time - these expert tips are ideal for holiday hosting

These tricks will help you achieve a clutter-free home (on the surface, at least)

A neutral living room with a large Christmas tree in the corner
(Image credit: Caffe Latte)

Christmas is fast approaching. With deliveries coming in every day, decorations out ready to be displayed, and extra shopping being done for guests staying over, it’s no surprise it’s virtually impossible to stay on top of tidying and keeping the home clutter-free. 

When it’s all getting a bit too much, there are a few things you can do quickly to at least give the impression of a tidy home for a few hours. While we're not suggesting you don't tidy up regularly, sometimes a bit of fakery is in order. Even when you're strapped for time, an hour or so is more than enough to see you through that surprise visit, making these tricks perfect for holiday hosting and beyond. 

Here, decluttering experts offer plenty of tips on how to declutter quickly to turn your space from 'stressful mess' to 'put together' in no time (on the surface, at least). 

1. In the kitchen 

Christmas kitchen with garlands on pendant lights by Marie Flanigan

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors)

The kitchen is one of the spaces in the house that gets cluttered so easily, so fast. A high-traffic area that the whole family can use simultaneously is sure to be difficult to keep tidy. Professional home organizer Shira Gill advises to first ‘knock out dirty dishes and rinse out your sink.' This will already make the space look better, and it’s also a quick win to get you going to do a bit more. 

‘Clear and wipe down all surfaces, grab a bin bag, and toss any trash / recycle old receipts, junk mail, soda cans, etc,’ Shira adds. With more cooking happening this time of year, the food smell can linger in the air and make it feel stuffy, too. ‘Open the windows and get some fresh air circulating,’ says Shira. It gives the impression of a clean and tidy home, and all these tasks can be crossed off your list in no more than 15 minutes. If you have more time, you can properly organize your kitchen in one day to make sure it stays tidy for longer. 

2. In the bedrooms

Christmas bedroom by The White Company

(Image credit: The White Company)

You can usually get away with the bedrooms being a bit messy since most people won't be privy to them, but if you need to accommodate guests staying over you’ll have to get tidying fast. 

‘Consolidate stray clothes, socks, and laundry into your laundry bins and tuck them away,’ says Shira. The expert swears by storage bins as a great way to clear away clutter and store items that are not the most pretty to look at. Invest in some nice bins in the same color, or some nice jute baskets that look good, and you can quickly drop all clutter in when needed.

We love the tidy toss trick for closet organization, and you can apply it to any space. Just grab a pretty basket or container and use it as a catch-all for all the miscellaneous junk that accumulates in your bedroom - be it on your nightstand, your dresser, or the bedroom floor. 

Shira also encourages you to make your beds. 'There's nothing like a neatly made bed to create a tidy look,’ she says. In a bedroom, as the largest piece of furniture, the bed will be the focal point that draws the eye instantly as one walks in, so having a neatly made bed will make all the difference. 

When you don’t have time, you don’t need to go all out and create a magazine-worthy look. Just straighten your sheets, fluff the pillows, smooth out your duvet, and add a throw blanket and a couple of decorative pillows. You’ll be done in 5 minutes. If you want to take it a bit further, style your bed to give it a hotel-like feel. 

3. In the living room 

A living room with a christmas tree

(Image credit: Broste Copenhagen)

The living room will most likely be your main space to welcome guests, and though it might not get as messy as a kitchen would, there will still be the odd laptop cable, splayed book, stray wine glass left from the night before, and some pillows and throws in disarray. If you find there’s loads of ‘stuff’ everywhere, go for the bin bag again and throw away anything you don’t need in one swoop, or grab your storage basket and drop in anything that needs keeping, but removing from sight. 

Afterwards, do a quick styling check. ‘Fluff couch pillows and fold throw blankets,' advises Shira. 'Create a lovely vibe by dimming lights, lighting a nice scented candle, adding music, and fresh flowers.’ The living room will look calm and serene in no time.

If all else fails, create a clutter-busting zone 

If you want to tackle the cause of constant untidiness, not just the effect, take some time to look at how you use your space and what's making it difficult to keep tidy. More often than not it’s a lack of built-in storage, items not being organized properly to mirror usage, or no design solutions implemented to make daily household tasks a breeze. Interior designer Cathy Dean tells me about the ‘clutter-busting’ spaces she creates for her clients to overcome the problem. 

‘We make homes work beautifully, every day - especially those days that are super busy,' she says. 'We love to add clutter-busting spaces that can simply be shut away and dealt with later if the need arises.' She lists a laundry cabinet as a good example. 'When guests arrive, the heater goes on, the door closes and the house is laundry-free,’ she says. You could also delegate a spare room, closet, or your garage for a clutter-busting zone. Move all your junk in here, and commit to a proper declutter in the new year when you have more time on your hands. 

Raluca Racasan
News writer

Raluca is Digital News Writer for and passionate about all things interior and living beautifully. Coming from a background writing and styling shoots for fashion magazines such as Marie Claire Raluca’s love for design started at a very young age when her family’s favourite weekend activity was moving the furniture around the house ‘for fun’. Always happiest in creative environments in her spare time she loves designing mindful spaces and doing colour consultations. She finds the best inspiration in art, nature, and the way we live, and thinks that a home should serve our mental and emotional wellbeing as well as our lifestyle.