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When you’re looking to declutter your home in time for holiday guests, you need an organization and storage plan, fast! Here are 10 practical decluttering tips.

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Everyone knows that moment of panic when they realize that the house is a mess and the guests are due to arrive in less than fifteen minutes. The hands on the clock actually seem to speed up as you look over the stacks of magazines and mail, the toys on the floor, and so many other things that are out of their rightful places. How will you clean all that clutter before the doorbell rings?

Fortunately, there are solutions. They are temporary, of course, and require a lot of quick thinking — but making the house presentable can definitely be done in less time than you think. Here’s how.

1. Make quick stacks

Start by organizing all of those magazines, newspapers, bills and other paper items lying around on the tables. Simply put them into stacks of like kinds. Don’t go through them and take your time to browse anything — you can do that later. Leave the stacks of books where they are, and maybe the magazines too, if there aren’t too many. All the rest should be relegated to…

2. Boxes and baskets

You can never have too many of these to stash away things that you don’t want your guests to see. Shove all of those papers into a handsome box and slide it underneath the couch, or dump them into a basket and set it next to the desk. You can organize it all later. The goal right now is to simply get things looking presentable, fast.

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3. Tuck a blanket or two

Those blankets that are lying around can be used to make the room look more pulled-together. Simply fold them into a comfortable size and then throw them over the back of the couch. To make the room look more formal, tuck the ends of the blanket or quilt into the cushions. Fluff up the pillows, too.

4. Use bowls for small items

It is always a good idea to have a set of small wooden bowls handy for moments like this. Simply place the bowl on the table, fill it with the small items that somehow wind up rolling all over the place, and put that bowl away somewhere. If you want to leave those items out, that’s fine — this works well for an entryway table, where you might have keys, wallets, lip balm, and even small umbrellas floating around.

5. Big clutter? Big basket

You’ve now cleaned the areas where most guests will sit and visit with you. Now what? Tackle the rest of the house with a huge laundry basket in hand. All those toys go in there, and so does that errant pair of shoes, the phone charger, that DVD box set you were looking through the other day, the bag of cat treats, and anything else that might be out of place. Throw it all in there and put the basket behind a closed door.

6. Hit the bathroom

Now go to the place your guests will probably see before they leave — the bathroom. Invest in a container or two of disinfectant wipes just for this purpose. Clean the toilet seat and the sink very well with the wipes, then do a quick sweep with the toilet brush. Straighten the towels or hang new ones, and make sure there is hand soap and a small towel ready for their hands.

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7. Clean up pet hair

If you have pets, this added step is easy: Simple keep a lint roller stashed in a drawer near your sofa, loveseat, chair or other area that seems to attract pet hair. A few swipes with the roller and things look great again.

8. Make it smell nice

Never use room sprays to make the place smell fresh. They just make your home smell like chemicals and practically scream, “I just rushed to clean this messy room, just for you!” Instead, spray some furniture polish on a rag and swipe it over end tables, the coffee table, even lampshades. The scent will linger and make the house smell great.

9. If you have a bit more time…

If you have more than fifteen minutes, break out the vacuum. Go over the carpeted areas where your guests will be, and ignore the rest. Leaving those cleaning ‘streaks’ from the vacuum gets noticed, but it isn’t too over-the-top. It’s just enough to say that you cared enough to clean.

10. Get organized later

Once your guests are gone, you will have some organizing to do. Remember those boxes and baskets, and that big laundry basket hidden away behind the door? Now is the time to organize, put things away, and plan to keep things tidier so that you won’t panic the next time the doorbell rings!

Your decluttering strategies?

When time catches up to you, what fast declutter your home strategies do you use?

Tell us your stories and give readers your advice in the comments section of this post.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.