Sometimes it takes a village to tidy up your house. Sometimes it takes a pack of sorority sisters. In my case, it took both.
Last spring, one of my sisterhood sisters moved from Chicago to a town near my home in the Orlando area. We celebrated her arrival with a social distancing outdoor breakfast. We had so much fun catching up with each other that we thought why not set up a reunion with some other Alpha Chi Omega from the University of Kansas. (Come on Jayhawks!) We were inviting the girls over to Florida for a long weekend, and… well… once that shot came out, it didn’t fit in the bottle.
We set the date for early October and named my house, because a) I have three bedrooms available and a sofa bed (funded by the association of chiropractors), and b) I had consumed an almost lethal amount of coffee .
As the date approached, the reality of what I had agreed to hit home, literally. Want to get your home back in shape quickly? Agree to host seven girlfriends you haven’t seen in ages over a long weekend.
“These are your friends, not the royals,” my husband, DC, reminded me.
– You don’t understand, I say. “They will be in every bedroom, bathroom and closet.”
Oh, and don’t laugh. Because I am a so called “home design expert” they think my house will be Polly Perfect.
“I can’t wait to soak up every detail of your home,” wrote one sister.
I think back to the times I told you to stop worrying about how your house looks and just invite people over. “It’s not about impressing visitors,” I may have said. “It’s all about relationships.”
Well, that’s hogwash. It’s all about looking good! It actually feels like a new sorority rush, except instead of wondering if my nails, hair, and outfit are perfect, I worry if I have enough glasses to drink (no ) and whether the dogs will inappropriately lick each other in public (yes).
Suddenly everything DC and I had let slip into the house due to pandemic procrastination (no one is coming anyway, so why care), became the main thing: wear and tear, tear, grain, fat and general neglect.
I make a to-do list. DC takes a look and disappears. Then I run like a chimpanzee on ice skates, making beds, polishing mirrors, touching up walls, sweeping the garage, and pulling insect carcasses out of lightings. I also got into the habit of sniffing Clorox straight from the jug.
This weekend, seven Alpha Chis arrive from five states. It should be noted that we are vaccinated, that we will have been tested for COVID within two days of our arrival and that we have the blessing of a doctor. A sister of a sorority, a teacher from Arkansas, recently had several sessions of chemo to fight breast cancer. She directed the plan to her oncologist, who not only gave the green light for the trip, but also ordered her to have a good time.
In the meantime, here’s what I’ve realized: The difference between preparing your guest for dinner and preparing them for a large group staying for several days is like the difference between having your car washed and having it detailing. You have to dive deeper.
As the holiday season approaches, you too might find yourself preparing your home for long-term guests. While your to-do list may vary, here’s what I did beyond the usual housekeeping before the big fellowship weekend:
• Neglected cabinets cleaned. Every time I opened a wardrobe, I imagined seven sorority sisters looking over my shoulder. It motivated me to put them away. In particularly neglected areas (cabinets under kitchen and laundry room sinks), I removed everything, purged old products, lined surfaces with fresh shelf paper, and put back fewer items more neatly.
• Repainted stove grates. The cooks take a lot of heat and abuse. I removed the black grates, washed them with a degreasing detergent, and then spray-painted them with Stove Bright, a black paint specifically designed for high temperature surfaces that is also good for barbecues and outdoor fireplaces. The stove looks new.
• Pressure washed on the outside. Because dust, plant debris, and cobwebs gradually build up, it’s easy to ignore them. However, a critical look around the house revealed that a good exterior pressure washing was in order.
• Cooled outdoor potted plants. Adding some fresh color to outdoor pots is so easy and makes a big difference.
• Whitewashed trim. The white trim inside and out had not been painted since the house was built in 2003. We had painted the interior walls when we moved in, but the paint on the trim was past its prime. I had the painters come back to repaint the white trim inside and out which made the place spotless.
• Furniture and floors cleaned. All pet owners should have the number of a good upholstery cleaner programmed into their phone. Luke, our big dog, gets on the couch as soon as we leave the house. Pippin, our miniature labradoodle, likes to rub his face against the overstuffed chairs after eating just to annoy me. Fortunately, this is nothing our upholstery cleaner has never seen before. He worked his vacuuming magic and gave the furniture a much needed refresh and a steam cleaned tile grout while he was here.
“I hope you won’t have any problem,” wrote one of my sisterhood sisters.
“Difficulty? Why is that not a problem at all!” Apparently, I still have my sorority ways.
Join me next week when I share my everyone’s favorite home improvement. It was quick, affordable and instantly improved our bathrooms.
Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books. Contact her at marnijameson.com.