Sometimes it takes a village to get your home in order. Sometimes it takes a pack of sorority sisters. In my case, it took both.
Last spring, one of my sorority sisters moved from Chicago to a town near me in the Orlando area. We celebrated her arrival with a socially distanced, outdoor breakfast. We were having so much fun catching up, we thought why not host a reunion with some more Alpha Chi Omegas from the University of Kansas. (Go Jayhawks!) We’d invite the gals to Florida for a long weekend, and … well … once that plan was uncorked, it was not going back in the bottle.
We set the date for early October, and nominated my house, because a) I have three available bedrooms and a rollout sofa (funded by the chiropractor association), and b) I had consumed a near lethal amount of coffee.
As the date approached, the reality of what I’d agreed to hit home, literally. You want to get your house in shape fast? Agree to host seven girlfriends you haven’t seen in ages for an extended weekend.
“These are your friends, not the royal family,” my husband, DC, reminded me.
“You don’t understand,” I said. “They’ll be in every bedroom, bathroom and cupboard.”
Oh, and don’t laugh. Because I am a supposed “home-design expert,” they think my house is going to be Polly Perfect.
“I can’t wait to soak up every detail of your home,” one sister texted.
I think back on the times I told you to stop worrying about what your house looks like and just have people over. “It’s not about impressing visitors,” I may have said. “It’s about the relationships.”
Well, that’s hogwash. It’s totally about looking good! In fact, this feels like sorority rush all over again except instead of worrying about whether my nails, hair and outfit are just right, I’m fretting over whether I have enough drinking glasses (no) and whether the dogs will lick themselves inappropriately in public (yes).
Suddenly, all that DC and I had let slide around the house due to pandemic procrastination (no one’s coming over anyway, so why bother), came into focus: the wear, tear, grit, grease, and general neglect.
I make a to-do list. DC takes one look and vanishes. Next thing, I am running around like a chimpanzee on ice skates remaking beds, polishing mirrors, touching up walls, sweeping the garage and getting insect carcasses out of light fixtures. I have also taken to sniffing straight Clorox from the jug.
This weekend, seven Alpha Chis are flying in from five states. Of note, we are vaccinated, will have been COVID tested within two days of arrival, and we have a doctor’s blessing. One sorority sister, a teacher from Arkansas, recently endured several rounds of chemo to beat back breast cancer. She ran the plan by her oncologist, who not only greenlighted the trip, but also ordered her to have a great time.
Meanwhile, here’s what I realized: The difference between getting your house guest ready for a dinner party and prepping it for a large group staying several days is like the difference between getting your car washed and getting it detailed. You must dive deeper.
With the holiday season approaching, you, too, might find yourself getting your house ready for long-term guests. Although your to-do list may vary, here’s what I did beyond the usual housecleaning before the big sisterhood weekend:
• Cleaned neglected cabinets. Every time I opened a cabinet, I imagined seven sorority sisters looking over my shoulder. That motivated me to tidy them up. In especially neglected areas (cabinets under the kitchen and laundry room sinks), I pulled everything out, purged old products, lined surfaces with fresh shelving paper and put fewer items back in more neatly.
• Repainted stove grates. Stovetops take a lot a lot of heat and abuse. I removed the black grates, washed them with a degreasing detergent, then spray- painted them with Stove Bright, black paint specially made for high-temperature surfaces, also good for outdoor grills and fireplaces. The stove looks new.
• Pressure washed the outside. Because dust, plant debris and cobwebs creep up gradually, they’re easy to overlook. However, a critical look around the house revealed that a good exterior pressure wash was in order.
• Refreshed outdoor potted plants. Adding fresh color to outdoor pots is so easy, and makes a big difference.
• Whitewashed trim. The white trim indoors 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 trim paint was past its prime. I had the painters back to repaint the white trim in and out, which made the place look crisp.
• Cleaned furniture and floors. All pet owners should have the number of a good upholstery cleaner programmed in their phones. Luke, our big hound, gets on the sofa the minute we leave the house. Pippin, our miniature labradoodle, likes to rub his face against the upholstered chairs after he eats just to aggravate me. Fortunately, this is nothing our upholstery cleaner hasn’t seen before. He worked his wet-vacuum magic and gave the furniture a needed refresh, and steam-cleaned floor-tile grout while he was here.
“I hope you aren’t going to any trouble,” one of my sorority sisters texted.
“Trouble? Why it’s no trouble at all!” Apparently, I still have my sorority manners.
Join me next week when I share my favorite sorority-sister-prompted home improvement of all. It was fast, affordable and instantly upgraded our bathrooms.
Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books. Reach her at marnijameson.com.