Appears in the November 2019 issue.

By Cara Sullivan

If your humble abode looks like something out of a Nancy Meyer film, then sure, there’s no place like it. But for the rest of us, getting our home to a state that’s even remotely celebration-worthy requires a whole lot of strategic sprucing—and that’s where Catherine Gibel, lead organizer at Naperville’s Less is More, comes in. 

The method

Focus your efforts on guest spaces—the entryway, kitchen, living room, bathroom, and guest room—and leave the rest for #notnow. With a goal of wrapping things up a day or two before your hosting duties commence, schedule Gibel’s room-by-room action plan, below, into your calendar.

The entryway

Remove shoes, clothing, backpacks, sports equipment, mail—the stuff of everyday life that adds clutter. Maximize closet space by clearing out off-season and outgrown coats, then add extra hangers and a clean boot tray. Extra credit: Add an over-the-door hook rack for guests’ handbags.

The kitchen

Toss expired foods from the refrigerator and pantry. Clear the counter of paperwork, projects, off-season housewares, and infrequently used appliances. Mop the floors, clean the sink, and empty the dishwasher, garbage, and recycling bins. Extra credit: Place a serving bowl filled with citrus fruit on the counter.

The living room

Wipe down any flat surfaces, purging clutter along the way. Vacuum the rugs, sofas, and chairs. Fold throw blankets into a basket and spritz an essential oil spray on all fabrics (lemon and rosemary is her go-to). Extra credit: Set a vase of greenery or fresh flowers on the coffee table.

The bathroom

Scrub the tub and/or shower. Wipe down the toilet, sink, mirror, and countertop, leaving only hand soap, lotion, and a candle. Mop the floor and empty the garbage can. Stock the vanity with extra toilet paper and tissues and refresh the hand towels. Extra credit: Fill the medicine cabinet with travel- sized amenities.

The guest room

Empty a dresser drawer or two and clear hanging space in the closet. Dust and vacuum. Change the sheets and set out two clean bath towels and washcloths per person. Extra credit: Hang a framed chalkboard with a welcome message, your Wi-Fi network and password, and TV/coffee pot instructions.

Trays from West Elm


“Everything looks better in a container,” says Gibel. “I use trays to corral drink or coffee items on the kitchen counter, tissues, a candle, and matches on the tank of the toilet, or thoughtful amenities in the guest bathroom.”