One of the great things about having guests is that you’re finally forced to address some of the issues around the homestead that have lingered on the “to do” list. It’s a perfect time to reassess what’s out and about in the public spaces of the home and consider decluttering to create more serenity. If the guests will spend the night, that adds another bunch of things to check out as the guest will be going into bedrooms and bathrooms.

As soon as you learn that you will be having guests, mentally go over your home from driveway to front door and through each room and make notes about anything that needs attention. If there is a bar of hooks for coats that has been sitting in the front entry waiting to be hung or problematic plumbing of any sort, be sure to schedule the appropriate person to handle things that need doing or fixing.

Where people park, the front walk and front door are the first impression makers, so be sure they are clean, clear of litter and overgrown foliage and well-lit. And what is it with doorbells? I have been to so many homes that have tape over the doorbell or a sign, “Please knock, door bell doesn’t work.” If this is the case at your house, fix it or remove it. The first impression shouldn’t be something broken.

Even if the front porch is the only thing you address before guests arrive it could make a big difference. It’s common for junk to collect on the porch—recycling to go out, old holiday decorations that never got put away, spiderwebs that hang in every corner—and getting rid of all that and giving it a good sweep is fairly easy.

Once inside the front door there is more opportunity for quick clean ups. Are there piles of shoes that could be put away? A huge stack of mail? Unopened packages? A jumble of shopping bags?

Make sure all pathways and stairs are clear. In the public spaces—kitchen, dining, living room and patio—declutter the surfaces of counters and furniture and make sure the floor is clutter-free so that there is plenty of relaxing empty space. If you tend to have a lot of clutter, consider keeping a few empty bins for when company’s coming to stash it in a closet or cupboard for the duration of the visit.

Use all of your senses when considering how your home presents to others. Smells that you have become accustomed to might be unpleasant to your guests, so scented candles, oil diffusers or room fresheners might come into play. Or bake some cookies—that never fails to send a “welcome to our yummy home” olfactory message.

It can be a lot of work preparing for guests but keep in mind that it is a gift for you too. Once you’ve enjoyed their company in your freshly tidied home, you get to reap the benefits of having some broken things fixed and the deep cleaning done. Now you can put your feet up and open all that mail.