Don't have time for a serious cleaning? Fake it until you make it.

Story highlights

Strategically placed throw pillows can camouflage soiled upholstery

Stash stray office supplies, like pencils and pens, in decorative stationery boxes on your desk

Declutter the refrigerator by taking down notes, drawings, and magnets

Real Simple  — 

When you’re short on time, here’s how to give your living spaces the illusion of cleanliness.

The living room

-Reserve one side of sofa cushions to be shown to guests. Before company arrives, flip over the cushions to reveal good-as-new fabric. When guests are gone, flip them back.

-Rid the sofa of pet hair by wetting the fingertips of rubber gloves and gliding your hand over the sofa. The hair will stick to the rubber.

-Stack books, catalogs, and magazines in neat piles on the floor or arrange them in a deep decorative basket.

-To disguise windows in need of washing, pull curtain panels closed.

-Fold a clean blanket neatly and drape it over a stained sofa. Strategically placed throw pillows can also camouflage soiled upholstery.

Real Simple: 8 surprising household deodorizers

The kitchen

-When the dishwasher is full and the sink is overflowing, stow dirty dishes and silverware in a stockpot and pull them out later to be cleaned.

-Cover up the lingering aroma of last night’s supper by boiling nutmeg, cloves, or cinnamon and orange peels in a sauce-pan on the stove.

-Declutter the refrigerator by taking down notes, drawings, and magnets and throwing them in a plastic bag. Sort through it later.

-Fold hand towels to hide stains. Two tips: Hang the clean side over the oven handle (with the stains in the back), or roll towels in neat spirals and stack them pyramid-style next to the sink.

Real Simple: 22 surprising uses for your dishwasher

The bathroom

-Glide a sticky lint roller over the bath mat to pick up hair.

-Light a candle. Everything looks better (and cleaner) by candlelight.

-Hang a fluffy bathrobe on top of damp towels dangling from the hooks on the back of the door.

-Store a rattan or canvas basket on top of the toilet and throw in stray cosmetic brushes.

-Hang fresh guest towels. The humidity in this room makes textiles look droopy, even after a recent machine washing.

-Mound cosmetics and hairstyling products in a container underneath the sink. In a pinch, pile them in the tub and close the shower curtain. Cross your fingers that guests don’t snoop.

Real Simple: Organize your cleaning supplies

The home office

-Stash stray office supplies, like pencils and pens, in decorative stationery boxes or filing containers on your desk.

-Take down calendars and notes from bulletin boards and file them in folders. Or align them so that the tops are all in horizontal lines.

-Rearrange crooked books so that all spines are facing the same direction and the titles all read from top to bottom.

-Stow the keyboard and the mouse in a drawer so only the computer monitor tops the desk.

-Temporarily hide wayward Post-it notes and to-do lists underneath the keyboard

Real Simple: The worst cleaning jobs made easy

The kids’ room

-Stash scattered puzzle pieces in a drawer; stack the boards on a shelf.

-Stow pajamas under the pillow. This way, they’re off the floor and ready for later.

-Put blocks in a handled shopping bag and hang it on a hanger or a doorknob inside the closet.

-Put homeless stuffed animals in extra pillowcases. Or prop them up behind shams.

- If your kids have a play tent, hide toys and clothes inside it.

-Pile books neatly on the floor, largest to smallest, next to a chair or a desk.

-Spritz a deodorizer spray around the diaper pail to eliminate odors.

Real Simple: How to solve 19 kitchen cleanup conundrums

The laundry room

-Fold clean towels neatly on the drying rack. Rope lingerie items on hangers, then place them in the bedroom closet, away from prying eyes.

- Drape a scorched ironing board with a clean white sheet, tuck in the edges to fashion a make-shift cover, and place the board in the far corner of the room or behind the door.

-Pile any laundry that needs to be folded in baskets or storage containers and lay them on the washing machine to be sorted through later.

-As for dirty clothes awaiting washing, simply toss them in the washer.

Real Simple: Unexpected new uses for cleaning Items