This is not to say I only clean if people are coming over, but the cleaning is different. If you live in a house, apartment, condo, boat, or converted storage container, you have to do some sort of cleaning regularly—practically every day, in fact. Owning a house means your to-do list is never done, and it’s easy to get fixated on things like dirty baseboards, which almost no one ever looks at. (Well. That’s not entirely true. My stepmom once complimented me on how clean my baseboards are, and it ruined my life, because I then made “clean baseboards” part of my personality.)
My point is that inviting a friend over gives you focus. It gives you a purpose. You are suddenly inspired to make your space, well, not spotless, but livable and inviting. The common areas—den, kitchen, and bathroom—become your priorities. The trash gets taken out, clutter gets moved from highly trafficked areas, spills and sticky spots get wiped up, and the toilet gets cleaned. You may even wipe the specks of dried toothpaste off of your bathroom mirror.
If you’re one of those people who is not motivated by your own comfort—do you even deserve an orderly habitat?—cleaning for someone else may get you going. Then, once your guest leaves, you may notice that your mood is markedly improved by a cleaner living room, and you might thereafter view cleaning as nice thing you can do for yourself. Even if a big part of cleaning the den involves moving laundry into the bedroom, having one room that feels and looks nice can motivate you to tackle the rest.
This strategy works best with new-ish friends you are still trying to impress. It also helps if you genuinely enjoy hanging out with the person, as the visit can act as an additional reward for all of your hard work. (The primary reward is a cleaner space which, let’s face it, is only temporary.)