What a lot of great answers!! I kind of thought this would be a thread that I killed before I started it!
One of the reasons I ask is because... well, first of all,several of my friends insist that they have messy homes, but that because we all run around cleaning before someone comes over, and avoid unexpected guests at all times, we don't realize that we're judging ourselves way more harshly than anyone else would. And that maybe, just maybe, it's okay to let your friends see some of your mess. So I do wonder what is "acceptable" mess and what is not.
Second, because if someone is going to visit with 30 minutes or less notice, we run into a triage situation
:, where you have to quickly assess and decide what to clean and how well to clean it. And I just wondered if other people's ideas about what shouldn't be there were the same, or if maybe I was worrying too much about, say, vacuuming when the dishes in the sink were more generally considered to be skeevy.
For me, if someone's coming over I try to make sure the bathroom is clean and the kitchen counters (I will leave dishes in the sink if we're short on time.) The level of clean that I try to get things is sort of based on the closeness of the relationship - there's a base level of clean that I need for ANYONE to see my house, but the closer I am to someone, the less I worry about doing better than that.
And for overnight guests (except my mom, who is the least judgemental person I know and would way prefer mess to stress) I go insane.
I have been in one house that skeeved me. My FIL's, and it really is because of the funky smell. He has very little clutter... but his house seems soooo dirty to me. First of all, he has a cat who likes to hunt. And bring the victim into the house. We are talking little fluffy feathers floating around, a bloodstain on the wood floor that never got cleaned up. SO gross. Like, clean up that which is macabre, at least! And that weird smell. It just seems like it clings to you. The first time we stayed there, I made my husband go out and buy new towels, because I couldn't stand the idea of one of FIL's towels touching me.
I have cleaned his place, we doused everything with bleach and scrubbed and swept and repainted. The smell remained. I think it's the smell of evil.