We just had our first house guest of the summer visit us. My dear friend from college visited for the weekend, and it was the beginning of a very long string of house guests from now until September. She was the perfect guest and left things neat and tidy when she left. The only thing I have to clean up is the delicious cake we baked for my husband’s birthday. Must get it out of the house… ; )
My friends know that they are always welcome to our house. That’s why this is titled “you’re welcome.” Yup, you’re welcome here! We’ve had friends stay for over a month before and it’s always a fun time. I love hosting and making people feel at home at our place. My husband thinks I go a little overboard with cleaning, but I’d always rather be too clean than too messy. It’s a challenge getting things ready and making guests feel welcome when they’re here, but it’s a challenge I am almost alway willing to accept.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way – things that I’ve done and hope to do someday as well. What do you like to do to make your guests feel welcome?
1) De-clutter! This is of course a Micro Living blog so it goes without saying that you need to make ROOM for your guests before they arrive. I want my friends to feel like I made a special place for them and they are not invading on my mess. This is a situation (unlike decorating!) where there is no such thing as too much decluttering. The most important room is whichever room your guest is staying in. We just redid our guest room (read more about it in my last post) and I did my best to make it a stress free room. All my office paperwork was filed or put neatly into my inbox. Shelves were free of most extraneous items. Garbage was emptied. Everything was put away in the closet. Nothing on the floor but a carpet, a garbage can and furniture. If you have kids who use the guest room or the family room (depending on where your guest is staying), pick up toys from the floor and put them in a bin or toy box. People who are unfamiliar with your house don’t want to accidentally step on a Dora doll in the middle of the night. I also cleared the bathroom counter of anything that isn’t needed. A plant, soap and a kleenex box were all that was left. Guests need room to spread out their belongings and it’s tough when all of yours are in the way. Even if it’s just a temporary shove-everything-into-the-hall-closet fix, it really helps!
2) Clean, clean clean the bathroom, kitchen and whichever room your guest will be staying in. The most used rooms for guests, besides wherever they are sleeping, are the kitchen and the bathroom. Sweep and mop the floors, have freshly cleaned linens and towels available, clean out any leftover toothpaste from the sink or random hairs/dust/fur that piles up in the corners. You don’t have to be perfect, but clean sinks, clean showers and clean toilets are an absolute must.
3) Make your house a little hotel. What are the things you love about staying at a hotel or at a good host’s house? I love all the little shampoos and soaps that are brand new and ready to go. I take leftover soaps and shampoos from hotels when I travel for my guest bathroom. I also buy some travel sized items like toothpaste and a toothbrush and store them in the linen closet. I have one shelf in the linen closet dedicated to guests just for this purpose. I don’t want them to ever feel like they have to ask for dental floss that they may have forgotten at home. Clean and crisp linens and towels are a MUST. I bought some nice white sheets and towels at Target and JCPenney for guests. It’s nice if you can budget a little bit for that. Then your guests don’t just have leftover Star Wars sheets. Although that sounds kind of cool… If you can swing for it, a fluffy robe and slippers are a really nice touch. Luggage racks are really great. So are water bottles or a pitcher with glasses for the side table. Flowers and chocolates make everything special, but that is just an idea. I like to have magazines and crowd-pleaser books handy too. If you find some brochures or maps of local attractions at a visitor center near you, that could be fun to put on the end table as well. Don’t forget to have an empty outlet or two and an alarm clock around!
4) Easy access to media. This sort of goes along with having books and magazines within easy reach. I’ve had guests stay for an extended period of time (more than 3 weeks) and it’s very helpful to get them familiarized with your tv/stereo/remote situation right away. And trust me, there is always some sort of situation with that. Nobody’s cable or remotes work exactly the same, so it’s worth a three minute lesson. If your media situation is really complex, you can always leave an index card with clear instructions on it! “Turn stereo to VCR, turn TV to output 1, select menu for cable…” You get the picture! And having a computer available with a clear cache and history is also good. It’s just weird when you are a guest and borrow someone’s computer to check into your flight, only to find the last google search was for “dog ear infections.” Ew. Having a printer attached to your computer is really helpful for printing out boarding passes and tickets. A daily newspaper is a nice touch, but maybe that’s going too far?
5) Food and drinks. I like to find out what my guest enjoys before they visit or at least have some crowd-pleaser foods and drinks available. I try to stock some yogurt, milk (we always have almond milk, so real milk is my concession to guests!), cereal, coffee, tea, eggs, juice, ice (something I used to always forget to make!), wine, beer, bread, popcorn, chips, salsa, cookies, crackers, granola bars, and lemonade on hand for guests. This of course depends on what you stock in your home normally (of course I wouldn’t expect some of my LDS or Muslim friends to have alcohol at home or my vegan friends to have eggs in the fridge). But if you’re not really a snack person, popcorn and cereal last a long time and are great to have on hand. Frozen juice or lemonade from concentrate are always good to stock. And frozen cookie dough is fantastic as a quick treat. Don’t feel like you have to buy out the grocery store for your guests, but having a few favorites on hand is a sweet gesture. Jelly beans anyone?
6) An open schedule. This might be the most important thing I try to do when guests come calling. I like to get a general idea from Open Table about restaurants that might have openings when my friends arrive, but I don’t like to plan too much and I almost never make reservations before they get here. Let them decide what you’re going to eat and what you’re going to do. So many people think that having guests means it’s cruise director time. Not so. Have a few ideas in your back pocket. Know the days and times for the Farmer’s Market or any fun weekend festivals or fairs, but keep the time open for your guest to pick and choose. And always offer to have a quiet night at home with pizza and a favorite movie or tv show. When we visited my brother-in-law in New York a few years ago, we spent one night playing backgammon and watching Woody Allen movies. It was nice that there was no obligation to hit the town and see everything that visit. Suggestions are great. Hard and fast plans are not. Unless it happens to be your husband’s birthday and your guest happens to visit while there is baseball going on…
7) Relax and have fun! Who wants to be stressed out on their vacation? Remember that house guests are generally there for fun. They are also there to see you, not your stuff. Whether you’ve known them for three weeks or three years, they are there to be with you. Even if a clean shower is a must, having all sorts of nice shampoos around and fancy dinner reservations planned is not going to make or break their visit. We are hosting an exchange student for three weeks this summer. She wants to see what it’s really like to live as an American family, not what I’d like her to think it’s like. Guests want to see what you’re really like, not a clean, sterilized, magazine version of your life. Relax and have fun yourself and they will too! But chocolates on their pillow doesn’t hurt…
Hope that gave you some ideas. I’m going to be slowly but surely implementing them all summer. There will probably be more than one crisis involving missing towels or running out of toilet paper, but I am going to do my best to make my guests feel welcome!