A Simple Guide to Preparing for Houseguests

Do you love to host overnight guests in your home, or do you practically break out in a cold sweat at the thought of it?  Every single situation is unique, with it’s own particular challenges and solutions.  But if houseguests are in your future, here’s a guide to basic preparations that will help get you organized and make your guests feel welcome.

preparing for houseguests

Adjusting your expectations up front goes a long way toward successfully planning and hosting overnight guests.  It will help prevent you from doing too much, or too little. And it will guide you in all the decisions you’ll need to make. 

There are many different types of houseguests and many different reasons why they may be staying with you.  Consider who your guests are and what the occasion is.

  • Are they family, old friends, or acquaintances?
  • How many guests will there be?
  • Have they stayed with you before?
  • What are their ages (babies, children, teens, young adults, middle agers, seniors)?
  • What’s the purpose of their visit (holiday, vacation, event, etc.) ?  
  • What are their expectations of the visit?  You do not necessarily need to meet all their expectations, but it’s good to know what they are.
  • What’s your hosting style?  Casual and laid back, or planned out and busy? 
  • What limitations do you need to work within (schedule, budget, other commitments, etc.)?
An important part of expectations is setting them for yourself.  Keep it real and reasonable!  Don’t try to be the ultimate hostess (whoever that is). Be yourself, work to your strengths, refuse to play the comparison game, and focus on the ‘who’ not just the ‘what’.

Decide Sleeping and Bathroom Arrangements

Who’s going to be sleeping where, and when?  This is probably the first thing that goes through your mind when you find out you’re having guests.  Guest room, borrowed bedroom, sleeper sofa, couch, or floor?

Depending on the people involved and your available space, this can be obvious or a bit tricky.  If your situation is a bit on the tricky side, here are some things to consider:

  • Put late sleepers somewhere other than common areas, so early risers don’t have to tiptoe around them.
  • Kids can easily fill in floor space with sleeping bags or air mattresses.
  • How many blankets, sheets, pillows and towels will you need? 
  • If both your family and your guests will be using the same bathroom, let them know how that is going to work.

Create a Loose Itinerary

Start with the basics:  arrival time, departure time, and any already-planned events.  Then you can work around these and add items to round out the schedule where needed.

It may be tempting, but don’t plan every minute of their stay.  Having a loose, flexible plan will serve you well because it will be less stressful to adapt to the visit as it unfolds.  

  • Include items in your own family’s schedule that are not flexible, such as work, school, or other commitments that can’t be missed.
  • Include activities that you know your guests want to do.
  • Leave plenty of time for gearing up and slowing down between activities.
  • Take routines into account (kids’ naps, bedtimes, and regular meals come to mind).
  • Have a mix of different activities that you’ve already identified as options to fill free time.
  • Let space for some non-interactive down time, even for adults, such as a nap or reading.

Plan Food & Drinks

Since you’ve already created a basic itinerary, it will be easy to see what meals need to be planned for.  This doesn’t mean that you need to make all the meals.  But you want to be sure your guests will be fed regularly, and you don’t want to be trying to decide what to make for dinner on the fly.

  • Account for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, whether you’re providing the meal or not.  For example, if your guests are going to an event that includes dinner, you’re off the hook for that meal.  But note it in your plan.  
  • Be sure you know any dietary restrictions due to allergies or a preferred eating plan.  For example, you won’t want to serve a big plate of pasta to someone striving to keep their carbohydrate intake low.  This doesn’t mean that your whole family needs to adopt a new diet while you have visitors, but that you at least provide your guest with options that meet their needs.  And allergies are even more important to plan around, since they can cause serious medical complications.
  • In addition to regular meals, have a selection of snacks and drinks that are easy to access so your guest doesn’t have to ask for them.  Nobody wants to trouble their host for every little thing.  Just be sure to let them know what’s available and where.
  • Breakfast is a great meal to have, or buy, already prepared.  For a real treat, you can head out early in the morning for fresh bagels or danishes.  A selection of muffins and fruit are easy to have on hand and put out first thing. You can freeze homemade waffles or pancakes for a quick defrost. Or maybe put together a breakfast casserole the night before that just needs to be popped in the oven to warm up.  It’s always nice to start the day with something delicious, fast, and simple to prepare.
  • Coffee and tea are pretty much must-haves.  It’s not expensive, and you’ll keep both coffee lovers and tea lovers happy.  A small coffee & tea bar is a great idea so visitors can help themselves any time they wish. With beans, bags, sweeteners, spoons, cups, etc, it will be used many times throughout the day, and much appreciated.

Tidy Up & Declutter

You’ve done your planning and the arrival date is in view.  

  • Tidying up can start a week or two before your guests arrive, or just a few days, depending on your home.  The point is to start earlier rather than later so you don’t have to tackle your entire house at the last minute.  Plan to do most of your tidying before you do your final cleaning, which will go faster with less ‘stuff’ to work around.
  • Concentrate on clutter hot spots, then move on to general decluttering. You know, those areas that seem to always collect a pile of miscellaneous items.  Dining tables, kitchen islands, countertops, coffee tables, and entry ways are notorious hot spots.  Dealing with these areas alone will make a big difference in making your house feel organized and more serene.
  • Put away things that visitors don’t want to see.   Underwear folded in laundry baskets?  Prescription bottles in view? Personal paperwork laying out in plain sight?  Avoid making your guests uncomfortable with too much of a peek into your private life.

Clean and Freshen

Now you’re getting really close to your visit, and it’s time for a good cleaning.

When it comes to how much to clean, there are a couple different perspectives.  One thought is that if a visitor is not going to be in a room then save yourself the trouble of cleaning it before they come.  This will certainly save time and reduce your workload when prepping your house for guests.  

The other thought is that it’s good to clean even the rooms your guests probably won’t see because then you won’t have any ‘no-go zones’.  No matter where a guest might wander, you won’t feel the urge to apologize.  

Either way it’s up to you, so do whatever you’re comfortable with and have time for.  

But here are the spaces that you will definitely want to tackle before your guests arrive.

  • Sleeping Space – Be sure that your company will be sleeping in a clean space, whether it’s in the guest room, on a sofa bed, on an air mattress, or in a borrowed bedroom.  Dust, vacuum and put fresh linens on the beds. 
  • Bathroom  – Thoroughly clean your bathroom(s), including the sink, toilet, mirror, shower/tub, floor and rugs.   Also, make extra rolls of toilet paper handy so no one has to search for them.
  • Kitchen – Don’t forget to make the kitchen guest-friendly by cleaning the microwave, refrigerator, sink, and floor. 
  • Clear the Air – You may be nose-blind to the smell of your home (we all are), but your visitors won’t be.  To fight lingering odors: open the windows to air out your house, vacuum carpets and rugs, deodorize pet areas, and empty garbage and recycling.
  • Pet Areas – If you have pets, be sure to clean up after them as much as you can, including pet hair on the furniture and floors, litter box areas, feeding areas, etc.

Make Your Guests Feel Extra Welcome

A clean, tidy home is inviting in itself, and shows your visitors that you want them to feel welcome.  Now that you’ve got the basics covered, consider adding a few of these small touches to make their stay even more comfortable.

  • Provide extra toiletries in a basket in the guest room or bathroom
  • Provide the WIFI password
  • Add a nightlight to the sleeping area
  • Have fresh beans for a coffee lover or a selection of teas for a tea lover.
  • Provide what’s needed for visitors to charge their electronics 
  • Clear space for personal things such as luggage, clothes, and miscellaneous items visitors have brought with them.
  • Put fresh towels where they’ll be easily found.

Hosting overnight guests takes effort, but it can be so worth it.  To avoid unnecessary stress, keep your plans within what you can reasonably afford in time and money.  Even a few small touches will be appreciated by your company.  And focus on the great opportunities you’ll have to build relationships and memories.

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