Hosting guests, especially for an extended period of time, can be stressful, both on you and your guests.
When my husband and I were first married, we moved to New Jersey (halfway across the country from our small Michigan hometown). Friends and family visited frequently, and hosting them in our small apartment could be challenging. But over time, I learned to relax a little.
I’m sure I wasn’t the perfect hostess, but practice (and these tips) helped!
How to be a Better Host to Houseguests
Plan ahead of time
A little planning can go a long way when you’re hosting guests in your house.
1. Create a general meal plan
Before your guests arrive, discuss the meal plan with them.
Guests may have dietary restrictions or food allergies.
Your guests may also want to make plans to dine out once or twice if they’re staying for an extended period of time, or they may want to help with the cost of groceries.
Discussing the meal plan ahead of time will save everyone time and worry!
2. Discuss a daily activity plan
You don’t have to plan every second when you have guests, but having a general idea of activities will make your guests’ stay smoother.
This will help guests know what to pack, and it will also help them plan their budget if you plan on doing any excursions, like visiting a nearby attraction.
Communicate with your guests
Communication is key in life, but especially when you have guests in your home. Your guests may already feel uncomfortable since they’re not in their own home, but by communicating effectively, you can minimize that tension and help them (and you) have a relaxing, enjoyable stay.
3. Be specific and say what you mean
Both before your guests arrive and once they’re at your house, communication is key. When you have guests at your house, it can be tempting to try to sugarcoat things or not ask for help.
When a guest asks how they can help or what they should bring, give them specific ideas. “Whatever you want” or “nothing, really” won’t help you or your guest.
If you’re overwhelmed in the kitchen, silently seething because your guests are lounging on the couch, speak up! Or if your guests’ kids are using your new couch as a trampoline? Let them know that your house rule is to sit nicely on the furniture (and see #9 below).
4. Give guests little jobs to help you
In addition to being specific, save small tasks for your guest. Things like setting the table, arranging a dessert tray, or opening a bottle of wine are easy tasks that your guest can do with ease.
Especially if you’re hosting a large gathering, ask the first guests who arrive to give you a hand. Then you won’t have to worry about entertaining the first few guests while you’re still tying up loose ends.
5. Take guests up on offers to bring items
If a guest asks if they should bring anything, give them suggestions. Think of your guest’s specialties, or ask your guest to bring a yummy side dish or dessert to complement your meal.
Make guests feel welcome
In addition to communication, there are other things you can do to make your guests feel welcome in your house. When your guests arrive, give them a tour and tell them to help themselves.
Related reading: How to Create a Welcoming Guest Bedroom
6. Show guests where extra items are stored
Before your guests arrive, change the toilet paper to fresh rolls. Set out extra items that your guests may need, like an extra set of towels, a blanket on the end of the bed, and an extra roll of toilet paper near the toilet.
However, you’ll also save your guests (and yourself) some embarrassment if you show them where they can find extra toiletries, towels, blankets, and anything else they might need.
The last thing your guests want to do when they run out of toilet paper is to go hunting for it (or worse, have to come ask you).
A basket of travel sized toiletries is also a nice touch (I saved extras from hotels, added a few necessities like toothbrushes and sunscreen, and arranged them in a cute basket in the bathroom).
7. Show guests where cleaning supplies are stored
Your guests might want to wipe down the bathroom after they stay (especially if they have toddlers or messy kids). Show them where they can find cleaning supplies, like wipes or toilet bowl cleaner, as well as supplies in the kitchen.
If your guests are staying for an extended period (longer than three days), invite them to use the washing machine and dryer so they don’t have to pack as many clothes (or be overwhelmed with dirty laundry when they return home).
8. Invite guests to help themselves to the pantry or food
Especially if your guests are early risers or have young children, show them where you keep extra food, snacks, and drinks. Invite them to help themselves to anything that they find.
Another nice touch is making guests a goodie bag for the road. If your guests take a day trip while they’re staying with you (or when they leave), pack them a small meal or send snacks so they don’t have to stop while they’re traveling.
Keeping calm is more for your own sanity than your guests’! However, if you stay calm and hospitable during your guests’ stay, you just might save your friendship. 😉 You’re welcome.
9. Divert kids’ attention
Especially when kids outnumber the adults, or even when company comes and they think they aren’t being watched, kids might tend to “act out.”
To keep kids from terrorizing your house (and so that you keep your sanity with kids under foot while you’re trying to entertain), have activities set up to occupy the kids. If it’s a nice day, move the party outdoors. If it’s a cold winter day, create a designated play area.
Before guests come, it’s also a good idea to put away fragile or “special” items. For example, if your older son has a Nerf gun, he may want to hide it so that his two-year-old cousins don’t lose the darts.
10. Overlook guests’ messiness
Traveling (and living out of suitcases) is difficult. When I’m a guest in someone’s house, I always feel terrible about the way my family’s stuff seems to take over the house.
As a host, try to offer solutions for your guests’ luggage, like hangers and closet space for clothes, room in the bathroom for toiletries, and a designated place for kids’ toys.
Also, remember that the mess isn’t permanent.
Being a good hostess takes practice. However, traveling and staying away from home isn’t easy, either.
By thinking of the little details and making your guests feel comfortable, you’ll be well on your way to being a great host!
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