Essays · Family · Friendship

Hosting House Guests

Having house guests can be delightful — you get to see people you perhaps haven’t seen in awhile, they get to save on hotel costs. Everybody wins!

… Usually. But it can also be stressful, as people are around each other nearly non-stop, routines are interrupted, and someone is inevitably in the shower for way too long.

So, to help with your hosting this summer (or any time, really), I’d like to offer HNTBAJW’s tips for being a good host (while keeping on good terms with your guests).

Where They Sleep
This can be the easiest thing to get set up, but it does require a bit of work ahead of time.

  • Wash all bedding (even if you washed it after your last guest three months ago — dust gets on bedspreads just like it gets on dressers) and re-make the bed with seasonally appropriate sheets and blankets. If the bed is an air mattress, keep the bedding in a clean place and help set up the mattress each night.
  • Dust all the things, and then vacuum the floors
  • Check that all the lights are working and replace bulbs as needed
  • Set out fresh towels, toiletries (shampoo, shower gel, etc.), and boxes of tissues
  • Remove anything of yours that you store in the guest room but that you anticipate needing during their visit
  • Clear out space in any dressers or wardrobes / closets
  • Place adapters in outlets if your guests are visiting from another county

Keep in mind that your guests may have a separate sleeping schedule than you, especially if they are sleeping in a common space like the living room. If they go to bed early, move your evening reading / Netflix-watching / video game playing to your bedroom. And in case they might get up late, you should have as much of your morning needs prepared the night before (especially if you are working while they are visiting) so you don’t make excessive noise while they try to get a bit of extra sleep.

Orienting Them to Your House and Neighborhood
Your Home
If possible, make an additional set of keys for your guests so that they aren’t stuck to your schedule. Let them know of any security concerns or things they should be aware of, like faucets that blast boiling hot water unexpectedly, or toilets that tend to overflow.

The Neighborhood
Some visitors enjoy wandering on their own, with no direction and no guidance. Others might appreciate some suggestions. With phones that act as maps, there’s no need to spell out exactly where anything is (unless it’s hard to find), but you can make things easier by putting together a little sheet of suggestions and tips, such as:

  • Nearby coffee shops
  • Nearest transit hubs (bus stops / tube stops)
  • Your favorite breakfast or lunch spot
  • The best parks for their kids to run around in
  • Sites that their guidebooks (if visiting a large city) might not include but that you think they’d enjoy

Making Plans
If you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a lot of areas that are interesting to visitors, your friends and family may mostly take care of their own plans (and if you are working while they’re visiting, they’ll need to entertain themselves anyway). When they arrive — but after they’ve had a chance to settle it — get on the same page about expectations. If you have one day off when they’re in town, determine which of their interests match with yours and see if you can do those activities together. If you have plans that can’t be changed (an evening class, or a work event that you must attend), share that too.

If possible, you should make it clear that whatever you have in the house is theirs to use, and then you should mean it. Most people help won’t themselves to something that looks special (say, a 40-year-old bottle of scotch) without asking, but if you’re overly worried, it’s okay to stick in in your closet for the duration.

Additionally, check with your friends ahead of time if they have any severe allergies (you probably already know this, but if you don’t — or if there’s a new kid — just ask). If you’re planning on making any meals while they’re here, check on food preferences. You might think your linguine with clams is the absolute best, especially since your town is known for its seafood, but if your guests hate clams, that’s a bummer for everyone.

Finally, see what they usually like for breakfast, and then pick some of that up. Or, get some extra of what you normally eat so that they can just have some cereal / toast / porridge / fruit before heading out to explore the town.

Other Concerns
If you don’t have children but your guests do, give them a heads up about your house and what they can expect. In our case, we have stairs and cats, both of which can be a hazard to very young kids, so we make that clear to anyone planning to stay with us. We also don’t have children, and our house is set up for two adults and two kids. Your friends and family shouldn’t expect you to run out and spend a lot of money child-proofing your whole home for a two-day visit, but there are still things you can do, like putting easily breakable (or swallow-able) tchotchkes up in a cabinet.

Be Flexible — To a Point
It’s likely that your visitors are on vacation and may want to change things up without a lot of notice. This can be frustrating for people who have a schedule to keep, but if it’s more an annoyance than an actual problem, try to just roll with it. This isn’t a permanent life change; this is a few days, and the focus should be on getting to spend time with people you care about. So what if you end up having dinner 30 minutes earlier than normal for a few nights, right?

At the same time, however, if your guests make requests that you can’t support, that’s okay. If your kids aren’t allowed to watch TV during the week but your guests’s kids are, you can choose to keep your rules. There might be some groaning, but they’ll survive. If you don’t allow guns in your home, you absolutely don’t need to make an exception for family. It’s up to you to determine which rules you can let go for a bit, and which are non-negotiable. It’s still your home.

Finally, Remember…
These aren’t new roommates; they’re friends and family who are only here for a short time, so make the most of their visits. You’ll be back to missing them soon enough.


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