Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Heavenly Hosts

Whether you love having friends visit in your home (as JM and I do) or dread and loath it, a little advance preparation goes a long way. Here are some tips to get you and your home prepared for overnight guests.  Not only will these things make your guests feel right at home, but most of them will make your life easier, too.  For instance, having beverages and snacks on hand and telling your guests to "help themselves" makes you look generous and hospitable, but it also lets you off the hook of having to constantly monitor their hunger/thirst levels and keep offering them things. Diabolical, I know. 

Clean Up: I don't care how big a favor you are doing them by letting them crash with you, no one should have to step over your used undies to get into the shower. And, for crying out loud, get your birth control pills off the bathroom counter. Besides, If your house is in good, clean, shape before your guests arrive, it will be easier to maintain it with those extra folks around. Do all your dishes and laundry in advance of their arrival, as those things can pile up if ignored. Pay particular attention to the spaces your guests will be occupying: Dust the guestroom, clean the toothpaste out of the bathroom sink, vacuum the floors and under the couch cushions, and wash the slipcovers if they need it.
Stock Up: It's embarrassing for everyone when you mother-in-law has to yell out the bathroom door to ask for more TP. Avoid this, and other disasters, by having extras of all of the essentials on hand. Make sure the bathroom is stocked with ample toilet paper, tissues, toothpaste, hand soap, mouthwash and floss, as well as shampoo, conditioner, lotion and a new spare toothbrush. Put at least one fresh, clean bath towel, hand towel and washcloth in there per person. And a couple blossoms in a vase on the toilet are a nice touch, as well.  You will also want to provide your guests with things to make them independent- I usually give them a spare set of keys, an umbrella, and a subway map. That way they can take off and explore the city without me.
 Shack Up: If you have a guest room, then you are pretty much all set. Just make the bed comfy and stock it with plenty of blankets and pillows. On the nightstand, put a carafe of water and a glass, a reading light, an alarm clock, and maybe a few nice-smelling flowers in a vase. But even if you will have a friend crashing in your living room on your couch or air mattress, you can still prepare the room for them. Make a bedding "kit" that can easily be stored in a closet or under the couch- put a set of clean sheets and blankets and pillows with fresh cases in a bag (a small duffle, or the plastic zip-up that your comforter came in work well). That way, you can easily help your guest make up their "bed" each night and they will know where to stash the bedding during the day.
Buck Up: If your guest is someone who grates on you emotionally, like your hypercritical cousin, set realistic expectations for the visit- expect that you might get annoyed and give yourself a few scheduled breaks during the visit- a yoga class, a walk with your dog, etc. With all guests it helps to set clear boundaries ahead of time- the duration of the stay, if anything us off-limits, etc. If  your "weekend guests" end up staying til Wednesday and polishing off your husband's 100 year-old scotch, it's your fault for not communicating better. Unless they are your very best friends, I typically limit my visitors stays to a long weekend- as they say, houseguests are like fish: they start to stink after three days. 

And, if all else fails, remember this: visits always bring pleasure- if not the arrival, the departure.

photo credit: Martha Stewart

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