One hot, Houston summer our bedroom A/C went kaput! My first reaction was to grumble, but then I reminded myself to “choose happiness!” I was thankful we had a guestroom to sleep in that had cool air and a fan. As we crawled into an unfamiliar bed, I was quickly reminded of the times I preached to others: “Every good hostess should sleep in her own guestroom for one full night. You will immediately see what is missing.” As my husband and I kept rolling to the middle of the mattress and shivering under a comforter that was too thin, I made a new list for myself: new mattress that does not sink; more blankets for the bed.
Here are my tips for making friends and family feel welcome the moment they show up at your front door.
The most important action is to de-clutter the house. This does not mean the entire home needs organizing, but specifically focus on areas your guests will see. Grab a big laundry basket and go room by room picking up the junk. Store the basket in a closet and bring it back out after guests have departed.
Next, “live” in the area for a little while. This is most important where your guests will be sleeping. As mentioned above, before overnight visitors arrive, I encourage you to sleep in the room. Instantaneously, you will become aware of issues. Not just what is missing, but repairs that need to be made or nighttime noises that need to be fixed (a rickety fan or knocking heater). Ask yourself if you have everything you need when getting ready in the guest bathroom. By doing a simple walk through, most things that are missing will jump out.
Below are the three areas I focus on when I have house guests. You may need to include other areas, but I hope this will be a starting point to help you make your home bed and breakfast worthy!
Extra blanket on the bed: Body temperatures vary greatly. What is cold to one is hot to another.
Bedside table: that doubles as desk with a chair or stool.
House shoes and robe: We have a lot of overnight guests, and these items are often left at home. I keep two washable guest robes and house shoes in the guestroom closet.
Catch-all tray: A place to put jewelry, keys, and money.
Bowl of fruit and snacks: It can be hard being a guest in someone else’s home. It is a nice gesture to provide for their gastric needs in the privacy of their bedroom. I stick with protein items like nuts and satiating fruit in the way of bananas and apples.
Breath mints: Always a hit and much appreciated.
Water bottles: These do not need to be iced. Just put 2-4 on a table next to the snacks.
Docking station by the bed.
Books by the bed: for night time reading.
Fresh flowers: Place these by the snacks, water bottles, and catch-all tray. It makes a very welcoming display.
Luggage rack: This shows guests you thought about every need.
Reading Material: Whether it is a few books, some magazines or a visitor’s guide of the area, place reading material by the bed. It can help guests fall asleep.
Desk: Find a writing desk that doubles as a nightstand. Place a chair underneath and you now have a work area for guests.
TV remote with instructions/Wi-fi passcode: Having these typed and framed next to the bed is a nice touch. It will be one of the first things guests ask you for, so cut out this step and provide it ahead of time.
Coffee station in room: If you have the space, guests love this! For the coffee lovers among us, we would prefer to have a sip of that first cup before our feet hit the floor.
Spray with fabric freshener: Once I set up the guestroom, I spray all upholstery and the bed. Use a non-scent version.
Overhead lights off and lamps turned on: I do not like overhead lights unless they can be dimmed. They are usually too harsh and can raise the temperature of the room. The ambiance will be more welcoming if they remain off and bedside lamps are turned on when guests arrive.
Candle lit: The sight of fire is welcoming. Stick with a mild scent. Not everyone likes strong candles.
Music playing: Soft music playing in the background is the cherry on top. With this final act you have now touched all five senses in the room.
Bathroom travel size toiletries: Place a tray in the guest bathroom with shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, disposable toothbrush, mouthwash, soap, and a disposable razor.
Fresh towels placed on bed or bathroom counter: For each guest I provide two large towels, a hand towel, and a washcloth. If you normally store these in the cabinets, pull them out. Guests are often hesitant to rummage through private cabinets.
Hair dryer/curling iron: Another big bonus! Hotels carry these in most rooms, so make your guests feel they are in a beautiful boutique with all the trimmings. If you do not provide it, they will be asking to borrow yours!
Extra toilet paper: Do I need to explain? For the one already on the roll, fold the tips into an arrow shape so guests know they are the first to use the loo upon arrival.
Set up coffee bar: Although you may or may not set one up in the guest room, it is a must to have one in the kitchen. We all have preferences when it comes to preparing our coffee, so provide the basic ingredients and let guests make their own: cream; sweetener; cinnamon; spoons; cups; saucers; coffee ready and piping hot.
Set up breakfast bar: Unless you are preparing a big breakfast, make it easy for your guests to grab items for themselves: individual cereal packages; carafe of milk; orange juice and water; coffee bar; breakfast bars; yogurt cups; bagels; cream cheese; toaster; plates; utensils that are needed.
ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES WITH GUESTS:
Whenever I encounter hostesses that have not had a pleasant experience with guests, it often revolves around a lack of boundaries. People tend to shy away from telling friends what they can and cannot do in their home, but not doing so is a recipe for disaster. The motto you hear me repeatedly say, “To be unclear is to be unkind,” is extra important when sharing space with others. Your guests want to be informed, too, because most are trying to be on their best behavior. How can they live up to your expectations if they do not know what you want? Here are a few tips for setting boundaries:
Breakfast: If guests are on their own for breakfast, show them where everything will be stationed and tell them to help themselves when they wake up.
Pets: If you have animals and do not feed them human food, let your guests know. Otherwise, Fido may be enjoying scraps from the table.
Set limit on length of visit: Before guests arrive, set a time limit on how long they may visit.
What they can expect from you: Let them know before they arrive if you have time to entertain them, or not. It might be a work week for you, and you are unable to hit the town and stay up until 3a.m. Manage their expectations.
Should they provide their own food? If you do not want the burden of an expensive food bill, then discuss how meals are divided before they arrive. Maybe grocery shop together and split the cost. Whatever way you decide to manage this, do it before your guests arrive.
No smoking: Self-explanatory if you have a no smoking rule.
Bedtime: As the host, if you cannot stay up all hours of the night, explain to your house guests that you usually turn in around 10p.m. (or whatever time it is). If guests stay during the week, setting this boundary is particularly important because you might have work the next day.
Sleeping arrangements: Explain to guests where they will stay before they arrive. If you only have a couch to offer, make sure they know. They might choose to stay in a hotel.
Do not touch the A/C: You might not care if guests adjust the air, but you might. Maybe you are on a budget with your electric bill and only run the unit certain hours of the day. Whatever the reason is, if you have house rules regarding the A/C let the guests know.
What food are they allowed to eat: Unless you want guests to eat you out of house and home, designate an area in your kitchen with snacks where they may feel free to partake. I also set aside one shelf in my refrigerator. I tell them anything on that shelf they are welcome to have.
Recycle bin: If you have one, show your guests so they can help you recycle.
Upon departing: Ask your guests to strip the beds and leave the sheets and towels in the washroom, if this is what you prefer.
Miscellaneous requests: Every family has their own guidelines, and your guests want to know. When we are in the mountains of North Carolina, one of our requirements is: No Food Left Outside—Bears!
Most people want to respect your boundaries, but if they do not know what those are, how will they know if they have been crossed? This leaves everyone unhappy. Manage expectations upfront, and your friends will leave with great memories, and hopefully an invitation to return.
Together with you,