How to Host Houseguests
With Thanksgiving approaching at ludicrous speed, it’s time to plan, not only for the scrumptious dinner but GUESTS *cue stabbing music from Halloween*. For some lucky souls out there, hosting Thanksgiving means a meal only (Lists for that, too), but for others, like me, overnight visitors are part of the deal. Days of meals and pleasant home invaders. So, over my, um, many years of hosting Thanksgiving and guests, I’ve learned a few things about hosting. Or at least how to make the multi-day event easier for me. And you!
First, the sooner and more diligent your planning, the less stressful it’ll be for you and the nicer it'll be for them.
I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t that just prolong the stress, crazy coffee-brained lady? Can’t everything be done a few days before—no fuss, no muss?
Maybe, but will it be the perfect family Thanksgiving you envision that way?
Sure, they're your forgiving, easygoing, overlooking family and friends—people who love you—but that doesn’t mean they won’t turn their noses up at a dirty shower or towels that smell like your dog, does it? Let’s get real! And you don’t want to end up known as the Moldy Shower King or Madam Smelly Towels. Do you?
Besides, for me, hosting is to honor the people I love with food and accommodations that are as perfect as I can provide. I want my overnight guests to be as comfortable as possible because THAT leads to more fun while they’re here and future visits. And… if I happen to impress them with my hostin’ the mostin’ skills, then so be it. Bonus.
So, here’s how I create my guestlist checklist to help you stress less and party more. *Cue My House by Flo Rida… Welcome to my house. Baby take control now. We can’t even slow down. We don’t have to go out…
Buckle up, buttercups. It's a long one...
Three to Four Weeks Before Arrival (Or ASAP)
Since Thanksgiving comes only once a year and it’s our main hosting event, it's our time to get things done around the house that need to be done anyway.
Exterior items like…
Trimming shrubbery/lawn maintenance
Weeding gardens and flowerbeds
Replacing/cleaning exterior lighting
Removing debris, leaves, dead bodies…
A month or two before guests arrive, it’s a good idea to walk around your property and note small projects to do yourself or hire out. The exterior is the first thing people see when coming over, so consider what you’d like to see when you drive up to your house. Then, make it happen, Cap'n!
Or should I say... get on it, hubs! *wink, wink, Joe*
His latest home improvement project was replacing the rotting wood of our deck stairs.
Once you have an exterior to-do list, schedule the projects with professionals or yourself. If you plan to do them, schedule one or two items per weekend leading up to your guests’ arrival.
*Coffee-brained Tip: Best not to schedule major projects the weekend before if you can help it. That weekend will be for grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and, hello, heavy drinking.
Now, to the interior…
Inside the house, walk around each room with a notebook. Don’t neglect the rooms you think no one will go in either because they inevitably will. Aunt Myrtle will ask to see your FROG. Cousin It will want to check out your tool shed. So, unless you want to deal with their disappointed or appalled faces (Gosh, what do you keep in there?), then take time for each space.
On your notebook, list to-do’s: any cleaning, organizing, or general repairs needed for each space. You won’t have time for a complete renovation, silly, but you CAN tackle the small things.
Also, list to-buys—anything that might make that room function better or anything you need for cleaning purposes.
For example, let’s take the bathroom. Here’s what I look for:
Does the shower curtain need replacing? Do a mold check.
Are all the lightbulbs working?
How are my bath towels/hand towels/washcloths? Do some need to be thrown out for stains, tears, or stringiness? Do I have enough linens to prevent doing laundry while guests are here?
Is there a good bathmat?
Check the drainage in the sink and tub. If it’s slow draining, you’ll need to unclog it. You don’t want to deal with a clog while cooking a turkey.
Check the showerhead and faucet to make sure they are functioning optimally.
Do I have all the cleaning supplies needed?
Do I have a good trashcan? Does it need to be cleaned?
Is there a place to store extra toilet paper?
Is there a clean plunger?
*Coffee-brained TIP: By providing a plunger, you prevent the embarrassment of your guest coming to you and asking for one. I also keep cleaning wipes and air deodorizer spray in each bathroom.
Bonus questions—things that aren’t essential but appreciated:
1.) Are there shampoos, soaps, and other supplies for people to use?
*Coffee-Brained Tip: I stock up on sample-sized bath supplies at hotels and keep them in an obvious place in the bathroom for guests to use if they’ve forgotten their own. If you don’t keep complimentary items from hotels like me, buy sample-sizes at Target or other stores.
*Another Coffee-Brained Tip: Whenever I go to the dentist, I get an extra toothbrush and floss. Since I have an electric toothbrush, I don’t use these and instead, leave the unopened items in an obvious place in the bathroom. This has saved a couple of trips to the grocery store because my guest has either forgotten theirs.
*And, Another One (I feel like DJ Khaled--Loving this video right now): I hit the dollar store for extra supplies like shower puffs, and bars of soap (though we exclusively use body wash, some people prefer bar soap, so it’s good to have it on hand), boxes of tissues, and other bathroom supplies that could come in handy. Extra toothbrushes can be bought here if you don’t get freebies from your dentist… or you don’t go to the dentist *insert raised eyebrow and a frowny face.
Go through the same process for each space in your home. It REALLY won’t take long, and it’ll give you a full idea of your plan going forward. Plus, by walking through your spaces, you’ll find things you wouldn’t have by just making a list on your couch.
Here are some specific things I look for in certain rooms beyond the obvious list of general cleaning:
In the Kitchen…
Are drawers and cabinets organized in a way that’s guest-friendly?
Do the cabinets and drawers need cleaning?
What about the top of your fridge? Taller guests will see the film of dust up there if you don’t. (I always have to remember this one... I'm short).
Do you have stainless steel cleaner or something specific for your appliances? Granite cleaner?
Do you need to clean your oven? Note: If yes, do that sooner rather than later. You don’t want your house smelling like burnt food when guests arrive.
Do you need to replace any lightbulbs?
Are there any kitchen supplies you’d like to have for your big cooking week? Check your silverware and serving supplies.
Do you have enough plates, etc. for each of your guests?
Check the state of your small appliances. Do you need a griddle?
Do you need new kitchen towels, aprons, or hot pads?
In the Guest room (or any space serving as one)…
Do I have good sheets, comforters, pillows, pillowcases, and extra blankets?
Is there enough lighting in the space? A bedside lamp or other soft lighting is always a nice idea.
Are there clean surfaces for a guest to use for luggage, make-up, jewelry, whatever? Note: a bedside table is recommended for nighttime beverages, phones, etc.
Do the curtains need laundering or replacing?
Can any knick-knacks or decorations be removed for more space? You want things to be tasteful, not cluttered. Finding ten baby pictures in one space is a little overkill, right? Less is more, people.
Does the room need a Wallflower or pleasant scent? We LOVE LOVE LOVE our Bath & Body Works.
Is there a place to hang jackets or damp towels? We like putting hooks behind the door for this purpose.
Guest Room BONUS POINTS:
To make your guest rooms super-sweet, do what my brother does… whenever we come to stay with him, we find pictures of our last visit on the bed when we walk in—a perfect way to welcome us and give us keepsakes.
He also puts books on the bedside table that he thinks we might enjoy. He’s so cute and thoughtful!
You could also provide a bowl of M&M’s or other snacky favorites. Some magazines to read. A pair of slippers and a robe… You know your guests, so make sure they feel welcome and loved.
In the Living Room…
Are there extra pillows that could be used for makeshift seating during game playing or when things get crowded?
Extra blankets for when Aunt Myrtle gets chilly? Don’t forget to launder these a few days before arrival.
Is there a centralized place for remote controls?
Are the game console’s controllers charged and ready?
We have a shelf in our Living Room for cards and board games. If you don’t, you could set some out to invite gameplaying. Make space for these.
Are there magazines or crosswords handy for when Cousin It huffs at the movie you’re watching?
Do curtains and/or blinds need cleaning or laundering?
Does the ceiling fan and/or light fixture need dusting? Any lightbulbs need replacing? Cobwebs need evicting? Note: If you have a high ceiling, this could mean buying a duster with an extension or a ladder… something to think about.
Are there enough clean surfaces for people to set down drinks? And coasters for them to set them on?
Check under your couch cushions. Does it need to be vacuumed under there?
Continue this process through each room in your house. For me, that includes my garage because people travel in and out of it to get drinks from my second fridge and my FROG room because my son might make it his temporary gaming room. The point is, be thorough.
Once you’re done with your tour—this’ll take less than an hour unless you live in a massive estate—you should know exactly what you need to do to prepare.
Then prioritize your list.
Things you need to buy can be done right away. Purchasing your supplies well in advance is a stress-saver, and if you combine this with, say, Christmas shopping, it’s really killing two birds with one stone. Yikes, what a terrible expression. Let’s change that… it’s baking two pies in one oven! Yeah, baby!
Prioritizing your list also means spacing your work apart into manageable chunks, and getting some things done early (like power washing and drawer organizing) to make more time for the things that must be done last minute (cleaning toilets, tubs, and laundry). Schedule your to-do’s on specific days or give yourself deadlines—whatever works best for you. Tackling one thing a day is much better than doing everything the week before. You want to enjoy time with your guests—not be exhausted when they arrive. Geez.
Though the pandemic is "over," concerns about catching illnesses still causes anxiety for many people. If you or your guests want extra assurances, consider these additions.
Placing anti-bacterial soap at every sink. I do this ANYWAY, but I’m making sure that the soaps I use are fun, nicely scented ones (Bath & Body Works has lovely seasonal options).
Keeping a thermometer handy in case someone suspects they're coming down with something.
Station hand sanitizer pumps near the exterior doors. And in the car for any outings. Make it fun...
Okay, you Host with the Most, now you have your HOUSEGUEST CHECKLIST, everything you need to do and buy before your guests arrive.
So, get crackin’…
Need more Thanksgiving planning help? Well, it’s your lucky day, ducky. More to come…
Have some planning tips to share? Do so below. Come on, don’t be shy. It’s not like they’re dark family secrets or anything… OR ARE THEY?