• Jessica Sherry

THE Houseguest Checklist

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 as well. Days of meals and pleasant home invaders. So, over, my um, many years of hosting Thanksgiving and guests (I’m not saying how many, and you can’t make me!), I’ve learned a few things about hosting. Or at least, how to make it easier for me.

First, the sooner and more diligent your planning, the less stressful it’ll be.

I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t that just prolong the stress, crazy coffee-brained lady? These are family and friends—they can deal with whatever I put in front of them. Can’t everything be done a few days before—no fuss, no muss?

Okay, now slap yourself in the face for asking those questions because unlike in the rest of the world, there ARE DUMB QUESTIONS. Now, I’m softening those slaps with air kisses. It’ll be okay; you’re still learning.

Yes, they are 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, the point of 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 in the hopes it’ll help you stress less and party more. *Cue My House by Flo RidaWelcome 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, we use it as a time to get things done around the house that need to be done anyway.

Exterior items like…

  1. Gutter Cleaning

  2. Power washing

  3. Trimming shrubbery/lawn maintenance

  4. Weeding gardens and flowerbeds

  5. Window cleaning

  6. Replacing/cleaning exterior lighting

  7. Removing debris, leaves, dead bodies…

If you own a home and don’t have a home maintenance schedule, then consider one (maybe that’ll be in a blog to come…). 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*

Once you have an exterior to-do list, schedule the projects, either with professionals or yourself. If you plan to do them yourself, then 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, on to the interior…

Inside the house, walk around each room with a notebook. And, don’t do this mentally, lazybones. Get your ass up and walk around. Trust me. Look at each room from top to bottom. 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 that are needed (ideally) 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. We all have ‘em and your guests will use ‘em. Here’s what I look for:

  1. Does the shower curtain need replacing? Check for mold around the base.

  2. Are all the lightbulbs working?

  3. 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 not to do laundry every second?

  4. Is there a good bathmat?

  5. 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 you’re cooking a turkey.

  6. Check the showerhead and faucet to make sure they are functioning optimally.

  7. Do I have all the cleaning supplies needed?

  8. Do I have a good trashcan? Does it need to be cleaned?

  9. Is there a place to store extra toilet paper?

  10. Is there a clean plunger?

*Coffee-brained TIP: By providing a plunger by each toilet, 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, as well.

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 steal from hotels like I do, you can buy samples 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 or used someone else’s accidentally. Ew, gross, right?

*And, Another One (I feel like DJ Khaled--Loving this video right now): I hit the dollar store for other supplies like shower puffs, 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 frowny face.

So, when you’re done touring your bathroom, your list might look something like this:

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…

  1. Are drawers and cabinets organized in a way that’s guest-friendly?

  2. Do the cabinets and drawers need cleaning?

  3. What about the top of your fridge? Any taller guests will see the film of dust up there if you don’t bother.

  4. Do you have stainless steel cleaner or something specific for your appliances? Granite cleaner?

  5. 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 your guests arrive.

  6. Do you need to replace any lightbulbs?

  7. Are there any kitchen supplies you’d like to have for your big cooking week? Check your silverware and serving supplies.

  8. Do you have enough plates, etc. for each of your guests?

  9. Check the state of your small appliances. Do you need a griddle?

  10. Do you need new kitchen towels, aprons, or hot pads?

In the Guest room (or any space serving as one)…

  1. Do I have good sheets, comforters, pillows, pillowcases, and extra blankets?

  2. Is there enough lighting in the space? A bedside lamp or other soft lighting is always a nice idea.

  3. 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.

  4. Do the curtains need laundering or replacing?

  5. 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.

  6. Does the room need a Wallflower or pleasant scent? We LOVE LOVE LOVE our Bath & Body Works.

  7. Is there a place to hang jackets or damp towels? We like putting hooks behind the door for this purpose.


To make your guest rooms super-sweet, you can 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 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 not only feel welcome but loved.

In the Living Room…

  1. Are there extra pillows that could be used for makeshift seating during game playing or when things get crowded?

  2. Extra blankets for when Aunt Myrtle gets chilly? Don’t forget to launder these a few days before arrival.

  3. Is there a centralized place for remote controls?

  4. Are the game consoles’ controllers charged and ready?

  5. 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 a space for these.

  6. Are there magazines or crosswords handy for when Cousin It huffs at the movie you’re watching?

  7. Do curtains and/or blinds need cleaning or laundering?

  8. 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.

  9. Are there enough clean surfaces for people to set down drinks? And coasters for them to set them on?

  10. 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, getting some things done early (like power washing and drawer organizing) to make more time for the things that have to 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 a helluva lot better than doing everything the week before. You want to enjoy time with your guests—not be exhausted when they arrive. Geez.

COVID-19 Extras:

In addition to my usual list of to-do’s and to-buy’s, I’m adding considerations for COVID-19. Here’s what I’m doing extra to be safe and help my guests feel safe, as well.

  • 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, yeah baby) because even though we’re all doing a great job with hand washing, it might as well be a pleasant experience.

  • Having extra face masks on hand. I won’t make anyone wear one inside the house, but it’s smart to have them for inevitable alcohol runs, in case someone forgets theirs.

  • Keeping a thermometer handy. If you’re hosting a large event, it’s not a bad idea to get one of those quick and easy forehead temperature devices. When my brother-in-law vacationed with his large family in July, he checked everyone’s temperature daily, just to be sure. Knowing no one has a fever helps everyone relax, so why not?

  • Strategically placing hand sanitizer pumps near the exterior doors. Make it fun...

Thanksgiving 2020

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?