post off: how do you handle houseguests?

We’re new to the whole houseguest thing, but boy, are we making up for lost time. The past few months have seen five visits from friends and family (including one visit of SEVEN people at once). We did our best to be good hosts, but I confess that every trip included at least one day where one of us wanted to curl into the fetal position until everyone went home. This is what I’ve learned (the hard way):

1. Know your visitors. Don’t expect anyone to do something that you suspect they won’t be comfortable doing. Friend has a fear of driving in a strange city? Accept it and be prepared to chauffeur — or line up other people who will.
2. Hire a housecleaner. We didn’t, and the stress of doing a last-minute deep clean on top of making beds and putting out towels and blowing up air mattresses almost did us in.
3. Don’t buy too much food ahead of time. Once everyone has settled in a bit, make the first outing a trip to the grocery store. Everyone will have what they like to eat — and they’ll chip in for provisions, too.
4. Be realistic about your plans. I had visions of how I would WOW my visitors with the best of Seattle each day. And then I spent more time stressing over trying to fit it all in than enjoying being with the people who were also there to see me. Really, planning one outing per day is FINE.
5. But do plan. Ask people what kinds of things they want to do when in town — Outdoorsy? Touristy? Shopping? — and make a daily schedule ahead of time. You can always dump the schedule later, but it will save time and brain cells by not having the “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” conversation each day.

So those are my tips. What are yours? –Mary T.

From our partners
patty bolgiano

give yourself at least two weeks if not more between house guests. You will need time to clean up and decompress.

Carryout, favorite places to eat give yourself a break from cooking. Or divy up the cooking.

Time away from one another. Guests as well as hosts need this.

Martha Stewart has help to keep everything running smooth and looking nice. Most of us have left over dishes in the sink, dog fur on the floor and a trashed bathroom after a long day at work. Deal with it, nothing is perfect, including life.

I like to have a long list of things that I love about my city– sights, restos, cafes, walks, and then present several options for each day. I also have two critical duties as hostess: make coffee every morning so things start out right, and put away the beds every day if there are tons of people sleeping on the floor. This takes a little time but is TOTES worth it because you and your guests will feelcomfortable and not claustrophobic all day. It can be as simple as piling all the matresses, sleeping bags and pillows in the corner, so you can use the living room during the day.


I keep the brochures for local historic sites in the same binder as the take-out menus (I live in a small town so this is feasible).
make sure there are enough towels to cover 1 per person per day +3,
never ask open ended questions but rather fill them with suggestions of what to do always including the just hang out option.


Make sure you stock the guest room (or wherever your guests will sleep and store suitcases). Leave out extra toiletries, a carafe of water and glasses, some magazines, a clock radio, an extra blanket in cold weather, and anything else you can think of. You want to supply your guests with the things that will make them self-sufficient, so you won’t have to answer, “Do you have any…” or “Where do you keep the…” all the time, especially once you’ve retired for the evening.

Also, early in their visit, show your guests the basics of your home. Here are the glasses, here is the phone, here is how the TV remote works, here is where we put the soda cans for recycling, here is how to open the door that sticks, stuff like that. Same idea as above — it will help your guests feel more comfortable helping themselves, and it will prevent you from spending all kinds of time tending to things you shouldn’t have to provide for other adults.

If you equip your guests to take care of themselves when they’re in your home, it will make taking care of their free time needs more enjoyable for you.


All great tips!

If possible, designate a room and a bathroom just for the guests, even if they are not normally “guest” rooms. Obviously, for folks living in small homes, this won’t be possible.

I’ve had my kids bunk up together in one of their bedrooms and use the master bathroom in order to leave a bedroom and the hall bathroom all to the guests. (My kids are so messy, there’s no way I want guests to have to share their bathroom.)

That works fine for regular guests.

But when our parents come to visit, they get the master bedroom & bathroom because I really want them to be comfortable, and we all share the hall bathroom. They go to bed earlier than the rest of the household, too, so it helps things run more smoothly if they can just retreat and close themselves in for the night.

We live so far away from family and friends that I want to make really sure they feel comfortable, in order to entice them to visit again. ; )


relax it’s only a temporary situation

These comments are all great. We like to turn the tables a bit and imagine the perfect houseguest instead–the one whose behavior keeps the invitations rolling.

For instance, travel bags with wheels belong in airports, not homes. If you arrive with one, carry it into the guest bedroom. If you enjoy the exclusive use a bathroom, act as if you do not. Keep it tidy. Fold towels. Extend the shower curtain following use.

Another tip. Impress your host upon arrival by asking if the house follows a shoes-off policy. Of course, never “ask” if you can help clean-up or tidy after dinner. Just do it.

If you resist the temptation of confusing the concept of being a guest in someone’s home with being on vacation, you stand a good chance of seeing the welcome mat again and again.