Housing a Family of Guests

My modern take on readying for the crowds

With the holiday season upon us, many of us are gearing up for an exciting period of entertaining and hosting overnight guests. While we know in the back of our busy minds that our guests are there to see us - not the state of our kitchen floor - we still obsess over the details and ultimately forget the pleasure we find in these seasonal gatherings. Here's my attempt at making Emily Post, and my grandmother, proud with my own modern take on readying for the crowds.

  • Local guide. For out-of-town guests, consider sending tips or links to local sites featuring sight-seeing or other activities. If you'd prefer to sit out the day trip to the local zoo, then include easy transit instructions so they can fly solo.
  • You be you. It's not an interview, it's a celebration. Whether it's for birthdays, holidays or a long weekend -it's not a contest. Make your guests feel welcome in whatever unique way comes naturally and they'll acknowledge the honor with appreciation and, perhaps, a reciprocal invitation.
  • Let them be them. If you want your guests to feel at home then expect feet on the coffee table and dirty dishes in the sink from time to time. Try to create an environment that is welcoming and comforting, while also setting an example of how your household works. If there are specific restrictions, like baby sleeping times or the no-human-food-for-pets rule, then set the stage early and be consistent.
  • Provide extras and make them easy to find. I once had a house guest actually use my toothbrush because she forgot her own. I share this as a reminder that a few simple and cheap purchases can maintain calm and sanity with a houseful of guest. Travel-size items are great for last-minute guest needs. Whether they're hotel freebies or drug store bargains, stock up on shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, razors, toothbrushes... basically anything in the grooming category that you'd rather not share.
  • Let them clean. "Can I do anything?" is an offer, not a compliment - or a criticism. If guests utter these words - and the good ones will - take them up on it. It's part of the process of making them feel welcome and will open up inroads to getting help later when you may really need it. Don't put your guests to work with big tasks - mopping the floors is not a great way to spend a vacation - but try to delegate some smaller tasks that could reduce trips to the kitchen, etc.
  • Stock up on staples. Grocery shopping can be challenging enough when buying for your own family, and doubly so when shopping for another one. If you're expecting a visiting family - namely, one with kids - you should have some staples on-hand. If possible, talk to the parents first about any food allergies or preferences and do your best to accommodate. Don't assume that because they're kids that they eat only junk food, but also don't try to enforce your good-eating-code on someone else's kids. A supply of low-sugar beverages, snacks and fresh fruit are good options. And grab some Wet Ones while you're at it!

We may not always be able to make our home a haven for all visitors, but we can certainly reduce some of the challenges of hosting them. A little forethought and a lot of patience can minimize the stresses of the season and make it something that we all look forward to!

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