The guest list: Welcoming people for the holidays
"Settling down for a long winter's nap" takes on new meaning with a houseful of guests sleeping over this holiday season. But there are strategies that put to bed any angst one may have surrounding the stay of houseguests, says Heather Turner, based in Enfield, Conn., and spokesperson for the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.
"Having family or friends stay with you for a prolonged period of time can be stressful, no matter who they are or how much you care for them," Turner says. "The holidays can bring up all kinds of emotions, so it's good to share a list of 'House Rules' to manage expectations and help keep peace."
A list of "House Rules" isn't meant to be punitive, but to remind guests to be kind, not argue and agree to be nice. If some guests imbibe too much, a teetotaling time might be the antidote to antisocial behaviors. "When we have guests that come and stay with us, I always have their favorite foods and snacks on hand for a special personal touch," Turner says. "I also make sure to have a basket of amenities in the bathroom, so guests feel at home, even if they forgot a toothbrush or shampoo."
One of the best ways to achieve room-without-board bliss for houseguests is to keep your home organized throughout the year, says Katy Milton, a design consultant with California Closets in San Francisco. "Some people really feel the stress -- especially during the holidays -- if they have to get their house guest-ready," she says. "The key is to keep your house clutter-free and not let the place where guests stay serve as a catch-all room that needs to be cleared out before company arrives."
If the place in which guests sleep is a multipurpose room -- such as a home office -- organize the space like a hotel suite with television, storage and desk. Milton designed a home office space that features a fold-down bed, which is hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall inside framed cabinetry.
"When guests come to stay, you have to also respect their privacy," Turner says. "Clear off the home office desk in the room they're staying in, empty out prescriptions from the guest bathroom's medicine cabinet and be aware of any food or pet allergies."
To set up a successful strategy for visitors, it's more manageable to organize your home room by room.
The Guest Bedroom/Bathroom
Homeowners can have a suite setup for the guest bedroom -- regardless of its size -- by focusing first on the bed.
Clean guest towels and sheets are essential, even if the bed is a pullout sofa. Turner also goes the extra mile with a noise machine and aromatherapy in her designated guest room. "The closet is stocked with extra pillows and blankets, so guests can be comfortable in bed," she says. "There's also a dresser and hangers for guests to place clothing and their belongings during their stay."
Other items to consider when outfitting the guest bedroom/bathroom include:
-- A reading light with optional books/magazines.
-- An alarm clock.
-- Robes and slipper socks that guests can take home with them.
-- A cellphone charging station, or easy access to electrical outlets.
-- In addition to an amenities basket filled with toiletries in the bathroom, also have a first-aid kit available.
-- For families with children, a small toy box and extra baby wipes make for good, clean fun.
The Laundry Room
A household can run without a wrinkle if the laundry room is organized when guests extend their stay. Give guests the option to do their laundry, should they need clean clothes.
When cleaning up after houseguests, Milton says it's important to organize the guest room sheets and towels. "After washing guest linens, fold and store them together, separately from the rest of the household's laundry," she says. "That way, if guests happen to drop in, there's no guessing about what linens are needed for the guest room."
The kitchen's larder is living large when it comes to a hospitable stay for guests. Knowing dietary restrictions or preferences makes it easier to feed guests, or allows guests to help themselves. Guests can grab between-meal snacks and breakfast items on their own.
When it comes to drinks, set up a coffee bar and have favorite nonalcoholic drinks stored in a minifridge. In an effort to promote more schmoozing and less boozing, have a preferred wine or beer on hand, but don't overload the liquor cabinet, Turner says.
The Living Room/Computer Station
Gatherings with family and friends can be hardwired for fun, especially when watching the big game or a movie together. To help guests plug in, be sure to:
-- Share your home's Wi-Fi password.
-- Show guests how to operate "smart" televisions, providing passwords for streaming services.
-- Allow access to your home printer so guests can print out documents or tickets as needed.
Whole-house accommodations for guests can include a thorough baby-proofing by covering outlets and providing gates near stairs. It can also mean restricting areas pets may go in the house if guests are allergic or uneasy around animals.
Turner says the secret to a successful stay is to be a good guest as well, and to offer to help the host with household tasks.
"As a host, you plan what you can, but go with the flow when it comes to having guests," she says. "Above all, try to keep a sense of humor and really enjoy the people who are visiting you, because when you're relaxed, guests feel like they can relax, too."