10 Smart Ways to Get Organised for House Guests

Get organised to welcome your house guests in style.

I love having house guests!

In the last year, we’ve hosted guests for 13 of 52 weeks – that’s a lot of ‘organised’.  In fact, that’s a full QUARTER of the year.  Some were short-term student homestays and not strictly touring/visiting guests, but the point is, I am well on my way to earning my B&B hostess badge!

This is nothing new to me.  As an adult, I’ve never lived close enough to my hometown and family to really be a ‘day trip’ for anyone.  So for me, having guests means that I get to see and spend time with people I love.  Our record is 9 guests (plus the 4 of us!) for 3 nights, Thanksgiving 2013, ages ranging from 12 months to 70 years.  We had a ball!  Now that we live in London, our US family and lifelong friends around the world can make London and the UK a far more affordable holiday destination, AND we all get to catch up with each other.  Win-win!

Over the years as both house guest and host, I’ve refined my hosting ‘method,’ including how to prepare and be organised in advance.


1) First and foremost, keep your spare room clear

Probably, if in fact you have a spare room at all, it’s multi-functional: you don’t likely keep it in pristine condition just waiting for guests.  Ours is used as a playroom and reading room in its off-season.  However, those are its only purposes.  It’s not a junk room or a storage room.  Nothing else goes in there.  If you don’t allow your spare room to become a dumping ground for everyday items, it won’t take much time at all to make it ‘guest-ready’ when needed.

2) Keep guest supplies (bedding, spare pillows, towels) in the spare room

Consider keeping guest bedding (duvets, blankets, pillows, sheets, towels) in the guest room, tucked away in a wardrobe, an under-bed box, or in those amazing vacuum-shrink bags!  Then when it’s time to make the bed, everything’s in one place and it’s just a matter of a quick make-up.  Saves a bit of digging through your regular linens to find what you need.

3) Make guest spaces comfortable

I have a Facebook friend who leaves a small sweet treat, in an attractive manner, on the guest bed the day guests arrive – sort of like a turndown service in a fancy hotel.  Frankly, if I attempted that, my guest would be left wondering why there’s a half-eaten Mars bar on their pillow, but I love the thought!  As it is, I DO try to anticipate a guest’s needs and comfort.  I provide a house key and an Oyster Card (London transport ticket) with some money already on it, and have a ready supply of power plug converters.  I make sure there’s a box of tissues, extra pillows and blankets (ever wake up shivering in an unfamiliar home? I have – it’s not fun!), plenty of hangers, and a hairdryer in the guest room.  I also leave the wifi information on a notecard and try to leave some local-interest books, tourist information, and maps in the room.  I ALSO make sure all guests know our address and have our mobile numbers – generally giving them a business card to tuck in their wallet works well!

4) Clear some space in shared areas

Especially if your guests will share bathroom space with you, clear some counter space or a shelf and ckear a towel rack.  Likewise, leave some room for their things in the shower.  Allowing someone to ‘move in’ a little will help them feel more at home.  Don’t forget to make some room for them to hang their coat by the door or put their shoes by the door.

5) Create a flexible meal plan

Do you hate the feeling of 6:00 rolling around and not having a clue what’s for dinner?  Ok, multiply that times GUESTS.  Depending on the length of stay, prepare a short list of meals that can feed a crowd. CHECK IN ADVANCE FOR ANY FOOD ALLERGIES, or even just strong dislikes.  Shop ahead for ingredients, possibly even stash some meals ready to go in the freezer, but also allow for spontaneous plans; ‘let’s bbq!’ or ‘let’s just go to the pub.’  On a side note, while we’ll happily brew up extra coffee for you if that’s your thing, breakfast around here is generally ‘continental’ and DIY – guests included.  I’m organised, but I also firmly believe in keeping it real!

6) Have a few ‘jobs’ in mind, especially in the kitchen

Host does not equal martyr.  Guests should ask how they can help out, so don’t be shy about taking them up on the offer by giving tasks – clearing the table, wiping worktops, helping wash up, chopping veg, making the salad, mixing the drinks, entertaining the children while you get something done, etc.  Everyone likes to feel useful. It may sound odd to think about such tasks in advance, but sometimes when we have our routines, it seems easier in the moment to just say, ‘oh, no, I can do this.’  Of course you can, but you don’t have to prove it!

 7) Communicate your routines and plans

There’s no reason to curtail family life entirely when guests are in town.  Often (mostly!) we host guests during the school year, and if there’s anything important for school-aged kids, it’s routine.  Let guests know roughly how your day is structured and let them decide how they’d like to fit into it (or not!).  Communicate about busy bathroom times. Do they want to join you on the school run? Will they spend the day on their own?  Will you start the day with them but need to ‘peel off’ for a meeting or to retrieve children from school?  My husband works long hours away from home; sometimes he takes time off for guests, sometimes he can’t.  I have a more flexible schedule, but sometimes I have to work too – and I try to make my plans clear from the outset.

8) Have suggested itineraries

While I am NOT suggesting that you plan every moment of every day (that’s not fun for anyone), you will likely want to have on hand a list of daily ‘itineraries’ you can do, if everyone’s stuck for ideas.  Plan for rainy-day activities too.  Remind (your) children of the need to ‘go with the flow’ in terms of altered plans or diversions.  Also remember that there’s nothing wrong with down-time and/or splitting up!  Sometimes everyone needs a chance to rest and breath and be apart from each other for a little while.

 9) Don’t forget to CLEAN.  A little.

My guests just have to expect a certain level of ‘family life’, shall we say.  Try as I might, there could potentially be a shopkin or two on the stairs.  The sofa may become covered with my son’s latest urban planning project.  I don’t overly worry about tidiness, but I do like to start out a visit with clean common areas – meaning the house is vacuumed and (mostly!) dusted, the kitchen is clean and definitely all the bathrooms are clean!


Finally, to ‘end’ on a light note – please check your toilet paper supply!  Enough said, really.

Basically, I want to be both welcoming and a good host, but I also want to be able to hang out with my loved ones and relax.  Being organised helps me be more relaxed, which seems like a paradox, but it’s not really.  I don’t hold anyone to a strict schedule, I like to let plans evolve on their own; as Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, “I’m a kinda fly by the seat of my pants girl”.  But while I enjoy all that flying around, I also like to know I have things in control on the ground for when I land.

Happy hosting!

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