Plan your peaceful Christmas: guest-ify your home

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Are you having house guests for the upcoming holidays? ‘Tis the season for crowds, and while you might not be ready for handling your relationship with the in-laws, you still need to prepare your home.

With Christmas six weeks away, it might seem like you’ve got all kinds of time to fortify your abode — but if your family is like mine, November and December are when the calendar gets crazy busy.

Why not take some time now, before the chaos arrives on your doorstop?

Similar to part two of my book (head to the bottom of this page to scroll through some pages in advance), I like to take my house prep process room-by-room. Here are a few ideas for the house hot spots that are especially trafficked by guests.

The Living Room

living room
I love looking at photos of the house built by contributor Mandi of Your Way

If you’ve got small living quarters, like my family, then you might only have a pull-out sofa bed to offer guests. Don’t apologize for this — just make it work well. It will need to serve as both Command Central for your holiday season and as a bedroom for your out-of-towners.

Declutter, declutter, declutter. Now’s a great time to go through this central room and box up your unused and unloved books, magazines, and movies.

• Surfaces are at a premium when you’ve got guests with their own luggage. Box up any tchotchkies that don’t really serve a purpose. Leave room for a little festive decor, but that’s it. You might find, at the end of the holidays, that you like your newfound less-is-more look.

• Check your sofa bed. Is it clean? Make sure now that it’s sleep-able, before you say ‘yes’ to your guests.

• Prepare the little things that make it easier to keep this central spot cozy for your visitors — make extra coasters (I like these and these), or keep a stack of blankets in the corner.

The Bathroom

This will be one of the most heavily-trodden spots in your home while you have guests. A little goes a long way to make this spot more useful.

guest bathroom
Photo from Apartment Therapy

• Make towels insanely easy to find. Ever stayed in a place and you feel squeamish having to look through cabinets to find what you need? Make it simple on your guests.

• Clean out drawers and cabinets, and leave empty shelves for upcoming guests. Take this time now to declutter and organize. As I mention in my book, you probably don’t need most of the stuff hiding under your bathroom counters.

• Before you throw out all your hotel sample leftovers, save a few of the best and assemble a little basket of oops-did-you-forget-this?-well-here-you-go items.

• Make toilet paper easy to find, too. That’s never fun to hunt for, especially in someone else’s house.

• If your kids’ bathroom will double as the guests’, declutter the bath toys, so that there’s ledge room in the tub.  Just a few are fine.

The Guest Bedroom

If you’re blessed to have a bedroom dedicated solely to occupy guests, then you’ve got more room than us right now. But when we lived overseas, our kids’ playroom doubled as a guest bedroom, and we loved having tons of visitors sleep in that room (we had almost 30 guests in 2008!).


Photo by Sherry & John of Young House Love

Here are some things that take a guest room from good to great:

• Provide an empty spot to open and store suitcases and bags. Declutter your surfaces.

• Neatly pile extra blankets, pillows, and towels in an easy-to-spot location.

• Give your guests something to read before falling asleep. Short stories and magazines are great, as are easy-to-read, practical books.

• Lighting. Give your guests a light they can turn off from the bed. If you’ve got the room, set this on a nightstand (also good for the reading material).  I find it challenging to go without these things in a guest room.

The Rest of the House

There are a few more spots in the house you could prepare now for house guests.


Photo by Heidi of Mt. Hope Chronicles

• If extra kids will be bunking with your own, start now on those rooms. Make a goal of packing up half their toys so that room cleaning is easier. You can always switch out the toys after the holidays are over. Or, if the toys aren’t missed, you can donate them to your neighborhood thrift store.

• Toss out expired food staples in your pantry, and make room for food your guests might want to bring.

• Make basic ingredients easy to find. Holiday guests enjoy helping you cook, and it’s easier when they don’t have to go on a man hunt to find the flour.  You’ll appreciate it after the holidays, too.

Buy a few basics your guests might appreciate it, even if you don’t use them normally. My husband and I both drink our coffee black and prefer unsweet tea, so we always forget to have sugar and creamer around for company.  If you don’t drink coffee, buy a small bag to keep around for guests.

Pack up any clothes you’re not wearing this season, so that you can provide closet space for your guest’s clothing. Or, get rid of any clothes you’re not wearing at all and add them to the thrift store pile (my book has a good list of the essential clothing pieces for both men and women).

It might feel early to do all this house prep for the holidays, but you’ll be thanking yourself when you don’t have to run around doing this right before you head to the airport and pick your guests up.

Next month, I’ll talk more about how to mentally and emotionally prepare for an influx of visitors in your home.

This post was brought to you by Invest Simply. Does the thought of understanding how to invest overwhelm you? Invest Simply offers families help to achieve their financial goals and objectives, while managing risk and protecting your capital. They don’t try to sell you anything. Pretty great.

Are you expecting guests? Where will they sleep? What’s one area in your house you could tackle this week to make it more inviting for your upcoming visitors?

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Comments

  1. Hi there,

    Just wanted to stop in and say that I love your site and your organizational tips! Such great, practical stuff. I will be sending people your way in the future. It’s such a good season to remember how to simplify when the schedules get anything-but-that.

    Thanks so much.

    Love from Thailand,
    Laura

  2. Great tips! I can’t wait for your book to arrive.

  3. Great tips! It’s really amazing how having place to put your own things can make a place feel homey when traveling. Love the decluttering tips with the guests in mind!

  4. Wonderful and inspiring advice! I also bake the weeks before guests arrive and store cookies and freeze cakes. Ususally I freeze two main meals for those crazy first days when we are all settling in and can’t stop chatting long enough to cook from scratch. My kids and I make ‘hostess’ gifts like packets of nuts or dried fruit and we create some blank cards for unexpected visitors or invitations.

    • Thanks for sharing, Nadene! Early next month we’ll be talking about food prep for the holidays, so be sure to share your ideas there, too. :)

  5. Some real pampering going on there! How I would love to be a guest at your place :) It’s the small things like the magazines/books and hotel samples box that make all the difference. Not only makes guests feel welcome, but special too.

  6. Love all of this advice, Tsh!

    We just had guests over the weekend and I am thrilled that I did almost everything right :)

  7. Great tips.

  8. Great Post. I need all the advice I can get right now if for no other reason than to keep me motivated. Thanks for all your hard work.

  9. I’m not having overnight guests since our families both live within an hour’s drive, but I will be having lots of extra people over for dinners, small group meetings, etc. Thanks for these ideas-they’ll help me get my house into shape so I won’t be running around 5 minutes before an event cleaning.

  10. Thanks for the tip about Google Calendar – the email system at my new job doesn’t have a calendar and I’ve been trying to find a way to integrate a few different calendars (family, work appointments, employee schedules, etc).

  11. This is great advice though I will admit it made me so happy that we will visiting family for the relatives and I don’t have to worry about out house this year.

    Any great tips for how to be good house guests?

  12. I like the idea about packing away toys. We have a lot of open-ended toys with many pieces, and it is not fun to sort those when they get mixed up!

  13. I SO needed this. We always have people sleeping over and the holidays are no exception. Right now my guest room is the ‘catch all’ and rather unsightly. *sigh*.

    Time to get busy!

  14. I just LOVE your posts, and you really make me excited about organizing, instead of being overwhelmed. Thanks for your inspiration. I can’t wait to read your book!

  15. Some great ideas here – especially about having a few foods that you might not use on a regular basis, but that company might like. And thanks for the reminder not to apologize for your space, but to make it welcoming!

  16. Love the bathroom tips! We had a friend stay last month and my bathroom was a wreck. The basket idea is great!

  17. another great post- I feel like I am getting prepared- and peaceful! Thanks

  18. Hillary stole my thunder. Since we have a small place, we’re always the guests. Whether it’s just for dinner or you’re staying for a week, knowing how to be a good guest is really important! One, is offering to help prepare and clean-up meals. Your host and hostess have all of their normal responsibilities, plus the added pressure of YOU, so any helpfulness on this front could go a long way. If this kind of help seems to make them uncomfortable, you might play with and entertain their kids or offer to help them go through their bedtime routine. Second, keep your stuff as compact as possible. It’s definitely unfair to expect and make them clean up after you when you go stay as a guest. You are getting a free place to stay, so make sure you don’t take advantage and force them to be room service as well. Finally, be sure to leave a thank you note (you might also take them out to dinner one night, or leave them a gift card) so they know that their efforts were sincerely appreciated. No one likes to be taken for granted, and a sincere thank you note can make all of their hard work worth it.

    Heidi @ http://everydayfamilies.blogspot.com/

  19. Yes, just as important as being a good host/hostess is being a good guest. Since we have a really small place, we’re always the guests. Here’s a few tips and tricks I’d recommend:

    First, offer to be of help in any way you can, especially in preparing and cleaning up meals (it’s stressful to cook and clean-up after a lot of people). If your host or hostess seems uncomfortable with the prospect (which is silly, but they might), play with their kids or offer to help get them ready for bed. Anything you can do to help alleviate a little stress.

    Second, keep your stuff picked up. It’s stressful enough having to have extra people around your home, without having to pick up after them. Keep everything in your suitcase, make your bed, and keep your toiletries all together. You are a guest, so don’t expect room service.

    Finally, express sincere gratitude for the graciousness of your host. You might take them out to dinner one night (time and money permitting), leave them a gift card, and if nothing else – leave a sincere thank you note, telling them how grateful you were for their kindness in allowing you a lovely place to stay. A kind note might just make all of their extra work worth it.

    Heidi @ http://everydayfamilies.blogspot.com/

  20. Going to clean the bathroom now…

  21. Great tips, and thank you for using my photo!

  22. avatar
    Tinabobina99 says:

    I;m not having overnight guests this season, but your organizational tips are great for year-round more peaceful living. Thanks!

  23. We’re moving into a new (larger!) house in 2 weeks and then having house guests for the entire 2nd half of December. And I’m expecting baby #3 in the spring! So decluttering now with the move, Christmas and the new baby is top priority for me. I’m thrilled with all of your holiday prep advice and also the articles and links by all the Simple Media group. I’ll take any help I can get to stay sane over the next month and a half!

    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE your new book. I devoured it in 2 days and am now re-reading much of it slowly and trying to completely digest all the great tips. 5 years ago everything my family owned fit in a Toyota Camry (all else was a victim of hurricane Katrina) and now I’m realizing just much STUFF we’ve accumulated since then. It only took 5 years to completely fill a 1400 sq ft house plus an attic! I’m trying to look at this move as a second chance at a fresh start, not moving anything that’s either beautiful or useful :) Thanks so much for all the inspiration!

  24. Since we have a small home, we’re pretty much always guests in somebody else’s. Here are my three tips for being a good guest:

    #1: Offer to help with meal preparation and clean-up. It’s a lot more work cooking and cleaning up meals for more people, so step in and get your hands dirty. If you host or hostess seem to feel uncomfortable with the idea, entertain the kids, or help get them ready for bed while the parents clean up in the kitchen.

    #2: Keep your stuff neat. With extra people around the home, you don’t need to add to the stress of your hostess by being messy. Make your bed each morning, keep everything in your suitcase (or in the space they provide you), and try to leave it neater than you found it. You’re a guest, so don’t expect room service.

    #3: Say a heart-felt thank you. Take your host/hostess out to dinner one night, or leave them a gift card, or, at the very least, leave a sincere thank you note when you leave. This will mean a lot to them, and might even make all the extra work worth it!

  25. thanks for thinking ahead for me!

  26. Very helpful post. I especially like your statement “Don’t apologize for this – just make it work well” in regards to what we have to offer as guest accomodations. Something I think is important is checking that we always have clean and sufficient guest bedding/pillows. Another thought, that goes along wtih your idea of having certain food items on hand that would help a guest feel comfortable, is checking with them in advance about dietary issues/allergies. My SIL just stayed with us and we needed to buy a few special foods as she is gluten free. But we really wanted her to relax and be able to eat (!) so this investment was important to us.

  27. I would add one more thing to the bathroom: some kind of air freshener or matches! People are usually too squeamish to talk about it, but hey, everybody has to go #2 sometimes. And if you dont put it right out there, make it easy to find. I believe every guest you have – overnight or not – will appreciate it.

  28. My basement is where we’d normally put guests but it’s turned upside down currently b/c of water damage. Nevertheless, I’m bookmarking this post and going to pass a link onto my Pastor’s wife who is looking for material on hospitality. This is fantastic, practical input!

  29. Don’t forget a nightstand clock for your guests – they might even be from a different time zone. It’s awful to wake up in the night and not know if you have an hour or five to sleep. And a nightlight in the bathroom so they can find their way.

  30. We have found that our guests are most comfortable in our bedroom. So my husband and I pack up a few outfits and move upstairs to the playroom to sleep on an airbed. The upstairs bathroom isn’t very nice and the heating and cooling in our old, old house is uneven and not good upstairs. It’s like camping. A sacrifice of love for our guests’ comfort. It makes me feel better.

  31. Our girls shared a room, so we do have a dedicated guest room but it also the dumping room in our house. Thanks for this post, it has motivated me to clean and declutter it!

  32. avatar
    Mandi Bozarth says:

    Great post. We are just finishing our new guest room and getting ready for our very first holiday house guests ever. With four little ones in the house our place is pretty full. Your ideas will come in handy as we make room for friends and family. Thanks.

  33. Great ideas…we’ll have a house full this Christmas. Eleven people in a three bedroom house!

  34. We aren’t expecting guests this holiday season. We are going to be the guests! If we were having guests though they’d sleep in my daughter’s room/bed and she would sleep with us and/or blow up mattresses in the play room. However, even though we don’t have guests coming, I could still stand to do some decluttering before we bring in Christmas decorations and presents.

  35. My sister stays at my parent’s house when she visits for the holidays, but we do always clean and declutter just in case she wants to visit. It’s so hard with a 3 year old to clean beforehand, though, because everything gets destroyed after it’s cleaned, anyway!

  36. Great tips! I’m currently working on de-cluttering my house for Thanksgiving guests. Another place I would add is your car. You never know who is going to show up, need to borrow it, or move it somewhere to allow someone else access to your parking spot. Have a clean car during the holidays is nice.

  37. Great tips! I think de-cluttering is totally needed in my house all year long. We’re not having any guests this year [thank heaven!] but I already feel like I could handle it, thanks to your suggestions.

  38. If we have guests, my daughter’s room (the guest room) will be the one needing attention. Basically moving her bed in with her sibling putting out the queen and making room for a few adults. All worth it of course.

  39. Appropriately timed article considering my guests are going to be here tomorrow. :) They’ll be sleeping in our living room since we have the tiniest house ever! It’ll be okay though, we’ll pull out the mattress that used to be in our guest room (which is now the nursery) and they’ll set up shop in the front room, no problem. Good thing they’re flexible! :)

  40. Love this post and the several others I’ve read now… you’ve got a new Reader subscriber!

  41. Thanks for the holiday tips. I love to decorate for the holidays and can sometimes overdo it, forgeting about practicality when entertaining.
    This season, simplicity is the key.
    http://www.8thcontinent.com

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