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Hosting overnight guests: 10 easy tips to help your visitors feel welcome

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About 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.

As you’re reading this, we are hosting out-of-town guests in our home for a few days. Some people where we live kindly refer to us as a “bed and breakfast” because we have so many guests pass through our hallways – and we love it.

We don’t have a lot of room, but we do our best to make room for anyone who needs a pillow to rest their head for the night. We take seriously our family’s mission statement, “Live Simply – Grow – Honor Relationships – Celebrate,” and we feel like making our home a haven for all who enter is a small way we can honor our relationships.

Yes, it’s a bit exhausting to have extra people within your walls, and yes, it does provide more work – for a time. But really, we truly love having guests. They usually play with our children, which everyone enjoys, and it provides us a nice break from the hum-drum of daily life.  Hosting guests doesn’t have to be a pain – it can be something you look forward to.

Here are 10 ways you can help visitors feel more at home:

1. Be yourself. Truly. Most house guests aren’t expecting a perfectly immaculate house, and if they are, there’s no point in loading your shoulders with the pressure to try. The best kind of guests are there to see you, not you on stage.

2. Let your guests be themselves. Really mean it when you say, “make yourself at home.” If you’re willing to have guests, be willing to let them put their feet up on your coffee table. This is within reason, of course – don’t let manipulative people treat you like a doormat.

3. Provide extra toiletries. We have a basket of basic essentials that we bring out for overnighters, and we leave it on the guest bathroom counter for them to help themselves. It’s nothing fancy – just toothpaste, soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner, and unopened toothbrushes. I stock up on some of these items when they’re on sale, and this is also a great use for those travel-sized freebies from hotels.

4. Make things easy to find. When they first arrive, have all their needed towels either out on the bathroom counter, or on their bed or night stand. If they’re early risers – earlier than you, anyway – leave out some basic breakfast goodies for them to help themselves. Don’t forget the dishes and silverware, too.

If they arrive after a long trip, put a little basket of refreshments on their night stand. A simple bottle of water, a package of nuts, maybe a banana, and a little welcome note can really make them feel welcome.

5. Keep coffee and tea on hand. Even if you don’t drink it, a coffee drinker is always thankful to have the means to make a cup of joe in the morning. It doesn’t have to be anything high-end if you don’t drink it, but make sure it’s fresh.

6. Create some simple extra touches to make your guests feel welcomed and attended to. Place an inexpensive flower in a small vase on their night stand. Provide a great-smelling candle and a book of matches.  Make sure there’s an alarm clock available, too.

7.  Provide reading material. Collect a few magazines and put them in an easy-to-reach basket near their bed. Maybe even select a good book of short stories (short stories are good, so that guests can actually finish what they’re reading, as opposed to a long novel).  If there’s something you’ve really wanted your house guest to read, now’s a great time to oh-so subtly leave it on the night stand, waiting to be read.

8. Depending on the reason for their visit, you may want to provide information about where you live. If they’re in town on vacation, provide some brochures about tourist spots, a map, and maybe something unique about where you live for them to enjoy while they’re in town – a book from a local author, a travel guide, or a CD from a local musician.

9. Let them help around the house. Don’t put them to work, of course, but I’ve learned after having 25 overnight guests this year alone, people will be more relaxed and feel less like an intruder if you say yes to their inevitable question, “Can I do anything?” Let them do something small, like set the silverware at the dinner table, or stir the soup bubbling on the stove. Chat with them while you work together, and take that time to get to know more about them.

10. Keep your immediate family’s time sacred. This can be challenging, depending on the situation, but do your best to still spend some quality time with just those in your household. This is especially true if you have small children, who don’t always understand why Mom is busier than usual, or why a new person is sleeping in their playroom. It doesn’t have to be anything major – simply continuing with the usual bedtime story, or snuggling on the couch and asking about her day – can keep little ones content and less likely to act up for attention.

Do you like having guests in your home? What’s the hardest part about it? Share your hosting tips that work well for you.

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Comments

  1. I ove this list! I’m bookmarking it, since we’re sure to have more than the average number of overnight guests. We love it, but sometimes all we feel is frustration, either because we think we’re not doing enough or because we feel they’re intruding in our daily life…

    Gracia’s last blog post…Recipes in our “To Try” list

  2. Thanks for the suggestions. I loved the one abot keeping toiletries handy. I always love having house guests who are happy to make themselves feel at home as a I am not a social butterfly and don’t want to bore people with my life. I find most people who come are happy to do for themselves and feel relaxed if allowed to that but they also like to have the scene set. Cherrie

    cherrie’s last blog post…The Great Ocean Road

  3. A terrific list of realistic approaches to minimising the potential stress that catering for house guests can create.

    I wouldn’t go to far wrong if I applied these tips to everyday life. :)

  4. Great post! Some other things I try to remember to do for overnight guests:

    Clear out a little closet space for them plus extra hangers.

    Leave a night light on in the bathroom so if they have to get up in the night they won’t be lost in total darkness!

    One Mom’s last blog post…Renovations and Potty Training

  5. OMG this is fabulous. #3 is so great. Nothing worse than having to ask “Can I get some TP PLEASE?”.

    The only thing that I would add is: Let your guests know your itinerary, but respect theirs. With kids, we ALWAYS have somewhere we need to be – this gives your guest the ease of knowing where you are if they wake up and you are gone. Also I give them a meal itinerary for any meals they may be home for. We run into this a lot – when my husband’s family comes to town – the headcount is around 15-17. We can cook a meal or 2, but anything more than that – it drains the bank account.

    Great post!

    Bargain Mama’s last blog post…Half Marathon Time – Tips I’ve Learned

  6. Thank you so much for writing this. I recently moved out of state and for the first time, I am away from all of my family and friends. This means that for the first time I am learning overnight hospitality. It is fine with the family, but I’ve been intimidated to have outside of the family guests. My husband is a pastor, and for whatever reason, we seem to have opportunities more than before to host strangers (pastors, etc.) This is really helpful. I am having a pastor stay here in two weeks and hope to use your helpful hints. I’ll come back and let you know how it goes.

    Laurie’s last blog post…It’s that time of year…

  7. We haven’t had the opportunity to host overnight guests yet, but we do have almost someone new at our dinner table every night. I am working on worrying less about everything being perfect and just savoring the time that we have together.

    I love your list!

    Amy’s last blog post…A Good Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp

  8. What a great list … it all seems so obvious as you read it, but I can say that I rarely put those things into practice. Thank you!

    Naomi in Ohio’s last blog post…One last warm day? Please?

  9. Great list! I am going definitely bookmarking this for later!

    These all make sense but as someone above said do not always get implemented. A few things we try to do – we keep a small basket on the back on the toilet that holds three rolls of TP so no one has to tear apart the bathroom looking for it, and I keep a box with extra feminine products for our female overnight guests.

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins’s last blog post…Weekend Reflection: Can You Hug Your Child Everyday? Not Everyone Is So Lucky.

  10. This is fabulous. Just reading it made me feel happy!

    Nikki’s last blog post…It’s Fall, Y’all!

  11. Great List! My Mom is arriving on the 15th to stay for 2 weeks. These are some great tips. In the past I’ve had the kids make a welcome sign for her.

    Another tip: if you can provide them with a small tv. It’s nice for them to have some private time too.

    Dana’s last blog post…Great Posts of the Week

  12. These are great overnight guest tips. We, too, have LOTS of guests, though usually not overnight. I think people who come over regularly like to see a little imperfection so I don’t stress about the house being immaculate. I always have a bin of plastic cups (sippy and otherwise) handy for any visiting kids, kept in a low drawer where they can get their own.

    Linn’s last blog post…Home Sweet Home.

  13. I love these tips, especially the one about having coffee available. I’ll add one: make an open space on the side table by the bed or somewhere for them to set their personal things.

    Rachel’s last blog post…Trading Down to a Smaller Home

  14. great tips – we don’t have a lot of overnight visitors at this point, but that makes me all the more “rusty” when we do…thanks!

    jodi’s last blog post…Baby News & Walker’s 2nd Checkup

  15. I LOVE having company at this point in my life. In fact, I think I wouldn’t mind living in a COMMUNE or some weird, hippy thing like that. It would be constant entertainment for my kids.

    Angie (from over at http://www.HalfAssedKitchen.com)

    Half Assed Kitchen’s last blog post…Retro Flank Steak

  16. I love having people over, but have only recently moved to a house where that is possible. This weekend I had three children and one adult stay. It was a laugh. Love your tips.

    Yvonne’s last blog post…Organizing and home alone

  17. Your house sounds like a wonderful place to stay! When I was a kid, I would stay over at friends’ houses all the time. I loved it when a family really took the time to make my stay pleasant and comforting. Other families would not put in the least bit of effort, and it was fine, but it would have been nice.

    I don’t have many house guests these days, but I will definitely keep this tips in mind the next time I do. Thanks!

    - Jack Rugile
    Simple Sapien

    Simple Sapien’s last blog post…7 Reasons To Turn Off Your TV

  18. Thanks for this post! We have loads of company, and with only having 2 bedrooms, it’s a challenge to stay sane through it all. I do usually stock up on the travel-sized toiletries, but I would love to take it a step further like my mother-in-law does, with a chocolate on each pillow.

    It’s a lot of work having company but we’re almost always glad we did!

    Mikki Roo’s last blog post…on thunder and the trinity

  19. Great ideas! I find that guest also have kids are the easiest to entertain. If the kids are all having fun the grown-ups are happy. We like to bring out some special games and toys when we have kid guests, then they entertain themselves while the parents can chat and relax. This often leads to impromptu puppet shows and the like.

  20. I love how you balance making people feel special with making them feel comfortable. A timely reminder that everything doesn’t have to be perfect!

    Amy @ My Daily Dollars’s last blog post…Monday Morning Links: The Tomato Edition

  21. Having been both guest and hostess many times, one other thing I would add to your list is to allow guests space, as well. Many people (myself included) need a few minutes to rest or collect their thoughts alone (especially if they aren’t accustomed to the activity of young children in the house), but don’t want to be rude. We always communicate clearly that friends and relatives are welcome to take a nap or whatever downtime they need in a quiet part of the house.

    (And yes, I love having company as well).

    Stephanie’s last blog post…what i learned today

  22. Second comment. I forgot to actually add a thought other than how happy this post made me.

    Two basic things that I overlooked when we recently had guests. (1) Fixing broken things like the lock on the kid’s/guest’s bathroom door. So rude of me not to think about how a guest would feel to have to wonder if some kid was about to walk in on them! (2) Having playing cards, games, or some other kind of group activity ice breaker. Even with family, some people just get comfy faster when they aren’t actually thinking about conversation.

    Nikki’s last blog post…The Mike

  23. what, so when you invite friends to stay in your house you’re basically opening up as a hotel??????

    • The whole “bed and breakfast” is tongue and cheek. No, we’re not literally a hotel – but if our friends need a place to stay, or even friends of our friends need a place, we want them to feel like there’ always a bed with their name on it. That’s what they mean by “b & b.”

  24. This couldn’t have come at a better time! We are just making plans for holiday house guests.

    Allie’s last blog post…Jump Start to Green Giveaway!

  25. I really love this post. We live out of town so while we don’t have guests as often as we’d like, most times they will need to stay over. I’m bookmarking this!

  26. Love this reminder to ENJOY my guests. We have them pretty frequently since none of our family lives in town. And actually, we have an in-town friend staying the night tomorrow… It definitely makes for more work, but being hospitable and enjoying the company of friends and family is always more important than the amount of work involved.

  27. I miss having house guests! I have a three-month old and the last time we had family in town they stayed in a motel. We used to have guests all the time, but now the guest room is a nursery. I would love to do these things again…but life is sweet now in other ways.

  28. Great ideas! Simple details that make all the difference…I love it. Lately I’ve been thinking about hospitality in general, and I’ve realized that I need to do two things to make hospitality a more natural part of my family’s life: I need to lower my standards a bit when it comes to preparing my home for guests, and I need to raise the standard a bit when it comes to keeping my home for my family.

    Holly’s last blog post…Miscellany from daily life

  29. Thank you for this timely post…this week we’re preparing for family to come visit this weekend. They’ve never been to our home, so I’m trying to make everything “perfect”. Thanks for the reminder that being together is the perfect part…not our surroundings!

    Kristyn’s last blog post…project updates

  30. avatar
    Cornélie says:

    We live in a small apartment and when we are having guests our son needs to give his bedroom and sleep on the floor in the dining-room. Ours two girls share a bedroom. We also only have one bathroom. It is not easy, and sometimes I fell that it is far from the way I want to recieve my family or friends. … At least, they eat very good french food! :-)

  31. I visit your site often, but I’m not sure if I have ever commented. Love this post. We have a steady stream of guests who stay in the not-so-nice basement. Just yesterday a guest (my mom, but still) wanted tea… and we are all coffee around here.

    I’m adding you to my blog list.

    Jennifer’s last blog post…School Pictures

  32. Great list, and excellent suggestions. I wish I could host guest more often!

    One of my favorite tips is to put together a small “how-to” manual for your electronics. Especially if the room they will be staying in has, say, a TV- cabel box- Tivo- etc. It can be a bit overwhelming if your guets are standing there with three remotes and they just want to watch a little TV before bed.

    Maybe get a little flip book with the how -to’s. Even photo copy your manual covers which usually have a pic of the remote.

    Tori’s last blog post…Pumpkin not just for pie!

  33. I just stumbled upon (StumbleUpon, that is) this post tonight and it couldn’t be more timely! I wrote my own post last week about preparing for houseguests and it’s really interesting to read your tips. I especially love #9 and #10, as they are aspects of hosting guests that are really important, but I didn’t think of them until now. I focused more on going through a ‘checklist’ to make sure you meet all your guests’ needs, but I see how it’s important to meet your own needs too! Great post.

    Sarah H.’s last blog post…Bring on the bell peppers!

  34. This is so nice … I really want to be a better hostess. Thank you for the tips.

    Maria — WriterGig´s last blog post…Get Organized, Moms!

  35. Honestly, my husband and I cannot stand having house guests. What we can’t stand more than anything are family members who think our house is their house. We’re at the point now that we constantly say “no” because it’s such an imposition. Will someone please tell me what the appeal is?

    • We too hate overnight guests, you get to a point when you.just don’t sleep on couches. I even tried to give my parents a schedule of a.day with my 2 & 5 year old. They laughed in my face. Small house, 2 young kids WHY?

  36. avatar
    Tomterrific says:

    BIG must have from a guys perspective- a power strip to plug in all of those gadgets that travelers need to charge! Make sure it is easily accessible and not buried under a bed or behind a desk.
    T

  37. avatar
    Thoughtful Host says:

    Love your posts. Sadly, we have been the hosts and not the guests over the years, including the fresh flowers and chocolates, …..but we are taking a step back because our home became the resort, get away and kids tearing apart our home, no one helping when I had surgery and simple thank yous or not understanding that life happens when you are in someone’s home no matter how much love, effort and preparation and money goes into making lovely and welcoming, it is often a feeling of being taken advantage of..Time will come again and I will review this awesome list..I love to entertain, to create a welcoming experience but some people really do not have any training in being a guest.

  38. good stuff!

  39. Great list.

    I love a pitcher and glass with cold water by the bed. That way, the guest doesn’t have to get up and rummage around in an unfamiliar kitchen for a drink in the middle of the night.
    Alicia´s latest post: FALL COLORS ARRIVE AND I ALMOST MISSED IT

  40. We love to have guests (and typically have them frequently), but the house we’re currently living in doesn’t offer much space. 3 bedrooms for the 7 of us. I always question where to put our guests…too awkward if we give them our room, but our kids all have bunk beds, so guests end up on the couch or floor. I would love to have a nice space for guests!

  41. Along with most of your other great ideas, and the suggested power strip, we also have a printed notecard that includes the our WiFi name and password for guests to use. In today’s socially connected world, it’s always nice to be able to post/blog/upload/email about the day’s activities instead of having that job waiting for you when you get home.

    Jennifer

  42. Since we’re in a different country from most of our family, they don’t come for the weekend – they come for 2 weeks or even more. This winter my in-laws are coming for a month. The only time I said no was leading up to a big event when I’d be cooking and cleaning intensively for literally 3 days before, I said they had to stay somewhere else and if they wanted to see the kids they could take them OUT for an activity or meal.

    But even the regular visits can be challenging. It throws our routine way off trying to accommodate their leisurely vacation schedule and sometimes simultaneously their hectic touring schedule (“can you please find me a tour of the Old City _this afternoon_?”).

    While I have tried very hard to be a flexible host, I am realizing I need to set more boundaries – like bedtime for the kids must be quiet time for adults too, decide the night before if you’re joining us for supper – and when we eat – or grabbing something while you’re out touring.

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  1. [...] Hosting Overnight Guests from Simple Mom [...]

  2. [...] it can be something you look forward to. Here are 10 ways you can help visitors feel more at home. Simple Mom Proud to be a pushy mother How Anna May Magan devoted a year to ruthlessly propelling her [...]

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