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Overnight guests: making your home their home

If you’re like our family, you’ve already opened the calendar to start planning your summer schedule.

We’re a busy family of five, with one son graduating college, one heading to China to study for the summer term, a daughter heading to the mission field and enjoying her last summer before her senior high school year, and my husband and I traveling to Africa to fight bullying, we’re a typical American family. But we’re not going to say no to summertime guests and and hospitality.

We never want to be too busy for people, summer guests, dinner parties in our backyard, casual impromptu moments sitting with friends and enjoying a glass of wine.

We like to look at it as a team sport. We rally together to prepare and get the house ready for company! It takes work, effort, and willing hearts.

Why? Because community is not optional for our family. We are not called to do life on our own. People are important and we need each other. We’re called to encourage, give, share, provide warmth and love, and to feed people.

So, with guests coming to town this summer, how much meal planning do you do, versus casual “fend for yourself” meals? How do you keep everyone entertained for days at a time, with specific activities or suggestions? What about if your schedule really can’t accommodate what others want to do?

Hosting guests for an extended amount of time can be exhilarating, or draining, depending on the guests and what’s happening in your life. I like to keep the reason for hospitality in the front of my mind, and also keep simplicity right up there with it. To me, they must be married together, for both guests and hosts to benefit and enjoy the visit.

Here are six tips for keeping it simple with your summer guests.

Get the dates

Nail down the exact dates your guests are coming. Don’t be afraid to let them know you have something planned if you feel like they want to stay longer than you can handle. It’s okay to say, “These dates work for us.” Boundaries always help!

Plan the meals

Plan one special dinner party. Give it your all, put out your best, get the family involved. Make it special. After that, you can plan casual meals, or let your guests know they can always help themselves! If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll take YOU out for dinner one night?

Learn to say no

If you genuinely don’t believe you can handle a situation adequately, say no, but consider what you might be able to do instead. Example: I can’t host you in my home overnight, but I could invite you for a couple of meals out.

Learn to ask for help

Include your guests with jobs in the kitchen. Even if they don’t offer, ask them to fill the water glasses, or cut the bread, or set the table. Sometimes we’re offended when people don’t ask to help, but on the other hand, I think guests often don’t want to “step on the host’s toes.”

The schedule

Learn to go with the flow. Schedules may change, so it’s good to be flexible. If you are planning a special dinner one night, let your guests know the minute you confirm their dates, and then remind them again. A dinner party, or nice dinner, takes a lot of extra work and special attention. Have your favorite restaurants in mind, in case everyone decides to eat out one night.

Love and grace

Learn to focus on love and grace around the table. Get to know your company. An interaction both ways between families can be a gift and friendship that will last a lifetime–something that money cannot buy.

It’s easy to be so in-sync with busy lives and our surrounding cultural events, but having guests stay with us in our homes, and offering to make your home their home, is true hospitality at its finest.

How do you keep it simple with out-of-town guests?

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  1. se7en

    This is a great post, we have found that if we keep things simple and carry on as close to our normal routine as possible that our kids and our guests get on a whole lot better. Our over-nighters, are usually students who come and stay for a week or two over their vacation, or their residence closes and home is too far away to travel. These kind of guests are usually so very happy to find some family life away from home, and they very quickly just become another member of the gang.

    I have found it really helps to make our rules their rules. To just gently have our lifestyle in play and maybe mention that we leave our cell phones at the door, and the internet will be off for a couple of hours each day… sets a little family precedence and allows our kids to welcome guests without feeling like the guests, who are only slightly older than our teens, are getting a much better deal than they are. Often at first, they don’t like that they can’t be connected 24-7, but they will always leave saying thank you, they really enjoyed the down time.

  2. ann saylor

    Great ideas!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Lauren Hanson

    These are some great tips. I never really put a lot of thought in hosting a dinner for our guests. We just automatically eat out. But perhaps more in house meals might be nice. Especially when kids come along.

    With everyone being on the internet and craving that WiFi, I found a cute print out from Pinterist where you can write your internet password and put in a picture frame in your guest room, so your guests can easily connect to the WiFi on their phone or tablet. We also try to keep our guest bathroom stocked with everything they would need just in case they forget shampoo or a blow dryer, etc.

  4. Gina M.

    We treat our guests like family, and we tell them from the get go. They are welcome to help themselves to anything they need/want. I also like to provide some things in the guest room in case they may feel shy at first like, a pitcher of water, fresh towels, extra blankets, pillows, etc. thanks for the great tips!

  5. Sharon Holbrook

    This is SO appropriate because I have 7 houseguests coming this weekend. For whom, by the way, I am supposed to be making up beds right now! I usually make big batches of everything and never worry about making too much, because leftovers and extra muffins and huge fruit salads turn into snacks and next day lunches and whenever-you-want-nibbles. I like having a bounty for people to choose from – casually -so they can feel at home.

    Now, off to make those beds!

  6. Jenn

    I always have brochures for local spots my guests can take themselves to. If it’s another family with kids who are staying for several days, it can be nice to have some separate time for both families.
    I also take my guests to do things I know they can’t in their own area. For example friends and family from our home town no longer have a community pool. Here we have a fantastic pool that sports 2 water slides, a lazy river and a water jungle gym. They feel like they’ve gone to water park for half the price!

  7. Pamela List

    “Why? Because community is not optional for our family. We are not called to do life on our own.”

    This is the best sentence I have read all week. I really feel that moms sometimes take the brunt of all things guest related especially during the holidays.
    I am so going to re-work my TO DO list this year.


  8. Pamela List

    “Why? Because community is not optional for our family. We are not called to do life on our own.”

    This is the best sentence I have read all week. I really feel that moms sometimes take the brunt of all things guest related especially during the holidays.
    I am so going to re-work my TO DO list this year.


  9. Linda Sand

    I no longer have space to host but when I did I cooked and sliced a big turkey and made fruit salad before everyone arrived. That way anyone could eat anytime they needed to do so. A crock pot full of something and a veggie tray is also helpful to have on hand. My guests soon learned no one was going to wait on them so they quickly learned to help themselves.

    My other best tip is snap-closed clothespins with guests names written on them. They put these on their towels so they don’t have to remember what theirs looked like.

  10. Leslie

    We’ve had lots of company, sometimes 15 at a time for Christmas. I recommend putting towels on clothes hangers on the guests’ bedroom door. Also, we do crock pot meals, taco bar, and use lots of paper products. I don’t want to spend the week in the kitchen. Each couple/family is in charge of a dinner, which relieves the pressure. I also recommend paper towels in the bathroom and a regular wipedown of counters and handles with Clorox wipes….we tend to share germs.

  11. Elizabeth

    This was a good reminder. We have lots of guests for overnight and also for meals. Since we live 60 miles from town, when we have guests visit they usually stay with us. We keep a lot of meals casual but always have a lot for dinner because we live on a farm and usually we wear people out by the end if the day and they are hungry. I try to keep on hand lots of stuff to share with farm workers and guests. We just don’t run to town to pick something up when that means an hour trip one way!

  12. Emma Fowle

    We live in Cornwall in the UK, so friends and family are often coming down to stay (which is awesome because it’s a long way and it’s great to see old friends that we miss from back home!)

    I love big old meals round the table, impromptu BBQs and generally anything to do with food! This year I am concentrating on making the back garden a bit of a more exciting outdoor entertaining space. I’ll let you know how I get on!

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