People tend to experience a mix of emotions when it comes to hosting houseguests.
It’s good to be able to share your home with people you care about. It’s nice to be able to show off all the hard work you have done on the interior, and to receive people’s comments and feedback. It’s lovely to be able to sit together with friends and family, talking into the small hours without having to worry about closing time or organizing a designated driver. Those are all positive things.
On the other hand…
It’s difficult to cope with the feeling that your space is not yours anymore. It’s hard to have to tiptoe around your own home, especially if you get up earlier in the morning than your guests do. It can be exhausting having to cope with different requests for food, drinks, and sleeping arrangements. It can be stressful being responsible for the comfort of other people, especially when you care very much about their well-being.
So - bit of a mixed bag really!
Entertaining guests might have its stressful side, but for the most part, it can and should be enjoyable. To ensure things go as smoothly as possible the next time you play host, you just need to follow five simple rules…
Rule #1 - Bite Your Tongue
One of the toughest parts of hosting guests are those inevitable moments when it feels like tempers may flare. This can and does happen, especially if they are going to be staying with you for an extended period of time. As you’re all crowded into the same space, the lack of privacy and constant interaction can mean that eventually personalities begin to grate against one another.
However, arguments achieve nothing. It’s sometimes said that arguments allow you to vent frustrations so that you can return to an even keel, but this isn’t always the case. It’s a rather destructive way of venting frustration; it’s far healthier to just try and take some time apart so you can calm down.
As the host, it’s your responsibility - even moreso than the guests - to maintain a sense of peace and calm. So if they say or do something that annoys you, you’re going to have to bite your tongue. Take a minute to yourself in private and repeat the mantra to yourself that they will be gone soon and you’ll have your house back to yourself.
Is this easy? No - sometimes, it’s only when quasi-living with someone that you realize they have flaws and faults that have a propensity to drive you insane. However, you’ll just make life awkward for yourself if you allow yourself to snap - so learn to bend instead.
Rule #2 - Don’t Underestimate Comfort
The one thing guaranteed to put almost anyone in a bad mood is not having slept well. We’re all cranky when we’re tired or have spent the night tossing and turning, and your guests will be no different.
That’s why - for the sake of household harmony if nothing else - it’s worth making sure their sleeping arrangements are as comfortable as possible. If you’re short on space, you might find yourself rationalizing things you know - deep down - aren’t really okay. You will shrug and say the sofa will do for one night, or notice the guest pillows are a little deflated but, hey, it’s not like they’re going to be on them for long…
Shortcutting like this will inevitably lead to problems. It could lead to arguments as a result of sleep deprivation, but it could also just make you seem like a real bad hostess. So take some time to ensure you do the best with what you have available when it comes to where your guests will sleep.
That’s not to say that you immediately have to go out and spend a fortune on new furniture, or build an extension to hold a luxury guest room! Realistically, you should just ensure what you have available is as nice as can be. Are your guests going to have to spend the night on the couch? Fine - needs must and all, but make their stay better by providing Egyptian sheets and fluffy pillows to help soothe the inconvenience. Or, if the mattress on the guest bed is looking a little worse for wear, you could invest in a mattress topper that can provide a bit more support. These are simple fixes that won’t cost you a fortune, but could make everyone feel a lot happier.
Rule #3 - Be Specific On Food
When shopping for food for people you don’t usually buy for, you can find yourself whirling in circles as you try to cover everyone’s different likes and dislikes. As well as being irritating, this can also be very expensive.
That’s why it makes sense for everyone to agree to a planned menu (or at least that you’re going to go out for meals) prior to their trip. This is easily enough co-ordinated with a few emails. Be sure that you ask if anyone has any dietary restrictions; these are things you have to avoid for the sake of your guests’ health. Then you can ask for preferences or just an idea of things they don’t like.
It’s always worth having a couple of frozen pizzas in the freezer, just in case something you come up with is not to someone’s taste. Of course, you want your guests to feel welcome, but that doesn’t mean you have to slave over a personal a la carté menu every single evening. There has to be a limit, so working off a set plan - with a few back-ups in case someone objects - is by far the best way of managing everything.
Rule #4 - Set A “Wake Up” Time
As alluded to earlier, one of the most difficult things about having guests is that you feel like your house is no longer your own. If you’re struggling with insomnia, you don’t feel you quite have the freedom to go and watch TV for a half hour the way you usually would, because you don’t want to disturb your guests. That’s reasonable; that’s being a good, considerate host.
However, if you get up early in the morning to prepare for the day, then you shouldn’t feel the need to tiptoe around. That’s why it makes sense to always agree a specific “wake up” time with everyone, after which the noise in the house can proceed as it normally would. This is especially true if you’re going to be going out to work while hosting guests; you can’t compromise your ability to be on time just to allow them to have a lie in.
Agreeing this beforehand is a sensible idea even if you’re not working while they stay. You don’t want to find you (or them!) lingering around of a morning, wondering when the other party is going to get up and start the day. An agreed time means that you avoid all these potential issues, so it’s well worth taking the time to do it.
Rule #5 - No Go Zones
While to an extent hosting guests is all about opening up your home to share with others, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon all pretense of privacy for the duration of their stay. We all have areas of our house we’d rather not share - our bedroom for one - and that’s why it’s worth establishing “no go” areas.
While it might work fine on paper, doing this can be a little bit tricky. For one thing, in a way, it presumes that your guests are going to try and nosy through your house, poking into every room. That’s how they will feel when you ward them off a specific area; it could immediately make them mutter “I wasn’t going to do that anyway” - and then everything is just awkward.
So how do you balance the need for “no go” zones without actually having to have a conversation about them? Locks.
Unless you live in a mansion with a thousand bedrooms, installed locks on the rooms you don’t want to be ventured into by guests is the easiest way to manage this issue. For one thing, they’re not going to know that you installed the locks specifically for their visit. They might just assume that the doors have always been like that.
Secondly, it’s relatively inexpensive to do. With the locks installed, you have clear boundaries of where it is and isn’t okay for guests to venture in your home. This should make you feel more relaxed, and you don’t have to deal with the awkwardness of the conversation.