Being a good host doesn’t come naturally.  It is a result of planning, thoughtfulness, and a clear assessment of your guests needs.  Hosting is complicated by part-time or shared guest quarters, special guest needs, and lack of preparation.  Too often we like to think that having a futon in our junk room means we are ready for guests.  You don’t want to have a guest arrive and then discover that you don’t have sheets that fit the bed or an extra clean bed pillow.

Guests, while welcome, are also stressful.  An extra person in a household changes everything, including the daily routine.  A guest will get up at different hours, require foods you may not stock, want to engage in activities you aren’t used to and demand, either subtly or directly, more of your attention.

The best place to start for preparing for guests is by becoming a guest in your own home. 


Pack an overnight bag as if you are going on a trip and then arrive at your front door, bag in hand.  Your experience as a guest probably starts at the curb. 

  • Did anyone offer to help you with your bag? 
  • How about the walkway and front porch? 
  • If you arrived at night could you see your way to the front door?  What else do you see? 
  • Pay attention to small details.  Is it hard to drag your bag on wheels to the house and into the house?  If it is hard for you, it will be equally hard on your guests.

Once Inside

When you are inside the front door:

  • Is there a welcoming place to take off your coat and shoes?
  • Are you immediately brought to your guest room to freshen up?

The Guest Room

  • Open that guest room door. Is the room inviting with the bed made?
  • If your guest room doubles as an office or play space, is it a mess?
  • Is there somewhere to place your bag and open it?
  • Is there a closet ready to hang your clothing?

Go through the steps you would take on arriving.  Take notes.  The guest’s bedroom and bathroom are critical to how welcome the guest will feel.  As a host you have to work hard to provide proper space and a welcoming environment to meet your guest’s needs.

If your guest room is a shared space it should not be a dumping ground.  Pay extra attention to your layout, colors, décor and space planning.  Limit your non-guest activity to one area that can be shut away in a matter of moments.  Keep the space clean.  Store all essential linens inside the room for the room.  Maintain an open closet with generous guest hangers and storage for shoes and folded items. 


Keep a new robe and slippers in the closet in case a guest forgets these items.  Maintain a small box or basket with new bathing and self care items including: toothbrushes, paste, shampoo, soaps, creams, nail treatments, sponges and wipes.  Include fresh or new towel sets if the bathroom is shared with children.

Include an area in your guest room for a two-cup coffee pot, a carafe of water and a small basket of treats.  This should be set up so that your guest has everything necessary to make coffee, tea or water in their own room.  Furnish the room with an alarm clock with large letters, a television set connected to cable and a radio.  The room should have a good comfortable chair, an end table and reading light.  If the room is cold, provide an extra heater.  Above all, everything should be clean.  The walls should be freshly painted.  The drapes should be in good condition and clean.  The floors should be stain free and very clean.  The room must feel like a welcome retreat and operate like a well-appointed room in a hotel.  The door must have a lock and children should be taught not to enter the room without knocking.

Think about bringing in fresh flowers, hot water bottles, and other treats.  Provide your guest with a schedule for the day showing the activities the family has already planned for the anticipated days of the guest’s stay.

House Rules

If you have special needs such as a quiet house after 11pm or no noises before 8am, list these on a sheet posted on the inside of the guest door.  Many guests like to know that the laundry should not be run after 9pm or their TV should be on volume 15 or less between certain hours.  Your guest wants to be a good guest as much as you want to do a good job as a host.  Remember to schedule away time for yourself without feeling guilty.


Good planning can make your time with friends and family more joyful and less like hard work!