Fact: If you wait to invite people over until your house is perfectly spotless and everything is exactly as you would like it, you will live a very lonely life. Having guests, in spite of our flaws and those of the spaces we live in, is worth it. It gives texture to our lives and creates intimacy and immediacy in our relationships.
Plus, your guests aren't perfect either. They too pile up their magazines, or have a collection of shoes by the door. They too could spend more time doing any number of tasks to make their own homes cleaner or more beautiful.
But while there's lots to be said for down-to-earth hospitality, the kind where we give ourselves permission to not try and portray some perfect version of ourselves, having houseguests does call for a little effort. Some hospitality is expected to give your guests a warm and inviting impression of the space where we live.
Here is your four-step game plan.
1. Make space for your guests.
Making space for guests means offering them a place for themselves and their things while they're in your home. This is important even if you live in a tiny apartment and having houseguests means putting a pillow on the couch or blowing up an air mattress.
Often the way to do this is by dealing with your own clutter — i.e., putting things away or stowing them, even temporarily. It's also a thoughtful move to make room in the fridge for their road snacks, and make up a place for them to lie down or enjoy some privacy after arriving.
2. Do a quick, but thorough clean.
You don't have to exhaust yourself scrubbing every nook and cranny, but you do have to make sure that your guests aren't arriving to disarray that could be off-putting. You don't want, for example, guests arriving to a sink full of dishes, or a dining table covered in projects or papers.
In the kitchen, wipe down counters and appliances, do the dishes, and sweep the floor. Don't worry about dusting every surface, but sweep or vacuum the rest of your living space as well. Make sure the space where your guests will be sleeping has fresh sheets, pillows, and blankets. Above all, make sure that the bathroom is clean and that you have fresh towels ready for weary travelers to freshen up.
3. Prep for preferences.
As a guest to a restaurant or a fancy hotel, the richness of the experience comes from the offering of accommodations for desires, allergies, or aversions. Take that same approach to stocking your fridge for houseguests and they will be praising your efforts for years.
What does that look like? Ask about their needs if you don't already know them and take them into consideration. If you're hosting morning people and you're a night owl, pick up yogurt, granola, and fruit or other easy breakfast options to which they can help themselves. If your guests are coffee drinkers and you're not, procure the basics, even if it's as simple as a plastic pour-over setup, some paper filters, a bag of pre-ground coffee, and a little milk.
If you ask and they insist, no, no, they don't need a thing, it's still nice to set out some snacks like granola bars, nuts, or fruit that they can eat out of hand — especially if they're dealing with jet lag.
4. Give a quick tour.
Once your guests arrive and they've gotten comfortable, show them around. Point out peccadilloes of your space to which you've become accustomed, so they're not caught off-guard. Show them where they can find the basics in your kitchen: pots/pans, a tea kettle, cooking oil, salt and pepper, a spatula, flatware, plates, cups, mugs, and water. Show them where coffee and tea supplies are. Point out snacks or food to which they can help themselves.
A 10-minute tour will prevent them from feeling as though they have to ask for every little thing, and it will prevent you, the host, from feeling as though you have to do everything for them. More than anything, this kind of balance between guests and host will set you up for a very happy visit.
How do you prepare for houseguests?