Organizing for Houseguests

Welcoming Houseguests

Having friends and family come for the holidays can be a great source of joy. It can also be a busy time, when the “to do” list is long. If you are expecting company, keep these tips in mind to ensure a smooth visit:

Communicate Pre-Arrival

Many uncomfortable moments can be avoided by touching base on a few key topics before the guests arrive. Consider a phone call or email in advance to confirm:

  • Itinerary/Agenda for the visit (e.g. activities you have planned, does the guest have any particular things he/she would like to do?)
  • Clothing needs (e.g. formal attire required at the club? Be sure to bring walking shoes?)
  • Dietary preferences (e.g. allergies/intolerances, coffee/tea/decaf?, vegetarian?, special needs for children?)
  • Travel plans (e.g. arrival & departure times, airport pick-up needed?)
Ready A Space

Whether it is a room or part of room, prepare a space where guests can keep their belongings and sleep. Remember to provide:

–       A location for hanging clothes (either a closet or hooks, and a few extra hangers)
–       A location for storing luggage (a rack, trunk, chair or corner)
–       A bed/air mattress for sleeping, along with all the necessary bedding
–       A designated bathroom to use, along with towels (remember extra toilet paper)
–       An extra book or two for light reading
–       A box of tissues
–       A bottle or two of water
–       A clock
–       A welcoming touch (e.g. fresh flowers on the end table)

Think “Extras”

It is very easy when traveling to accidentally leave items behind. By having extra items on hand, you can ease stress and embarrassment.  To make guests comfortable, have available:


  • toothbrushes & toothpaste
  • disposable razors & shaving cream
  • shampoo & conditioner
  • soap
  • body lotion
  • comb/hairbrush


  • Tylenol/Advil
  • Extra pillows & blankets
  • Extra phone charger (if you have one)
  • Extra hair dryer (if you have one)
  • Night light
Convey Details

Guests often feel awkward asking for things, so make asking unnecessary.  Here are some details to clear up at the beginning of the visit:

–       Which bathroom and bedroom/sleeping quarters to use.

–       Where the towels are, and where guests can hang them to dry.

–       When guests need to be ready to leave the house for planned activities

–       What time meals will be served

–       Where to adjust the thermostat (and/or how to open the windows)

–       How to make coffee should guests rise before you do

–       Where to find all of the “extra” supplies you have collected

–       Where to sit at mealtime

–       Where to find glasses/mugs/etc.

–       Where to park the car

Having guests come to stay can be a source of great joy. A little planning can make the time as special and stress-free as possible. What is your best tip for ensuring a smooth visit?

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19 thoughts on “Organizing for Houseguests”

  1. It’s funny how many dietary restrictions there seem to be these days. Or maybe it was always that way! I make it a point always to find out restrictions, and mainly, to find out what they really love to eat – especially when kids are involved.
    I still love to leave a magazine and a chocolate on the pillows! I’m so old school. I used to be an Innkeeper and I think my organizational habits have stayed the same.

    1. I love the chocolate and magazine on the pillow- so loving! I am very much like you — I love to stock up on anything I know guests like to eat. I want them to enjoy being with us, so why not?

    1. No worries! Why not put a basket of supplies for your guests where they sleep, and put some hooks on the back of the door for towels. It isn’t about having the perfect guest suite — just about having the needed supplies handy!

  2. Really great ideas here! I think it’s important to prepare the members of the household as well. My family (especially when the kids were younger) needed instruction/reminders about manners, not hogging the bathroom, keeping things picked up, staying quiet in the morning and late evenings, compromising on television viewing, etc. I also found it helpful to be on the same page about things that are important to the visitors — updates and happenings for them — so we all knew what to engage them in conversation about.

    1. Terrific suggestions, Kerith! Getting the whole family prepared for the arrival of guests is critical, especially for children. And “prepping” everyone on current events in the lives of your guests ahead of time not only facilitates great conversation, but also helps avoid a faux pas:)

  3. This really sums it all up. You’ve added things that I really did not even think about! But you are right, which bathroom to use, where people will stay, all of that is important to establish. I guess I’ve only been apart of entertaining more familiar guests. This is definitely something I will be able to use at some point in the future, because me and hubby would love to do more entertaining at some point.

    1. I agree, Brittnei, that the larger the crowd, the more important it is to outline the details:) Sounds like you have some great entertaining ahead of you – enjoy!!

  4. I do love your list Seana! You’ve covered every detail imaginable! Yes, it is so important to have a plan, to lessen stress and confusion. This holiday season will be one of the best, as the house we just moved into has the guest bedroom and bathroom downstairs away from the rest of us. That way, our guest can be free to go about as they please. Thanks for sharing my friend…may you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    1. Having a guest bedroom & bathroom is a wonderful luxury indeed! Enjoy that new house:) Sending you back wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving, Michell.

  5. These are great tips and so full of important information. From hosting guests to being a guest, every tip you’ve offered is valuable. Let’s make the holidays a little less stressful by communicating with our hosts and guests. Have a blessed day.

  6. Love having guests over. What a great list you’ve put together to pre-think their arrival. A few more additions. If there is something that we know a particular guest likes (food or otherwise) I like to have it in the house. For example, my brother loves After 8’s. My brother-in-law loves half ‘n half with his coffee. The other addition to the list is flexibility. Routines will be altered with more people in your home. Being flexible goes a long way in making the visit joy-filled rather than stress-filled.

    Wishing you the best for a lovely holiday season with happy guests and all.

    1. Ah yes, Linda… it is the wonderful hostess indeed who “stocks up” on a few guest favorites. Such a good addition. And yes, when the routine is upset, being willing to “flex” a bit is definitely in order. The goal is to enjoy the company, not rigidly maintain your normal routine, right? Sending you wishes back for a wonderful holiday!

    1. So great to always have some sunscreen on hand because that can be difficult to bring if you are flying (no liquids larger than 3oz.!) I always have nasal spray… and plenty of that and Advil on hand for guests:)

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