Hosting a houseguest may be an inconvenience. It may be stressful. Or it may be a great way to reconnect with an old friend. However you feel about hosting, it is important to communicate to your guest that she is welcome and to do your best to make her feel comfortable.
Clean linens. This should go without saying, but your guest should have clean towels (bath towel, hand towel, and washcloth) and sheets at her disposal, no matter how long the stay. Even if your guest is sleeping on a couch, a fitted sheet should be tucked around the cushions and a flat sheet placed under the blankets. To go the extra mile, spray lavender linen water on sheets when making the bed.
Pillow mints. Or chocolates or caramels or candy canes or a lavender sachet or tea. A small token placed on the pillow or next to the towels shows your guest that she is not an inconvenience or an afterthought. It is also a pleasant treat after a day of traveling or exploring a city. To go the extra mile, write a small note expressing how happy you are to see her, and what a pleasure it is to have her in your home.
Extra toothbrushes. It should be common sense to have a few extras lying around in case of forgetful guests. Other small toiletries like combs, dental floss, toothpaste, and soap are also welcome additions.
Food. Your guest will almost assuredly be hungry when she arrives. Have leftovers that can be reheated or some healthy snacks available. Make sure your guest feels welcome to eat from your refrigerator and pantry. Keep portable snacks in your pantry so she can take food when trekking around the city. Particularly on her first morning at your home, make breakfast. Nothing feels better than waking up to the smell of pancakes with strawberries and fresh coffee.
Be sensitive to her plans. Your guest probably already has plans to see the area. If those include spending time with you, do your best to fit that into your schedule. If some activities do not involve you, do not be hurt. It is unlikely that your guest will want to go out as soon as she arrives (particularly if she has had a long travel time). Do not push her.
Show off your city. (Or your parks, your farm, or your commune) Recommend local attractions and cuisine. Do not sit on your couch and watch television while eating food from McDonald’s. Eat at the new Thai restaurant down the street and get cocktails at your favorite bar downtown. Go to the famous art museum or paddleboating or to the farmer’s market. Find things to do that she cannot do elsewhere.
Lavender is calming, cooling, and smells just like purple should smell. Isn’t that what you want to fall asleep to?
Linen water is a lightly scented mixture that can be added to a rinse cycle while washing, sprayed on just before ironing, or used to freshen up bed sheets, pillows, or clothes. It is designed to give a subtle perfume (no choking on overpowering scents here) and is traditionally used with a lavender oil on bedsheets to aid in relaxation. To make your own, you will need:
- 20-30 drops lavender essential oil (suit to taste)
- 3 tbsp. vodka (any inexpensive brand will do)
- 2 c. distilled water
Vodka acts as an emulsifier to keep the lavender oil and water mixed. It is important to use distilled or well-filtered water to avoid any mold growing in the bottle. Mix the vodka and essential oil together, then add water and pour into a spray bottle. You can use any essential oil or mixture of oils you like. Rosemary and thyme blend well with lavender, and a lemon rind would add a beautiful accent to a bottle of lemon spray given as a gift.
You left work late. Your nap lasted longer than you had planned. Your errands went long. Running late is not usually too much of a trouble, but when you are expecting guests at your home and do not have time to do a thorough cleaning, it gets more serious. Here are the three most important areas to prioritize, as well as some recommendations for setting the right mood for your company.
First: the living room and dining room
Fold and put away blankets and straighten any pillows. Clear any clutter off of the coffee table and dining room table. Larger pieces of furniture should be kept clean and tidy since they draw the eye immediately. Stack any books or movies that have wandered away from their shelves. If it cannot go on the shelf, at least make it look intentional. Since you will likely spend the most time in one of these two rooms, make sure they feel welcoming.
Second: the bathroom
The bathroom is easily forgotten, but oh so important. A dirty bathroom can ruin an otherwise spotless impression. Make sure your counter and sink are free of hair, soap residue, and water splashes. Pour a cup of baking soda and half of a cup of white vinegar into your toilet bowl to remove those stains like magic. Close your shower curtain. Take your trash bag out to the kitchen (we’ll return to it in a moment). Make sure there are a few rolls of toilet paper and a fresh liner for the trash Do a quick sweep if there is a lot of hair lying on the floor.
Third: the kitchen
If you wash your dishes by hand, organize the dirty dishes. Stack plates, bowls, and cups together in the sink or next to it. Wipe down counters. Put away clean dishes. Take kitchen and bathroom trashes out and put a fresh liner in the can. Do a quick smell test of your refrigerator. If something smells particularly bad, find it and take it out with the trash.
Do not worry about tidying the bedroom or office. Unless it is an intimate acquaintance, it is unlikely that you will spend time in either room.
Do not overly apologize for the messiness or make remarks like, “I’m sorry, I did not have any time to clean before you arrived.” This gives the impression that your guest should not have come at that time, as well as forces them to politely and untruthfully declare, “Oh no, your apartment looks wonderful!”
Do not continue to clean up once your guest has arrived. This puts them in an uncomfortable position, and they have already seen the mess you are trying to hide. Do your guest the honor of paying attention to them.
Do start some background music. Jazz classics like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday set the mood for a grown-up evening in. Acoustic music from Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne, and Iron & Wine are a perfect backdrop for conversation and a meal.
Do light some candles. They give a softer feel than lamps or overhead lights and freshen the air.