Darling, is there anything, anything on Earth nicer than a well-appointed guest room? A dear friend is coming to visit and this whole week has been a flurry of joys. I have 4 kinds of tea, filter coffee, a heap of capsule coffees and instant coffee. Milk, coconut milk and 3 kinds of sugar. Yoghurt, granola, eggs, 5 kinds of cheese, bread, 4 kinds of crackers, a secret stash of Reese’s cereal and 5 kinds of chips. And that’s just the kitchen.
The guest bedroom has clean sheets, 3 pillows, a stack of blankets in the closest, plus hangers and the whole top of one long bookcase is empty, ready for her to put her things on. And, of course, a small basket with hand sanitizer, hand cream, snack bars, wrapped chocolates, freshener wipes and fruit roll-ups. Plus Kleenex boxes, and AC and fan that she can control, night lights, eye mask and alarm clock.
You want guests to be happy so make sure whatever they need is at hand. There are few things worse than waking up at 3am in someone’s house; being too hot, too cold, too hungry to sleep and not knowing how to help yourself.
When you are in the same time-zone and country, one needed go quite so overboard, although of course you should. Streamers, their favorite kind of pie, fresh flowers, reading on the front porch when they drive up… make guests feel welcome. Make guests feel that their visit is a joyous occasion or… why on Earth did you invite them? And this is not about money or time – it’s about creating a sense of comfort. It’s hauling out whatever you store in your guest room and putting it on the floor of your bedroom so your guest has some closet space and a place to set her things.
[Guests who invite themselves are a different issue – then you need to ask yourself if you should allow it and set rules as needed, with extra leniency for the under 25s and those in need. Clueless nephews who never thank you for Christmas presents who are in town for a job interview must be given every possible assistance, including buying them a new tie and proof-reading their CV. An old friend’s sister who is taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to your area and would like a bed for the night must be treated with the utmost care and concern. Snarky in-laws should be told that you are in the middle of a huge renovation and are unable to play hostess. When they show up and the house looks fine, say that the carpenters rescheduled at the last minute because of the bed-bug infestation, scratch yourself a lot and announce that you are pretty darn sure the bed-bugs have not infiltrated the living room.]
A dear friend whose name I shall never disclose had the most delightful way of dealing with out-of-town in-laws whose behavior was appalling in ways I can’t discuss it in polite company. She, such a hero!, had a special shelf just for her husband’s relatives – it was packages of coffee and tea which looked perfectly normal but were all decaf. Yes, hours of finding decaf Earl Grey tea and switching the tea bag labels paid off in spades as the evil in-laws were all mysteriously so tired and had such headaches, which she would treat with “aspirins” that were actually sleeping pills. She was such a champ – if they were out in a group, she would always go to buy the drinks (decaf espressos!) and at restaurants, she would go to the bathroom as soon as they were seated and slip the wait-staff huge tips to serve decaf. She planned all the meals around the latest research on which food made you fall asleep. After years of visits in which her father-in-law and mother-in-law were felled by mysterious headaches and illnesses which made them sleep all day, eventually they tried staying in a hotel, felt wonderful and never visited her house again. Victory.
If You Want to be a Host, You Must Also be a Guest
Coping with House Guests who are Oddly Unlike You
Surviving a visit to a UK, American, Arabian or Australian home