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Do you like the idea of having overnight guests but find yourself scrambling to get things in order before they arrive? I’ve found it’s easy as a hostess to focus so much of my energy on ensuring guests have a nice stay, that I forget it’s also important to reserve some energy for myself. No one wants to be a frazzled hostess, but sometimes the tasks required to prepare for guests can seem overwhelming.
I used to spend a lot of time fretting over whether or not guests would remember my home as sparkling and the meals as restaurant-worthy. (Pride issues? Yes.) A few years ago my best friend and her husband came to visit; it was the first time they were visiting me in my married home. I wanted everything to be perfect! But, I had to ask them to bring an air mattress because my only spare bed was a twin. The guest room in our first house was so tiny the air mattress nearly filled the entire room, leaving them only a few feet of room to put their things. I tried not to let it show on the outside, but on the inside I was cringing and feeling frustrated with what I felt my home lacked.
Then I messed up dinner. I was making a dish that involves boiling chicken, and I got so anxious during the boiling process that I gave up and declared we were ordering pizza. I’m pretty sure the dish would have been fine if I had just persevered. It worked out, though—my guests had been on a tight budget and viewed our pizza dinner as a welcome treat!
That experience helped me recognize what my stressors are when it comes to opening my home, and it also helped me realize perfection is an unrealistic thing to strive for. Now, with nearly two-dozen overnight guests under my belt, I’m a much more relaxed host. Here are 4 guest prep methods I’ve adopted over the years.
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This is the most important kind of prep! Having a relaxed and happy state of mind is key to enjoying your guests. I find it helpful to get away for a little bit—whether that means drawing a bath before bed or taking the dog for a walk while my guests are checking their e-mail. This little time apart allows me to re-charge, and it gives my guests time to relax, too.
Of course, the best thing you can do to prepare internally for guests is pray. Ask God to give you peace and a joyful heart when doing chores and cooking. Ask Him to reveal areas of pride you need to surrender. Ask Him to give you a love and tenderness for your guests so that your home will be a refuge to those who need rest.
I like to make a list of chores that need to be done before guests arrive, then spread the tasks out over the two or three days leading up to their arrival. I start with getting fresh sheets on the bed and cleaning the guest bathroom, saving vacuuming and wiping down the kitchen counters for shortly before guests arrive.
If you don’t have time to do much cleaning, focus on giving guests a clean bathroom and clean sheets and towels. Last year I decided to designate a set of sheets and towels for guest use only. I’ve found the linens last longer and are easier to keep track of. (I now store guest linens in a bin under the spare bed.)
I’ve had many guests arrive early before I’ve gotten a chance to do the dishes or dust, and it would often make me feel flustered and down on myself. Thankfully, I have kind and wise friends who remind me they don’t expect me to have it all together all the time. Most likely your guest is someone who loves you and is simply happy to be invited into your home. Besides, lived-in homes are much more cozy than a house that looks like a permanent showroom, don’t you think?
Planning food for guests used to make my head spin, but over time it’s become my favorite guest-prep task! The key is to tell myself, stop trying to impress. Meals that are quick and simple to prepare make it easier for me to spend time with my guests instead of slaving away in the kitchen.
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I try to gauge how often my guests would like to eat out during their visit before I begin planning meals. (Consider that your guests may not be able to afford fancy restaurants, or maybe they eat out often and would prefer several home-cooked meals.) As a child I always loved when my mom would serve cheese and summer sausage with crackers for lunch, so that’s become my go-to lunch meal for guests. I often set out a few raw fruits and vegetables too, along with hummus or ranch dip. This buffet-style lunch is great because not only is it super easy, but it’s also comprised of items that I tend to keep on hand anyway.
I like to buy a “special” item from the store to enjoy with guests, whether I pick a flavored cheese spread, croissants or mini cannoli from the bakery. It’s nice for guests to be able to help themselves to snacks throughout their stay.
It’s also a good idea to ask your guests about any food allergies or aversions before their visit. I have two friends who don’t care for onions, which is helpful to know because I tend to put onions in everything!
Unless you’re opening up your home to someone who simply needs a place to crash, keep in mind your guests came to spend time with you. It’s fun to go sightseeing and shopping, but it’s also hard to do those things and have quality conversation at the same time. I normally take guests to our city’s downtown area to browse boutiques, walk along the canal and eat dinner, but sometimes we stay in our pajamas, play games and watch movies instead. If the town you live in doesn’t have much to do, consider doing something nature-related, going to the movies or bowling.
My “guest stress” has mostly diminished now that I have an arsenal of tricks to combat any feelings of worry that might try to sneak in. The practice of praying over my time with guests, spreading chores out and planning meals ahead of time has truly made a world of difference in making me a more calm and happy hostess.
The same couple who slept on the floor and witnessed my kitchen meltdown years ago spent the night at our new house just last night. This time around my friend and I tried a new recipe together (with frozen tamales in the freezer for back-up). I’m happy to say dinner turned out perfectly, and their stay went off without a hitch!
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.