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Preparing for Guests: 10 Tips

Tips for Hosting Guests

I love to create an environment that makes guests feel welcome, comfortable and helps them to enjoy the experience of being in our home. And by cleaning up, fluffing and nesting in preparation for guests, I love living in my home even more! It is a win win all around. I’m going through my house right now preparing for our holiday guests, it is fun for me!

Preparing for Guests: 10 Tips

If you host guests, or if you have BEEN a guest, you know how important it is to create a welcoming environment! I have had some awkward (or less than pleasant) experiences as a guest, so some of these tips I learned from actually being the guest!

1. Clean the front porch.

As I write this I notice we have tires on our front porch. In my opinion, THAT is a big NO. Yes, I do have tires on my porch. But if my guests were on their way over tonight, I’d move them!

Take away all unsightly objects and give your porch a good sweeping, as I clearly need to do. A tidy first impression will make guests look forward to their visit!

If your front door is dirty or your door handle is grungy (inside or out!) wipe it down! You don’t have to be PERFECT, but appliances and tires on your porch and a sticky door handle are just not welcoming. Ever.

2. Make the inside entry pleasant.

Pick up any personal items that are hanging out inside your door, like shoes and papers, so guests don’t feel cramped and in your personal space the minute they come in your door.

Make that first few feet of your home the transitional space from the outside world where guests can feel expected and welcomed into your home. If you have an entry table or shelf, add a candle to make the entry smell wonderful. You can find more inspiration on my 12 Tips for a Welcoming Entry post! Of course, always make sure your guests are not sensitive to scents before you use candles!

Burned out lightbulbs = gloomy!

3. Lighting.

If your guests are arriving at night, make sure you turn on all the outside lights! Inside, it is nice to keep overhead lights low (I love using dimmers!) and yet still glowing with the warm light of lamps. Change any light bulbs that are burned around your house. Avoid having dark corners or it will feel depressing!

Preparing for Guests: 10 Tips

Have wonderful smelling cleaning products!

4. The sniff test.

Did you know you can’t discern the true scent of your own home because you are used to it? That makes it tricky to know how your house really smells. But here are my best tips for making sure your house smells GOOD:

  • Clean your kitchen and bathrooms thoroughly, using great smelling cleaning supplies! I love Thieves Cleaner (it’s a concentrate so a little goes a LONG way).
  • Vacuum carpet and dust furniture — dirt stinks!
  • Take out the trash and clean litter boxes and animal cages. Again, those things stink even if YOU cannot smell them.
  • Wash everyone’s bedding.
  • Give animals a bath
  • Light a candle!

Preparing for Guests: 10 TipsMake a guest bath clean and pretty!

5. Prepare the Guest Bathroom.

Even if you do not have a designated guest bathroom, you need to prepare whatever bathroom your guests will use.

  • First step is to gather up all of your personal items. Leaving your hairbrush out and a big glob of toothpaste in the sink is not exactly welcoming to a guest. Take all clothing and used towels out of the room too!
  • Clean the bathroom spic and span but make sure it smells AMAZING —  not like a hospital. I always wipe things down with my Thieves Cleaner which smells natural and clean!
  • If guests will be spending the night, I like to stack big white fluffy towels right on the counter so guests know which towels to use. It is also nice to set out a small pack of extra toiletries such as toothpaste, new toothbrushes, shampoo and soap, so guests feel at home even if they forgot something important.
  • Extra toilet paper. Nothing is more awkward for a guest than running out of toilet paper, so I set out several rolls near the toilet. Guests feel awkward rummaging through your cabinets in hopes of finding extra rolls, so putting them out in the open reassures them that you’ve thought of every awkward possibility.
  • Make the guest bath pretty and special! During the holidays it is fun to add a wreath or other touch of holiday decor! In the summer you can add a small bouquet of flowers.

Preparing for Guests: 10 Tips

6. Bed & Breakfast comfort.

If guests are spending the night at my home, I want my guests to feel like they are spending time at a Bed & Breakfast, even though my house is not big or luxurious and I don’t have a private guest wing.

  • Make sure you have fresh clean sheets, a couple of extra pillows and extra blankets.
  • Clean out the guest’s room so it is neat, tidy and welcoming.
  • Open the window a crack so there is fresh air in the room.
  • Set out a couple of current magazines or books they might enjoy reading before bed.
  • Give them privacy in the evenings and early mornings.

Preparing for Guests: 10 Tips

7. Communication is important.

Before guests arrive: I sit down with my young son to review some basic manners to make guests feel comfortable. We talk about things such as knocking on doors before entering, flushing toilets, and not complaining loudly about guests being in the bathroom. We try our best to have manners everyday, but we review before guests come! Learning how to be a good host is a good lesson for kids!

When guests arrive: I let them know where to find our powder room, or where their room will be and where to put their things so they can get settled.

I let guests know what to expect in the morning (things like: the bathroom is all yours in the morning, we’ll have breakfast at 9AM or I will put cereals and spoons and bowls out on the counter!)

I also let guests know if there are any plans for the days they are staying with us, so they know when they have free time or what to wear and when to be ready for events. I don’t want them caught off guard or feeling uncomfortably out of the loop!

Simple communication shows you care enough about your guests comfort to let them know what to expect.

Preparing for Guests: 10 Tips

8. Keep it simple but organized!

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that complicated plans never work out well for me when I have guests. I need to make sure everything from our meals to our entertainment plans are extremely simple and manageable. Once people arrive, all plans tend to go haywire and things suddenly feel more chaotic than I expect. I find I have trouble thinking and functioning with a house full of people so the more simple my plans, the better things go.

I keep a discreet list handy of our basic planned schedule (hold to this LIGHTLY!) which might include things like our meal plans so in the chaos I don’t forget to set out drinks, accidentally leave off an important part of the dinner or forget to start the oven at the right time. This helps me to RELAX! There is a fine line between being simply organized and overly obsessed, so I try to walk that line carefully and stay organized but flexible.

9. Focus on your guests!

The minute the guests arrive, things change from preparation mode to gracious hostess mode. That means no matter what happens, I want my guests to feel comfortable. Things will go wrong. My house won’t be perfect. My family might do something to embarrass me. We might have a food disaster. But I try my best to avoid talking about what is not perfect because that only makes everyone uncomfortable.

Most importantly, remember to LAUGH and have fun and not take yourself (or anything else) too seriously.

10. Creative conversation.

Above all, remember that it is the attention you show to your guests that matters more than the food, the house, or the plans. What are you going to talk about while your guests are around? I’ve found it helpful to think about topics in advance, rather than struggling to think of things to say beyond, “How is work going?” or “How is that hernia healing up?”  Some of us have more trouble than others being engaging and witty for more than 10 minutes. Give yourself and your guests a break by being prepared to keep the conversations interesting. It can help to brainstorm a few conversation starters to use while guests are in your home!

More from The Inspired Room:

Shop My House and Latest Decor Finds

My book Simple Gatherings! – Welcoming friends and family into your home doesn’t have to be intimidating.This book will help you turn any get-together into a special memory!

Tips for Preparing a Room for Overnight Guests

Preparing for Guests: 10 TipsWallpaper by Schumacher

Have you had an awkward guest experience in your home or in someone else’s home? Let’s share our funny or awkward “guest” stories in the comments!


  1. Shannon

    I just know a lot of people who should read this article. Such simple things to make people happy to be staying with you.

  2. bridget {bake at 350}

    Melissa….these are all great tips! And perfect post for this time of year.

    PS….LOVE Mrs. Meyer’s! Yesterday, I mopped my floor with their Lavender cleaner. :)

    • Melissa

      mmmm, Mrs. Meyers lavender smells soooo good!

      • Maritha

        I’ll have to take a sniff test of her lavendar…does it hold any resemblance to Tide’s vanilla lavendar (so sad they discontinued it!) by any chance?

  3. Christina

    This was great! I always have anxiety over how our apartment really smells now that we have a dog.

    Let’s see, while I was still living at home with my parents, we had a cousin stay over. She found a pair of boxers under the guest room bed which I think belonged to one of my male cousins that visited over a month before she came! Now, my mother checks under the bed in the guest room every time she prepares it for guests. :)

    • Melissa

      Good tip, lol!

  4. Estela

    Great post! I love all these tips! Making my guests feel at home is so important to me!

  5. Crystal

    Thanks for the tips. It’s always nice to get a reminder of things we should be doing. I’ll have to check out Mrs. Meyers cleaners. :)

  6. Jimi Ann

    The most important thing to me as a guest would be the privacy in the morning part (and at bedtime). I do not like guests that are loud in the morning! So I’ll be sure to not be loud in the morning when I am a guest. :)

  7. Spring

    The coupon printer won’t work for me… any ideas? I cant’ wait to try this stuff!

    • Melissa

      I’m not sure? I’ll see if I can find out?

  8. Mary Joy

    I love this! I have had some awkward experiences as a guest in someone’s home…sigh…not fun. They have dogs in their house…and I do love dogs…but these dogs don’t ask to go out at night…they do their “business” in the hall on the carpet right outside of the door of the guest room. And I didn’t know this…and stepped right in doggy “business” when I was walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

    It was horrible! I didn’t want to hurt their feelings so I cleaned up my feet and the floor and then let the dogs out so they could go to the bathroom there. LOL

    Not an experience I will soon forget!

    I love your suggestions!!!! What a wonderful time your guests must have at your wonderful welcoming home!


    Mary Joy

    • Melissa

      That is TERRIBLE! You poor thing, trying to be such a gracious guest!!

  9. carrie

    Love this list!

  10. Catherine

    What an excellent post! Too bad there is not a good way to anonymously forward this to someone… :-P My mom follows a lot of the things on this list when family comes to visit and they always are so impressed and can’t wait to come back… it really is all the little things that count!

  11. Eileen

    After the big plug, I went and bought some Mrs. Meyer’s. I bought the basil scented countertop spray. I don’t think it smells a bit like basil, but it does smell wonderful. However, and maybe it’s just me, but it just doesn’t feel “clean”. I feel like I just spritzed my counters with perfume—not all bad, just doesn’t feel washed. I guess I need to adjust my perception of what clean smells like!

    • Melissa

      Yes, I agree, it doesn’t smell like basil which is a relief because really, basil is a smell I want to eat and I wouldn’t want my home to smell like Italian food. Mrs. Meyers basil smells FRESH and I really love it!

  12. Laura

    If a house “smells” clean, I think it can “look” clean too…even if it isn’t perfect.

    My most awkward guest experience is when I went to visit the family of my roomate in college. They were very poor, and only had one semi working bathroom in their house. It happened to be in her parents bedroom. After her parents went to bed for the night they hung a paper plate outside their door with a frowny face indicating that the bathroom was closed for the night. Anyone who needed to use the facilities after they retired had to go out to the woods. My friend ended up begging her parents to let me come in and use their bathroom, but there was no door on the bathroom either. I think I may have been more comfortable going outside.

    • Melissa

      OH MY. NO words. That is so awkward!

  13. Barbara (WA)

    I have learned most of these tips over time but once I failed to put towels out for an older man who visited. The towels were under the sink in the cupboard but he couldn’t bend down far enough to see anything more than a hand towel – and that’s what he used to dry off after his shower. I felt so bad.

    As a guest, I have slept in a room that included the second bathroom and the only shower and had people coming in at the crack of dawn to bathe. Another time we slept on a hide-a-bed at a home but it was out in the open on the second floor landing, outside the bedrooms. My MIL, who was the earliest riser I’ve ever known, would be up and about and noisy ! To this day, I really prefer a hotel and privacy :o)

  14. Pat

    Great post and great timing.

    I think it is important to remember what you said– Focus on the guests. Going from prep mode to hostess mode.
    I tend to forget that- and am still prepping when I’d rather be visiting- and so would the guests.
    You can leave last minute preps (ie: dinner, dessert, setting the table, etc) for those moments when your guests maybe settling themselves into their rooms, resting from the travel, etc.
    I haven’t tried Meyers products am looking to find them locally– and give them a try.
    thanks for these reminders.

  15. Lisa

    This is a great list for the hostess! I have GOT to try those Mrs. Meyers products…with a big dog I’m always trying to make my home smell fresh and clean!

  16. Gina

    Great tips! I can remember a long time ago staying in a house with a very dirty bathroom, hairballs on the floor, uncleaned toilet, and other gross stuff. The rest of the house was just as bad! When we’re expecting guests I go over everything thoroughly-if the guests are family or not, they still get the same sparkling, fresh house!

  17. Jessica

    Great post – thanks for the tips! I would like to say that lighting scented candles is not always a good idea for some guests. I am very allergic to anything with strong scents, including perfumes, cleaning products, candles, lotions, etc. I get horrible migraines when I am around strong scents, even for a short period of time. When I am in someone else’s home I just silently suffer through it. I’m sure some other people have the same problem as well.

    • Melissa

      Yes, definitely .. always make sure you know your guests sensitivities before using candles, preparing meals, etc. Also, another point, guests should let hostesses know about their allergies in advance, in case they are allergic to animals or something that is hard to avoid too! It is hard to accomodate everything a guest might need to avoid if they have allergies or migraines, but at least they can try!

  18. teresa

    Great tips….I’m a big fan of a very clean bathroom, lets just say I was a guest at a home once where I thought I would be carried away by something in the middle of the night.
    Because I have the space I put together a canvas container for each of my children with their faviorte soaps, toothbrush,blow dryer, lotions etc….when they visit they have all the need bring is their clothes.
    I try to make the room feel like it is just their own personal space.

  19. Rebecca

    I think this is great, especially the part about moving from prep to hostess and to remember to be flexible with the schedule.

    We have two weimeraners so I am ALWAYS paranoid that our house will smell like doggie or like a candle that is trying really hard to disguise the doggie scent! Using delightful smelling cleaners and having the window opened a crack for just a while is a GREAT idea!

    • susan

      Barring guest allergies,i found the absolute best candle at a small pet store a couple years back. It only came in lavender,supposedly to help keep the dogs calm,too but it was a huge quart size jar with a sealing glass cover. It honestly took out *any* dog smell (and at the time the smallest&oldest rescue baby of 16yrs & 75lbs) had, um, old dog “wind”, which “broke” fairly often. After the 1st “eeuuww” it was gone. Immediately. And it was literally named “Anti-Stink Candle”. So if you have dawg(s) I highly recommend “Anti-Stink”. :) the scent wasnt overwhelming but lingered at least an hour after snuffing, and even with all my allergies/chem issues,didnt bother me. And it sure beat “Eau de MsWoogie”. Or would that be “Eeuuw de MsWoogie”? Rest her sweet soul…i still cant say her name without the 2 she “raised” whining&looking for her. :( -s-

  20. Musings of a Housewife

    I love that you have tires on your front porch. Suddenly you seem much more human than you did before. ;-) I also love Mrs. Meyers cleaning products. Good stuff.

  21. Lesley

    great advice. I particularly think it’s important that the bathroom be clean, the lights lower and the host calm.

    Great post. Thanks!

  22. Sara

    It’s so true! Great post about entertaining. I threw a surprise party for my husband last week and some of the guests arrived before the kitchen was clean (it looked AWFUL from a day of cooking!). They jumped in and did dishes. Instead of being mortified by this fact, I just went with the flow. So much better!

  23. Julia

    I’m cracking up over the tires on your porch! Is your car on blocks? ;-) This actually makes me feel better because I still have my summer welcome mat out and Christmas is only a week a away. My visitors might be a little confused when they come to my front door. Is it winter or is it summer?!

    I’ll never forget when I hosted Dave’s family early in our marriage and bought beautiful new towels to put out for them. I was horrified to find out the next day that they had used the old rag towels they found at the back of the closet instead–the ones we used to wash our car and stuff with. I asked why and they said, “We didn’t want to mess up your pretty ones!” Ugh. Now I hide all rag towels where guests will never find them… :-)

    • Melissa

      Ha, that totally happened to me too. The person took our ratty old towels under the sink and used them. Gah, no more old towels under the sink! So funny!

      Um, those are snow tires. Which are not on the car. If it snowed, they’d be as useless as they were at Thanksgiving when they were in the trunk instead of on the car when it snowed :-)

  24. Erin - The Smallest Sparrow

    Thanks for the great ideas. We have lots of guests coming in the next month or so and we’ll surely utilize your tips.

  25. Deb

    Probably the worst guest situation I had was when my father-in-law wanted to come stay with us in our teeeeeny house RIGHT after I had my first baby.

    And bring his dog.

    Who was not an outside dog.

    And I said no to the dog.

    And the whole family has hated me ever since.

  26. Maritha

    Thanks for the tips! Things people kind of think about but never really do. Always wondered how to handle telling guests what to expect in the morning. And, I’ll have to check out Mrs. Meyer’s products. :)

  27. Heather

    Hello! Per your suggestion, I started using Mrs. Meyer’s products, and now I’m hooked! Not only do the products smell good, but they really work too! Thanks for all your tips!

  28. Betsy from Belly Feathers

    Melissa, this is a great set of tips! I’m a big fan of putting the focus on your guests and doing what will make them feel most comfortable, too.

  29. sophie {Red Dust Love}

    What a great post in time for the holiday season! Loved reading!!!

  30. Kasey

    I have accomplished all of these tips… with the exception of leaving magazines in the GB. That’s a good one… My sister is flying in tonight with my nephews [leaving in about 2hrs to pick them up] and I have my house so clean you could eat off the floor [well… if your really wanted to] and the candle has been burning all day, although I forgot to give the dog a bath :( Oh well… she had a bath a week and a half ago, I think we’re still good :)

    Oh and can I just say how I love Mrs Meyers counter top spray? It’s the only cleaner that leaves our granite looking super shiny and smelling extremely fresh!

  31. Lauren from Southern Sassafras

    Great tips! Here’s one I add to my list: Clean up dog hair! While I love dogs, I have 2, I still do not like to go to someones house and sit in dog/cat hair. And I do not like to hear them bark or jump on me non stop. Especially if they have sharp claws!

  32. Carol

    Great tips and I picked up some Mrs. Meyers( Holiday pack) at Marshalls. My first time to buy it and I love the scent!!
    Come see me!
    Carol from GA

  33. BrevilleJE900

    What a great tips Melissa! I will try it when guests arrives this Christmas.

  34. Handy Man, Crafty Woman

    Great list. I had to laugh about talking to children about overnight guests; like not barging in on them in the bathroom (which our boy has tried to do!), and not complaining when they are in the bathroom, etc. As adults, we know how to behave (or should, lol!), but we have to TEACH children how to behave when guests are sleeping over.

  35. Sophie

    to add to number 4 (forgive me for not reading all the 45 comments before me to see if someone already mentioned it!!) I’d add bake some cookies or something so that not only does your house smell clean, but appetizing too! And hey a cuppa and a bickie is a great welcome if you’ve had a long journey!

  36. susan

    Wow,Melissa, I am so thankful you have tires on your porch. I feel less ashamed of my mud tub (‘crete mixing tub) of frozen perennials&rain&snow on the front deck, which I will never be able to move till they thaw. It’s now become another botany experiment to see if they survive. You’d be amazed at the things that have! Ah,but the story–the Cmas my younger nephew came home on his 1st USAF leave, and was making my then-condo his “home base”. He looked so handsome in his dress blues when he came off the plane, and we talked all the way home about how well he’d done in tech school,passed all the munitions classes for fighters&bombers, and had Nuclear Clearance. He’d had a long day and just wanted to take a hot shower&pass out. He headed upstairs to fresh towel sheets (thank goodness) with his duffel I assumed had clothing in it. It didnt. He’d forgotten his laundry duffel. He sheepishly stuck his head around the landing&asked if I had any of his ex-uncle’s sweats, which fortunately I did. So CmasEveMorn I was at the nearest”mart” buying undies/Ts&sox, thinking “And he’s NUCLEAR CLEARED!?” I still LOL. And keep spare clothes. -s-

    • jessica

      Great story! I am always grateful that our son wears the same size clothes as his cousin, whose mom never packs him properly when he spends the night.

  37. Cyndi Spivey

    That was a great post!! I loved seeing Mrs. Meyers and I really loved the tires on your front porch. :)
    Merry Christmas and looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

  38. Karen

    Excellent reminders. Even though our family gathering will be smaller this year I think some of these tips apply whether you are having house guests or not. :-)

  39. lindy

    Great tips! And, just in time for the holidays!

  40. Carin

    Man, all this talk of Mrs Meyer’s makes me wish we had it over here (if we do I have never come across it). Sounds like a fabulous product!

    Great list of tips for keeping house guests! Most I do already, but some I hadn’t thought of so thanks for the ideas. Now if I could only get certain people to show the same consideration when we stay over at theirs as guests *shudder*…

  41. martha brady

    lots of helpful tips…especially in the area of smell. i don’t tolerate scents very well so don’t think about odors that might be unpleasant to newcomers. lavendar and lemongrass don’t seem to bother me so i made sure they were around for our recent guests. was surprised how the smell cheered ME up as well:)
    loved the photo of the tire on the front porch:) reminded me of our mess in the garage:( oh well, january is coming. merry Christmas!

  42. Kristen

    These tips are AWESOME!! I’ve hosted many, many guests through the years and I still learned some things from your post. Thank you, and my future guests thank you.

    One question…you are truly the hostess with the mostess…when can I come visit?

    Just kidding! Sorta, kinda. ;)

    Oh, and I love Mrs. Meyers lavender, especially on all my counter tops. Wonderful goodness!

  43. Holly

    this was great! thanks so much!

  44. Nicole

    My most awkward moment would have to be an evening a couple summers ago when a guest got stuck in the guest bathroom. The small latch on the pocket door came loose and once locked could not be unlocked. Unfortunately the party was on the deck, so it took a while to notice the guest was missing – only after there was a lull in the conversation did we here her calls for assistance, a full 30 minutes later. It was about a year before she came to one of our outdoor parties again.

  45. Becca G

    Just found this post. This is a wonderful list. I know I could improve in some of these areas for sure! My most awkward (dare I say awful) guest moment was several Christmas’s ago when my husband’s step-mother asked us if we would clean the house for her–we gladly did. After we cleaned she ran away from home and stayed at a hotel because she didn’t want to have guests. She took all of the Christmas presents and dinner with her so that we wouldn’t celebrate without her. Talk about feeling welcome!

  46. Kati Heifner

    great list! This is very helpful. I love the tip on Mrs Meyers cleaning supplies and putting flowers in the room or bathroom =)
    Thank you!

  47. Barb

    I recently needed someone to house sit our dog and used your suggestions to help them feel comfortable in our home. In our welcome basket on the bed I included towels, chocolate covered Oreos, and some pizza delivery cash. The basket included a small chalk labeled tag to thank them I had fun doing it and they loved the surprise.

  48. Caroline

    It’s so much fun to plan for guests! My niece, Annette, as well as my sisters-in-laws, Lisa and Virginia, are pros! I have always felt loved, comfortable, and welcome in their homes, and I try to reciprocate in kind. Quilts, flowers, beautiful magazines, little candies, photos of our loved ones, attention to dietary restrictions and preferences, and wonderful smells all say “I love you – I am so glad you are here!”

    Your tip about not having the bathroom smell like a hospital really hits home for me. I need to work on that!

  49. Paula

    Such wonderful and simple tips. I loved everyone of them. I do have the gift of hospitality and you exude that gift.

    Well written. Love Thieves and I love the Grove products.


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