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method for: guest Prep

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Thanksgiving is coming, who is expecting house guests?  ’Tis the season for opening up your home to family and friends, and we may be a bit out of practice coming off of two COVID-ridden holiday seasons. Benjamin Franklin famously quipped ‘Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days’ but I believe that with some thoughtful planning you can set the stage for a pleasant stay on both sides no matter the duration. I’m centering the do-ahead plan around the laws of Atomic Habits: Make It Obvious, Make it Attractive, Make it Easy, Make it Satisfying. Channeling your efforts through these filters will not only enhance the experience for your guests but will also smooth the way for you to enjoy the experience as well.

Before we get to the meat of the plan, I recommend taking an inventory of your linen closet(s) prior to your prep, especially if the number of guests exceeds what you can accommodate in dedicated Guest Rooms.  You will want to know how many towels, pillows and sheets/bedding you have to make sure you can outfit all of the potential sleeping areas (futons, hide-a-beds, air mattresses, etc.) in your home.  You do not want to be caught short in any of these categories upon arrival of your people!


Everything you place in the guest room should Make It Easy for your guests  to unpack, unwind and make themselves comfortable in your home.  Start with baseline comfort (good mattress and pillows) and build from there.  What makes it easy for someone to feel at-home? Well, for starters have an obvious place for them to place their luggage. Even if the guest room is large it’s nice to have a luggage rack or two handy, a clear signal where to place your bag whether they plan to unpack it or not. Next, unless you have an en suite bath for your guest room place the folded set of towels for your guests on top of the dresser. or bed  That way they are not wondering about which towels in the bathroom are assigned to them. On the bed, always provide an extra blanket or two.  Temperatures in homes vary, as do the body temps of your guests. Providing extra blankets ensures a comfortable night’s sleep in case they tend to the colder side of the spectrum. Lastly, nobody likes to ask about Wi-Fi network and password, it always feels awkward. So place a card on the nightstand with this info, that way they can sign right in as they are getting settled. Additional touches include fresh flowers on the nightstand and a Do Not Disturb sign for the door (especially helpful signal for over-excited children who tend to invade unexpectedly.)


You don’t need a blog post to tell you that providing bathroom necessaries is baseline for hosting guests. But this is where the law of ‘Make It Attractive’ comes into play.  First make sure that bathroom is stocked with anything your guests may need (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, contact solution, feminine products, hand and body lotion, hair ties, blow dryer, flat iron, etc.  Every convenience should be available and easily found. Labeled storage is helpful here and also pleasing to the eye. Another way to bolster the Attractive Factor is to provide an elevated experience when it comes to bath products.  My favorite brands to outfit a guest bath are Malin+Goetz, Le Labo or L’Occitane. Your guests will feel pampered and attractive when they come out of the bath, like they are in a luxury hotel but better because they are with you!


This one is really important for me to remember because in my family we are not morning coffee drinkers. I know it’s weird. I like coffee (specifically an oat milk latte) but don’t need that AM caffeine hit that many others do and the rest of my family is the same.  So it’s important that I have a coffee situation set up and available for my guests.  Over the years I have fallen down on this one so I am now super dialed in and ready with a plan. This includes a pre-visit communication with my guests asking about their morning food and drink preferences – I highly recommend this approach. Morning routines vary widely, it is unlikely that everyone will be rising, eating and drinking at the same time in the morning. Once you’ve done some reconnaissance around your guests’ habits, arrange a station in your kitchen that is obviously the place they go in the morning, usually centered around the place where they get their coffee or tea.  Make tea visible and available, offer pastries or bagels on the covered cake plate, place a card that notes where they can find a creamer (or anything else they would need that is in the fridge.)  By facilitating the ritual of their morning routine you are easing their transition into your home – another way to make them feel welcomed.


This one may sound a little bossy (I do have a bossy side) but it has served me really well throughout my work and family life and makes sense to practice here as well. What are the activities happening over the course of your guests’ stay?  I’m going to use Thanksgiving as an example since it’s coming right up and if you are reading this it’s probably what you are prepping for.  Giving your guests a lay of the land prior to their arrival will help them (and you) make it through the visit with minimal friction and maximum enjoyment. Are you cooking all day the day they arrive?  Will you need their help prepping and serving?  Is there a DAT activity happening that they may want to take part in? I have always gotten the best results from my team (in a corporate setting) or my family (on vacation) when I communicate what the plan is ahead of time so they know what to expect. I like to have some plans or activities on tap that are easy to opt in or out of as we have both older family members with less energy plus some introverts (and also a very tired cook) in our group. When you set expectations for people they are more likely to be met and then you are executing on the 4th law of Atomic Habits for both your house guests and yourself: ‘Make It Satisfying.’

I am looking forward to the dual challenges of cooking and serving Thanksgiving Dinner for 19 as well as hosting a full house of guests and I’ve got 2 plus weeks to get it all figured out. I will be practicing what I preach here and leaning into the idea that constraint breed innovation. In the meantime Happy House Guest Season to you and yours!

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