This article originally appeared on Houzz.com.
Inviting friends or family to stay in your home is a great way to spend time together, but allowing people to share your life and your space also demands some thought and planning if it’s to go well. After all, you want your visitors to have a terrific time and feel at home, but not at the expense of your peace of mind. These 10 tips can help you prepare for happy, stress-free hosting.
1. Pin down who’s coming. Friends saying they’d love to visit is one thing, but don’t assume that you know who’s included in their party. Discovering that your friends have also brought along their dogs, their teenage son’s best friend or a French exchange student when they turn up on the doorstep is too late. Establish exactly who’s coming well in advance, so you can plan for it (or express an opinion).
2. Spell out just one house rule. It’s not fair to expect guests to live exactly by your rules, and it’s not very welcoming to confront them with a list of do’s and don’ts as soon as they arrive. But to avoid friction during their stay, work out which of your house rules matters most to you and make sure your guests are aware of it.
Whether it’s taking their shoes off in the house or not eating on the best sofa, politely letting your guests know it from the start will spare yourself some stress.
3. Bend the other rules. It’s important to make your friends welcome, and this means not only accepting their habits, but also modifying yours. Although guests should respect your space and act appropriately, you should also be ready to bend the rules for the short time they’re with you. Go with the flow to make them welcome and also preserve your sanity.
Perhaps you usually like to eat breakfast at 7 and your guests prefer to take brunch? Let it go! Be flexible. Relax. You can revert to your old habits once they’ve left.
4. Be clear on the duration. Make sure everyone knows how long they’re staying. Guests who outstay their welcome or are sketchy about when they’ll arrive and leave can make you anxious and test your generosity. Avoid this by being clear about how long the stay will be.
Be honest with yourself too. You may like to think of yourself as the host with the most, throwing open your home to your friends for as long as they like, but if you’ve found a four-day visit to be too much in the past, suggest something shorter.
5. Cater to your guests’ needs. This is about being a considerate host, but it’s also just canny. Guests who are ill at ease will make you feel stressed, so be prepared.
Will your friend need to work while visiting you? If so, create desk space in the spare bedroom rather than in a communal area like the kitchen; otherwise you’ll have to avoid that room altogether and keep shushing the children while your friend works.
If your guests are bringing children, provide entertainment for them. Kids who are relaxed and occupied allow everyone else to feel comfortable. Dig out games or toys for little ones and borrow DVDs or line up good films on the TV for older children.
Find out what your visitors and their kids like to eat as well, so you can offer meals that everyone will enjoy.
6. Give a house tour. Show guests around your home and explain how the shower works, where they can find a glass to make a drink, and where the clean towels and shampoo are.
Point out any no-go areas too, such as the baby’s room, the dog’s bed, an elderly relative’s space or a study that’s likely to be in use. This saves your guests from disturbing other members of the household.
7. Prepare your kids. Explain to your children the importance of being a good host and what that involves. Encourage them to share their space and toys with visiting children. Get them to take on a hosting role, helping with questions and showing guests around. This will make you proud of them and free you from some of these tasks.
Most of all, urge your kids to be tolerant. Sharing your home with a handful of visitors can try tempers, but being able to do this is a valuable life skill.
8. Get ahead. Prepare for the visit by filling your freezer with meals made in advance. It’s no fun slaving over a stove when you’d rather be chatting with your friends, and it can leave you feeling worn out and resentful.
Try to prepare at least one or two meals ahead to make things easier, and don’t be afraid to stock up on ready-made crowd-pleasers like pizza.
9. Take the pressure off. Having guests can feel like hard work. There’s the cleaning before they arrive, the catering while they’re with you, and the sense of being “on” all the time and responsible for their happiness. So build in a break for yourself and your family.
Plan one evening where you eat out or order in. Encourage your guests to sometimes explore the area without you — provide them with maps and a set of keys. While they’re in the house, grab a few minutes for yourself by taking the dog out or going for a bath or a nap. This will break up the day and give you a chance to clear your mind.
10. Preserve your bedroom. If you don’t have enough guest accommodation and you’re expecting a crowd, you may have to give up your bedroom to guests or share it with your children. Try to avoid this scenario. However well your hosting is going, it’s always good to be able to retreat to your own private space at the end of the day.
Tell us: How do you make sure you enjoy having guests? Share your hosting tips and ideas in the Comments below.