7 Ways to Keep Your House Ready for Surprise Guests

7 Ways to Keep Your House Ready for Surprise Guests

Follow these easy tips, and you’ll never again be caught off guard by unexpected guests.

By Leah Maxwell

Surprise houseguests -- whether for an afternoon or overnight -- should be a source of joy, not stomach-churning dread. If your typical response to drop-ins is, “Oh no, the house is a wreck, and all I have to serve is a half-empty bag of stale potato chips,” we’re talking to you.

“Proud homeowners … all wish to have a house that is forever clean, welcoming, and ready for guests,” says Debra Johnson, a home cleaning expert with Merry Maids. But since it’s not always possible to have a perfectly kept home -- especially if you have kids -- Johnson and her fellow experts have come to your rescue with seven great tips to make your house guest-ready in a snap.

1. Stock up on snacks. To ensure you always have something to serve your guests, keep a stash of nonperishable snacks that require little or no prep. Chips and crackers, dried salami, and canned salsa are all easy choices. For a special touch, Meg Roberts, president of Molly Maids, recommends slice-and-bake chocolate-chip cookies, refrigerated cinnamon rolls, and seasonal coffee creamer to make drop-ins not only feel welcome but like special guests. Bonus: If your surprise visitor is staying overnight, you’ll always have something to tide you over until the pizza arrives.

2. An organized house is a clean house (or at least it looks that way). “Clutter is what makes the home look messiest, so having a plan to organize clutter can help save time when unannounced guests show up,” says Johnson. “An organized house has a way of appearing clean, even if it’s not.” She recommends making liberal use of storage bins, for everything from magazines and toys in the living room to unsorted mail and knickknacks. “Having things simply contained is the first step in helping make your home appear neat and tidy,” she says.

3. Think light and bright. “A bright home always looks cleaner,” according to Adams. So for a quick and easy instant fix, she recommends opening the curtains and letting natural light pour in. This tip is especially useful in guest rooms, which are often kept closed and curtained when not in use.

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4. Hit the high-traffic sites. For pop-in guests, focus your last-minute prep on two important areas: the kitchen and the bathroom. “Bedroom doors can be closed since people typically congregate near the snacks, making the kitchen the most popular gathering place,” says Roberts. The priorities in the bathroom should be to restock the toilet paper, like Charmin Ultra Strong Mega Roll, and put away toothbrushes, toothpaste, and anything else that lives on the bathroom counter for daily use, says Johnson. Your guests do not need to see your dental floss.


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5. Floor mats aren’t just for the doorstep. “Floor mats inside the home can make cleaning easier,” notes Johnson. One of the best places to have one is by the kitchen sink. “It’s much easier to track crumbs and food particles on a mat and shake it out than it is to vacuum and wash your kitchen floor everyday,” she says. When surprise guests show up, simply clean off the kitchen floor mat for a fresh and tidy look.

6. Provide sleepover guests with the comforts of home. To be ready for unanticipated overnight guests, keep extra toiletries on hand, including a toothbrush, a travel-size toothpaste, dental floss, a hairbrush, makeup-remover wipes, and contact solution and a contacts case. You get bonus points if you can offer a pair of loaner slippers or even new socks your guests can take with them when they leave.

7. Small touches make a big statement. “Overnight guests may feel hesitant about invading your personal space,” says Sally Morse, director of creative services for window treatment manufacturer Hunter Douglas, but there are many little ways a host can ease any discomfort. “Small touches, such as a book to read, family photos, or even a welcome note on the pillow will go a long way toward making your guest feel serene in a temporary space.” Even if you don’t have a lot of advanced warning, a little thoughtfulness can make a big difference.

How do you make (or keep) your house ready for surprise guests?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/PeopleImages

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