Thursday, October 25, 2012

House Guest Hospitality 101

Cultures of the East and West, from time immemorial, have practiced hospitality as a divinely imposed duty. Yes, there is pretty much a worldwide consensus that it is that important. Furthermore, I think we all want to be hospitable. We all want our guests to feel welcome and comfortable in our homes. However, because of the nature of our present American culture - [for good and for ill] simultaneously a melting pot and a homogenization - we don't always have a clear, concrete idea regarding how to go about it.  Here are a few ideas that I have picked up from family and friends or discovered for myself along the way.

Ask your guest before they arrive if they have any allergies, food or otherwise, and do your best to avoid those substances. Also ask if there are any foods and drinks that they really enjoy or abhor.

Try this, if your guests arrive before or after the regular dinner hour.

Make food available between meals. Even if a host tells you to "help yourself", it can be a bit awkward to go rummaging in someone else's house! Some easy ways to make food available are... Fill a cake stand with cookies and place it on the table as a centerpiece. Load up a bowl with fresh fruit and place it on the counter. Fill glass canisters with easy to nosh foods such as pretzels, granola bars, and crackers and place them in a visible and accessible location.

Prepare the coffee pot and set out mugs and sugar before you go to bed. Make sure you let your guests know how to start the pot going, and encourage them to do so when they wake up. I love my coffee first thing, so I assume my guests do, too!

Most of us give the house a once over if we know guests are coming, but going that extra mile (if you go in the right direction) can really make a difference. Don't waste time dusting the tops of your window frames (you know that category of cleaning I'm talking about), but do make room on the shoe and coat rack for your guests. Pick up some scented candles for the kitchen and bathroom (hit up the Dollar Store if your budget is tight). Bring some greenery into the house: buy an inexpensive bouquet of flowers and parcel it throughout, or cut something fresh from outside.

Literally, those are shrubs from my non-exotic Western New York back yard.

Whether you have a proper guest room, or a futon in your four year old's room (you got me!), do your best to make it a comfortable space. In our particular situation, this means making up the futon as pleasingly (both visually and tactilely) as possible, and putting the unnecessary toys away. No matter your space or budget constraints, you can make sure that some comfort necessities are in place: a reading lamp, some bedside reading, either a bottle of water or a carafe and a glass, and a towel and washcloth for the shower. 

Carafe from Goodwill, $1. Glass from my kitchen, $0. Not having to get up to get a drink of water at night, priceless.

What are some things that you do to be hospitable when house guests come to visit? Please let me know in the comments below or email me at I would love to hear from you!


  1. Class for miles. I also like to fill a small basket with magazines and the choice book of short stories or meditations and put it near the laptop (with the internet and Netflix password jotted down nearby), so there's no awkward downtime for our early rising or night owl guests while we're busy with baby patrol.

  2. Thanks, Jenny! Great ideas; I especially like the one about jotting down the passwords! My husband created a guest network so we don't have to give out our real password for the Internet, but I am always forgetting the password!

  3. And a vicarious comment from my Mom, "I suggest if you have parents or grandparents over how about a night light in the hall to light the way to the bathroom?"


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