On houseguests

We had what feels like a dim and distant summer filled with visitors which is of course to be expected if you live in a hot place by the sea. It was a lot of fun travelling a little and opening our home to loved ones.

Our last guests left a few months ago but soon we will have family and friends arriving to help us celebrate the festive period so it seems like a good time to reflect on how having guests can affect one’s finely balanced home / tidying attempts.

Back in July when our first guests, friends from my university days, arrived, I was completing the Komono category and so knew that the end was in the pipeline. Preparing for their arrival involved the usual shunting of our boy’s cot and belongings into our bedroom to make his nursery once more into a suitable guest room.

At that point we started making plans to move to a bigger apartment, plans that have moved on swiftly since two separate building projects around our block were proposed. Errr…hello dust?

After a month of silent bedtimes, hushed middle of the night conversations and a ban on use of the en-suite, we’ve come to the conclusion that everybody sleeps better when we’re not tripping over Ikea boxes of the baby’s clothes after the 4am feed.

Our next round of visitors brought my 12 year old nephew, my sister and brother-in-law and a bad case of sunburn. An air bed was hastily bought for my nephew who had staked his claim to the sofa. This arrangement lasted precisely one night as he claimed it was the sweatiest invention since sweat. For the rest of the week the airbed lay abandoned behind the sofa, slowly deflating in the midday heat. He decided to just sleep on the sofa instead which created a few problems with bedding storage (he rather enjoyed watching episodes of Top Gear wrapped in his toga-like bed sheet).

Visitor set number 3 avoided sunburn on the basis that they don’t have such Yorkshire skin tones. For these guys the coffee machine was resurrected from its home under the kitchen counter and we gained some more disposable foil dishes after two wonderful home-made lasagne nights (pesto lasagne – win!).

Our final set entertained our son beautifully, even babysitting him so we could escape for a rare dinner out (he woke after 20 minutes and cried relentlessly but they managed brilliantly). My niece was announced as my apprentice in the world of decluttering and was fascinated by my list of Kondo categories. She even went as far as to help me Kondo the ‘carrier bag cupboard of doom’ – see previous post.

 

So – my not very scientific findings following a non-stop full house:

  1. Guests need direction. ‘Bread and other carbs go in that cupboard there’, ‘soft plastic can go in the normal bin please’ doesn’t have to be awkward, and saves tonnes of effort later when you can’t find your bread / are on your hands and knees pulling coffee pods from the paper recycling pot.
  2. Distribute rations. I have a lovely shelf of rolled towels in the bathroom (smallest to largest of course) but despite giving guests their own towels, I ended up facing an empty shelf and washing towels at least twice as often as usual. I’ll probably try to find a less open storage space for towels in the main bathroom, or perhaps in our hall dresser, but will tell them where to find them. Hmm.
  3. Make time to be off duty. Having guests is full on, so be clear about any plans you have or time out you need. At the start I spent most of my time with our guests but by the final set I was down to ‘I’ll drop you at 10am and meet you here at 2.45 for a drink’. Sometimes this gave me time to do our own laundry or do a supermarket shop, but other times I just needed a quiet hour whilst the baby was asleep to have a cup of tea and a biscuit and stare quietly at the walls.
  4. Keep a set of spare bedding and extra blankets in the guest room cupboard. This was happening anyway for us as it doubles as our linen cupboard but I found it gave our guests a bit more flexibility to change their bedding more often / grab an extra pillow / take a flat sheet each to avoid arguments. Thinking about Christmas, these cold Maltese nights have us all arguing about how many blankets to use.
  5. The more guests you have, the more gets left behind. We’ve built up a nice collection of beach accessories, shower products and sun creams. Christmas will probably bring wrapping supplies, hats, gloves etc. They don’t directly spark joy, but they do in that they allow our guests to feel at home and dig into the basket for whatever they need instead of asking for every little thing.

 

TL;DR?

Guests are usually fun. Keep it that way by giving them a little direction, i.e. jobs to do, groceries to pick up. Give them independence so your own life and commitments can continue. It’s ok to keep ‘contributions’ of suncream, hats etc that were left behind as they will probably be used by the next guest.

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