The holidays are finally here, or the long weekend. Either way, it’s time for slow mornings and celebrations and time to reconnect with family and friends. It’s also the time when we welcome visits from those who live far enough away to warrant staying overnight. I grew up in a home with an open door policy for visitors, so I have one too and since my family lives in France, the stays usually last several weeks. There were visits that I rocked as a host and other times I failed in my duties, but those times served to teach me what to do differently and taught me how to be a good host.
How to Be a Good Host
Prepare Your House
By all means clean the house; collect the piles of papers balanced like Jenga pieces on every flat surface, vacuum the fur tumbleweeds that are threatening to take over the living room, and clean the toilet. Set aside a room or corner of the basement that is tidy and welcoming, and put out clean sheets and towels. Beyond that, relax. Your friends and family are coming to see you, the state of your house will not figure into the quality of the visit. Your mental state will, and if you’re fixating on the tears in the screen that your dog made when she took exception to the possum crossing the backyard, you’ll be frazzled. Frazzled does not pair well with wine and laughter.
Set Aside Some Time
Life is hectic; we have time commitments with our jobs, our children, and daily routines, but if you’ve invited someone to stay for a weekend or a week, remember to put aside time to enjoy their company. If you know well in advance that family is coming to stay, book your vacation accordingly. It’s not always possible, but it will be more fun for both sets of families if you can get out and do things together instead of your visitors feeling as though your house is their hotel. We’ve had family who stayed with us for one month and others who punctuated their stay with one or two weeks away to discover other parts of Canada, and we’ve made both options work. It’s their vacation away, but think of it as your staycation, with all the opportunities to show off your part of the world.
Make A List Of Local Places To Visit
Do a bit of legwork before your family arrives and make a list of places they might like to visit. Don’t wait for them to tell you what they want to see, beyond some of the more famous attractions. They likely won’t know about the country store that sells great maple syrup or the quiet hikes where you might cross a deer or porcupine. I usually base my lists on the ages of their children (if they have any) and where they come from. In our case it’s usually French family, so I enjoy showing them some of the great places southern Ontario has to offer that are different from France, like Iroquoian villages and beautiful outdoor spaces.
Have A System
If being a host for a sleepover visit is new to you, you’ll want to decide how to split groceries, fuel, and other expenses you share. When my cousin visits, she and I take turns paying the bill at the grocery storey, but then split everything down the middle, with the exception of personal care items. It’s a system that works and nobody is left footing the bill for a household of ten. I’ve yet to host a family who doesn’t do this naturally. And I never do this if friends are staying for an overnight visit, only for long stays.
The decorative couch cushions might get reversed. Toys you otherwise keep in the basement could make their way to the family room. Chances are a game of Monopoly will take over your coffee table, and we all know how long that game can last. And so what? Entertaining family or friends for extended stays is about being flexible and generous; it’s about making people feel welcome and happy to have shared your home. You get one chance to make great memories together, so take advantage of the time together.
Now, put down the dusting cloth — I’m basically encouraging a no-housework policy — set aside your ideas of how things should be, and have fun with your family.