Organize for holiday house guests

As November gives way to December, it’s time to prepare for holiday guests. You’ll be ready in no time by systematically going through each room/area of your house or apartment. Here’s a simple plan for organizing the house in time to welcome holiday guests.

The front door

Let’s begin right at the front door. This is where guests will want to remove coats, hats, boots, and so on. When I was a kid, visiting grandma meant piling coats on her bed until we were ready to leave. That’s fine for a quick visit, but not when a guests stay for several days. Get the front entrance closet ready by finding a new, temporary home for the many coats, jackets, vacuum bags, flashlights, etc. that live in there so that guests may comfortably store their own items inside.

Some guests will have their hands full with luggage or housewarming gifts so make sure there is plenty of designated room for all of these things. Ideally you would have:

  1. A coat rack or some decent hangers if you have a closet.
  2. A designated surface to receive items like housewarming gifts, potluck dishes, or anything that needs a temporary landing spot.
  3. A spot for boots, hats, gloves, and other wet items that won’t make it into your house proper. I have one of these boot trays and I love it, as it’s an obvious place to put wet, muddy footwear and quite durable.
  4. A space to receive bulky luggage, or a clear path from the door to each bag’s home for the duration of your guest’s visit.

A big part of accommodating your visitor’s stuff is getting your own things out of the way. Prior to receiving company, clear away any family members’ shoes that are not being worn regularly by storing extras in their owners’ bedroom closets while guests are visiting.

Guest room

First, clear out anything that’s yours, like spare change, jewelry, bathrobes, and so on. Next, I like to make a small guest basket of little things they might need but forget, or items that can’t be carried easily on an airplane. For example, travel-sized toothbrushes, soap, shampoo and shower gel, pain reliever, toothpaste, lotion, makeup-removing wipes, mouthwash, disposable razors, and dental floss. You can tuck these into a basket or caddy that can easily be carried in and out of the bathroom.


Keep bathroom essentials in plain sight. You don’t want anyone to get “stuck” when they can’t find a roll of toilet paper! While you might ordinarily keep these items tucked away, move them into an obvious, accessible location during your guests’ stay. Also, make sure there are plenty of towels and wash cloths available and accessible.

Living room

A few years ago my wife and I started writing out exactly how to use our electronics, like the TV. While we’ve got the routine memorized — use the grey remote to turn the TV on, then hit the red button before picking up the black remote — it’s a mystery to visitors. A set of clear, concise instructions for the television, stereo, etc. makes guests very happy. You might want to share your Wi-Fi password as well, or even create a temporary one for guests.

We also have a collection of take-out menus that we also set out for guests, as well as descriptions of local points of interest, directions to nearby bank machines and gas stations.

Unfortunately the holidays can be stressful. However, with a little planning, you can make this time of year more enjoyable for you and your guests.

One Comment for “Organize for holiday house guests”

  1. posted by Elaine on

    I gave up years ago on providing items for house guests. Largely because they didn’t use the stuff and generally bring their own. A good example is since being zero waste, I no longer buy liquid soap in plastic containers. I use bar soap now that comes wrapped in paper so there’s much less waste on the back end since you can recycle the paper. But people are freaky about bar soap, they think it’s somehow unsanitary and they won’t use it. So if they don’t want to use the soap I provide, they can bring their own or walk down to the Walgreen’s and get whatever they want.

    Same thing with toothpaste, everybody likes their own brand and won’t use basic toothpaste like the generic brands, which is what I buy. Lotion is another one, I only use unscented products and people can’t wrap their minds around unscented lotion. So again they are welcome to use what I have or they can bring their own or go down the street and get what they want.

    I also don’t want to keep a bunch of sample sized stuff around, it’s just more clutter. It also looks really “hotel-y” to have little baskets of stuff sitting around, I feel like it’s trying too hard.

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