I enjoy having guests drop by without a lot of notice, and that happens often.
Surprise guests are easier because you don’t have to clean much ahead of time. They get what they get. It’s real-life living.
On Friday last week one of Doug’s work associates stopped by in the morning. (We live in a location that’s really convenient.) It was breakfast time so my kitchen was messy, but at least the kids were dressed, so I fixed him a scrambled egg and a few slices of fresh tomato, and they had a meeting at the breakfast table.
Later that afternoon my daughter invited a friend to play, and then in the evening we had some friends stop by and visit. The weekend would be busy because we planned to have a whole bunch of house guests on Saturday.
I don’t mind last-minute overnight guests either, like the time I met a traveling Chinese student and invited her to come stay with my family instead of at the youth hostel. She agreed she would like to, and it wasn’t so very unusual because this was when we lived in Florence and I met new people all the time. She got on the bus with me, pulling her wheeled suitcase behind her. I was surprised that she would be willing to stay at a stranger’s house, but I guess my two little kids made me look safe and trustworthy. Doug was not surprised when I showed up at the door with a two-night house guest. I am glad she stayed with us.
Planned guests take more work because you don’t have that excuse, “Oh, what a nice surprise to see you. Come on in.” You have to clean more ahead of time, and it’s especially hard when you have little kids who work against you to undo your cleaning efforts.
Planned overnight guests require even more planning efforts. I’ve lived in many apartments that I never had more than one or two house guests at the same time.
Last weekend was the first time we had so many people stay with us that the ratio of people to bathrooms was 12:1 and that, my friends, required careful planning.
In addition to the overnight group, I also hosted a brunch* that Saturday morning for thirty people. I was concerned that all of this would be too much to attempt to do on the last weekend before school started, but it worked out for the best. Hosting the brunch and the overnight guests on the same weekend, I only had to clean once. Also, we worked to straighten and put things away from the summer, so my house was really orderly when school started. Truthfully, my house has never been as organized as it was that Saturday morning.
I looked on google for “How to host a lot of house guests” but I could only find generic advice such as “Smile” and “Plan a menu,” and I needed more specific, concrete details.
If you ever find yourself in the situation of hosting a large group of people overnight, perhaps next Thanksgiving, here is what I learned that was very helpful:
11 Tips to Host a Group of Overnight Guests
1. Borrow air mattresses from neighbors. If guests are driving in, perhaps they can bring their own pillows.
2. Keep the kitchen counter clear. (It’s a work space, not a storage space.) You need enough space to prepare and serve meals assembly-line style.
3. At the end of every meal, you need to be thinking about the next meal. Load the dishwasher, run it, and empty it after every meal.
4. Stock extra toilet paper and make it easy to find.
5. Take your personal makeup and care items out of the bathroom so you can get yourself ready in a bedroom and leave the bathroom available.
6. Organize the medicine cabinet. Our guests needed: hydrocortisone, Tylenol, Neosporin, Band-aids, Benadryl, and rubbing alcohol.
7. Plan to go to the grocery store at least once (or even twice) for stuff you forgot or ran out of.
8. Store extra ice in an ice chest. I don’t put ice in my drinks, so it’s a mystery to me when other people consume ice frequently, but the ice maker in my refrigerator was not up to the challenge, and we ran out of ice early.
9. Plan tasks to delegate such as chopping vegetables or collapsing the air mattresses.
10. Create an hour of quiet downtime for yourself in the afternoon.
11. Share your menu plan and what time you will be serving meals so people know what to look forward to. Try to serve the final meal a little early since drivers will be ready to get on the road.
Our menu plan for large groups:
Saturday dinner: Taco salad which everyone could fix the way they like it. The meat was slow-cooked pork, marinated the night before and roasted all day in the crock pot. Toppings included chips, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa. This was a winner for both kids and adults.
Saturday snack: Homemade popcorn (with melted butter)
Sunday breakfast: I think a breakfast casserole would be the easiest, but with allergies, we opted for scrambled eggs, bananas, and choice of cereal (and I wanted to keep things simple since we had a big brunch the day before). To scramble a bunch of eggs at the same time, crack two dozen eggs into a pitcher, whisk them, add salt and pepper, and then pour a reasonable amount into the skillet when you’re ready.
Sunday lunch: Chili-topped baked potatoes. Bake the potatoes in the oven for at least two hours, so start them right after breakfast. The chili can be made ahead of time. The nice thing about this meal is it’s just one pot to clean.
Each meal had a variation for people with special diets. We made a pot of beans that could be used in place of beef, and we saved some leftovers from the previous nights’ meal.
*The brunch menu was Texas-style with steak and eggs, pinto beans, and slices of sugar kiss melon, which is sort of like a cantaloupe, but it’s going to be sweet and ripe every time so you won’t be disappointed.