Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: House Guests



You've been invited to stay the night with your introverted friend! You must be very special indeed. Introverts like their wind down routines, adding people to that does not mix well and we learn that very early on. When an introvert says you can stay with them, it's a real blessing and statement about their love for you.

I'm going to share some tips for you introverts on how to keep your much needed down time as well as have people stay in your home for brief periods. We'll look at extended stays later.

Have a space for your guest to sleep that is not in the main living area. If you have a small home then I understand this isn't always possible, but try. It's not just for you, it's for them, too. No one actually likes being woke up by a heard of elephants tip toeing through their sleep space. And you do not want to see your second cousin's underwear choice before your first cup of coffee. Put up a temporary curtain, create a guest room, kick your kid out of their bedroom. It will be worth it. If you're using a guest room that has other functions, make sure those are taken care of before your guest arrives. Once they put their stuff in their space, treat it like it's theirs. Meaning, don't barge in to get something from under the bed.

When your guest arrives, try to give them as much freedom in your home as you can without overwhelming them. That first visit, they will not know where anything is. Treat them like Santa, put the milk and cookies where they'll find them. Let them know where the towels are, extra blankets, cups, etc. If they're an early riser and you're not, before you go to bed, let them know how to use the coffee maker and where the stuff is. Or how to turn on the shower even. The more they know, the less they will need to depend on you. That sounds a little counterintuitive, they're your guest, you're there to serve them. But you also need to care for yourself. And people actually like the freedom a home provides while visiting. If they wanted to be held captive until daylight with no coffee, they would have stayed at the local motel.

When you travel, collect those little single use toiletries, set some out for your guest in their room, in case they forgot theirs. You can also just go buy travel size versions. Make sure there's a working clock in their room as well. It's not as big of a deal now with cell phones, but it's a nice touch. Speaking of cell phones, make sure that there is an open plug for them to use. A useful and fun touch that we added to our guest space is a foldable luggage rack. It often gets used as table, but it works great for holding luggage at a workable height.

In regards to furniture in the space. Think about all the places you've stayed and what has made them special. Try to add that. At minimum you'll need a bed (either inflatable or standard). Get the largest one that will fit in the space. If you go with a sleeper sofa, try it out for a nap one day to make sure it's comfy or if it has bars that try to break your back. From experience, it's better to sleep on the floor than in a bad sofa bed. Don't do that to your guests. If you go the inflatable route, blow it up the day before and refill before they arrive and check on it again before they go to sleep and the next morning. The plastic stretches and needs to be refilled often. Beyond a bed, a night stand table, a tv, maybe a small bookcase are all nice touches.

Here's where the really hard work comes in, find out what your guest likes to snack on, drink, etc. and have some of those items on hand. I'm not saying you should have a spread of sushi and saki, but it's not that tough to pick up skim milk for someone. Or to have a bag of their favorite chips. It lets them know that you were looking forward to their visit and that you want them to be there. If they watch a show and it's on while you're together, offer to watch with them or at least don't plan something while it's on.

Which reminds me, don't make plans for you guest or assume that they'll be present for things in your home. Tell them about your own events and give them the choice to go with you or stay. We often have had folks stay with us over a Sunday or Friday, two days that things are different for us. We tell folks when things are going to happen and what time we'll leave and return and let them know that we don't expect them to join us, but that they are welcome to. Sometimes they go, sometimes they don't. The key is to remember that even if the reason for their visit is to spend time with you, don't assume they'll be comfortable doing everything you do.

All that I've mentioned so far is mainly stuff related. The key to being hospitable to a short term house guest is allowing them to be a part of your rhythm and figuring out how to enjoy that difference. Sometimes guests become the dominant force and that's okay for a temporary situation. You can play extrovert for a night or two. But make sure you get sometime alone in the midst of that so that you don't lose it unexpectedly. Be available to your guest as they desire. If they want to sleep all day, let them. If they want to go out on the town every night, let them. You might want to clarify if they want you along, but it's still okay to say no :-)

I've found that guests, in most cases, fall into two categories, the napper and the doer. The napper is pretty easy, let them sleep, give them good food, and just be around for when they're ready to talk. The doer generally wants suggestions on activities (especially ones unique to your area, keep a list), typically they'll want to eat out, and in general will not require much conversation. Both are wonderful in their own way. You probably won't know who does what until after your first time together, plan accordingly for next time. I say that because introverts very rarely have one time guests. If you're very organized, keep a log of things that guests have done, restaurants they liked and which meals, local foods they discovered (very useful at gift giving time), and any allergies.

What suggestions do you have for house guests?

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