Lise Gagne / Getty Images

21 Things to Do to Host Lots of Family without Breaking a Sweat

Lise Gagne / Getty Images

Anyone with a big family knows that there doesn’t need to be a “season” to end up hosting a lot of people on not much notice. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings of second cousins you didn’t even know you were actually related to—something is always coming up, and there’s a darn good chance your home is the most centrally located to the festivities.

As the youngest of six who married into a family of merry breeders, I have nothing but gratitude for my experience in project management and an organized nature. We tend to regularly host out-of-town guests, often in bulk and in a wide array of ages. After years of practice, I have it down to a stress-free science. So I am able to enjoy the friends and family who move in for a night (or twelve). Here are twenty-one tips that will hopefully help you manage your own overnight guests without breaking a sweat.



You don’t have to be a short-order cook to make sure everyone is fed and happy while in your home.

  • It’s impossible to keep track of everyone’s latest food preferences or dietary restrictions, so I text my guests and request they tell me a few basic things they eat every day. Usually there’s a lot of overlap among the guests, so this rarely extends my grocery list by much.
  • Plan simple, family-style meals. Easy to make large portions can be mix-and-matched to suit however each person enjoys it (even the pickiest of toddlers).
  • Put the everyday supplies within easy reach of kids and adults: cups, plates, napkins, and snacks. Help them help themselves!
  • Set up a DIY coffee bar with all the fixings. I clear the kids’ artwork off the counter by the pot, and put a row of coffees, creamers, sweeteners, stirrers, and mugs there, instead.
  • Folding tables are the best invention ever. Whether you need to extend your dining room table, serve a meal outside, or want to set up a craft area for extra kids, keeping a spare around (or being friends with a neighbor who does) is a good idea. They even make them with carrying handles now!


It’s the second most popular room in the house.

  • I cannot stress this enough: you’re gonna need a LOT of toilet paper. Stock up like you’ve never stocked up on it before. Like your life depends on it.
  • To avoid having to spend the whole visit in the laundry room, beef up your linen closet with lots of classic, dark towels and washcloths at a one-off discount store without breaking the bank.
  • Want to make it easier for guests to reuse their towels each day? Fill a jar with wooden clothesline clips that you’ve written family members’ names on, so each person can clip their towel when it’s hanging to dry, preventing people from using them only once because they’re not sure whose is whose.
  • Everyone forgets something. Collect toiletries, toothbrushes, bath bombs, lotions, shower caps and the like from hotel stays, dollar stores, and gift sets, then set them all in a basket along with some feminine supplies on the counter—especially if they’re using what is typically the kids’ bathroom.


Guest room, TV room, office, or the kids’ bedroom, no matter where you put them, make sure it’s welcoming—and easy to set up on a moment’s notice.

  • Inflate air beds a day before the guests arrive, because the material stretches out over the first 24 hours, making them look like they’re leaking. Refill before bedtime and you shouldn’t have to worry about them for the rest of the visit.
  • Make bedding grab-and-go by storing sets in their pillow case with a coordinating blanket. Organize by size, so there’s no hunting for missing pieces once it’s time to start making up all the beds. Keep the pillows close by to save yourself another step during bed prep.
  • Put surge-protector power strips everywhere guests are sleeping, so they don’t blow a fuse with their phone, computer, and that inflatable bed—or break their necks trying to wrestle with an outlet that’s juuuust out of reach.
  • Add a few things to make any temporary sleeping space feel more homey: an extra throw blanket, dollar bin eyeshades, and a few books or magazines under a lamp by the bed, plus a stand-up mirror and hairdryer to finish one’s morning routine without hogging an in-demand bathroom.


No matter how much prep you do beforehand, maintenance will come up whether you’re the host or a guest.

  • Most of us have at least a few extra little hampers around (probably filled with stuffed animals). Pop one in each room you have a guest staying in, so if they’re long-term they’ll feel more comfortable with collecting their own dirty laundry, or short-term guests will inevitably strip their beds and fill them up before they go.
  • Speaking of laundry, a simple How to Use guide by the washer and dryer in a well-organized laundry room can allow guests who under-packed take care of their dirty duds without asking for a lesson.
  • Humans create trash all day long. Before you line the bins, toss some extra bags at the bottom. They’ll fill up more quickly, and considerate guests who take it out for you won’t have to search for new liners.


Make the visit easier on yourself and your guests.

  • NASA engineers would have a hard time figuring out how to get our TV remotes to work for cable when they were last set for streaming video. Tucking a notecard with step-by-step instructions by the list of television stations on the coffee table is a big favor to the technologically-unsavvy couch-dwellers.
  • Don’t want shoes tracking filth throughout your home? Set a basket of slipper socks and flip-flops by the door in a variety of sizes.
  • Back-to-school sales are a great time to stock up on bulk plastic hangers not only for extra coats, but to leave in the closets where guests will be sleeping.
  • My motto is “Hooks Everywhere, Please.” Screw-in or stick-on is a perfect solution for drying towels, hanging robes, or putting those hangers to use in rooms without a closet. Have kids? Don’t forget to add some hooks halfway up the doors at kid-height so they can hang their own coats or towels, too.
  • Unless you happen to have your own personal parking lot, the driveway and curb are likely to get crowded with cars. Keep a key bowl by the door so everyone leaves them there in case cars need to be moved when the owners are otherwise occupied. (And yes, it’s fine to use this as an excuse to take your uncle’s fancy midlife crisis car for a joyride around the block.)

Even just a few of these practices will make your next hosting gig a little easier for all. Now go enjoy your guests!


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