Monday, 10 January 2011

Come in, have some cake!

Now, have you ever had people come to stay and when they leave you think to yourself, "My god, I bet they thought this house is a pigsty?" Trust me, I have. The thing is it can be hard to keep your house tidy while you have guests. Extra people equal extra mess. You've got their belongings in the way most of the time, especially if you're not lucky enough to have a designated spare room; there's the extra cooking and therefore extra dishes and let's face it, no matter how clean a human is, there's always little bits of dust and fluff left in our wake. There's no way round this, but by having a couple of things in place you can minimise the damage done to your house when you have people come to stay.

First things first, if you want people to think you have a lovely home, it all starts with the first impressions. I start spring cleaning days in advance when I know I have people coming to stay. I clean places that normally would get overlooked, right down to the pipes behind the toilet. This is because when someone new comes to your home, they're bound to see the dirt that you yourself have grown accustomed to seeing. It's not that you're dirty or anything, but it's very true that we all start to miss things when we live in and around it all the time. On the day of their arrival, make sure you've given the place one more quick tidy and clean, having a few things out and being used isn't a problem, let's face it you can't expect your children, if you have any to sit quietly waiting for people to arrive before they can play with their toys, but try to ensure the usual clutter is cleared from the side.

I also like to bake a cake before I have people coming to stay. That way you can have a slice or two before they arrive and it looks like you haven't done it especially for them but that you just like to bake! If you're planning on having a meal ready for them then I think it's wise to use a recipe that you can prepare hours in advance and therefore have the kitchen surfaces clean before they turn up. Stews are good because they cook slowly in the oven and will keep if your guests are late. There's the added bonus that it's good, homely cooking, once again giving the impression that you know your way around the kitchen! But, if stews aren't your thing, lasagne is a good alternative and let's face it there's not many people these days who don't like it.

During any visits, it's a good idea to try and tidy up as you go along, but don't worry about the big jobs like laundry, etc or your guests will think you care more about the housework than you do them and that's never a nice feeling when you're staying in someone's home. If your guests offer to help you wash up, say yes thank you, that way you're not busting your gut to look after everyone by yourself and it means you can clean and chat at the same time. If they don't want to help, they won't offer so don't worry about offending anyone.

There is a fine line though between having a nice, clean, welcoming home and being a nit-picking, cold host. You've got to make sure that your guests feel as welcome as possible and constantly being on their case about the mess there making is not the way to do it! I've stayed in people's house where there are actually rules to obey and it always puts a downer on your stay. If you want to have rules then there are ways of making them known without 'stating' what they are. For example, if you don't like people wearing shoes inside then have a shoe rack next to the front door with spare slippers available and point it out casually as they come in. If you don't like guests leaving bits and pieces everywhere, dedicate them a drawer/ storage area and again casually point it out as if you're just thinking of them. "If you need somewhere to unpack your clothes, then I've cleared this drawer for you" This is also a nice way of giving them the impression you're a thoughtful host.

Finally, try to enjoy your guests instead of dreading what they're thinking of you and the way you run your home. People know that when you have visitors, you can't keep to your usual routine so they're not going to judge you for not keeping to a schedule; they'll just assume your spending your time with them rather than cleaning up after them. And if they've had a nice time, they'll only come away with a good impression of you and your home.

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