Preparing for House Guests

Thanksgiving Wreath by Ryan and Sarah Deeds

Thanksgiving Wreath by Ryan and Sarah Deeds

Holy smoke, people! This past week, life has conspired against my blogging schedule in a serious way. If I wasn’t working, I was waiting in some sort of line (passport office, birth certificate office, car repair office). And then to top it off, I got sick.

But not today. This morning I’m so happy to be sitting at my desk, looking out my window at an Austin that has suddenly realized it is November. Fat orange and brown leaves line the streets at my kids’ school, and tiny yellow leaves look so pretty piled up against the green grass along the sidewalk. Autumn is here, and Thanksgiving is less than a week away!

We are so excited to be hosting family this year for Thanksgiving. Of course, hosting house guests requires additional work, which can sometimes lead to that scattered, crazy brain state that we all try to avoid. It doesn’t take much to tip me over into crazy-land, so over the years I’ve done some thinking about ways to avoid it. I always try to understand a problem’s root cause, and in this case I’ve concluded that there are two.

Crazy Root Cause #1:
Wanting Others to Think You Are Perfect

Oh man, this is a tough one. I’ve been working on it for nearly a decade, and although I’ve made headway, it still gets to me for sure. I really don’t like other people seeing my dirty bathrooms or my clutter, and I especially don’t want to feed them some sort of average, poured-the-sauce-out-of-a-jar meal.

There is a part of this that is good, right? Being a good host means wanting to take care of our guests and sharing with them the best that we are able to provide. But there’s another part—my fear that they won’t like me if I’m less than perfect—that’s not so swell. So now I try to aim for somewhere in the middle.

While I’m doing the prep work, I have found that it helps to remind myself of two basic truths whenever I start to feel anxiety that I won’t get everything on my list done in time:

1. I don’t expect others to be perfect. No one expects it of me, either.

2. If I’m visiting someone else, I certainly don’t want them to stress themselves out to an extreme level before I arrive. I won’t care about that pile of papers on the counter or the bag of stuff in the corner. I would rather have them relaxed and happy to see me (while we eat take-out), rather than exhausted and trying not to resent my presence. I should therefore apply the same standard to myself.

Crazy Root Cause #2:
Lack of Proper Prior Planning

My dad was in the Marines, and one of his takeaways was this saying: “Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.” Not so classy, perhaps, but you’ve got to admit it’s catchy—and true.

When to start planning varies from person to person. I’ve found that the more tired you are, the more kids you have (especially the wee ones), the more hours you work, the more hats you wear . . . the earlier you should start your planning. A few years ago, as I kept having kid after kid, I realized that what used to take a day now took a week. Since then my kids have grown up a bit, and now I can get more done in a shorter amount of time. It depends on your situation.

What to plan might look like this:

Meals: Think through every meal that will happen while your guests are visiting, and create the menu and shopping lists for the meals you have to make (think fresh and simple). Determine the restaurants and make reservations if necessary for the meals you’ll eat out. Also plan ahead for your guests’ preferences (coffee vs. tea, what type of alcohol or soda, any allergies or special diets).

Activities: Think through your schedule for the visit and create a loose plan of who will be doing what and when, or a list of options to suggest to your guests.

Sleeping Arrangements: Plan out who will be sleeping where, and do any laundry necessary to have enough sheets, blankets, and towels.

Prep Work: Make a list of work that needs to be done ahead of time: grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning.

How to plan will vary depending on your personality, but I like to count the number of free days I have between now and the guests’ arrival, and then divide all my tasks up so that I have an equal(ish) number of things to do per day. Then I enter these as tasks on my calendar (which for me is my phone). This is particularly helpful if you, like me, often put things off until the last moment.

That’s it for me for now. I’ve got to go make my lists!

Heart Amy

© Amy Daniewicz

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