Holidays are upon us all, and for some this will mean having overnight guests. Whether you are hosting for the first time or the fiftieth time, I have just one question for you – Have you stayed in your own guest room? I would be willing to bet that 98% of you will say “no, I don’t need to, I can tell that it is OK”, but I am going to advise that maybe you don’t know. Living far away from our family and some of our friends, we have the opportunity to stay in guest rooms frequently. Some are comfortable, some are not. Many years ago, I read an article on staying in your own guest room, and I was astounded by what I found when I did that in our former homes and in this home. Things that you won’t think about and your guests will not tell you come to your attention. I have done this in every home we have had, and I always find out things I wouldn’t otherwise know. It isn’t enough to just sleep in the bed yourself, you need to take your spouse and pack a suitcase to take with you. And you need to do it twice, once in summer and once in winter. Why? Because you need to know if the bed is comfortable for two guests to sleep in, temperature of the room in different seasons, where to put your suitcase or a glass of water, light pollution or pitch darkness, noises you wouldn’t know about and other things.
I advocate that the minimum size for a guest room is a queen size bed. If you have only a full size, and a couple is coming to visit, inform them of this and don’t be offended if they choose to stay in a hotel instead. Nothing ruins a holiday visit faster than being irritable from not sleeping well, then having to smile at your hosts and say everything is fine. That full size works fine for one person like when your mother in law is visiting, or two people used to that size bed, but for two people who normally sleep in a king, it may be too small for what they are used to. For me, due to my spine surgery, it is impossible to sleep with DH in anything smaller than a queen.
We stayed with some friends last year where the supposedly full size (but antique) bed was so small that my husband slept in it and I slept on a sofa in the room. No, we didn’t tell our hosts that we did that. At another visit with other friends, the room was so hot that even opening the windows didn’t help. It was summer, and they didn’t like using their air conditioner, but didn’t have any fans in the room. Their master bedroom had a ceiling fan, but there was no fan in the guest room, so they were comfortable but we burned up. Then there was the house we stayed at in winter, also too hot this time from the heater. It was so hot that we opened windows with snow outside just to get the room comfortable. None of these things were told to the hosts, I didn’t want to let them know that we weren’t comfortable. I did try to hint that they may want to try stay in the rooms themselves, but I am pretty sure that went in one ear and out the other.
So, here are some things I found and fixed when I stayed in my own guest room. First, the ceiling fan made an awful buzzing sound after it had been on about an hour. Something within it was getting hot, and it woke me up. Just turning on the fan and watching it for a couple of minutes wouldn’t have told me this. So, we replaced the ceiling fan.
We purchased a new guest bed when we moved here, and made a bad decision, the bed was really too firm. It felt fine in the store, but sleeping on it overnight told me it wasn’t. So I bought a foam topper to put under the mattress pad, and yes, spent another night. This made the bed very comfortable. In fact, I have had guests tell me (before I had a chance to ask) that it was more comfortable than their own beds at home!
Too many things on the night stands makes it difficult to find a spot for my glass of water and DH’s glasses. We know you are proud of your family, but please put the pictures somewhere else. This picture illustrates a true story of a nightstand where we stayed that was covered with pictures. I staged this picture with my own stuff at home to illustrate. No, I didn’t say anything, how could I tell my hostess without hurting her feelings? Luckily, she doesn’t read blogs, LOL! But someday I’ll convince her to stay in her own guest room and she will figure it out.
Truly, the nightstands need to be almost clear of anything so your guests have room for their stuff. A clock is essential, as is the blanket control for winter. But now, there is space for a guest to put something they may want at hand overnight.
Oversize night tables are wonderful for guests. You can leave a book of short stories or poems there as a bedtime ‘snack read’, and still have room for your guest’s things. I add a coaster for a place to put a glass of water. Many of us like to have one at the bedside overnight.
Where will your guests put their suitcases? On the floor isn’t really convenient if you can avoid it. There should be space for at least two suitcases if you have two guests. Those folding suitcase stands aren’t expensive and can be stored out of the way if there isn’t any other spot for putting a bag. I have my cedar chest in the guest room for just this purpose.
The closet should be clear of your out of season clothes if possible, or at least have a prominent space in the center for your guests to hang their clothes. I add hangers, including some nice satin padded ones for that extra luxury touch. Extra pillows are available in the closet, and I put four on the bed. I sleep with two pillows and so does DH. Giving your guests options for thickness and firmness will make them more comfortable.
For winter, I have a dual control electric blanket on the bed, with extra quilts in the corner. Some people get really cold and need the extra warmth. This footstool holds an extra quilt, and is a place for the extra quilt on the bed if it isn’t wanted. It can hold the decorative pillows on the bed too.
Try to get to the bathroom in the dark. At our home, on a cloudy or moonless night it is pitch black. There is no artificial light from outside, and we do not have street lights. Is there enough light from night lights or clocks for you to see where to go? Remember, your guests may wake up not remembering that the door is on the left or that the bathroom down the hall is several steps away, and they may be reluctant to turn on an overhead light. You can put night lights in the bathroom and perhaps the hallway to make it safer.
On the other side, is there so much light coming into the bedroom from street lights or other outdoor light sources that the room is too light? You might consider adding either a room darkening shade or some kind of window covering that can be closed if your guests prefer it dark. I personally need it dark, too much light makes it difficult for me to get to sleep.
OK, you have addressed all you can think of, and now it is time to stay in the room. Be sure you sleep with the door closed, it may make a difference in the temperature overnight and every guest I’ve ever had closed the door. I also close the door when staying with family or friends, so do your test with the door closed. During the summer, the room was comfortable as I went to bed. But, the heat pumps that cool the house are right next to the window, and in the middle of the night they kicked on and woke me up. To remedy this, we cool the rooms for about an hour before bedtime, then adjust the temperature control up so the heat pumps don’t come on in the night. I also found out that the refrigerator kicked on in the night, and it is just on the other side of the wall from the guest room. That one I can’t do anything about. But when I replace the frig, I’ll look for a more energy efficient quieter one.
After all that, don’t forget the bathroom. If your guest bathroom is shared with a resident in your home, be sure to leave enough space for your guests to put their toothbrushes, shaving gear, cosmetics, and other grooming things. If your guest bathroom cannot accommodate that, it is even more important to have clear space in the guest room for those things. Our home’s guest bath used to be a master bath, so we have a lot of space. I have a drawer of extras for guests just in case, like extra toothbrushes. I’ll show that to the guests, then show them the empty drawer for their things along with the large countertop to set their items. If you have limited counter space, don’t take it up with this kind of item, they may not be needed and will get in the way.
In the tub area, be sure there is space for a guest’s shampoo and conditioner, if there isn’t, consider a shower hanger like this one. There is shampoo/conditioner here just in case it is needed. Plus our guest bath has two sets of towel hanger racks on the backside of the bathroom door for extra drying space. Very convenient when there are three or four people sharing a bathroom for a few days.
Be sure to provide a can of air freshener on the toilet. I learned this from my mother who had major digestive problems after her massive surgery for pancreatic cancer. She was always embarrassed to use a bathroom due to the odor, so giving her a way to take care of that made her more comfortable. And who knows, your guests may have the same kind of issue but never tell you. I also make sure to put an extra roll of paper on the toilet tank, as it may run out when I am not looking.
So here is your checklist to take care of, then sleep in the room to be sure.
Are there night stands on both sides of the bed, free of clutter?
Can two people sleep in the bed and be comfortable? Is the bed Goldilocks ready (not too hard or soft)?
Do you have a selection of pillows? Is there a place to put extra pillows if not wanted overnight?
Do you have extra quilts or blankets in the room? Is there a place to put them if not wanted?
Does the closet have space and extra hangers for guests clothes?
Is there a place for guest’s suitcases? Will it accommodate two? If not, where will a guest put a second suitcase?
Is there space in the bathroom for guest grooming supplies? If not, is there extra tabletop or bureau top space in the guest room for those things? Is there an air freshener on the toilet? Is there a place in the bathtub area for guest’s shampoo and conditioner? Do you have some available if they didn’t bring those?
Is the room comfortable overnight from a heating/cooling viewpoint with the door closed? Is a fan needed?
If there is a ceiling fan, is it quiet?
Are there noises in the night that can be fixed?
Think of your guest room and bath like a hotel, with lots of space for your guests to spread out and place their things. Certainly you can put some seasonal items here and there, just be sure to leave lots of space free and clear. If you need some folding tables for temporary use, check the thrift store, you can always donate them back after the holidays if you don’t have storage space. Or borrow one from a friend. Take care of the things you can, and enjoy the holidays knowing your guests are truly comfortable.
Is your guest room really ready?