I used to believe I knew exactly what it took to be a good host. I’d try my best to offer delicious food and drinks and make sure the house was sparkling clean. And yet…my guests never seemed to feel at home.
Then I visited one of my best friends, Jenna, and her husband Joe to stay for a few nights, and immediately noticed my entire visit felt like a warm hug. The decor invited me in. Things were clean enough to make me comfortable but not so spotless that I couldn’t relax and actually use items, like the throw blankets and pillows scattered about.
From the relaxed and unscheduled vibe, to the pile of clean towels in the bathroom, to the multiple areas arranged for visiting, I felt like I was being treated to a hotel stay. As an introvert, I usually leave other people’s homes worn down and desperate for some alone time, no matter how much I love my hosts.
But this time? I left feeling more relaxed and refreshed than when I arrived.
And it left me wondering…what exactly was it that made me feel so at home there? And how could I recreate that same feeling for my family and friends?
I collected my own thoughts on this topic and then opened up the conversation to you, our readers, on social media. And friends, you did not disappoint! Here are the points we all agreed on:
Be a Good Host at the Front Door
Invite others to visit your home.
It sounds like a given, but to be a good host, you have to first extend an invitation. If you’ve never invited your neighbors over, don’t expect them to immediately feel at home when they step inside your door to ask a favor or return your escape artist dog. If your potential guest has to decline your invitation at the time, be sure to let them know that your door is always open.
Sincerely welcome guests.
Your facial expressions, words, and tone at the front door all send a message to your guest about how truly welcome they are. So even if you’re stressed out and covered in gravy from an explosive kitchen mishap (maybe that’s just me?!), take a deep breath and sincerely smile as you say your hellos.
Greet your guests with a warm hug (if you’re both comfortable with it).
One of the most popular reader requests was for hugs the moment they step in the door. The warm and welcoming tone of a hug helps set the stage for the rest of their visit.
Offer a place to set their things.
I know I often awkwardly scan a room to find an appropriate place to set my purse. I want it to be easily accessible, away from pets, kids, and feet, and also acceptable to my host. Take the guesswork out of the equation by immediately offering guests a table or closet to safely house any purses, coats, diaper bags, or other belongings.
Be a Good Host Entering the Main Living Area
Another popular request? Offering hot coffee, tea, water, or another drink.
Most guests will feel like a bother asking to drink something from your fridge if you haven’t offered. So eliminate that possibility as soon as they step in the door, and before you start visiting and forget!
Offer a snack.
You don’t necessarily have to make a special shopping trip to have your guests’ favorites on hand. (Although you can never go wrong with that approach.) But I always try to keep some crowdpleasers at the ready.
Think chips and salsa, cheese and summer sausage, break-and-bake cookies, or veggies with ranch dip. I love making up a small tray of fruit when children come to visit. The sweetness makes it feel like a special treat to them, but it’s still a healthy option, sure to please parents.
Bonus points: Show your guests where to find those drinks and snacks in the fridge and pantry, and tell them to help themselves whenever they’d like.
This makes your guests feel more like family.
Show guests where everything is and invite them to make themselves at home.
The single most repeated and requested phrase in reader comments was “make yourself at home.” This seems to be the magic phrase that sets people at ease and convinces them they really are welcome.
Don’t stop offering drinks and snacks.
Just because your guest wasn’t thirsty 30 minutes ago doesn’t mean they aren’t thirsty now. Or maybe they’d like to finish that cup of coffee but believe they’ll need to make it last. Freely and frequently making those small gestures helps to sustain the welcoming feeling.
Invite guests to take a seat and relax.
Again, this seems like a given. I mean, they’re obviously going to sit for the majority of their visit, right? But by ushering them to the comfiest chair in the room and using that magic phrase, “relax,” you’re not only allowing them to sit, you’re inviting them to.
Be a Good Host By Tweaking Your Home
Keep things (just somewhat) clean.
Sure, a bit messier home might make your guests feel more like family. Buuuuut most people don’t want to have to relocate a pile of laundry to find an open seat…or navigate a pee-splattered toilet. The general sentiment was that too clean makes your home feel almost unrelatable, but that a little spot cleaning will go a long way in making guests feel more comfortable.
Make your house smell like home.
Whether it’s the crockpot roasting dinner, freshly brewed coffee, or a clean or yummy-smelling candle, be mindful of the scent guests will encounter as they walk through the door. (I love to burn seasonal scents like pumpkin or gingerbread.) This is especially key if your home tends to smell like smoke, pets, or other strong scents.
Provide a comfortable seat.
Unlike inviting guests to take a seat, this tip is all about making sure the seat is comfortable. For example, if your guest is under five feet tall, don’t offer the high barstools on the kitchen island for her to climb up into. If they’re elderly, be sure the seat isn’t too low, making it difficult to get in and out of.
Most readers said they’d opt for a cozy couch and nothing so fancy they’d worry about ruining. I’d personally add offering a pet hair-free place to sit. Your guests may not enjoy animals like you do, may not want to leave your home covered in pet hairs, and may even be allergic.
Offer guests a comfy blanket.
Of course, they aren’t planning to take a nap. But lots of people enjoy cozying up to a warm blanket or throw pillow while they chat, especially during colder months. Keep a few nearby, folded in a basket, hanging on a ladder, or simply draped over the arm of the couch. Not only will it make guests feel at home, it will also help to contribute to that hygge home feeling.
Be a Good Host By Giving Guests Your Full Attention
Turn off the tv and put down your phone.
Judge me if you will, but I strongly dislike when family and friends come together to…all look down at their phones…or silently watch tv together. I don’t feel like we’re visiting much at all.
After all, I don’t want to interrupt someone’s Instagram feed with my conversation. And I’m not fully convinced my host is truly listening to me if they’re simultaneously checking notifications. Eliminate technological distractions if you’re aiming to hold a conversation.
Make sure you’re listening as much, if not more than, you’re talking.
Have you ever had the feeling someone was talking at you instead of with you? To be a good host, one who makes guests feel fully heard, follow the old adage that we have two ears and one month…and try listening twice as much as you speak.
Be a Good Host to Overnight Guests
If your guests are staying overnight, consider going the extra mile to load up on their favorite beverages and foods
One of the hardest parts of staying the night away from home is losing the ability to walk to your own fridge, filled with all of your favorite things. Providing this comfort to guests will make your home feel more like theirs.
Stock the bathroom with toiletries and be sure to invite guests to use them.
Most guests will pack their own toothpaste and other toiletries, not knowing for certain if their host will provide those items. So making the extra effort to stock the bathroom with shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, Q-tips, tweezers, and fluffy towels, will make their stay feel more like a treat than a necessity.
Stock their bed or bedroom.
Pile guests high with extra pillows and blankets so they can choose as many or as few as they prefer. Leave a note with the WiFi password. And consider any personal touches they might enjoy, like a few bottles of water or fresh flowers at their bedside.
Let them know they’re welcome to the fridge, or to relax in the living room, even if you’re asleep or doing something else.
I can think of several times I’ve stayed in a guest room, trying to pass time reading or scrolling social media, because I didn’t feel comfortable hanging out in another room when my hosts weren’t there. Verbalizing this to your guests is incredibly helpful in putting them at ease to move about freely.
Give them a tour to show them where everything is.
Another popular request was to show guests where to find things, rather than simply providing them. After all, if they need another blanket in the middle of the night, they don’t want to be left with the choice of either waking you up to ask or rummaging through your hall closets uninvited. Showing guests where to find what they need provides a clear and open invitation to truly make themselves at home.
By becoming more mindful of how you greet and invite guests in, arrange your home, and give guests your full attention, you’ll be a good host in no time.
Incorporate just a few of these tips, and you’ll already be a good host. Try half or even more of them, and your home will become a favorite destination of family, friends, and even strangers. Enjoy your company!
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*Updated April 12, 2021.
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