After reading this, we should warn you that you’ll probably be terrified to ever entertain again. Learning about all the overlooked areas of your home, where dust is cluttering, and secrets are hiding, that your guests always notice is bound to make even the most best hostess blush. But if you really read it, and internalize it, you can prep your home and guard yourself against even the nosiest houseguest.
Originally published on May 11, 2017. Updated on October 8. 2022.
The first thing a houseguest is going to notice about your home is how clean you keep it. If you’re one of those who doesn’t really pay attention to mess, or a “I’ll get to it later” type, don’t assume your guest shares that philosophy. To avoid horrified stares and quick excuses to exit, clean up before having company over. Not everyone enjoys hanging out in a pigsty. While you’re at it, watch out for the 20 grossest things that are in your home right now.
Where and how you place your furniture in a room is definitely something that guests will notice. While you may have had the couch situated in the same place for so long that you can’t imagine it anywhere else, your guest may well be mentally rearranging your furniture layout while sizing up the room. Meanwhile, guests can also experience a jarring effect by decor that’s inconsistent from room to room, or things such as the height of wall-hanging artwork if it’s hung either too high or too low.
The entry of a home can easily become a repository for shoes, umbrellas, backpacks and the like, yet it’s going to be the first thing a guest notices upon entering your house. Keep floors clean, give baseboards and doors a scrub and find another home – even temporarily – for all the excess footwear that tends to pile up in the entryway of a home.
There’s a very good chance your houseguest will be using one of your bathrooms, so this is one room in particular you’ll want to ensure is squeaky clean. Bathrooms are something that many of us take for granted, since we use them on a day-to-day basis, but try to look at yours with fresh eyes and try to see it the way your guest will. You may be surprised by what you view. If you’re getting ready for a guest, use this checklist while getting the spare bedroom ready.
Even those who don’t pay attention to furniture are bound to notice lighting, especially if it’s too harsh or so dim that they find themselves bumping into things. Fluorescent lighting will typically evoke a strongly negative reaction, while softer, more-ambient light can create a comfortable feel; you can never go wrong with natural sunlight flooding through a window. Learn more ways to maximize natural light in your home.
Aromas and Scents
Humans’ sense of smell is more powerful than many people realize, and we’re likely to form a strong subconscious memory based on a scent or aroma. This can be a positive one – say, a vanilla-scented candle or cookies baking in the oven – or the opposite, if a guest enters your home and is met with the overpowering smell of the flounder you fried up the night before.
The paintings or prints you hang on your walls will say a lot about your personality and taste. If you have a predilection for, say, paintings of Elvis on black velvet or statuettes of sad clowns, your guests will form an immediate impression of you. On the flip side, bland and generic artwork will also lead them to a conclusion about your personality – and not a good one! Here are the best places to buy art online in Canada.
Have you ever snooped in the medicine cabinet while a guest in someone else’s home? Then don’t be surprised when your guests do the same thing in your bathroom. A 2014 survey indicates that 40 percent of respondents admit to snooping in their host’s medicine cabinet. “Medicine cabinets are where you find secrets,” noted a psychologist. “People are naturally curious and like to know things about other people.”
One of the first things a houseguest will do is to take a peek at any books you have on your bookshelves – it’s kind of a form of societally acceptable snooping. With this in mind, it’s not a bad idea to be aware of which books you’ve got on your shelves; if you have a secret addiction to cheesy romance novels, you may want to keep those hidden away.
Brightly Coloured Walls
You might see that brightly coloured feature wall as adding a splash of vibrant drama, but don’t be surprised if your guests have a different response. Loud, bright wall colours will no doubt evoke strong opinions; to make the best impression on guests, stick with more neutral hues.
Greenery around the house is sure to be noticed by houseguests, and they’ll typically enjoy the fresh look and feel it can add to your home’s decor. Beware, however; sad-looking, wilted plants will evoke the opposite response.
Many of us use tabletops for various purposes, with the kitchen table doing double duty (or even more) as a makeshift office or study space. If you have guests coming over, rather than going through every letter, bill and piece of paper, pick a spot where these items can be stored temporarily and can be placed back on that surface after guests leave. Even better – get rid of stuff you don’t need and try to use the impending arrival of guests as an excuse to cut the clutter.
Sometimes it’s the little touches that make all the difference when creating a first impression, and a vase full of fresh flowers is something that guests will notice – in a good way.
If you have a dog or cat that sheds its fur, that can tend to create lovely little fur-balls that accumulate on corners and on around baseboards unless you vacuum regularly. You may not even notice, but your guests sure will, especially if they’re allergic to pet dander. Bottom line: give your home a thorough vacuuming before guests arrive.
If you’re in the process of a home renovation or remodelling a room, that unfinished, in-progress area will certainly not go unnoticed by a guest, especially if that space is essentially a paused work zone. If possible, try to steer guests away from this area, or at least explain all the wonderful new features the room will have once renovations are complete.