'Tis the season for holidays and houseguests. Welcome or unwanted, when you have guests in your home, things operate a little differently. I once made the mistake of working so hard to prepare for guests that I was too worn out to entertain them while there were at my house. Several years later, I've perfected the art of having houseguests. These six tips will help your visits to go better, too.

1. Give guests space

If possible, give guests their own bedroom. It's nice for them to have a place to rest and get away if they feel like being alone. When guests have to sleep in common living spaces, it's also harder for them to sleep. We purchased a queen bed for my oldest daughter's bedroom. She's pretty accommodating about moving in with her brother for a few nights if guests arrive. I like to clear out closet space for hanging clothes, and make room in the bathroom for visitors' toiletries. Giving guests their own space helps them know they are welcome in your home.

2. Be an informative host

When guests come, I try to be direct about activities and how things work in our house. For example, if the kids are in school while guests are visiting, I let the guests know what time we'll be waking up and when I'll be out of the house. If I can't entertain my guests, or they want to take a day trip alone, I give them information on sites to visit and routes to take. You don't have to be at your guests' beck and call, but it's nice for them to know when you're available and when they're on their own. It's awkward to be in someone's home and feel clueless about the schedule.

3. Clean and prepare

Having houseguests always makes me want to clean my house. I like to present my home at its best, so people feel comfortable visiting, and so that I can enjoy being with them. If possible, do shopping, cleaning and laundry before guests come, and recruit your family to help prepare. I usually clear my schedule as much as I can so that I can show guests around town and stay up late playing games and visiting.

4. Plan meals

Cooking for extra people can get tiresome. When houseguests come, plan meals wisely. I don't usually cook a big breakfast every day, but have several options on hand for guests to prepare their own breakfasts. I also plan to eat out at least once, even if it's just getting pizza, so that I'm not cooking all the time. If guests stay for several days, I might ask them to cook once for everyone, particularly if they are family members. Just make sure your guests are aware of the meal schedule and when you expect them to join you for meals at home.

5. Hospitality hints

When guests come to my house, they get a new bar of soap, clean sheets and towels and a welcome sign on the door courtesy of my children. Making guests feel welcome and able to relax is important to me. Other ideas for an extra special touch include offering new hair and skin products (perhaps leftover from your last stay at a hotel), putting a small mint or chocolate on pillows, buying fresh flowers for the guest room and bribing your children not to fight in front of the guests. Be flexible if plans change or guests have extra needs.

6. Ask for help when needed

I remember staying at my mother-in-law's for several days with several other families. I made sure to do the dishes at least once a day. Once my brother-in-law commented, "You sure are doing the dishes a lot. I haven't done them once since I got here." I replied, "Well, I want to be a good guest, and I don't want your mom to have to clean up after everyone three times a day." Sure enough, he was doing the dishes the next day. If you're feeling overwhelmed from playing host, ask for help. Start with your family, but don't be afraid to ask your guests for help, as well. Most guests are more than happy to sweep a floor or vacuum a rug.

I enjoy having houseguests. It seems like a lot of work to get ready for visitors, but it's worth it when you get to spend time with people you love whom you don't often see. Follow these six tips for happy houseguests and your next visit will be a success.

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