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6 tips for hosting guests in a small cottage

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It’s one of the paradoxes of cottage living: you leave the city to get away from it all, and you spend most of your time entertaining—and cleaning up after—an almost endless stream of visitors. After all, you love your cottage, and you want to share the good times with your nearest and dearest.

As great as it is to reconnect with friends and family over a boat ride, a bonfire, or a board game, living in close quarters can strain even the most amicable relationship. And if you have a small cottage—one that requires you to get creative with public and personal space—tiny tensions can get magnified quickly. Add a couple of rainy days, and going back to the city suddenly becomes an attractive alternative. What a waste of a precious cottage weekend.

If that experience sounds familiar, here are some strategies for hosting guests in a small space—without going nuts.

Figure out how many is too many

Determining how many people you can comfortably host is the first step to making sure everyone, including you, has a good time. Don’t just consider sleeping room—think about your septic system, your eating arrangements, and the amount of space you have for people simply to sit back and relax. Make sure to let your guests know if bringing unexpected adults, children, or pets is going to strain your cozy cottage’s capacity—and remember that kids, no matter how small they are, tend to take up more room than adults.

Find ways to create private space

Part of the joy of being at the cottage is getting away from it all—and for a lot of people, “it all” includes other people. If you’ve got a small space, giving people the opportunity for quiet time might mean getting creative—so set up a shaded seating area away from the house, create a cozy nook with curtains, or string a hammock on the beach.

Create private time, too

You don’t have to spend every waking minute with your guests—and chances are, they’d like some solo time too. If you’re comfortable with the idea, let them take a solo spin in the boat, or give them a map of nearby hiking trails. Keeping a binder of brochures with interesting things to do in the area will encourage your guests to explore independently—and then have the fun of sharing their adventures around the bonfire once everyone’s back together.

Make the cottage rules clear

Have a tricky toilet? Undrinkable tap water? Being up-front about things like plumbing quirks, shoe preferences, feeding animals, and places to put wet towels will help avoid misunderstandings and mishaps. If your guests are adventurous types, stock some biodegradable soap and shampoo and suggest that showers be strictly lake-only affairs.

Accept help

If your guests want to sweep up, do the dishes or cook dinner, accept—and relax.

Prepare for bad weather

Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail—so make sure you’ve got lots of activities to while away the time if the weather takes a turn for the worse. Board games, puzzles, cooking projects, movies, crafts—having a variety of things to do inside will keep people relaxed, especially when the Monopoly games start to get nasty. And don’t think you have to stay inside—stock a couple of cheap rain jackets so people can get outside for a walk, or suggest a rainy dip in the lake (just make sure there isn’t any lightning).

Hosting guests can be one of the great joys of cottaging—and if you have a small space, all you need is a little extra creativity.