4 ways to organize guests

Where but at the cottage do we so often have friends and family visit overnight? It’s a forced familiarity, beyond just hosting people for dinner. You see everyone in pyjamas, without makeup! To make guests more comfortable, plan ahead with these simple organizing tips. The payoff: Self-reliant guests equal a more relaxing weekend for you too.

Make things easier on yourself

Hosting can be taxing at times—you love your guests, but you don’t want to be their maid, mother, or 24-7 camp director. These tricks will help visitors be less reliant on you.

  • Instead of buying towels all in one colour, select sets in a variety of hues. With towels colour-coded for each person, it will be easier to keep them straight.
  • Store extra blankets in each bedroom, instead of keeping them in a central linen closet. Guests can then grab what they need whenever they get cold, without having to ask.
  • Outfit a cupboard with amusements for all ages, from toddler to teen to adult. In addition to cards and board games, include dress-up clothing, arts and crafts supplies, books, comics, and DVDs (if you have a television) to keep everyone occupied when it’s raining.

Stocking up

  • Guests rarely pack rainwear, so a hoard of inexpensive slickers and boots in several sizes means everyone stays dry. Buy some basic yellow rain jackets for about $13 to $30 each, or pick up plastic ponchos from the dollar store. You’ll find classic gumboots for as little as $15 a pair.
  • Stowed by the main door, extra sun hats, sunscreen, and beach towels are easy for bathing beauties to grab on their way to the dock. This is also a good spot to keep bug spray.
  • Who says no to a helping hand? Keep a selection of work gloves for generous guests who offer to pitch in on chores such as painting, chopping wood, or rebuilding the privy.
  • Put together a basket of toiletries for those who forget their own. Include toothpaste and new toothbrushes, a variety of feminine products (hidden in a decorative box if you’re the modest type), and antihistamines (for allergies and insect bites). If you collect hotel shampoos, this is a good way to use them, and the bottles can be refilled. Place the basket in a visible spot in the bathroom.

Where do I find…

There’s always a bit of awkwardness that comes with staying at someone else’s place — even the simplest actions raise questions. Can I take a shower? Should I have it in the morning or afternoon? Where do the plates go? Am I allowed to take the canoe out? You can put your guests at ease by showing them where things are, but why not go a step further?

  • You may detail all the cottage “rules” during the tour, but people tend to forget, so post a list of the important ones in an easy-to-spot place.
  • Draw and make copies of a personalized map to hand out to guests as needed. Include the surrounding area, marking the location of the nearest corner store, liquor and beer stores, movie rental place, marina, and gas station. When someone has a hankering for a chocolate bar or offers to fill up the boat, your map will be ready to go.
  • Avoid stubbed toes during midnight bathroom visits by having a nightlight in the hallway or personal flashlights on each bedside table.

The grand tour

Sure, you show visitors around after they arrive, but do you really give them a thorough tour of your cottage and the property? Beyond letting guests know where their bedrooms and the bathrooms are, also open cupboards and show them where things such as dishes, extra towels, fishing rods, and PFDs are kept. Point out light switches, tricky latches and taps, and patches of poison ivy. Also outline any rules, such as no soaping up in the lake. You may want to suggest shower times (staggered so you don’t run out of hot water) and mention when you’ll be up in the morning, plus what the breakfast plans are (cereal and bagels on everyone’s own schedule, or a pancake feast with the crew?). And don’t forget to talk boat safety, teach guests how to work the coffee machine, and demonstrate good jiggling technique on the toilet handle.


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