6 secrets to hosting holiday guests

Maybe you're already humming "home for the holidays" and thinking about passing 'round the coffee and the pumpkin pie and children nestled all snug in their beds.

But these visions of sugar plums and such can float away ike Marley's ghost when you remember you'll be hosting holiday guests in your home. (And no, "What am I, an Airbnb?" will never make a catchy carol.)

To get the festive soundtrack back on your internal playlist, start with an upbeat attitude modeled by Rachel Tepper Paley on Thrillist:

"Hosting is great, and it helps you reconnect with friends in a way that's fundamentally different than if they'd stayed in a hotel," she said. "When was the last time you and your college roomie slept under the same roof? Shared a bathroom? Stayed up in pajamas until 3 a.m.? You get the idea. Plus, if you don't open your home to friends and family, don't expect them to be thrilled when you knock on their doors."

Also adopt these other strategies for giving holiday houseguests a warm welcome. They're all designed to delight your visitors but still leave you time to enjoy the tofurkey and homemade ornament-making and Midnight Mass alongside everyone else.

Declutter soonest. Even if the family festivities are based at someone else's home, it's only kind to make sure you and your guests can readily navigate crucial areas like the kitchen, den, dining room and powder room. Go for enough space to actually hang out in, but if you can't do that, eliminate as much clutter as you can.

"Remove anything unnecessary from countertops, coffee tables, and ottomans; if it's out of sight, keep it out of mind, for now," Houselogic recommended.

And while it's not a good idea to start dismantling junk drawers and rearranging the linen closet if you've somehow let the schedule get away from you, you can still haul out the trust contractor bags. "If you run short of time, bag up the clutter and store it in car trunks, basements, and out-of-the-way closets," Houselogic advised. "Sort and arrange after your guests depart."

Credit: www.keithwright.com

Credit: www.keithwright.com

Put a holly jolly accent in the guest room. A poinsettia or a simple mason jar light which can serve as a festive nightlight to brighten guest quarters. Consider placing one or more similar decorations on the nightstand, dresser or guest bathroom window ledge.

Set up a coffee station complete with extra stools. Surely you're not the only person who can't function without coffee? So no one is bugging you before you've had enough caffeine to function, make sure a coffee set-up is stocked and in plain sight and then make sure guests know how to get what they need.

Houselogic recommended establishing the coffee station somewhere like the den, to keep people out of the kitchen while the crew is making meals and cookies. Just make sure there is plenty of seating near the station so people don't drift back into the kitchen just as the giant lasagna is coming out of the oven.

Customize a welcome basket. Yes, this is literally out of the Bed and Breakfast playbook. But it's a fun thing to do for houseguests, and something you can get the kids involved with.

The GuestReady blog noted that you can't go wrong with chocolates, a bottle of wine (or champagne if it's close to New Year's) and fluffy slippers. That kind of basket can go in a common space, like the den, if you have several houseguests or a whole family and they'll be sharing it.

Stock up on full-size toiletries. Remember that guests may have forgotten essentials, like a toothbrush or razor. Make sure you have an extra on hand (and hey, any leftovers can go in the Christmas stocking.) If you're vying for most popular family host honors, consider stocking up on full-size containers of luxury shampoos, face wash or anything else your guest couldn't bring due to liquid restrictions on airlines.

Give out personalized thermostats. A place where they can sleep soundly is a thoughtful gift for all seasons, and fairly easy to provide once you remind yourself that just like you, houseguests have nighttime idiosyncrasies. "Guests tend to have a wide range of temperature preferences—some opt for an ice-cold space for sleeping, while others will freeze if the temperature is cooler than in their own homes," Southern Living cautioned. "Because most guests won't realize it until the middle of the night—when they probably won't want to wake you to ask for help—put additional options within easy reach." Options could include blankets folded but within easy reach, down comforters for the heat seekers, and an infrared heater or small fan stored within easy reach.

"Remember, too, that some guests aren't used to nighttime noise, so be sure to include a small, inexpensive sound machine in the closet that they can plug in if necessary," Sl advised.

Help them plan for downtime. Especially if your houseguests haven't been in the old hometown for a few years or aren't even from the area, take the time to collect a binder or notebook with some suggested activities and holiday festivals. Coupons and gift cards to those places are dead useful, too.

Also write down the website addresses or phone numbers for any "don't miss" activities.

And to help the bunch of you with cabin fever or the stresses of being cooped up when you're not used to spending much time together, make sure some of the activities revolve around walking and exercise.

If you belong to a Y or the gym, see about arranging for guest passes your visitors can use with you or while you're at work or other gatherings. (This is also a great way to head off holiday weight gain, and your guests can only thank you for that.)

Along with the list, though, open communication with the guests about how much you'll be available and when will keep the upbeat holiday vibe humming.

"I've found that a kind-but-direct approach is the best way to tackle this," advised Paley. "Sandwiching your conflicts between fervent exclamations of joy is highly recommended. Repeat after me: 'I'm so, so excited to see you this weekend! I have to do X, Y, and Z at such-and-such time on such-and-such date, but otherwise I'm around to hang with you. We're going to have the best time ever!' Easy peasy."