How to Guest-Proof Your Home for the Holidays

Keep visitors from snooping around in your closets and drawers by making sure they’ve got everything they need in plain sight.

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You spent last Christmas lodging with family, gobbling their ham and guzzling their beer, so it makes sense that you felt compelled to return the favor this year. Now, these relatives — whether your own or ones you acquired upon marriage — are nice and all, but the idea of them spending several days under your roof, snooping through your things, has you contemplating the logistics of padlocking every drawer and wrapping your whole interior in plastic. For peace of mind, here are several steps you can take to ensure that your secrets remain secret and your spotless home remains spotless, all while still being a decent host.

Make a Valuables and Secrets Box
If you’ve got some valuable and delicate piece of art or a collectible that you’d rather guests didn’t pick up and shake while yelling, “Hey, whaddaya call this thing?” you’re going to want a way to prevent costly accidents. Meg, an Airbnb host who’s been renting rooms in her various homes for more than a decade, suggests walking through your house before any guests arrive and placing all of your valuables in a box that can be tucked into your closet until after your company has gone.

If you have rooms that are entirely filled with stuff you don’t want people to touch, and packing them up would be way too much work, you can either lock the doors to those rooms or use some kind of decoration, like a strand of lights or a series of potted plants, to discourage people from heading into that part of your home.

Put Your Doormats to Good Use
When you have an increased number of people coming in and out of your home, especially during the holidays, when the outside can be particularly damp and muddy, doormats can seriously save your floors. In fact, you might even want to employ two doormats at each entryway for extra cleanliness. “It’s nice to have a softer and thinner rug inside and a more bristly, durable one outside,” Joy Cho, of California design studio Oh Joy, suggested to the Washington Post.

Similarly, your floors might benefit from you taking some time to sweep the path leading up to your doorway, and if you can designate a section on the inside of your front door where guests can place their shoes and coats, even better. One of the simplest ways to do this is placing one pair of your own shoes by the front door and one of your own coats on a coat rack nearby, which should hopefully encourage your guests to do the same.

Bolster Your Kitchen and Bathrooms
Kitchens and bathrooms are the most prone to snooping guests, since they hold the items that travelers need most — food and toiletries. To prevent people from peeking into your various drawers and cabinets, Meg suggests putting together small baskets of common necessities that can live on the countertops before anyone arrives, so they have access to these things without having to search around. “Have fresh towels out and ready, so they know which towels to use,” she says, adding that you can do the same with soaps, shampoos and even coffee accoutrements, like mugs, teaspoons and sugar. If you have any confidential medications or are expecting children to be around, you should also clear out your medicine cabinet and place those kinds of things in the basket in your closet.

Since these areas also become much more used when guests are about, consider taking some precautions to prevent any accidents before they happen. For instance, double bag the trash can in your kitchen to prevent leakage from the inevitable barrage of excess trash and maybe swap out your thick toilet paper for a thinner variation to avoid clogs from all that extra flushing. Likewise, add some air fresheners and stain remover sticks to your basket of guest toiletries, and keep a plunger in each bathroom, so they can deal with smells, messes and clogs without having to awkwardly go through you first.

Use Your Crappier Sheets
While dressing your guest room bed or couch with nasty, stained bedding would just be plain bad hosting, you might consider removing any fancy decorative sheets or pillows just in case any spills or accidents happen. This might be acting a little overly cautious, sure, but when guests are visiting for the holidays, someone is bound to have too much spiked eggnog at some point, so you want to make sure the bedding can be easily tossed into the wash without too much of a concern.

Be Ready for the Inevitable
Look, no matter how much you prepare your house for guests and all the messy incidents that they might cause, when people are celebrating in a new place, things are bound to get dirty. So be prepared: Put together a cleaning bucket filled with sponges, rags, a dustpan and some all-purpose cleaner, and keep it somewhere accessible. You might even stick a decorative label on it to let your guests know that you expect messes to happen and to encourage them to make use of it. That way, when your dad inevitably spills wine on the floor, he can simply grab the bucket, do some quick cleaning and everyone can get right back to the festivities.