Adulting Vs. Couch-Surfing: The Host's Guide

In a perfect world, we’d all have a dedicated guest room with vases of fresh wildflowers on matching nightstands. In the real world, many an overnight visitor ends up sighing off to dreamland on a couch, a futon, or the floor. That doesn’t mean they have to be uncomfortable, mind you; you can take good care of your guests no matter how humble your abode might be.

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Use a fitted sheet on your couch cushions.

If you’ll be offering your guest the sofa, make it a bit more bedlike by using a fitted sheet on the cushions; it’s less likely to bunch up in the middle of the night. Check out back-to-school linen sales for the extra-long sheet sets college students buy for their dorm rooms. Speaking of sets...

Pick up a set of sheets that’s just for guests.

Setting aside a fitted sheet, flat sheet, and pillowcases that stay clean and await visitors means never having to say, “Maybe you can find something to watch on TV while I do a quick load of laundry.” 

...And pick up a spare pillow, too.

Yes, a throw pillow covered with a case will do in a pinch — but you’re much better off buying a full-sized one and letting it do double duty as a backup couch pillow when you’re not hosting.

Hand over a carafe (or a water bottle) that’s just for them.

A dedicated drinking vessel doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be clean. A lid’s not a bad idea, either; no one wants to upend a glass of water — or unwittingly share it with the cat — in the middle of the night.

Plug in a night light or two.

Speaking of upending things in the middle of the night, adding a bit of gentle illumination to the hallway and the bathroom is a cheap way to avert tragedy for people who aren’t as familiar with your place as you are.

Offer a sleep mask and earplugs.

If your guest’s sleeping area isn’t quite as restful as a bedroom, they’ll be grateful for buffers between them and ambient light and noise, like your cat's nocturnal scratching habit. Details like these don’t have to be expensive; you can find earplugs at most drugstores, and the masks some airlines hand out for redeye flights work just fine. (Haven’t flown lately? This mask is dreamy.)

Write out simple instructions for your remote controls.

Turn the TV and stereo on and you entertain a man for a few hours; teach a man how to use them and he’ll entertain himself for a lifetime. If he couch-surfs with you for a lifetime, that is. You get the general idea.

Have different-colored guest towels.

“Which Towel Is Mine?” isn’t nearly as harrowing as “Which Toothbrush Is Mine?,” but it’s definitely not pleasant. If you’ll be sharing a bathroom, make sure the guest linens stand out. 

Test your air mattress before guests arrive, and have a patch kit handy.

Want to be extra-sure your guest doesn’t wake up on the floor? 1: Choose a mattress that’s tough enough for camping; chances are good it’ll be harder to puncture. 2: Pump it up before company arrives so you’ll know if you’re dealing with leaks. 3: Swing by your local bicycle shop and pick up a tire repair kit. They’re equally invaluable for leaky beds.

Map out your kitchen cupboards and drawers.

Make a simple diagram of where newcomers can find things like dishes, glasses, silverware, and munchies. Not interested in an art project? Use a few sticky notes to label areas of interest.

Hang on to hotel soap and shower supplies (then display them with pride).

Some guests will happily tuck into your shampoo and conditioner with little encouragement; others will feel downright pampered if you offer them a few tiny powder-room supplies of their very own.

Stock up on spare toothbrushes.

Offering every guest a new toothbrush is overkill—but buying your own toothbrushes in bulk so you can offer a spare is a lovely gesture. (For every toothbrush it sells, Smile Squared gives a toothbrush to a child in need.)

Make it easy to make coffee or tea.

If you don’t have a coffee machine that can be programmed to make magic overnight, greet early risers with a simple French press that’s ready for hot water. Feeling fancy? Perch beside an electric kettle that press to make heating water a breeze.

Keep your Wi-Fi password handy.

Buy a handful of postcards, write your network name and password clearly on the back of each one, and hand them out like door prizes to overnight guests. 

Designate a “guest outlet.”

Show your lodger where they can recharge their gadgets—and make a habit of checking that outlet before they leave to be sure they don’t leave cords behind.

Cut an extra set of house keys.

Spending a few bucks at the hardware store will give your guests the freedom to come and go. It might also free you from having to buy one of those not-very-plausible fake rocks for hiding keys.  

Have drinks and a snack ready.

Offer your guest something to sip and something to eat as soon as they’ve come through the door. They might not feel thirsty or hungry; they will feel welcomed. 

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