Holidays and houseguests! They go together like love and marriage, don’t they? But what if you don’t have much room for extras? Our three-bedroom farmhouse worked fine for our family of five boys, thanks to bunk beds. When guests came, the boys willingly (for the most part) took to the couches, recliners, and floor.

But now that our sons are bringing home wives and children, our house is bursting at the seams when everyone visits. And no one wants to stay at a motel—they would miss out on swapping stories about childhood pranks and challenging each other to board games late into the evening.

Last summer when we hosted fourteen overnighters and uncounted day guests for four days, I jotted down some tips that worked for us. See if you can find a fresh idea or two for sheltering your guests with ease.

Sleeping Arrangements

     •   Evaluate your options. If your sleepers outnumber your beds, get creative. For adults, we have successfully used air beds (the modern ones are surprisingly comfortable), couches, recliners, a tent, a camper trailer, and the back of a station wagon padded with lawn chair cushions. For young children we’ve faced two living room chairs together to improvise sleeping space. Once we padded a dresser drawer with blankets for a tiny baby, setting it on the floor next to his parents. We’ve used borrowed cribs and playpens, too.

     •   Since we have lots of houseguests, I’ve set aside large bins to store extra bedding. It is handy to store one complete set in each bin so you don’t have to dig through several bins to get sheets, blankets, and pillows. Some rooms have dressers or closet shelves to store bedding.

     •   If your temporary beds, such as couches, will have other daytime purposes, decide where the bedding will be stored during the day. Likewise, think through where guests whose bedrooms vanish at dawn can keep their luggage.

     •   Select a place for guests to place coats, cameras, and other items they will use during the day. A cell phone charging area is essential with a dozen wired adults in the house.

     •   Think about what you can provide for your guests’ comfort: perhaps an extra blanket or pillow, a reading light and selection of books and magazines, a coaster for a bedside glass of water, an alarm clock, a night-light, or a flashlight.


Lots of people sharing the same bathroom? Here are some ideas:

     •   Place a set of bath linens on each person’s bed; let them know where to hang their wet towels after use. When folded in thirds lengthwise, we can fit three bath towels on each towel bar. We supplement towel rod space with a plastic hanger (doesn’t rust) to hang on a bathroom or bedroom door hook.

     •   Set a pad of sticky notes and a pencil on the bathroom counter. Each guest posts his name on the wall above his towel. This really helps if all of your towels are the same color.

     •   Check each bathroom at least twice daily. If you have lots of ladies in the house, expect the toilet paper to vanish at an astonishing rate.

     •   Keep a stash of new toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine supplies, shampoo, over-the-counter pain medications, etc., in case someone has forgotten an item.

Food For a Crowd

No room around the table for your crowd? Here are some hints that work even in a small house.

     •   Consider folding card tables or TV trays. Borrow or invest in some folding chairs. Pull out large floor pillows for teens and tweens. Drag in the benches from your picnic table or your lawn chairs.