Secret Things You (Probably) Do Before Guests Come Round
Come on, we all do these... Don’t we?
Here, then, are the things you may find yourself doing before the doorbell rings (and take comfort from the fact you are not alone).
If you’re anything like us, it would probably take you around a year to sift through the bewildering assortment of ‘stuff’ that’s mysteriously built up around your ears in your kitchen and living areas. However, Jeff and Lily are due round in 30 minutes. You could sweep it all up into a bin liner, but your children and partner would doubtless be unhappy about the loss of their favourite toys, gadgets and paperwork.
Instead, the simplest option is to remove all the general clutter from your downstairs rooms and hide it in the ‘room of shame’. Nearly all of us have one of these – it may be the spare room, the study, or simply your own bedroom. Here, your clutter can stay in an unseemly heap on your floor, or go under the bed or in the wardrobe, until guests have safely departed.
Also see: shoving the huge pile of bills and letters on the kitchen worktop into the nearest drawer.
The dregs of your children’s anti-lice shampoo, tubs of eczema cream, rusty razors and budget shower gels – all these can be quickly hidden in the bathroom cabinet, replaced by those lovely bath oils that you never actually use in real life. Then you can prop a couple of pretty bottles on the edge of your bath for an instant ‘home spa’ effect.
Other sneaky bathroom moves include swiftly bleaching the toilet, and putting out a ‘special’ handwash with matching hand lotion.
Worried your home’s ‘aroma’ features notes of wet dog, unemptied bins and last night’s chicken korma takeaway? Even if you can’t smell it yourself, perhaps you’re vaguely aware things aren’t as ‘fresh’ as they might be.
Half an hour before guests come round is the time to take out the reed diffuser that’s been languishing in a cupboard for six months – and hope it not only disguises anything too unpleasant, but also creates an atmosphere of Zen-like calm.
Tolstoy, Proust, maybe some Yuval Noah Harari, or last year’s unread Booker-prize winner that was a present from your sister. Displaying your brainiest and most literary books is a classic ‘visitors-are-coming-round’ move. You’ll probably want to leave one or two of them lying around on the sofa, so it looks as if you’re actually reading them. All your popular fiction blockbusters and fashion magazines can be banished to the upstairs landing.
Also see: propping up a choice selection of obscure jazz and folk vinyl by the record player – naturally, putting one on just before guests arrive.
Like many of us, for much of the time, you probably slouch around on flat cushions that have deflated into odd, unappealing shapes, too exhausted to do anything about it. These cushions are not artfully placed in winning pattern and colour combinations, but thrown anywhere that provides a little comfort at the end of another long day.
Just before guests arrive is when you may find yourself plumping enthusiastically, and expressing yourself through the medium of cushion arranging. It makes such an improvement for such little effort, you’ll wonder why you don’t do it more often.
While none of us really have a ‘best dinner service’ anymore, in the same way we don’t have ‘best’ front rooms, we do have our own modern version. For many of us, that means putting all your tackiest, chipped mugs to the back of the cupboard and bringing your prettiest ones to the front.
Similarly, hosting is an excuse to bring out all those items you own, but rarely use: silver-plated serving spoons, lacquered bowls, snack trays, linen tablecloths, fluted wine glasses…
Then there are the gourmet edibles that only see the light of day when people visit: holiday liqueurs, jars of stuffed olives, preserved fruits and posh chocolates featuring ingredients no one really likes, such as lavender or chilli.
Unless you live alone, shoes have a habit of taking over certain spaces: hallways, porches, back doors. Yet a clear hallway is a joy to behold, and it also gives a much better impression of the house when visitors land.
Before Auntie Nora and Uncle Bob arrive is when you’ll finally find yourself putting your muddy trainers and knackered boots back in their rightful homes, whether that’s in the under-stairs cupboard, the wardrobe or actually on the shoe rack. Don’t forget to throw the ones that have the worst holes in them in the bin. Job done.
Fear and shame are great motivators for cleaning: no one wants people to think they live in a dirty house. Before guests visit is the time many of us really vacuum, scrub and dust properly.
By this we mean the whole lot: skirting boards, picture rails, chandeliers, curtain tracks, under sofas, mantelpieces – everywhere dust and dirt collects. Mirrors will be polished, too, though you probably still won’t feel up to cleaning the oven.
It goes without saying that the ever-present stack of dirty plates stagnating in your sink will be swiftly removed before guests arrive. Worktops will also be polished till they sparkle; smeary kitchen appliances given the once-over with a damp cloth; crumbs swept away.
As in the bathroom, restyling your kitchen could also involve swapping shameful items for ‘classier’ ones. So the cheap crisps and sugary drinks will be replaced by expensive, hand-cooked artisan chips, sparkling water and finest chocolate-covered biscuits to reflect your sophisticated ‘lifestyle’.
Even if you or your partner are parsimonious when it comes to winter fuel (favouring an extra wooly jumper over nudging up the thermostat), it’s only polite to put the heating on high before other humans arrive.
This gives the welcoming impression your home is a cosy retreat from the harsh, cold world outside. “Ooh, it’s so lovely and warm in here,” guests will cry as they close the front door behind them.
Also in this category: going into caveman mode and manically stoking up the fire or wood-burning stove.
Millions of us spend our time relaxing at home in clothes we wouldn’t dream of being seen wearing in public: onesies, ancient tracksuit bottoms and slouchy hoodies with dubious slogans. (Apparently, one in 10 of us put on our pyjamas as soon as we get home from work.)
However, pompom socks and a fleecy unicorn onesie aren’t really suitable attire when you’re hosting a drinks party. Swapping comfort clothing for grown-up garb just before guests arrive is all part of the ritual of entertaining.
If you have young children (or even older ones), you probably don’t want them coming down and pestering your house guests, interrupting mummy and/or daddy’s special ‘adult drinking time’.
Agreements of pancakes for breakfast, trips to the cinema and bonus chocolate buttons may all need to be brokered beforehand to avoid embarrassing temper tantrums, requests for extra bedtime stories and general refusal to stay tucked up in their bunkbeds like quiet little field mice.
What secret things do you do before guests arrive? Share your tricks and experiences in the Comments section.