We’ve all had those festive moments when you’re just about to settle on the sofa for a session with a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates and Miracle on 34th Street when the doorbell rings and you’re faced with totally unexpected guests: surprise!
Pasting a smile on your face, your attention immediately turns to the bomb site which is your home: the bathroom is covered in wet towels thanks to untrained teenagers, the kitchen is a disaster zone, the living room is scattered with remnants of wrapping paper and now you have to entertain.
There are some simple steps that will ensure you are never left with egg(nog) on your face again when unexpected guests turn up at your door.
We’ve compiled an at-a-glance list of ways to be ready for unplanned visitors because unless you have a housekeeper, a chauffeur, a chef and a nanny at your disposal, it’s hard to manage a home and a family and keep a smile on your face.
How to be ready for unexpected guests:
- If you have any warning at all – a phone call 15 minutes before arrival, for example – quickly organise the troops to vacuum downstairs, put some bleach in the toilet so it smells as if the bathroom has recently been cleaned and then try a quick trick: spray a little furniture polish on the radiators and doors so it smells as if you’ve polished everywhere!
- You can also pile any dirty washing into the machine (ditto crockery into the dishwasher) and put any other clutter into a room your guests won’t look into, such as your bedroom: simply march through every room with a big reusable shopping bag or basket and put everything that doesn’t belong in that room into it – then hide the bag. Sorted.
- Wipe visible surfaces quickly, close all doors to bedrooms and other rooms not intended for your guests, make room for guests’ coats, put the rubbish out from your kitchen and bathroom bins, dust the spots where guests will congregate, give bathrooms a quick once over and light a few scented candles.
- If there are other members of the family at home – and they are over the age of five – dispatch them to quickly tidy or clean while you capture your guests in the hall or front room. Or ask them to chat to the guests while YOU clean, which might be more effective.
- Another version of the above is to suggest that an available adult takes the guests to the pub for a “quick drink” while you (or they) whirl round the house like a dervish preparing it for their visit.
- If the unexpected visitor has young kids in tow, remove those expensive breakable gifts from the reach of tiny hands – the last thing you want is a Christmas home insurance
- Remember you’re not looking for a magazine interiors-style home, all you need is ‘reasonably tidy’ and ‘not offensively dirty’. On this note, if you really have no warning at all, make sure you are the first to visit the bathroom to ensure it is fit for visitors.
- Have a handful of ‘stock presents’ wrapped up and ready to hand out for anyone who arrives at the door bearing gifts – leave gift tags blank and put a post-it note on each gift to remind you what it is. Choose gifts your family will enjoy if you don’t hand them out – bubble bath, chocolates and so forth.
- Turn off harsh overhead lighting and use lamps or candles – everything looks more inviting and (far more importantly) dimmed lighting hides a multitude of dusty sins.
- Olives, nuts, salami, hard cheese, biscuits keep well over the festive weeks and will provide you with impromptu nibbles should unexpected guests pop by. Put together an impressive-looking sweet plate of pieces of good quality milk, dark and white chocolate, dried fruits and nuts.