There are two types of overnight guests: planned and unplanned. The planned guests tend to be family and friends on vacation or in town for the holidays. The unplanned tend to be drunk friends and/or hookups. (Friend can be hookups of course, but not all hookups are friends.) In either instance, it pays to have a certain amount of guest-friendly items on hand, to make their stay a little more pleasant for both of you. (One thing you won’t find in this roundup? The oft-suggested reading material. That’s what Twitter is for.)
A place to sleep (with bedding)
One does not need a fully dedicated guest room to have overnight guests. A comfy couch will do in many cases. (If your couch is not comfy, get an air mattress, and spend a night on it yourself to make sure it’s serviceable.) You do, however, need pillows, sheets, pillow cases, and blankets. Not throw pillows, not throw blankets — get an extra set of real, full-sized pillows and bedding. If you’re working with a couch, fold a top sheet around the cushions in lieu of a fitted sheet. (I don’t think they make fitted sheets in “sofa” size.)
Obvious extra toilet paper
It is not enough to have extra toilet paper, one must make it obvious, so as to avoid the dreaded, “Where be thy extra TP?” conversation or, worse, having to lob a roll through a cracked bathroom door. Make sure there are two visible rolls at any given moment, and let your guest know where the bigger stash is kept.
Bulk toothbrushes (and other mouth stuff)
This is a bit of a ho hack that everyone can make good use of: Buy a 20-pack of toothbrushes and stash them under your sink, then give them out to unexpected (or forgetful) guests as needed. Family members who forgot their toothbrush at home, friends who drunkenly passed out on your couch, one night stands who missed their last train and live too far to take a cab — every single one of these people will applaud your hospitality. (Bonus: Make sure to provide floss picks and mouthwash.)
Towels and — for the love of god — washcloths
Sorry fellas, but a single damp towel that hangs from a hook and doubles as a hand towel is not going to cut it. Not only should you have multiple towels for guests to use, but hand towels for them to dry their hands, and — I am begging you — washcloths. I’ve heard tell that my fellow white people don’t use them, much less provide them, and it’s unacceptable. Get a pack of them at Walmart, give your guest a few, and wash them regularly. (Pro-tip: If you have a lot of makeup-wearing guests, get some black wash clothes to hide mascara stains.)
I would guess that, regardless of your gender, you are friends with people who menstruate. Even if you don’t use tampons or pads yourself, keeping a few in your bathroom makes all the difference to people who do. (Even with period tracking apps, those things can sneak up on you.)
Razors, maybe some tweezers
Like toothbrushes, razors are one of the items most often forgotten when packing for a trip. (Do I have hard data to support this? No, just lived experience.) For people who don’t have to shave every day, this is not a great emergency. But for people constantly battling the same five neck hairs that re-spawn every 24 hours (me), being provided with an extra razor (or tweezers) saves them a trip to the drugstore and, in some cases, some amount of anxiety.
A trash can
Being human means generating waste or all kinds, including little bits of paper. These bits of paper need somewhere to go, and putting a small waste bin in their room means your guest doesn’t have to walk all the way to the kitchen or bathroom to toss ‘em.
Look how happy that model is to wake up with a glass of water on her bedside table. That could be your guest. Your guest could be hydrated and happy. All you need is a refillable water bottle or pretty bedside carafe. (I like the kind that come with their own little drinking glass.)
It’s all fine and dandy to let someone borrow your shampoo, conditioner, or face wash, but offering someone a bar of soap that’s been rubbed all over your naked body is gross. Body wash comes in a bottle, and keeping some on hand helps one avoid the whole “we’re both rubbing this on our butt” awkwardness.
A cool bedroom is easier to fall asleep in than a hot bedroom. Fans cool the space, but they also provide white noise, something that some people need to fall asleep.
A place to put their stuff
My grandmother was a maximalist, with dishes and placemats for every season, but the abundance of seasonally appropriate items translated into a lack clothing storage space. Drawers and closets were always full, so I lived out of a suitcase whenever I stayed with her in Mississippi. You don’t have to provide an entire armoire for your guests, but a single empty drawer and a space to hang a few things will make their stay feel a little less cluttered.
Drugs and alcohol
I once stayed at a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine, Fla. that was run by a wonderful man. This man not only provided us with a bed and a breakfast, but woke us up by playing the piano every morning and offered us a brandy every night in the sitting room. If weed had been legal in Florida, I think he would have served homemade edibles, or at least I’d like to think so.
You can create a similarly luxe, welcoming vibe by placing a bottle of wine, a snifter of brandy, or a pack of indica/CBD/CBN gummies on the nightstand, to help them relax into a deep, deep sleep. This is assuming your guests are all 21 and over, of course. (I personally have never let a teen set foot in my home.)
Snacks (and perhaps a TV tray)
In addition to drugs and alcohol, providing a few snacks for weary travellers can make them feel welcome, especially if you give them a little tray so they may enjoy a few bites in the privacy of their room. For my sake, I like to give my guests fairly crumb-less snacks. A banana, a little mason jar of nuts, a bar of good chocolate, maybe some jerky or dried fruit — these make great in-room snacks, but you could always craft a little basket of local delicacies, if you so desire.
The internet password, and instructions for any tricky technology
Few things are as confusing as other people’s technology (though other people’s showers is one of them). Making a little printed card with all the necessary passwords and instructions can help relieve some of this confusion. You could even make a note of where the extra toilet paper is stored. (Perhaps one could even make a similar instruction card for a confusing shower, but you’d have to laminate it.)