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Things You Can Do When Unexpected Visitors Show Up

Updated on March 28, 2012

First - A Poll

How often do you have unexpected visitors show up at your house?

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When the doorbell rings...don't get caught with your pants down....
When the doorbell rings...don't get caught with your pants down....
Put on some pants!
Put on some pants!

When the doorbell rings...

I find myself facing an unexpected visit from a friend or family member at least 2-3 times a month. This is a good thing in my book! I enjoy seeing my friends and family and wish I had the forethought to invite them to visit in the first place. However, being a stay-at-home mom of two boys under the age of 3, I tend to forget what day it is, let alone remember to plan get-togethers. That being the case, my visitors invite themselves over and I'm fine with that...but what should I do to still be a good hostess when that happens? Here are some tips and solutions I thought of after a few of these unexpected visits.

Get your priorities straight

1. Make sure you're wearing clean clothes.

This seems like a no-brainer, but oftentimes, I find myself in the same comfy old sweatpants I've worn all week, paired with a stained (you don't want to know) shirt and unkempt hair. If my visitors are literally on the doorstep, they get what they find when I open the door. If they're at least five minutes away, I will quickly change clothes. Feeling clean and wearing appropriate clothing is more important than a clean house, trust me! If you have little ones like me, try to get them into clean clothes too. If not possible (or if they're uncooperative), they will always look cute in whatever they're wearing, dirt and all, so it's not a priority. You can move on to step 2.

2. Tidy up.

Unless you have more than an hour's notice of your guests (in which case, they aren't quite "unexpected" visitors, are they?), then now is NOT the time to clean your kitchen, tackle the laundry, or mop the floors. If you have less notice of your visitors' arrival, then you have to prioritize the mess. I internalize a cleanliness scale: UNSANITARY --- TORNADO --- JUST CLEAN ENOUGH --- NEAT & TIDY --- CLEAN --- MARTHA STEWART-APPROVED.

My Cleanliness Scale
My Cleanliness Scale

My house, on any given day, tends to hover between JUST CLEAN ENOUGH and NEAT & TIDY. For example, the living room and play room are clean with everything in its place, but the floors are crumby and sticky. Or the bed is made and floor picked up, but the laundry monster is four feet high hidden in the closet. If I have visitors imminently arriving, I clean what I can in 30 minutes or less and tuck my shame away. I mean, really, when visitors come at the last minute, they usually are there to see YOU, not to inspect your house. If they're close friends or family, they will understand if the house isn't perfect. In my house, I usually just wipe down the table (where we spend most of our time) and throw all the toys into the toybox, to be sorted later. At the very least, clear off a place to sit or tidy up one room that you'll know everyone will be in. Perhaps also give your guest bathroom a good onceover, to make sure it's at least sanitary!

3. Have cold drinks or coffee/tea available.

Assuming your visitors are staying more than an hour, you should have refreshments available at all times. If you haven't any in there yet, throw some drinks in the refrigerator to chill, or make sure you have something other than water to offer. Even if your guests decline, at least you offered and can back it up with something if they happen to accept. Coffee and tea are always nice to have in the house too. If you don't drink these things regularly, be sure to have some tea or instant coffee in the cupboard, just in case.

4. Offer snacks or food to eat.

My guests usually either bring food or cook it there in my kitchen (e.g. my grandma or mom), so this is not a problem. If you don't have anything to eat, your guests should understand. Just be sure to say that you meant to go to the store later that day, to explain your lack of edible substances. You could always mention a great restaurant, new market, or event you wanted to check out, and steer your unexpected guests (and yourself) to going out instead of staying in your sad, empty-cupboards home. I always at least have cheese and crackers on hand and food in the pantry for my little ones, so I usually can offer food.

5. Don't stress and enjoy your visit.

Just remember - you were just sitting at home minding your own business when they showed up; you were the one surprised, so etiquette dictates that you can't be judged by your visitors. Additionally, you should be happy no matter how little notice you received, because at least your visitors took the time to come to YOU instead of you having to go out. At least, that's how I look at it. I didn't have to get myself dressed up, my kids dressed, the diaper bag packed, extra clothes, diapers, wipes, snacks, drinks all assembled, noses wiped, butts cleaned, shoes on, shoes off and then put on the right feet, stroller checked, car seat lugged and pushed into place, belts and harnesses strapped, and don't forget your phone, wallet, keys, x-y-z thing you needed...need I go on? That's why I truly enjoy these little visits and impromptu get-togethers; I otherwise wouldn't get to see my friends and family as much.


Whatever state you find yourself in when the doorbell rings, just get your priorities straight and enjoy your visit. Unless it's someone you had no desire to see...then feel free to pretend you're not home, if possible, or that you or your kids have a contagious illness and they should leave as quickly as they came! I hope you've enjoyed reading and that you're (a little more) prepared for your next unexpected visitors!!

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    • profile image

      DaneDane 5 years ago

      @sunbun143 I really enjoyed the tips. I was looking for ways to get better at showing great hospitality at home. Your tips will definitely help me to be more prepared.

    • sunbun143 profile image

      sunbun143 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      @ tirelesstraveler - thank you for your kind comments and for following! I lead a very casual lifestyle, but have yet to leave the house in slippers...hahaha....thanks for the laugh! Call your mom today and thank her for everything she did ;)

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Wonderful attitude toward visitors. How gracious you are.

      Sensible idea about clean clothes. My mom, a working mom, had a day off in the middle of the week. She never took us to school,but that day she ended up driving my brother to school. Passing my school on the way home she had a fender bender with a bus. She had her house coat and slippers on. Friends asked "Is that your mother"? I lied. :)

    • sunbun143 profile image

      sunbun143 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks bookmom! I had fun writing it...People come to see my cute babies anyway, so the house doesn't matter :)

    • thebookmom profile image

      thebookmom 5 years ago from Nebraska

      What a fun hub! I love the easy calm style. Your tips are great, I will remember and use the stop sign for setting priorities. I agree, it is worth it to tuck the shame and enjoy the visit :)