Imagine this. The phone rings and your parents have surprised you by saying they have just landed and will be at your home in less than one hour. For many reasons, you probably would panic if this happened to you. Not only does an unexpected house guest disrupt our day-to-day lives (including having to speed clean the house), but we also tend to freak out over having to find ways to entertain them.Do not let these types of calls panic you. Here are some tips to help you tolerate and entertain those last-minute house guests you were not expecting.

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Speed Clean

The moment you hang up the phone, take a few deep breaths and get focused. The first thing you want to do is go through your entire home and pick up everything that is on the floor and not in its proper place. Put these items in bedroom closets, the garage, laundry hampers and/or the dishwasher. Do not put things in hall or linen closets because these could be used by your house guests.

Next, focus on rooms where you will entertain your guests. These rooms include the living room, dining room, bathrooms and kitchen. Make sure the rooms look presentable and all non-essential items in the room have been put away or removed. Use dust cloths over all surfaces, clean fingerprints off of television screens, mirrors and glass items and quickly run the vacuum over the floor. Wipe down counters, the toilet and replace the towels in the bathrooms. Burn a candle in the home or spray an air freshener throughout the home to give it a fresh smell.

Related: Unexpected Guests on the Way? 5 Tips for a Quick Clean Up


If you do not have everything you need to feed your unexpected house guests on hand, ask if they want to go with you to the store. Tell them you were getting ready to walk out the door to go shopping when they called. This will get your guests out of the house while your husband and kids continue cleaning and picking up. It also gives you the chance to find out what types of food they will want in the house while visiting.

Popular food items to have in the home when company is visiting include:

  • Chips and salsa
  • Frozen appetizers
  • Lunch meat and bread
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Assorted fruits and veggies (with dips)
  • Hummus and pita chips
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Frozen pizzas
  • Popcorn and nuts
  • Pre-made cookie dough
  • Condiments, including mayonnaise, butter, a variety of spreads, mustard, peppers, olives and pickles
  • Beverages, including tea, soda, beer and wine

While at the store, it might be a good idea to stock up on some other entertaining necessities, including paper plates, plastic cups, napkins, paper towels and toilet paper.

Related: Budget Friendly Tips and Tricks for Holiday Entertaining

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Guest Space

Upon returning home from the grocery store, you will need to find a place for your guests to keep their things. If they will be sleeping in a guest room or one of the kids rooms, place everything in that room. If they will be sleeping on a pull-out couch in the living room, find a place out of the way to keep their things. Great places to keep your house guests’ belongings include behind the couch, in a hall closet or in one of the bedrooms.


You know your town better than your house guests do. Think of several things to do throughout your area that will keep your guests entertained and get them out of the house. Some things can include visiting any local attractions, touring historical locations, shopping (especially if near the holidays) and dining at popular restaurants. Sit down one night with your house guests and determine what their interests are and make a plan from there.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Night In

Plan one night during your house guests’ visit to stay home. Make up plenty of finger foods to munch on and cook a fancy dinner. Plan to play games, such as board games or have a Wii sports competition. Near the end of the evening, find a movie that everyone will enjoy watching. Just do not forget the popcorn.

Your last-minute house guests are there to see you, so you do not need to worry too much about keeping them entertained. Chances are, they will be more than happy to spend time with you at your home, going out to eat or at a local park.

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at