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I have my house back. My first in-home guest left on Sunday, and today is Tuesday. Today, all the little quirks I’ve been hiding are exposed, and I’m happy. I can walk around half dressed, and I can put back in the guest room all the junk that I had crammed into my bedroom. My cats once again have the run of the place. I can sleep with my bedroom door open and wake up when I please…until my next guest arrives this Saturday.
Do I have the temperament to host in home? The initial experience rattled me, but perhaps I can learn from it. I’ve identified some problems during this first booking, and I’ll have to find strategies to fix them before welcoming my next guest. First, I need to consider that guideline “Work smarter, not harder.” Lately, I haven’t stopped to reflect on how I can better use my time to improve my experience as well as my guests’. Next, I have to establish a sanctuary for myself. Not just a room, but a retreat. When my guest was here, I felt the loss of privacy more sharply than I had expected. I escaped to my room, or my car, or a friend’s place. Ultimately, however, we can’t escape home. If we’re not lucky enough to leave town, how can we make ourselves feel at home – at home?
I made a serious mistake while hosting my in-home guest: I paid less attention to the guests in my separate studio. Ignoring one guest because I’m preoccupied with another guest? Not acceptable. I have to streamline my approach to both Airbnbs if I want to stay on top of the details.
As hosts, most of us analyze the job we do as we go along. We discover what works, and we fix what doesn’t. For example, I added more dish towels when I realized a certain guest had used all three in just two days. And, I know I’m not the first host who started putting out makeup wipes for guests, so that anything white is less likely to be stained. Yet, there are specific issues to each Airbnb, and it's worth the time to consider them.
I get rave reviews about my gorgeous yard, but I also know that I could keep it cleaner. Case in point: I have a Spanish pear tree – a least, that’s what I’m told it is, although the fruit is round as an apple and mushy as a banana. Spanish pears are plentiful in summer and beloved by squirrels. They’re delicious! And, the fruit is so soft and sticky, when one drops from the tree, SPLAT!! It’s a gooey mess that sticks to my decorative river rocks, not to mention my outdoor furniture or the shoe of any hapless guest who may walk on it.
To curb the mess, and reduce the presence of fruit flies, I’m going to start picking the fruit when it’s still on the tree, unripe. I can throw them away or add them to my neighbor’s mulch pile. I’ve never picked them, because I theorized that the best, ripest fruits fell before being picked. However, I only eat one or two a week, and when they’re in season they fall off the tree at a rate of ten per day. Every morning, I put on rubber gloves, grab a roll of paper towels, and set to gathering the remnants of Spanish pears. No more! I’m going to get up that step ladder and pick them before they drop and make a mess. I’ll literally nip the problem in the bud.
I also thought about the guide book that I keep on the table in the studio. I’m proud of it, with its colorful maps and neatly typed descriptions of local spots. Yet, I often need to add to it. I’ve got some pages that I keep in my home, such as a map showing local bus stops, but I only put that in the studio when I have guests without cars. But what if it saves me time just keeping these pages in the studio? And, I don’t have my House Rules printed up in my guide book or any place else in the studio. I ask all guests to confirm that they’ve read the house rules on my listing before they arrive. I don’t like the idea of posting rules everywhere. Yet suppose that, by doing so, I save myself some grief?
I wanted the guide book to be small, so it would be easy to use and wouldn’t crowd up the table. However, maybe it’s smarter to have a medium-sized binder on the bookshelf, with maps, bus info, and house rules all together? I know hosts who do this, but it seems so cumbersome to have a big book for guests to wrestle with. Yet, it makes sense. I’d have all the information in one place, and it will be up to the guests to go through it. I’ll even put in subject dividers, so that guests can immediately turn to “Local Bus Stops” if they want. The binder will take a lot of work and may turn out pretty bulky, but if it saves me time, it’s worth it. And if it keeps guests aware of my house rules – even better!
Boy, I wish I could knock out a wall and build a separate entrance for my guests! I really envy hosts whose houses are laid out in a way that’s conducive to hosting. My duplex is small, but that’s not the biggest problem. How I wish the guest room were at the back of the house, with a separate entrance! Really, if the layout were different I’d be more comfortable with a guest in the place.
For example, when I’m home in the evenings I love to spend time in my living room, to watch TV, read, or play guitar. But my living room takes up half the house, and the only way to get to the bedrooms or kitchen is through the living room. If I’m sitting in the living room, I feel like I’m taking up the whole duplex. And, some guests might feel as though they’re barging in on me, even if I tell them to come and go freely through the living room. I would tell any guest that they are welcome in the living room, that they can change the channel. Yet, guests don't always tell you if a certain situation makes them uncomfortable. If I were the guest I’d be okay, but some people might feel as though they’re walking through my private space just by passing through the living room. Could I build a wall to create a TV room, separate from the living room? Can I remodel? No. I could afford to remodel my home only if it were a Lego set.
So, how can I re-purpose the space so it works better for hosting? I’ll have to do what I’ve resisted: buy another TV for my bedroom. It’s such a simple solution, but it’s one that I’ve avoided. To me, having multiple televisions means you’re watching too much TV. Yet, I want guests to feel that they, too, can use the living room as they wish. And, I don’t want them to feel like they’re trespassing when they’re there! I’m getting another TV.
If I spend more time in my little bedroom, I have to make it more appealing. Once again, my first thought involves knocking out walls. I’d like to add some square footage to my bedroom, but if I can’t afford it, I’ve got to work with what I have.
How about seeing myself as a guest? How would I change my private room if it were offered to guests? I’d invest in bright new bedding, I’d re-paint the dusky rose walls, and I’d add fresh flowers. I can do all these things for myself. Why not? What is stopping me? I’ll probably continue to host on Airbnb for many years to come, so why not make some modest investments in my own private space?
And, I’ll have to get out more. Hosting in home really makes you look at your own lifestyle. I’m much too complacent, happy to sit around at home rather than go out partying as I did in my distant youth. Yet, why not engage that side of myself again? Why do I turn down dinner invitations before even finding out where we’re eating? I’ll tweak my lifestyle as well as my workstyle – I suspect it will be good for me.
Carolyn is a teacher & host.
c. 2015 by author
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