15 Items You Shouldn't Leave Out If You're Expecting Guests

We all like to present the best version of our homes when we have guests coming over. Whether you are hosting the family for a holiday, or have just been given the heads up that your kids are bringing their friends over for dinner (in an hour!), there are certain things around the house you shouldn't leave out when you know company is coming.

Some tasks are for your protection. These are things like storing away your medication and mail while you have guests. This way, you can keep your private life private. Other ideas are for your guests' comfort. Think of things like removing old towels from the bathroom so that your guests don't dry their hands on the towel you use after your shower. Others are more general tips to save you from embarrassment when hosting — like having your Christmas tree up in April or a guest tripping over a bundle of cords. You can complete most of these suggestions in just a few minutes, so no matter when your company is coming, it won't take long to get ready and create a guest-friendly home.

1. File away your mail to avoid snooping

One of the first things you should do when you are expecting guests is collect your recent mail. If you open bills at the kitchen table or leave your banking statements and doctor's notes on the counter, tuck them away in a safe place before company arrives. Guests don't need to know where you bank, what bills you have due (or are behind on), or any other sensitive information that can come through the mail.

Of course, we would never assume that our guests will snoop through our mail. However, by leaving personal documents out on the counter, someone might inadvertently see something sensitive, like mortgage refinance papers, credit card notices, or even invitations to something they are not invited to, without looking very hard. It's best to protect your privacy by tucking mail and sensitive documents in a cabinet or drawer. Even if you have guests who don't snoop, having heaps of mail (opened or unopened) out in the open can make you appear untidy. And getting rid of junk mail is just good decluttering practice.

2. Move pet bowls, litterboxes, and toy baskets

When hosting guests, you should put your pet's things away. Of course, if you are having overnight company stay for a while, you should not make your pet go searching for their food bowl or toys. However, if you simply expect someone for dinner or a quick meeting, moving these things out of the way is polite.

Toy baskets and food bowls can pose a tripping hazard for people who don't know they are there. Scattered toys are often also covered in dander and drool, which can cause an allergic reaction for some, as up to 20% of the world's population has an allergy to cats and/or dogs. If you typically leave things like brushes, food bags, and the like out for easy daily access, store them in the laundry room or pantry while guests are over. For litterboxes or puppy pads, make sure they are clean and tucked away where their smell will not disturb those visiting.

3. Put away or top up half-used toiletries

When you have guests in your home, it is a great idea to provide travel-sized options for the things they forgot. This would be shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and even deodorant for out-of-town folks. For day guests, having extra hand soap, toothpicks, and even feminine hygiene products available for them to use is a lovely gesture.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not embarrassing to have these things on display in your bathroom — it is helpful. What might be a little embarrassing, however, is a guest feeling like they are using your last cotton ball or digging through a bag of sanitary pads that looks like it's seen better days. Before you have company, make sure the toiletries you are offering to your guests look fresh and new. If the Q-tips are disintegrating or the bottle of soap is on its last legs, put them away entirely (preferably in the trash).

4. Swap out dirty dishtowels, napkins, and tablecloths

You might go weeks using the same linens around your house, but it is always a good idea to swap them out before guests arrive. Stained, torn, or stinky linen isn't a good look to show to your company, but luckily it's a quick fix to swap them out. "Anything dirty, it goes without saying, can make someone uncomfortable ... Have you taken a whiff of your dish towel lately? In fact, many people are vulnerable to scents and smells," interior designer and hostess Chantelle Hartman Malarkey told Best Life. But it's not just smells, either. Studies show that when left unwashed for just a month, linens can begin growing harmful bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli.

Round up your dishtowels, tablecloths, napkins, and hand towels from the bathrooms if you're expecting guests. You shouldn't leave out used ones, as putting your guests at risk of needing antibiotics isn't a good look. So, either swap them out for a fresh set or leave yourself enough time to launder them before anyone arrives. Even after they're washed, check over your linens for stains and tears, and leave any in poor condition in the drawers if possible.

5. Place medications in the cabinet for privacy

If your guests will be using your bathroom, place your medications in the cabinet for privacy. Hiding them prevents unwanted questions or comments from guests about the private conditions they may be prescribed for. Even if it's just iron tablets or a multivitamin, everyone washing their hands doesn't need to know the details of your health routine.

In addition to your privacy, placing your medications out of the way can also prevent them from being misused. This is especially important if you take any medication for pain management. Although it might be upsetting to consider, up to 70% of people who misuse prescription medications take the pills from others who have legally obtained them. Pay special attention to tidying up if you have curious teenagers coming to visit, as experts cite home medicine cabinets as the place they are most likely to take from. It is best to remove the temptation from sight.

6. Set aside any broken or delicate furniture

There might be some furniture around your house that has seen better days. You might also own older, expensive furniture that is just for show. While you might not think twice about using it (or not using it, in some cases), setting these items aside is a good idea when guests are heading your way. If your couch has a big dip in it that some might struggle to get out of, place a pillow in the dip or a blanket on the section to signal guests should not sit there.

If your armchair's arm tends to break off if you don't sit just right, place it in the other room. In the same way, if you aren't sure that grandma's antique stool will hold up to actually being used, put it away to save both you and your guests from embarrassment over anything breaking.

7. Store any unused appliances from the kitchen countertops

When guests are on the way over, take a few moments to tidy up your kitchen countertops. If you are doing any entertaining, you are likely to need the extra space for food, drinks, and any service utensils. "Put away any small appliances on the counter that you do not need to be there such as crock pots or toaster ovens unless it's part of your aesthetic," Meredith Corning, an executive event planner, told Best Life.

This could also be said of the air fryer, Nescafe machine, or tea kettle. If you don't plan on using them, put them in the pantry, laundry room, or garage if you don't have the space inside the house. By clearing a space ahead of time, your guests won't be left doing an awkward scramble looking for a place to set down what they brought along.

8. Put away groceries to free up space

If you are hosting a gathering with food, you will need all the counter space you can for serving. Before guests arrive, make sure to put your most recent grocery haul away so that the surfaces are free. You should also do a quick scan for everyday staples you normally leave out but won't need to use while your guests are there.

"Oftentimes, it's easy to keep nonrefrigerated items out on the countertop. This does take up space in the kitchen and visually makes it look more chaotic," Malarkey shared with Best Life. "Take a minute to put these items away and save that countertop space." This would be things like a fruit bowl, a bread box, or even your spice rack. It's convenient to have these out and ready to use for your daily life, but they can easily cause crowding when you are trying to entertain. If your guests are bringing food, you don't want them to stand there awkwardly holding their crock pot while you try to move things off the counter. Do it before they get there.

9. Clean dirty dishes and put them away

You might seem like a slob if you have dishes undone before the party even starts. "Never have guests arrive with dirty dishes in your sink," Corning shared with Best Life. Not only this, but it is a good idea to run and empty your dishwasher before the first guest even arrives. You want to start the visit out on the right foot. If you have to do dishes while people are arriving, it might set the scene for a frantic evening.

If your sink is clear of soiled dishes, it also gives guests somewhere to place the dishes they dirty while in your home. Adding to a pile of other guests' used dishes can feel very different than placing the good china plates on top of your children's plastic cereal bowls with day-old milk dredges and soggy Cheerios swirling around in the bottom. Save your company from the ick factor and make sure everything is cleaned up beforehand.

10. Take out your trash and recycling

An overflowing trash bin can smell and is unsightly for guests, so don't leave out a full can when you have people coming over. It is also uncomfortable for visitors to try and throw things away when the garbage is overflowing. No one wants to stick their hand into someone else's trash to push everyone else's waste down so that theirs will also fit — especially not at the beginning of a party.

Instead, pop a fresh bag into the trashcan and remove the old garbage to the outside bin. You should do the same for trashcans in any restrooms the guests might be using as well. This is particularly important to protect your privacy, as bathroom trash might have more sensitive items inside. Something you should plan to leave out, however, is a place for guests to put their recycling. Whether it be a brown paper bag, a basket, or a plastic bin, guests should easily be able to see where to put their recyclable waste.

11. Remove personal items in the guest bathroom

If you don't want people using your personal items when they visit, especially in the bathroom, you should not leave them out. Guests might assume that any shampoo in the shower or lotions and perfumes on the counter are fair game. If you use a medicated shampoo for your scalp or have an expensive tinted moisturizer that you don't want guests (especially kids) getting into, just pop it in the cabinet before they arrive.

In some gross cases, a desperate guest might even use things that are definitely not meant to be shared, like deodorant, a razor, or even a toothbrush if they feel the need to top up their grooming. Sharing toothbrushes puts you at risk for gum diseases, communicable diseases like the flu, COVID-19, or even the common cold — and the worst part is you would have no idea you had even been exposed.

12. Tuck bundles of cords behind furniture

Cord storage is the great conundrum of modern living; everything needs to be plugged in, but it is hard to keep the large bundles of cords out of the way. However, cords laying all over the place are not just an eyesore but a tripping hazard, too. "Anything that could be a safety hazard for your guests and their children are top priority to put away," Corning told Best Life. This is especially important if you are expecting a large number of people, as not everyone will be watching their steps carefully in a crowd. Each year, over 1 million Americans visit the emergency room for a slip and fall accident — you don't want one of your guests to be among them.

If the cords are not attached to something you will need immediately to entertain, you can unplug them and tuck them away. If they are for something like the TV, Alexa, etc., you can use electrician's tape to secure them along the baseboards or walls so that they are less in the way. You can also use Command hooks to hang the cords on the wall, so guests are less likely to get their feet tangled. Even when you don't have company, having a way to organize your cords and chargers just makes life easier.

13. Take down decorations if the season has passed

If you are someone who loves to decorate for each season, look around to ensure that your baubles match the most recent holiday. In 2022, Opendoor did a survey of when people typically take down their Christmas decorations. It found that 84% of people take down their trees and lights by the end of January, while roughly 51% of the same respondents want things cleaned up by New Year's Day. You can even transition your Christmas decorations to New Year's Eve in an attractive way.

So if you have guests for Valentine's Day, make sure your Christmas tree isn't still up. Even better, a good rule of thumb is to have Christmas cleaned up by the first week of January. If you don't want to leave the holiday season completely behind, feel free to leave out winter-themed décor until the last week of January. Then, it's time to swap to the pinks, reds, and hearts of Valentine's Day. If you are keen on St. Patrick's Day, those decorations go up the last week of February. By keeping on top of your décor, you avoid appearing unorganized to your company.

14. Put away laptops, expensive headphones, and other electronics

Before your guests arrive, be sure to store any expensive electronics that you don't want to be damaged or taken. This is especially true if your guests are bringing children who might get into your things on accident. Typically just placing them on a higher shelf will do the trick. Karen Hogg, Head of Insurances at Sainsbury's Bank, advises, "Our research shows those throwing Christmas and New Year's house parties must be vigilant to protect their homes and belongings. It's important to be on guard to stop people they don't know gate-crashing their celebrations."

In fact, data from the bank also reveals that 18% of people have something in their home broken when guests are over. In addition, 7% of respondents claimed to have something stolen from their homes during a party as well. To keep your important (and usually expensive) electronics safe from such a fate, it's better to just not leave them out.

15. Store cleaning supplies before your guests arrive

You are likely to do a quick tidying of your house before company comes over. Having a neat place when guests arrive gives them a positive first impression and makes them feel welcome and comfortable. However, always be sure to put the cleaning supplies away when you are finished. While you definitely vacuumed and wiped off your countertops, your guests can live with the illusion that they are always sparkling.

Some cleaning supplies like sprays or chemicals can be dangerous if ingested, especially if there are kids or pets around. Research suggests that one person calls the U.S. Poison Control Center for advice about an encounter with a chemical every 15 seconds. So, make sure to keep these things out of reach to avoid any accidents and keep everyone safe at your home. Plus, appliances like vacuum cleaners can pose a tripping hazard, so keep them out of the hallways so that no one gets hurt.