How to always be prepared for guests

May 24, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. ET

You never know when relatives from out of town or friends passing by are going to decide to stop in for a visit. And when they do, the last thing you want is to feel like you aren't able to welcome them into your home properly. By sticking to these guidelines, you'll be able to make your home ready for company in a moment's notice.

Hosting guests

Napkins for every occasion

Having a sort of symbol that indicates you were ready for guests is a nice way to put visitors at ease and assure them their surprise is a good thing, not an inconvenience. And the best way to do that is by having decorative accessories on hand, such as napkins, which shows you were ready for visitors no matter what. When you're passing through the grocery store or dollar store and notice napkins from a past holiday are on sale, grab a pack. They don't even have to be specific to holidays. Seasonal napkins are ideal as well. They're unbelievably cheap when you get them at the right time and make it clear to your guests that you're happy to have them.

A good supply of candles

Candles are an easy way to dress up any event and make your place look warm and inviting to visitors. As with napkins, try to get a few sets in different themes and colour patterns to show your home is always ready for company.

Quick and easy treats

When you get the call that guests will be arriving shortly, the last thing you want is to discover you have nothing but condiments in the fridge and only water to offer them in way of refreshments. This doesn't mean you have to keep your home in permanent party mode, but consistently having a few food items that are easy to prepare is a wise idea. Hummus is one dip that can be whipped up in minutes and tastes great with whatever you have on hand. Keep a solid stockpile of chips and crackers in the pantry for such occasions. And if you really want to impress your guests, keep a bag of these simple olive-stuffed cheese balls in your freezer at all times. All you have to do is pop them in the oven, and you'll have an appetizer that will delight your guests in under 30 minutes. And keeping the ingredients for a simple drink recipe such as margaritas on hand at all times will ensure you always have a unique beverage option to serve.

A 10-minute cleanup routine

We're only human, and most of us can't help but collect a little bit of mess here and there in our homes. But a good rule of thumb to abide by when it comes to mess is this: You should be able to make your home look presentable in under 10 minutes. Meaning, having a few sets of shoes in the hallway or dirty pans in the sink is perfectly understandable, but not having swept the floors in over a month simply will not do. When you keep relatively up-to-date with your cleaning, you ensure that you're never embarrassed to welcome guests into your home at a moment's notice. If you can get the place looking presentable within 10 minutes, you're in good shape.

more on entertaining

4 Ways to make hosting less stressful
Homemade party snacks
10 Dos and don'ts being a guest