Getting our home ready for guests checklist

As home owners, we strive to provide our exchange partner guests with an exceptional home experience.

The thought of being overwhelmed by making our homes and apartments “exchange ready” is what keeps many first time exchangers from committing to joining and taking the plunge to commit to their first exchange. As home exchangers, we are proud of our spaces; modest, swanky, and in between (houseboats, campers, cottages, condos, homes, apartments, even boats, the places we list are as diverse as we are).

We have taken the time to list our homes, describe our towns, and share photos. We have favorited the listings that appeal to our travel goals. We are almost ready to take the plunge. However, even experienced exchangers can feel stress over the idea of doing a deep cleaning, moving closet stuff, clearing household and family belongings, and ensuring that basic home improvements are made. With so many heartfelt responses to the Is anyone else overwhelmed by making their home/apartment “exchange ready” that it keeps them from committing to exchanges? post (and many follow on posts) on the People Like Us Home Exchangers Facebook group, I realized we all experience stress and uncertainty as we prepare our homes for guest arrivals.

With more than 34 happy exchanges on a variety of home exchange platforms, we had already adopted the successful habits of our exchanger partners. One of the best ideas I embraced was a departure checklist. As a guest in someone else’s home, I finally knew what to do when we departed! Providing a departure checklist for our guests helps set expectations. My departure checklist provides a more granular level of detail to launch conversations about cleaning, taking out the trash, and generally reaching consensus on who does what.

We been doing home exchanges since 2009. Preparing for your arrival has kept our home tidy and repaired. We are flexible and resilient. Our home is lived in, so it’s not perfect. However, we do want it to gleam and glisten as if we invited our friends over for a party.

I belatedly realized that having my own Getting our home ready checklist can help reduce stress, help me remember the small things, and help me prepare before the travel begins.

Getting Our Home Ready Checklist

This is our work-in-progress checklist we use to prepare our home for your arrival.

  • Prepare your home for exchange partners as you would for a cherished friend or family member.
  • Put together written information for your guests. We have a 3-ring binder with printed pages of contact information, our street address (important!), emergency and contact information, restaurant recommendations, shopping, activities, and so on. Even a handwritten document serves this essential purpose.
  • Kitchen
  • Clean the refrigerator and toss or give away opened perishable foods. In the week before the exchange, we use up all the old produce and little bits and pieces. Wipe down shelves and make room for our guests.
  • Make space in at least one kitchen cupboard. An empty primary food shelf is very welcome.
  • While you are in your cupboards, toss any expired food, spices, and other stuff in the back of the cabinet that you haven’t used or look at in years. Those 4 year old tea bags, for example.
  • Provide food storage options: plastic bags, tin foil, and plastic or glass storage containers.
  • Provide something clean to wash dishes with. I like to buy a new kitchen sponge. Throw away your old used sponges. Make sure there is enough dish soap, dishwasher soap, laundry soap, paper towels, trash bags, and other paper goods.
  • Ensure there is starter coffee and creamer, tea bags, sugar, and other essentials.
  • As communicated with your guests, leave them with a “getting in kit” that includes starter food for their first breakfast and basics like olive oil, vinegar, spices.
  • We provide a bowl of fresh fruit in the refrigerator. Some exchangers didn’t eat the fruit, so now we leave a note to make sure we invite them to enjoy the fruit or they can toss it.
  • Run the dishwasher and empty it. We wash dishes by hand the morning of departure. 
  • Do a thorough wipe down of the kitchen counters.
  • General
  • Do a thorough cleaning of floors, bathrooms, and kitchen.
  • Wash and put away your laundry so the laundry baskets are not filled with dirty laundry.
  • Make sure there are enough clean kitchen and bath towels for guests. Don’t forge the washcloths and hand towels.
  • Do a general decluttering, especially dresser tops, table tops, counters. Guests will need clear horizontal spaces to put their own belongings on during their stay.
  • Make sure the lights work, test the lamps, and provide backup lightbulbs as appropriate.
  • Wipe down outdoor furniture, as appropriate for the season and weather.
  • Empty all the interior trash cans.
  • If the AC is on, set AC to auto 78F/25C. Set heat as appropriate.
  • Make sure doors and windows are tightly closed and locked.
  • Make sure trash cans and recycle bins are in their proper place. In our case, our can and bins are stored inside the fence. Leave clear instructions on how your guests will manage trash and recycle.
  • Communicate
  • Ensure expectations are clear about what you invite your guests to use and enjoy, and what you expect them to use and replace. A clear communication during the planning stages and a written list in your home book is helpful for all of us.
  • Leave instructions for how your guests will let you know if essential supplies are low or have run out.
  • Leave a note for guests to contact you when they experience issues or have questions. Reassure the guests that communication is open.
  • Bedrooms
  • Make room in the bedroom closets as agreed.
  • Put away your personal items in the bathrooms and leave room for your guests. We have a tray we put everything on and then put on a high shelf in our closet so we can easily retrieve when we return home.
  • If requested, empty bedroom drawers. It turns out that we don’t need to empty drawers like we originally thought, so we provide drawer space only for longer exchanges or on request.
  • Put out suitcase racks or provide a space for guests to put their suitcases.
  • Provide a fresh set of sheets for the guests to remake the beds. Leave them visible and labeled and discuss in advance with your guests. (We love this genius idea that a fellow exchanger provided on a recent stay, so now we do the same to make coming home a more welcome experience).
  • Bathrooms
  • Put away your personal items like toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and medications.
  • Provide a hairdryer.
  • Make sure there is soap and shampoo in the showers. For soap, you can provide a wrapped new bar of soap or a bottle of liquid bath gel. Remove your personal used bars of soap, used tubes of toothpaste, slivers of soap bars.
  • Empty space in your bathroom for your guests.
  • Ensure you leave enough toilet paper.
  • Consider providing a box of tissues.
  • Some members have mentioned using a box or plastic bin to put your personal items. I like this idea because it keeps your personal items together and organized while making space for others.
  • Welcome
  • Leave your guests a welcome note.
  • Ask your guests to contact you when are arrive and are safely in your home. Leave instructions for communication during their stay. When and how your guests can ask questions.
  • If we know our guests imbibe, we leave a bottle of wine and wine glasses on the table.
  • Remember to put out your guest book. Note any peculiar situations. Leave room in the guest book for written feedback.
  • Put out a pad of paper and pencils and pens. These note taking items are what I miss most when I arrive in another home.
  • Establishing communication channels ensures that everyone gets their needs met.
  • Leave your departure checklist so everyone knows what is expected when the exchange is completed.
  • Gather your personal items
  • Check the closets for our belongings.
  • Check the outlets to be sure we have our charging cords.
  • Take photos of your home now that it’s tidy and sparkling. You can use these photos to update your listing!
  • Pat yourself on the back for being well prepared to receive guests in your home.
  • Go have fun on your exchange.

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