The Guest Room

By Regina Leeds

Regina LeedsIf you’re lucky enough to have a guest room, you’ll want to take some time to make your guests feel welcome. Now that seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised!  Here’s what I find in most guest rooms I’m asked to organize:

  • The room has become a dumping ground for items no one in the family uses but can’t seem to part with like outdated office equipment, toys and clothing.
  • Someone had the brilliant idea of a multi-purpose room and now gym equipment all bur crowds out the bed.
  • Family members have been interested in various sports over the years.  The interest has long waned but the equipment lingers on.  The room and more likely the guest closet now hold long abandoned skis, tennis rackets, camping gear or even a saddle!

What stops you?

If you find yourself in this predicament, take heart.  You have a lot of company.  The first step is to make some decisions.  Very often when we see chaos in a room, we’re seeing a fear manifesting itself.  Here are a series of questions to get your creative juices flowing. It’s easier to get moving and make changes when we know exactly what we want and why we haven’t yet created it.

  1. How many times a year to do you entertain over night guests?  Would you like that number to be higher or are you overwhelmed with relatives and friends throughout the year?  Very often if that’s the case there can be an unconscious need to keep the room in an uproar so guests don’t stay too long!
  2. Do you look at the abandoned items in this room and get overcome with guilt?  That’s one of the main reasons we get frozen in place and simply can’t make a decision about the gym equipment or the clothes we’ll never use again.
  3. Are you afraid to work on this room because you feel you were born without the ‘decorating gene’ or the ‘organizing gene?’  Take heart.  I’ve got you covered.

I would be willing to bet you’ve got some magazines scattered around the house.  OK maybe a lot of magazines? Here’s an opportunity to make good use of them before you toss them into the recycle bin. Let’s face it if you were really going to read them you would have made time to do so shortly after they arrived.  Now they can serve you in a new way before they bid you adieu.

The Dream Board

I include this wonderful tool in all of my books.  It’s inexpensive to gather the supplies and if you aren’t a visual person you’ll be amazed how it will give you direction.  I’m actually a highly visual person and this exercise saved me years ago when I was stuck on the new direction I wanted my home to take.

I was open to change but didn’t have a clue what I wanted. I started simply gathering pictures I related to from magazines.  I did it without judgment or deep thought.  It was all purely emotional.

It didn’t take long to discover I was drawn to colors, furniture and a design sensibility that was completely foreign to my conscious mind.  It made the process of redoing my home a time of transformation rather than drudgery.

Here’s what you need:

  • Poster Board (available at stores like Staples)
  • Glue (I like the sticks myself)
  • Pictures from magazines.
  • Words or phrases that inspire (you can cut words or phrases from your magazines)
  • Take a look at scrapbooking supplies and see if you are drawn to fun things like glitter, stickers or multi colored pens. Michaels is a fun source for such items.

There are no rules for the Dream Board.  It’s your creation and for your eyes-only.  Have fun with it.  Simply glue the images that inspire you or show you the ideal guest room onto the board.

You don’t need to find completed rooms.  You can paste together different elements from various rooms you admire.  Many of my clients do this over a weekend and then live with the board in a prominent place so they can be inspired before they go shopping.

Of course here’s a word to the wise: your Dream Board is inexpensive to create but don’t spend money you don’t have to create a room you can’t afford.  Stick to a budget! Read on to see how you might raise the necessary cash for your project.  You know what they say: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

New Homes for Old Friends

No, I’m not talking about your best friend moving into your guest room.  I’m talking about finding homes for all those items you know you aren’t ever going to use again.  With a little effort some of them may in fact fund the room’s transformation.  There’s always Craig’s List and E-Bay when you need a little extra cash and space in your home.

But do try and think outside the box.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Perhaps that furniture you inherited from Aunt Lizzie would better suit you if it were painted a bright and cheery color?
  • Would some of your items make someone else happy?  Donate then to a charity like Goodwill or your local women’s shelter.
  • Is your guest bed too big for the room and the number of guests you habitually entertain?
  • If you have items to dispose of that may be toxic to the environment (are you the one who stored paint in the guest room closet?), call your local community rep and find out how your area handles such waste.
  • Or maybe all you need to do is rearrange the furniture in the room!  If you want to divide the room into a gym or home office and guest room, try using area rugs to mark off the zones or use a screen to hide your work area from guests’ eyes.

I recently had an incredible challenge.  I had a client who insisted we have his drum set and gym equipment set up as part of his home décor.  This was a tiny two-bedroom apartment he shared with his teenage son.  We had to move everything that day several times but ultimately he had a cozy set up that just happened to have a weight bench and drum set prominently placed!

The Bottom Line

Without saying a word to anyone who stays with you, your guest room speaks volumes about how you feel about them. Here are some items for a quick welcome checklist.

1.      Is the bedding fresh, clean and inviting?

2.      Do you have some space in the closet along with a few hangars?

3.      If there’s a dresser in the room, is at least one drawer empty?

4.      What about toiletries?  Will your guest find the basics in case he or she forgot to pack shampoo, toothpaste or a razor?

5.      Is there a fresh bar of soap on hand or have you dumped all the slivers from every other bathroom here in an effort to ‘recycle?”

6.      Is there enough toilet paper?

7.      Are there fresh towels in the bathroom?

8.      Do you have an alarm clock by the night stand?

9.      Have you put out any niceties like fresh flowers, candy or fruit?

I’ve slept on couches and felt as welcome as visiting royalty.  I’ve also slept in palatial guest rooms and been terribly unhappy because I felt most unwelcome.  Beyond the sheets, towels and toothpaste is the energy of the host.  If you’re happy to see your guests, they will feel it.  My suggestions here are simply ways to make that welcome concrete.

New York City native Regina Leeds has brought order to home and work environments across the United States since 1988 when she started her company, Get Organized! by REGINA. Currently based in Los Angeles, her clientele run the gamut from movie stars to business people and housewives. Regina regularly travels throughout the United States to assist her clients. Regina is the author of two books: The Zen of Organizing; Creating Order and Peace in Your Home, Career and Life and Creating a Place Without Losing Your Space: a Couples Guide to Blending Homes, Lives and Clutter.