Q: I'm heading back home to my parents' house for Christmas again this year, and one thing that bothers me is that they turned my old bedroom into a guest bedroom. It's so packed with stuff, floor to ceiling, that it's more like a storage unit than a guest room. My mom has filled the closet with all her and dad's old clothes. All their extra furniture, boxes and stuff gets put in there, too, so that it's hard to walk over to the bed. How can we make it into a nicer guest bedroom?
A: This is a great idea to help your parents make a nicer guest bedroom, even if it's only for yourself. The biggest thing will be to get a decluttering process started. First of all, is all your childhood stuff out of your old room? Start there, if you haven't already. Your parents will secretly thank you for it.
Then, find out how receptive they are to decluttering, and help them set an intention for a better guest room. See my column here for useful decluttering tips. Are they truly interested, or is there something else going on? Is this a problem throughout their house? If that's the case, this may not be something you can help with on your own.
A guest room doesn't need to be large, or even a bedroom dedicated to guests only. Consider how somebody else might feel staying there. As long as someone has enough room to move around, fresh bedding and a place for their bag, they'll feel welcome. If there is enough space, a bench or a folding luggage rack is great because guests are less likely to place their suitcase or bag on the bed — after who knows where it's been. Buy two of those folding racks if you're shopping. That way, if there is a couple sharing the room, they'll each have a place for their bag. Take notes from your favorite hotel rooms. A comfortable chair and a desk would be nice, but only if there is plenty of room.
At a minimum, provide an extra blanket at the foot of the bed or in the closet, a nightstand with a lamp, an extension cord to conveniently charge phones and computers, and a card with the WiFi password. I like to think about what someone would ask for, and set it out before they ask. But if your parents need to use this room for storage or for a home office or hobby room, hide the boxes or desk with a room dividing screen. A tray with some bottled water and some prepackaged snacks, such as dried fruit and nuts, would be appreciated by many travelers.
In the bathroom, provide plenty of towels, including a clean bath mat, a nightlight, and basket of travel size toiletries in case someone forgets something. Have extra toilet paper handy, and perhaps a small sewing kit and extra cleaning supplies in an easily found spot.
Good luck with this and let me know how it goes! Happy holidays!