Do your guests really need three bottle openers? What about all those trinkets on the bathroom vanity? Chances are some of the things you’ve been holding on to are just taking up valuable space. And although clearing clutter may be time-consuming, overwhelming, or even emotional, it can go a long way toward making your space more comfortable for guests and more manageable for you.
Whether you welcome guests in a private room or an entire home, get inspired by these host tips for tidying up.
Even if you don’t take a minimalist approach in your personal life, it’s helpful to embrace one when you host. “I find that the less clutter there is, the more clean and tidy the space looks,” says host Kath from Albany, Australia. And guests care a lot about cleanliness—according to Airbnb data, it’s one of the top reasons for a negative review. Less clutter can also make things easier to clean between stays since there’s less to dust or put away.
Most guests need a place to put some of their clothes, toiletries, and other personal items. So if your own wardrobe has spilled over into the guest’s bedroom, it might be time to let a few things go. “If I haven't used it or worn it in a year or two, it gets chucked,” says host Sarah from Sayulita, Mexico. You may want to free up even more space, especially if you welcome guests for long-term stays like host Jessica from Seoul, South Korea. “I’m sure they’ll have books, souvenirs, family pics, and their own ‘clutter’ of stuff they want to keep on the bedside table or desk or on a shelf,” she says.
Kitchens and bathrooms need to be super functional, and yet they’re often the first areas to accumulate unnecessary items. “I personally don't like it when it looks like everything in the kitchen in the listing is from a jumble sale or stuff that was discarded from elsewhere,” says host Alexandra from Lincoln, California. Think about what guests will really need in those spaces, and remove the rest. Most will appreciate a bottle opener in the kitchen, but they likely won’t need a banana slicer. Conditioner is a nice amenity in the bathroom, but guests probably don’t expect to have four different brands to choose from.
Sometimes, guests leave behind perfectly usable supplies (think plastic bags, canned food, or condiments). You might be tempted to hold on to these, especially if they’re unopened. Keep in mind that guest leftovers can add up and that future guests may not feel comfortable using them. Host Michelle from Chicago only keeps “sealed-as-originally-purchased” food and drink items, like “bottled water, soda, single-use condiments, etc.” Consolidating certain things can also help control the clutter: For example, move extra plastic bags into one dispenser, or combine salt from different containers.
You don’t want guests to miss out on all the wonderful amenities you provide simply because they can’t find them. Host Kelly from Austin, Texas, says to “let the space dictate what is there” and not the other way around: “So, if the shelf can artfully hold five towels, then you should not own six towels.” Go through linens and other supplies regularly, and donate or discard anything that isn’t in great shape. Once you’ve streamlined your amenities, think about the best way to display them. Host Chantal from Yvignac-la-Tour, France, has a guest-dedicated cabinet: “It's got everything from small water bottles to toilet paper … all arranged by shelf and category in separate baskets.”
“Everything in the room should have a purpose with no clutter or unnecessary frills,” says host Kelly from Austin, Texas. “Having said that, it doesn't mean the room shouldn't be stylish or have a lovely, warm, cozy feel.” Of course, there’s no one-size-fits all approach to this—the right balance can depend on your space, property type, and host style. But here are some guidelines to consider:
With these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to a tidier, more welcoming space guests will love. Happy decluttering!
This was an interesting thread and as usual the topic meandered a bit. Our situation is that we offer a small private space on 9 acres that is almost an hour from several major metro areas. The tourist attraction of the area is the rural setting, wineries, outdoor activities and natural areas, etc. not any urban attraction. So we provide more amenities and conveniences than we would if we were located around the corner from stores or restaurants. That said, there were many useful comments on this thread.
Having the spaces well lighted (whether natural or artificial) when the guest arrives will establish very positive first reactions. I agree also that reducing clutter and objects on flat surfaces (it used to be called table-scaping) is important. Plus both suggestions make cleaning must easier, gives the guest space to put their things and helps guests not forget things because they can see them as they give the room a final scan when departing.
I think the open cabinet door/drawer policy can itself make the space look cluttered and not yet ready for occupancy which might negatively impact the first impression. I use small brass disks on small chains as labels. Guests have commented that just seeing the small pendant on a drawer makes them feel free to investigate. Of course the information binder has all this listed but we start sooner by including more detailed titles on the photos in our listing indicating what things we provide and showing where things are. The photos show open drawers with contents, etc. Finally we have a small 3x5 placard set out asking if they are looking for something and suggesting they can look in the binder, text us or just snoop around on the labelled drawers and closets.
Guests not reading is indeed an ongoing issue. We changed our listing to a 2 night minimum and that shifted our entire guest demographic to mainly folks who actually read. We send out detailed directions to the listing as many gps apps can’t find us. We still have occasional guests that ask us what their door code is or how to get in or arrive at a neighbor’s barn in the middle of the night.
The comment about the basement and upper floor strikes close to home. The rental is attached to our home. We mention that three time in the listing and I added a sketch of the floor plan in the photos indicating it is attached to our living quarters. I’ve still gotten dinged for not making it clear.
Perhaps AirBnB might add a yes/no question to host reviews of guests: Do they read? We could then take appropriate extra steps and not inundate all guests with repetitious reminders. Not a serious suggestion, but it is good to know we are not alone in dealing with this issue.
We send out informational emails to upcoming guests but we avoid one massive email and break them into topics (e.g. door code, directions, annotated map of area, special responses/information to inquiries by the guest). Like someone suggested, we have always sent out a recap of our critical guidelines/rules as a low key reminder. I realize that not all hosts can make this work but we repeatedly mention that guests should feel free to contact us with questions, problems or inquiries about the area.
AirBnB arrangements are not like a hotel and that is what makes them exceptional in allowing a guest to experience a location, not just the locale but someone’s home, and have a more personal holiday or trip. I think that the privacy factor, unlike hotels and the original B&B arrangements, is also appealing to so many. Unfortunately, this lack of personal contact can lead to many of the issues discussed here, but that is the nature of the arrangement for host and guest alike.
I have been a host for 38 years and with Airbnb since they began. The old wisdom was if it was your home for part of the year, personal items as in children’s art or photos were important as they remind guests that they are in someone’s home. I understand that Airbnb has grown tremendously but please remember that for many of us this is still a “home share”. When you set up the expectation of a sterile, bought for rental condo then that is what guests expect. We clearly describe this as our home and also have lots of photos with our pets present yet more and more we get comments like “you have a cat?” Or “ This is your home?”.
I would like a lot more support from Airbnb when I loose a star because someone assumed the amazing master bedroom was a separate apartment even though it says it is a room in our home 5 times in the first paragraph of the description.
We find that the guests very rarely, if ever, read our house manual. We leave type-written notes taped to the walls and label everything. Seems to work.