8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Overnight Guests (Yes, the Romantic Kind)

8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Overnight Guests (Yes, the Romantic Kind)

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You’ve done it, tiger. You invited your date back to your place — what now? I spoke with Ariella Serur, a dating coach specializing in queer relationships, about how to stay in the moment and enjoy your time together. Whether you practice polyamory and live with a partner, or this is the first time you’ve brought a date home in years, keep reading for eight easy ways to prep your home for your first sleepover together

Hold a transparent conversation about your intentions for the evening. 

The word “intentions” might make you think of the overprotective dad in every rom-com: “What are your intentions with my daughter this evening?” But there are benefits to being on the same page from the beginning. It can help you relax to know what you’re both walking into and can provide a framework like any other social setting would have. Serur says that before bringing it up, think about what you would like to hear on the receiving end. “How would you want to hear that information?” Once you’ve thought it through, you’re ready to hold an authentic conversation about your expectations. 

Ask yourself: What would make me feel welcome if I were the guest? 

Think about when you are the most comfortable in your space. Do you have music playing? Are the lights dimmed? Is there a particular blanket you love? In addition to setting up your place to make guests feel welcome, Serur encourages you to set up the space in a way that makes you feel your best while hosting. Ultimately you want to add comfort — for both you and them. Serur suggests considering a scenario where you are the one going back to someone else’s place: “What would make you feel at ease? Then do that!”

Make the evening unique to them.

Every person is different so treat the evening the same way. You wouldn’t invite your vegetarian friend to an all-you-can-eat BBQ, so think about your date’s quirks and needs ahead of time. You don’t necessarily need to move your furniture around to accommodate them, but there are small ways to show you care. It might mean having non-alcoholic beverage options in the fridge or swapping out your oil diffuser for unscented candles if you know they’re sensitive to strong smells. 

Curate your space for the evening you want. 

Packing for vacation isn’t the most exciting part of a trip, but the preparation means you can have more fun when you get there. Similarly, with hosting, try writing down a checklist of what you want to have on hand during the evening. Is there an activity you want to do together? For example, if deeper conversations with this person is your goal, Serur recommends placing a few conversation starter pieces in the space. “Maybe it’s having a novel you’re reading on a side table, a book of queer art on your coffee table, or a travel souvenir coaster they can put a drink on,” they say. “That way the space is curated toward curiosity and getting to know each other better.” 

Stay in the moment! Dates are supposed to be fun. 

One of Serur’s favorite ways of staying present is tuning into their senses: paying attention to what they see, taste, touch, smell, or hear. You can also focus on taking a deep breath, take a trip to the bathroom to regroup, drink cold water slowly, or, they suggest, “It’s always an option to just name what’s going on internally!” It’s always OK to admit when you’re feeling nervous or in your head. It might even allow the other person to open up and share how they’re feeling as well. 

Do you live with a partner? Time to put your communication tools to the test. 

“Having a live-in partner changes your approach to having overnight guests — mainly in the realm of communication,” Serur says. There is a lot to get on the same page about when it comes to logistics and making sure everyone involved is heard and valued. Each relationship has unique agreements that need to be honored during sleepovers. Set ground rules now to avoid hurt or confusion later. Also — and this is for everybody, regardless of how many partners you have — change your bedsheets. Seriously. 

Organize your sex toys and whatever else you may need at a moment’s notice. 

Pleasure is supposed to be enjoyed, so don’t be afraid to play with incorporating decor into your sex life — like decorative boxes for your vibrators. (Pro tip: getting a bedside lamp with USB ports is an easy way to keep your toys charged and ready to go when needed.) While organization isn’t the sexiest thing to consider, you’ll find that it’s the wingman you didn’t know you needed. Instead of stressing about finding your favorite sex toy or the lube you like, keep it handy by the bed, couch, or bathroom. For example, instead of keeping a bulky box of condoms, I store my safe sex products in a clear hexagon jar with a snap-on lid under my bathroom sink for easy access (yes, the ones typically used as candy jars). 

Think ahead to the morning after.

Not that you need a goodie bag on the way out the door, but there you can make your date feel cared for as they leave so you part ways on a positive note. While there is no rulebook or universal preference, think about what feels true to you — how do you like to be cared for after a date? Serur shares an extra nugget of advice for the morning after: “If you have an early morning the next day and someone is spending the night, give them a heads up the night before about what time they should be on their way.” No one wants to be woken up and kicked out the door within the same breath (or yawn) — plus, it allows you to plan some more quality time in the a.m. if it’s what you desire. 

This Is How to Avoid the Dreaded IKEA Couple’s Fight, According to Therapists

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Kara Nesvig

Contributor

Kara Nesvig grew up on a sugar beet farm in rural North Dakota and did her first professional interview with Steven Tyler at age 14. She has written for publications including Teen Vogue, Allure and Wit & Delight. She lives in an adorable 1920s house in St. Paul with her husband, their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dandelion and many, many pairs of shoes. Kara is a voracious reader, Britney Spears superfan and copywriter — in that order.

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How My Local, No-Frills Walking Trail Helped Me Heal from a Breakup

How My Local, No-Frills Walking Trail Helped Me Heal from a Breakup

A few years ago, I was going through a breakup. And when I say “going through,” I mean I was harnessing every available shred of might to push through it. Processing each bit of knowledge, engaging any whisper of advice, and applying every lesson I’d ever learned from previous breakups, I prepared for this journey to the other side — no matter what that vista might have in store. And oddly, together two things gave me the momentum to see myself through: my local trail, and the Cheryl Strayed memoir “Wild.” (And sure, the film adaptation starring my personal icon, the incomparable Reese Witherspoon.)

In her best-selling memoir, Strayed recounts navigating through grief, trauma, and the end of her marriage. Armed with plenty of supplies but minimal experience, she set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo. Reeling from my own heartache, I clung to the soft, feathery pages of my used copy. I was determined to activate my own “Wild”-like transformation. Only, I had no intention of hiking cross-country, or even outside the Cook County border

One of Chicago’s most beloved outdoor spaces is its Lakefront Trail. Along Lake Michigan, the Lakefront Trail features paved cycling and running paths from the north side’s Ardmore Avenue all the way to the south side’s 71st Street. The view of Lake Michigan stuns year round, whether sailboats dot the summer waters or ice encrusts the rocky banks. This is not your average trail. And despite its fame and inspiring imagery, it wasn’t my trail.

Through frigid mornings and overcast afternoons, I peeled myself out of bed/off the couch/away from my phone (a hell box of bad memories and impulsive temptations for a newly-single and devastated person) and embarked on the humble trail. Starting at my apartment, I’d traverse the handful of blocks to the Lincoln Park neighborhood’s namesake park: the Windy City’s largest public park, spanning seven miles along the north side’s lakeshore. 

Where Diversey meets Cannon, a simple dirt-and-gravel path beckons city dwellers out to nature. Sure, the Midwest doesn’t offer the desert hikes of Arizona, nor the tricky terrain of Colorado. And Chicago definitely cannot guarantee pleasant weather. But my low-commitment daily jaunts took me out of the stench of my own pathetic, wallowing thoughts provided me perspective and comfort that nary a social media-stalking session could supply. 

The simple act of taking a carefree walk along a no-frills trail was healing. No matter what anyone tells you, you don’t need to make any purchases to achieve wellness — no hiking boots or backpacks or tents required. Clad in my Tevas or tried-and-true Doc Martens or beat up sneakers, I worked these treks into my post-breakup routine and eventually felt my emotional burden getting lighter and lighter.

As it turns out, if trekking PCT is out of the question, you can get lost and find yourself all over again just as easily on your local, average path. Along the path, I was just another person, undefined by my heartache, loss, or the blank slate of what was to come. I didn’t have a mountain to climb or a river to ford, but I had plenty of obstacles to overcome that weren’t as obvious as the nearby playgrounds or ponds. 

Just as Strayed’s memoir ended with a glimmer of hope for her healing, so does my trail. It’s been a few years since my winter of wandering, and I wish I could go back in time to cross paths with myself out in Lincoln Park. I’d tell myself it will be okay, and that this too would pass, and that this coming October, I’ll be getting married in that same park, along that same path, to an excellent dude who has made every lesson worth it. Wild, indeed. 

Sarah Magnuson

Contributor

Sarah Magnuson is a Chicago-based, Rockford, Illinois-born and bred writer and comedian. She has bachelor’s degrees in English and Sociology and a master’s degree in Public Service Management. When she’s not interviewing real estate experts or sharing her thoughts on laundry chutes (major proponent), Sarah can be found producing sketch comedy shows and liberating retro artifacts from her parents’ basement.

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3 Valuable Relationship Lessons I Borrowed from My Parents’ Love Story

3 Valuable Relationship Lessons I Borrowed from My Parents’ Love Story

Recipes and antiques aren’t the only gems that can be cherished and passed down through generations. Growing up, I learned most of what I know about what it takes to navigate and nurture a romance from the relationships that were happening all around me. Some of the best and most useful marriage advice I’ve ever received, I stole right from the pages of my parents’ love story, which has always been one of my favorites.

They were college sweethearts turned soulmates in the ‘60s who shared a passion for poetry, good books, and campus strolls. They successfully made the transition from good friends to great partners, and after graduation, my mom and dad married in a small ceremony on a military base. They were married for 14 years before they welcomed me, their only child, into the world. Then life took an unexpected turn. When I was 9 years old, my mother passed away, leaving my dad and I behind to keep her memory alive. My dad did so by regularly sharing detailed memories from their life together with me whenever I’d ask “what she was like”.

As I began to navigate my own romantic relationships as an adult, I appreciated hearing these stories on repeat and I absorbed many of the valuable love lessons embedded within them. When I got married in 2010, I decided to borrow some of my parent’s best philosophies on love, which centered around communication and connection. Many of the relationship habits that worked best for them, in both good and bad times, have also served our marriage well over the years. (We’re celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary this fall.)

While every day brings a new challenge with any marriage, practicing these powerful habits has helped us appreciate each other more and make the most of our time together. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Take a communication vacation.

When my parents needed to work through a difficult or complicated time in their marriage, they didn’t let the moment build up on the back burner. Instead, they paused their busy schedules to make time to get away and address it head on — no phone calls or outside distractions. The only voices they allowed in the conversation were their own. Sometimes they escaped to nearby motels for the weekend, and when that wasn’t possible (financially or otherwise) they chose to take a very long drive and “just talk.” My dad told me they always returned home a lot lighter and clear on what their next steps would be.

My husband and I now call these little necessary relationship retreats “communication vacations.” In the earlier days of our marriage, we found that taking a Saturday drive was easiest to pull off without making any excuses. Since then, when we need to work through something, we’ve graduated to going on nearby weekend getaway or “staycation” where we focus solely on unplugging, reconnecting, and as we like to say, “feeling our feelings.” Most recently, we went on a winter weekend mindfulness retreat where we learned how to meditate and mapped out new marriage goals by the fire. We both still speak fondly about how magical and important that trip was, and we traveled less than two hours from home.

Turn mundane moments into magical ones.

When my parents were newlyweds, they had very little money to spare, so romantic vacations and fancy date nights were out of the question. But they were exuberant romantics who made lemonade out of lemons every chance they got to spend some quality time together. They would instead transform their tiny apartment kitchen into a private couple’s cooking class or their living room into a poetry night at the speakeasy. They did so simply by letting their love, laughter and a little creativity take center stage.

Now, my husband and I like to “camp out” in our living room with our favorite takeout, s’mores and a “double feature” of our favorite horror flicks. Now that we’re new homeowners, with a handy projector and string lights, we “go to the movies” under the stars in our backyard. Not only does this practice keep us thinking creatively about how we spend our time together — when we’re not both busy or exhausted — but it’s also a great way to avoid blowing our monthly entertainment budget on too many impromptu splurges.

Share regrets before they turn into resentment.

No relationship is perfect, and neither are the two people in it. Even with each partner giving it their very best, there will inevitably be moments where someone has regrets about something. My parents always left space to have those uncomfortable conversations in their marriage, because they believed that lingering regrets would morph into resentment over time if they weren’t allowed to be heard or felt. For us, being intentional about starting more conversations with the words “I regret…” has helped us to uncover and share our true feelings in the moment much faster than we had in the past.

This piece is part of Throwback Month, where we’re revisiting vintage styles, homes, and all kinds of groovy, retro home ideas. Boogie on over here to read more!

This Simple Trick Helps Me Stay Close to My Long-Distance Friends

This Simple Trick Helps Me Stay Close to My Long-Distance Friends

Years ago, I was sitting at my desk on my first day of a new job when a text popped up on my phone: “Good luck today! You’re gonna KILL IT.” I appreciated my friend’s supportive words, of course, but I especially appreciated that she’d remembered exactly when I was starting my new gig. I knew I wanted to start doing the same for my friends and check in with them about important events in their lives to make them feel loved and cared for. But like everyone else, I’m busy, and I’m human — so I struggled to actually remember to do this.

Eventually, I figured out the perfect solution: Google Calendar. I already use it to keep track of doctor’s appointments, medication schedules, quarterly tax due dates, and work deadlines. I love the relief that comes from filling out the event details and hitting save — it calms my anxious brain, allowing me to relax a little and know I won’t forget to do the thing. I’ll see the little blue box whenever I check my calendar, and I’ll get a reminder in my inbox beforehand. So I started thinking: Why not apply the same strategy to my personal relationships? 

While maintaining my friendships is not a chore like managing my health and my finances, it does require emotional labor. No, I can’t predict when a friend will face a crisis and need a sympathetic ear or advice, but I can be proactive when they tell me they have something specific coming up, whether it’s something exciting, stressful, or emotionally difficult.

When my friend Adam told me he had a big job interview coming up, for example, I asked him when it was, and then immediately made a calendar event for that morning: “Wish Adam good luck on job interview.” Then I moved on with my day with one less thing swirling around my head to remember. When my friend Kate gushed about the guy she was going out with the following Friday, I set a reminder for Saturday morning: “Ask Kate how date went.”

Other times, it will be less clear what to say. When a friend recently told me she’d be visiting her grandma who’s in hospice care, for example, I set a reminder to simply check in and tell her I was thinking about her that day. And if she had told me her grandma was sick without mentioning a specific date, I could have still set a reminder to follow up in a week or two and ask how she and her family were doing. 

All of these friends live several states away, and this strategy helps me feel like I can maintain emotional closeness despite the physical distance. You can wish a local friend good luck on their job interview over dinner the night before or get the details of their big date over coffee the next morning — but staying involved in your long-distance friends’ lives takes more effort. Setting these calendar reminders makes it so much easier. Why give yourself yet another thing to keep track of in your mind when you could write everything down in one place?

Admittedly, I’m still working on making this practice a habit. Sometimes a friend mentions something and I forget to set one of these calendar events (the key is to do it immediately!) or other times I might be too wrapped up in my own life to ask a friend about theirs. But I know how great I feel when friends remember details I share and follow up with me, so I’m trying my best to do the same for them — and my trusty Google Calendar makes it so much easier.