Friday, November 27, 2009

Sleeping Arrangements for Houseguests

I hope that your Thanksgiving (or regular ol’ week if you don’t do Turkey Day for whatever reason) was outstanding. I’m writing this entry a day early and setting it to auto publish tomorrow (today from your perspective) because my family’s celebrating a day late. Travel and work schedules didn’t work out so well for Thursday, which is fine. Thanksgiving is about family more than anything else, at least in my opinion, so we’re happy to put off turkey and dressing for one day if it means that we can eat and spend time together.

This week, let’s talk about accommodating extra family members or friends. That’s a good subject because a) many of us have family over, especially around holidays and b) in a sufficiently large emergency, your relatives could very well drop in on you. Not all of them will give you warning in advance, so there’s no good way to predict how many folks you’ll have to house, feed, clothe, etc. should something go wrong.

Despite not necessarily knowing how many people you can expect, you can probably accommodate a few houseguests, especially if they’re family. (Many of us will go an extra two or three miles in order to help out family, which is good.)

Even in small houses like our trailer, it’s possible to squeeze in some extra people for a few days, if not weeks or even months. We’ve done just that before plenty of times, and are doing it right now because Wayward Bro’s home for the holidays (very cool, by the way – we’ve missed him). Sleeping arrangements tend to pose the biggest challenges, but a little planning in advance tends to make things work out. Here are some tips and ideas for the time when your people show up on your doorstep.

No matter what sleeping arrangements you make, people are going to need bedding. Don’t assume that someone who’s dropped in on you without calling first is going to be prepared enough to bring blankets and pillows. Even if that person did grab bedding before heading to your place, it’s better to have too much than too little. You can pick up fantastic bedding for very good prices at thrift stores and garage sales. Give the pieces a thorough cleaning, make sure that they’re completely dry, and use your Food Saver to seal them up. These vacuum-sealed packages take up only a small amount of storage space and are protected from pretty much everything (assuming, of course, that you don’t store them in a harsh environment). I use the Food Saver for “off-season” bedding: the big blankets in the summer and the thin ones in the winter, but that method will also work for storing extra bedding for guests.

When Wayward Bro came home Thursday, he brought his U.S. military cot with him. He found this item at a surplus dealer for about thirty-five bucks. The cot is relatively small; folds up into a really small bundle for storage; and is made of durable materials. My brother found his locally, but USMilitarySurplus has them for…um…a rather-high price in my opinion. You can, however, get the cot’s exact dimensions as well as a photo if you visit the site.

You can, if necessary, make the cot even more comfortable with one of those foam toppers, or by folding up some blankets and lying on top of them. In my experience, these cots are fine the way they come, but we’re all different.

Alternatively, you can use bunk beds. That’s how Mom and Dad managed to fit three boys into one bedroom and two girls into another when we were growing up. Granted, we were much smaller than we are today, but you can squeeze even bigger bunk beds into tight places.

I don’t, however, like pallets on the floor – for a few reasons. One is that a cot or other bed that’s off the floor gives a little storage space underneath. You can put your shoes and day clothes under a cot or bunk bed and not trip over them if you need to get up in the dark. I also dislike the floor because I’ve yet to sleep on one that’s actually comfortable. I always – even when I was a spry, carefree kid – wake with stiff joints (which puts me in a bad mood).

If weather permits, you might pitch tents near the house and put people out there. That idea depends on various factors, though, including the type of emergency (I wouldn’t put people outside if there were, say, a toxic-chemical spill in the area); how much room you have in your yard/outdoor area; and what the area’s like (it would really stink if one of your relatives were mauled by a bobcat or devoured by mosquitoes, after all).

Some of you are bound to have other ideas. What’s worked for you all as far as beds/cots go? We’re all here to learn, so comments are, as always, encouraged.

If you want to give people a bit of privacy – which, by the way, becomes more and more important as your time together drags on – you can suspend blankets from the ceiling. That’s what my sister and I did when we had to share a bedroom. We hung blankets around our bunk beds to form private sleeping areas. I was much more comfortable in my own bed after the blankets went up. Maybe it has something to do with the illusion of privacy? I really don’t know, but it worked.

You might also try to keep kids separated by both gender and general age group. My sister is eight years younger than I am, so we didn’t have diddly in common when we were growing up. I wanted to stay up later, being a teenager and all, and she wanted to play with her obnoxious toys. Maybe these kinds of things won’t be big problems if you’re dealing with an all-out crisis, but a little separation will keep the kids in better moods…which, of course, makes your job as the adult a bit easier.

It also helps to give everyone a chore related to the sleeping area. When each of the people who use that area have a task that they can perform (even little kids can do things like collect the pillows and put them in the storage area), they tend to be in better moods. Human nature leans toward doing: if we have a task, we’re usually happier than if we’re just sitting around, thinking about the situation that we’re in.

Also, making sure that everyone has an assigned task can prevent some arguments, especially in the kids’ area. Kids love to gripe, as anyone with kids (or, like me, a bunch of younger sibs) will tell you. “He isn’t doing anything.” “She messed up my area.” “Tell that jerk to stop throwing his candy wrappers on my bed.” If they’re all busy with their small, but important, chores, they won’t be quite so quick to argue over who’s not doing anything, or whatever else.

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm