So here’s the newest addition to my bag of tricks… the Breakfast Basket! Filled with several kinds of breakfast bars, hot Oatmeal and Grits mixes, Almond Butter, Honey, and I’m going to add individual packages of Peanut Butter later today. Bonus… it’s sitting right beside my fruit bowl so there’s options. Anyone have any suggestions for anything else?
So I’m starting something new on here… since I’ve got this Airbnb adventure going and it’s doing pretty well I thought I’d start answering some questions that have been thrown at me through messages and such and give some of you who are considering this an idea as to how I make this work and the realities of having strangers in your home on a regular basis.
Okay, the short answer? It’s going well but it’s definitely a learning process. With each new guest I’m getting better at the process, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. My beginning? I stocked the Refrigerator with soda and water, actually scrubbed the entire house top-to-bottom, and hoped for the best. There were some hiccups… like me losing my own housekey and the guest having to leave me his until I could get another one… but all in all it went pretty well. The second guest was great – one night, no real needs other than internet, and bonus! He left me a fantastic review. The third set of guests was my first time with both rooms in use. Grandparents and mom of FSC student. Nice people but very much morning people and everybody knows I don’t do mornings until around 11 or so. Also they’d never stayed via Airbnb before and didn’t know what to expect. I was much relieved to disabuse them of the idea that I would be making up the room every morning after they went out for the day. Um, well, no. Not to say that I don’t check everything over in the bathroom and replenish what needs replenishment but I leave the guest rooms alone. I don’t want to invade people’s privacy and unless I hear sounds of ritual sacrifice or ongoing demolition you can be sure I will not. My longest guest thus far (4 nights) just departed yesterday and she was absolutely wonderful. Very nice, brought a hostess gift, very low maintenance, and she’s the first where I started experimenting with offering breakfast as well. I’m happy to report that I’ve finally started getting used to a revolving door and people coming and going… at least I’ve stopped waking up with a start when I smell coffee in my house and taking 5 minutes to reason through knowing that people who rob your house likely won’t make coffee first and then finally remembering that there’s people staying with me. And with that now I’ve got a month-long guest arriving tomorrow and weekend guests arriving 3 of the next 4 weekends so things are getting busy and I’m starting to wonder if I’ve lost my mind. I’m sure this is going to get even more entertaining for me, especially with the holidays and all that coming up, so I’ll keep sharing the fun on here and giving you guys the back view on my new gig by default.
After that recap of my adventures, based on questions I’ve gotten and things that have been said, here’s the things I recommend if you’re considering this gig:
1) The basics – Invest in good high thread count sheets, good all cotton white towels (bleachable, more sanitary, and if they stain you throw them out), and good pillows. Don’t eye-roll me or say you can’t afford it… just shut up and do it dammit. Rue Lala has 500tc Egyptian Cotton sheets for $39.99… Sam’s has Serta Pillows for $9.95 a 2 pack… Macy’s runs Ralph Lauren towels on sale several times a year. Trust me when I tell you it will pay off in the end. And don’t argue about the white towels… things happen… bleach solves it… can’t do that with cornflower blue or brick red… argument over.
2) Upgrade your guest room so it looks like a place people want to stay. So here it is, if you’re still holding onto that Hello Kitty bedroom stuff from your daughter’s teen years it’s time to make like Elsa and let that ish go. My decorating rule is to make your guest room and your guest bath inviting and comfortable. There’s no need to get House Beautiful to come in and redo the rooms and you probably want to lay off the more esoteric and complicated Pinterest stuff, but definitely choose things that are comfortable and cozy, and also make sure those things are sturdy and can take frequent cleaning. No need for Louis XIV antiques, but a well-placed reading light, a soft throw, a luggage rack, and a chair to sit in will never be out of place. Throw in a drawer or two available in the dresser, some decent closet space, and extra hangers and you’ve got it done. It’s not hard… just look at the room and envision where you would want to stay. Create that.
3) Put a power strip near the bed for plugging in multiple electronic devices. Not sure about you but that’s something I bitch about in every hotel room I stay in… no matter how cheap or expensive. So with my rooms whatever I’ve missed in a hotel room? I’ve made sure it’s in mine. Electronics recharging is a part of life today… get with the program.
4) Go sleep in your guest room… make sure it’s a bed you would sleep in, make sure the room is comfortable for you, and if you’re not comfy there then fix it!
5) Get fast internet. Everyone I’ve had here has used serious bandwidth their entire stay. Everyone. I’ve got streaming devices on both televisions in those rooms and they use the heck out of them. So plan for that… the demographic that is adopting Airbnb the fastest is the millennial generation. That’s their MO… you need to make it yours if you want them back. They might enjoy the novelty of your in-room Keurig but they’ll demand fast internet. So do I… so make that happen.
6) Don’t waste money on things that will likely not pay off. An in-room refrigerator is nice, an in-room coffee pot is convenient but offering use of the kitchen and extra space in the refrigerator if there’s things they need to cook or chill is just as good. These people are guests in your home. If they wanted to stay at the Holiday Inn they’d be there. Make them a part of your home to the degree that they’re comfortable with but know upfront that if they’re renting a room in a private home they already expect that they will become a part of a home dynamic. I tell all of my guests that they are welcome to enjoy all common areas of my home. If they want to sit in the Living Room and watch the big TV they’re welcome to do so. If they want to use the pool then come on out. They aren’t expected to just stay in their room and out of my hair. Part of the adventure in this kind of travel is meeting new people and experiencing new things. If you’re not into that, don’t sign up and choose to rent your room. Seriously. This takes peopling. You have to be good at it. At least sometimes. So keep that in mind.
7) Don’t stress out and remember to have fun. I schedule the day after departure for cleaning and restoring the room(s) back to clean and ready. I also schedule the day before arrival for cleaning of the entire house to make sure I’m ready. When I go back to work I may look into a cleaning service to assist me with this part. But outside of those two days of effort I’m a neat person and my house stays pretty well put together so it’s not something I focus on. When guests are here I run the sweeper every morning because of the additional foot traffic and I also wipe down the bathroom and kitchen counters, just because I’m OCD like that. But that’s about it. I would much rather spend a few minutes chatting with the guests about restaurants I love and things to do in my beautiful little town than worrying about whether the bathmat is hung up properly. Perspective… it’s important… get some.
Okay… there you go… that’s my innkeeping manifesto… now go figure it out for you. We’re all different and our spaces are different too. If you’re leaning toward trying this out this just starts your conversation about it. And if you have any other questions ask away. I’ll do my best to help. It’s fun… I’m enjoying it… good luck! Oh… and for a bit of shameless self-promotion, here’s my listings from Airbnb… share amongst yourselves!
So we’re already under a State of Emergency, entire state, and it’s freakin’ October. I know, what the original hell? Does the weather know what month it is? Apparently not. So it’s time… time to prep, time to inventory the Liquor Cabinet, time to put things away outside so nothing becomes a future flying projectile, and time to realize that apparently I am adulting right now… even if I didn’t think I was every capable of that, especially with natural disasters and stuff.
Apparently I can. Who knew?
I remember 2004 and the terrible trio of Charlie, Frances, and Jeanne when we lived in Celebration. Eddie B and I were renting, we were not allowed to board the windows because our landlord in NYC didn’t see the need for it and was more concerned about the Hardieboard trim on the windows than the risk of windows being blown out, but we had great neighbors and we made it through all three with very little damage. Then there was 1999 and Floyd when Eddie and I lived in Melbourne (AKA the original projected landfall site) and we had to evacuate for the only time in all of my years in the FLA. That was eally hard – saying goodbye to all of my possessions that wouldn’t fit in our car and knowing that we might be homeless at the end of the thing.
Really hard stuff.
Today however this is easier. Now I’ve got a sturdy well-built house, it has a hard-wired generator to keep the lights and A/C on and the food and beer chilled, and I’ve got a homeowner’s policy to cover whatever goes wrong if it’s over my deductible. So I’m hoping for the best and prepping for a bit of convenience at the worst and getting a poncho so I can lower the pool regularly and let the dog outside.
I’ve got this. Really. Without Eddie and without Bob, because now I truly am a grownup. Sometimes anyway.
What’s hard to believe today is how much has changed since the last time I prepped for something like this though is how different life it now. We didn’t have any smart phones in 2004… internet access was limited to our computers and keeping the electricity on was a priority. We had a cellphone but we were still mostly dependent on landlines as was everyone else so if the phone lines were down or your battery died then you were in trouble. We were lucky in Celebration that we had underground utilities so we never lost cable, electric, or internet, but we were definitely in the minority. Also we lived in a very well-built community and honestly we sustained very little damage but most of central Florida looked like a sea of blue tarps for months and even years after those three storms.
We were lucky… but today I wonder what another Charlie would bring? Probably not as much luck. Probably results that would be a lot worse.
So I’m getting ready and I truly hope my neighbors are doing the same. I’ve already let friends know that my home has room if they need shelter. In the end though we’re Floridians, we really don’t even wake up for anything less than a Cat 3, but since this thing is the size of Arizona we’re all starting to stir. Keep my crazy state in your thoughts and if you need a dry spot to rest then know that dinner will be ready by 7 on Thursday and Friday and there will be wine and Hurricanes.
Wait, what am I saying? Of course we are. Thus making the entire opening line totally irrelevant. But it’s a common error… what looks like crazy to others might actually be someone else’s entire definition of sane.
But I digress. And overstate the obvious. As usual. You’re welcome.
Another weekend of inn-keeping with my AirBnb side gig and it went pretty well. A family this time – a Mom and her in-laws traveling here for Florida Southern College Family Weekend – and I think they enjoyed their stay. Know they liked the amenities… but then I do tend to go a bit further than the average host. Nothing succeeds like excess, right?
Yeah, I thought so too.
Again the guests were fairly low maintenance, again I didn’t really do anything but just stay out of the way, and again there was no real imposition on my weekend routine. The split design of my house is what I think makes a difference. Once I close the French Doors to my end of the house it’s over. I never even know they’re there. Until they start making coffee and I smell it… and I wake up temporarily confused because I forgot someone was in the house with me.
But anyway… it was successful for both parties, and I have to confess that I’m starting to like it. It’s nice to have someone around occasionally. Believe it or not living alone isn’t always all its cracked up to be. Having that feeling of people around is nice. Especially since they’re paying to be here.
But now it’s Monday and I’ve already changed the beds back there, scrubbed the guest bathroom, and ran the vacuum and dusted both rooms. Being hyper efficient is a curse sometimes. And clearly I need more to do if I’ve already done all of that and it’s only 9:15.
More Monday… now with actual efficiency… who knew I could do that?
So this morning I started planning our big yearly entertaining event – the 2017 New Years Brunch. So far I’ve created a Facebook event, built a guest list, started adding to the Pinterest board, built a planning spreadsheet… you know, the usual things when you’re entertaining in 2016? Yeah, all of those.
Side note, how did we do this before social media? Wait, what? You don’t do it that way? Whatevs… Paper invites? Spiral notebook lists? In a word… #nope!
And with this step I’m making the decision that come what may with the search for work I’m still here and this is where my life is happening. It’s time to make some plans farther out than tomorrow. Life goes on. And if something happens that pulls me out of here then guess what? I know how to fly home. I’m pretty damned good at buying plane tickets in fact and I can get here pretty fast. So everything else be damned… the holidays will be as I wish. Thanksgiving in North Carolina, Christmas and New Years here. Festive, fun, surrounded by people I love in the places I love, with everything I love included.
I guess the message I’ve been getting from the voices in my head is “live your life”. Out loud. With no need for any forgiveness or permission. These are most assuredly interesting times indeed but putting everything on hold in order to wait for other people to decide things just isn’t working for me anymore. It’s time for me to just do it. Just live.
Today… and tomorrow… and beyond.
It is time for me to speak my truth to my privilege… I am a middle aged, upper middle class white woman and white privilege is all I have ever or will ever know. Just a few of my realities… I will never know what it feels like to get on an elevator and have other people exit immediately due to discomfort over being alone with me – we might in fact strike up a conversation about our shared journey or destinations. I will never know what it feels like to have people change sides of the street just because I’m walking on the sidewalk – people always smile and frequently say hi, even if I don’t know them, especially if they look like me. I will never know what it feels like to have any fear of a law enforcement officer when they stop me for an infraction or if they stop to render aid during my rare mechanical breakdowns – in fact if it’s an infraction I will likely end up with a warning (many times, even for things that were very serious) and if it’s a breakdown they’re only going to offer me help. To be clear, in neither set of circumstances at no time will I be referred to as “the suspect” and I will be treated with the utmost in respect and kindness. I will never know what it feels like to be followed around due to suspicion at any of the multiple luxury stores I walked into this week at Mall of Millenia in Orlando – the only reason I will be followed is because they want to sell me All. Of. The. Things. And lastly, if I were in my vehicle, even if I were armed, if an unrelated police activity happened right beside me, law enforcement would ask me politely to move away or even escort me to safety to ensure that nothing happened to me since I was not their target. I never am. Because I am a middle aged, upper middle class white woman. This is my world.
The only one I’ve ever lived in.
But that doesn’t mean I am stupid enough to think that everyone lives here with me. America is a great country for me… but to be clear it is not a great country for everyone else who isn’t like me. And it is especially cruel to its black and brown citizens, and it has been since the very founding of this country. That is reality. It may make you uncomfortable to deal with that reality, but that doesn’t change it.
There are two Americas.
Now here’s the real truth… if I had to live in the other one, where none of my reality has ever existed even for people who share my socio-economic reality, even for only a day, I might be uncomfortable enough to burn some shit down. I might take to the streets. I might try to make some folks like me damned uncomfortable. Because I would not settle for less than what I have now. I don’t have to. And I wouldn’t. So why do we tell them to sit down? Why do we say that they are wrong in how they say no? Maybe their way is the only way to wake us up. Charlotte is a shout to #WAKEUP #whitepeople. This is our America too. Deal with it.
“I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
All photos taken by Jonathan Brashear. You can see more in his Facebook album here.