They're sure to appreciate this small gesture.

By Ayn-Monique Klahre
Updated December 18, 2017
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When friends and family come to stay at your home, there’s plenty to stress about: Will they sleep comfortably? Will the kids or the dog wake them up at 6 a.m.? Will they notice the towels are faded or that you didn’t get around to cleaning the shower? Not to mention stocking the fridge with their favorite foods, making sure you don’t run out of coffee or toilet paper, and keeping your folder of tourist spots up to date.

But the reality is, anyone who’s staying with you loves you enough to forgive you for just about anything. In fact, the main thing most guests are concerned about is not being an imposition. That’s why the secret to making your house guests feel comfortable isn’t really about what’s in your home—it’s about giving them the tools to do their own thing. And the easiest way to do that is is by taking a cue from Airbnb: Give them their own key.

Here’s why it’s the best-kept secret of being a good host: Your family and friends don’t want to interrupt your dinner routine so you can let them in from a walk. They are truly happy to run to the store for a half-gallon of milk, if that’s what you need. And handing them the keys to your castle sends a clear message: My house is your house.

Beyond the creature comforts, the biggest thing most of us struggle with when it comes to house guests is worrying about how much we should be entertaining them, whether we’re scheduling too much or not paying them enough attention. Giving your house guest a key is tacit permission to set their own pace and make their own agenda. It’s permission for them to schedule their own trip to the local tourist spot and plan to be back by dinner. It allows them to come and go as they please, even if it’s just to run out for coffee or take a walk around the block, without working around your schedule. It means they can do their own things while you’re dropping off the kids and you don’t have to rush home from work to let them in.

So this holiday season, consider cutting an extra key to hand over to your guests. Everyone loves the gift of freedom!

You can find fun key blank designs at your local hardware store, and Etsy also has lots of decorative key blanks to choose from, including this crown-topped option ($25) that will make your guests feel more comfortable in your castle.