Last night I got my first “I think we’re short one ‘X'” text from the woman who cleans my two (at the time of writing this post) rental properties. I then spent far too long anxiously fixated on how this guest, the first one to stay in my second STR home, had wronged me, and how the supposed theft of this single bath towel would surely be my mind’s main obsession for the foreseeable future… Dramatic, I know. I woke up this morning in a much calmer state of mind, knowing that this is just part of the job of a short-term rental manager and grateful to have this experience under my belt. In this post I’ll discuss how I handle inventory management in my rental properties so that I can be as prepared as possible for future texts like that one.
My cleaning professional is amazing. She is the perfect partner to have when managing a short-term rental; extremely diligent and timely with an obsessive attention to detail. One thing she does when she is finished cleaning after checkout is take inventory of all necessities. This includes cleaning supplies, laundry items, consumables, and tableware/cookware – making sure the amount of each item is equal to the amount we need. ‘The amount we need’ is either the amount we had before the last guest (for laundry items and tableware/cookware) or enough to last the home for the comfortable future (for cleaning supplies and consumables.)This inventory investigation is something I include in the cleaning checklist I write for her for each property, which I’ll talk more about in a dedicated post. So, when she noticed one of the bath towels missing, it was a red flag that told her to text me immediately.
Let’s look at each category of household necessity, and how I manage it, more closely –
Inventory mindset by category
Your strategy for managing these categories of goods – and even the categorization itself – may very well vary from the way I do it. Good. You should formulate a strategy that fits your personal situation. The idea is that you have a documented and intentional plan for making sure your short-term rental (or vacation rental) home is fully stocked with what it needs for a great guest experience.
When I told my cleaning pro that I was ready to have her do the initial (pre-listing photo) cleaning of my first STR home, she followed up with a long list of cleaning supplies for me to buy. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d have to buy cleaning supplies or if that was part of the deal of paying for a cleaning service. I learned that it’s pretty standard to supply your cleaning person with the supplies they need. We’re talking about sponges, gloves, rags, and dozens of chemical formulas. It was overwhelming, how many things I needed to buy (especially since my personal home’s main form of cleaning every surface was Clorox wipes…) so I made sure to get large sizes of everything. There’s value in being lean – keep your cash liquid by only supplying small amounts of supplies – but that only makes sense if you live very close by your rental property. My 1.5 hour drive to mine isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t something I want to do every week to buy a new bottle of Windex or pack of Magic Erasers. So, I try to stock these up with a 6 month supply, with my cleaning professional giving me a heads up when levels get somewhat low. She knows I don’t live super close so she is sure to give me updates on the stockpile as a whole so I can make the most of a supply run.
Here, we’re talking about all things that go in the washing machine; things that will be used again and again, barring any unresolvable soiling:
- Bedding (sheets, pillow cases, comforters, blankets)
- Bathroom towels (body towels, hand towels, wash cloths)
- Kitchen towels (hand towels, dish rags)
For all of these items, I am always prepared with backups. You do not want to be caught in a situation where a guest has pooped on the comforter and there’s a back-to-back check-in happening in just a few hours.. I’m sorry to be graphic but I need to make a point! 2 of everything here. So, for example, I plan to have 4 body towels available to guests in my first rental, which accommodates 4. Using this rule of doubles, I will always have 8 body towels on hand, keeping 4 of them on reserve. The same goes for every other item in the list above.
*Bonus* By having doubles of laundry items, you also may allow for more flexibility in your cleaning process. Rather than having to rush to throw laundry in the washer as the first item on the to-do list, in hopes that it will have time to be dried and staged before the next guest checks in (or necessitate another visit just to put sheets on), having doubles allows you to ready the home with set 2 while set 1 finishes drying. This has saved time in my cleaning process tremendously.
“Consumables” does not just refer to things you may offer to eat or drink for your guests. Think – anything that they use once and must be replaced when gone – is a consumable. To come up with a complete list of consumables, spend a couple of days taking notice of the things that you use that make you comfortable in your home. These may include:
- Toilet paper
- Paper towel
- Hand soap
- Dish soap (you may have considered this in “cleaning supplies”)
- Body wash, shampoo, and conditioner
- Batteries in the remote
- Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, wax paper, etc. (if you choose to provide these)
- Salt and pepper
- Coffee and tea
- Coffee filters
- Whatever other creature comforts you may want to offer to guests
For these items, the mindset is similar to that of the cleaning supplies – you want enough for the next guest and at least the next few. But, especially in the case of things that may expire like condiments and coffee that can go stale, you don’t want an overwhelming amount taking too much space. Since I don’t provide any real perishable consumables, I shoot for a 6 month supply, again with my cleaning pro helping me restock before we get too low.
Plates, bowls, cups, coffee mugs, and silverware are pretty straightforward. I aim to provide enough for each potential guest, plus one or two extras in the cupboard. Plates don’t break too often but it’s good to be prepared when they do. Luckily for me, many places sell “seating for 6” packs and both of my rentals offer space for 4 guests at a time, so these are perfect.
Just like with consumables, it may be helpful to pay close attention to the tools you use in the kitchen for a week; pots, pans, spatulas, wooden spoons, mixing bowls, can openers – More things than I can even think of right now. It really takes active “living” to remind yourself all of these mindless, no-frills tools we use everyday. Your guests will need these as well. Now, you certainly don’t need to be prepared with two of each of these things. One should be fine. On the off chance that a guest snaps your spatula, you can either decide to make the trip to replace it immediately, or let guests go pancake-less until it’s convenient for you to replace it. It likely wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Protecting your provisions
In all but one of the above categories, I mention how important it is to have backups. As much as we like to think our guests are sweet and loving angels who would never take more than their fair share of your kind hospitality, it’s important that you keep these spare supplies hidden from them. Only you and anyone you let manage your property should be able to access the area where you keep the extras. In my houses, I have turned either the basement or a hall closet into a supply area, which is protected by a latch and key which is hidden and only available to the crew.
I really tried to lay out some intimate details of my operation in this post. I hope you found some value in this. If you did, please be sure to follow for more updates!
Thanks for reading and happy hosting.