How To Be The Best House Guest Ever (& Always Get Invited Back)
Here is my disclaimer: This is NOT me saying that I am the ultimate house-guest, because I’m certainly not. In fact, someone I stayed with once called me an “impossible diva” (who, moi?!!) & tossed me out unceremoniously on the street! What this is really meant to be is a reminder, maybe an idealistic manifesto of how Mother Theresa might behave were she to hunker down on someone’s sofa-bed for a week…
I think this is always, always, always the most important thing, & we all have the ability to show this in different ways, so it’s up to you as to how you do that.
However, if you’re kind of stumped as to what that means, one really obvious way in which you can do this is by leaving things the way they were. This seems like a small thing but I think about it all the time. People — & by this I’m talking specifically about whoever is hosting you — like their lives the way they like them. They have systems, ways of doing things. The very best way, in my opinion, to make staying with them palatable for everyone involved, is to integrate yourself into their life as seamlessly as possible. In practical application, I mean maintaining the routines they already have going. Do they leave their shoes at the door? Do they keep their toilet seat up or down? Do they automatically wash every dish they use or do they let them soak? Do they replace the caps on their bottles of shampoo? Where do they hang their towels?
I know that when I have people stay with me, I always really appreciate it if they take notice of the way I behave & then do as much as they can to behave in a similar way. I don’t leave open containers of food lying around, I always put the toilet seat down (good feng shui!), I try to keep things tidy & I make my bed every day. These little things just make my life easier. This is how I behave. So if someone comes over & they leave food around, or the seat up, every time I see that, it’s a little reminder that I am not by myself, that there is someone else here, & that if I want my life to continue as normal, I am probably going to have to pick up their slack. Even the world’s most patient person begins to get frustrated by this after a while, because after all, our homes are our sanctuaries.
Other ways to be respectful of someone’s space include taking your loud, hour-long, high-pitched phonecalls outside, not putting your shoes on the furniture, cleaning up any messes you make & not spending half the day in the bathroom. Obviously though, we tend to take cues from whoever we’re staying with, so if their nightly ritual involves jumping on their bed in muddy gumboots, you might as well join in! (Yay, bed-jumping!)
Establish some ground-rules
To avoid doing something that is unintentionally offensive or troublesome, you might like to ask who you’re staying with if they have any house rules. Believe me when I say that this will make your life a lot easier. Some people have bizarre rules, too, that you might never guess. So ask them what they expect from you, & then hold up your end of the bargain!
Also, do what you say you’ll do. If you say you’re leaving on Tuesday, leave on Tuesday! I don’t think I need to explain why this is important!
Try to contain your sprawl
Okay, this can be hard, but it’s worth persevering with.
The first day you get in, you put your suitcases in a relatively out-of-the-way place, sit down for a cup of tea & collapse into wherever you’re sleeping — bed (lucky!), sofa-bed, air-bed, couch, floor or cozy closet. The next day you wake up & you have to find an outfit. If you’re a guy you probably have an advantage in that you change your t-shirt, socks & underwear & you’re pretty much good to go. Girls, on the other hand, typically want to wear something completely different every day, which presents its own unique challenges.
So you drag your suitcase from where it was, mostly disguised behind the couch or wherever, & the madness begins. At first you lift things up to try & find what it is you’re looking for, but when that doesn’t seem to work, you start ripping things out at full speed, throwing them over your shoulder & making a fabulous mess. Of course, nothing really goes back the way it should, so once you’ve dressed yourself, your suitcase bulges, half-open, tulle petticoats & lingerie spilling out like pretty, elaborate vomit, & a selection of other, smaller bags scattered around it (handbag, cosmetics bag, random tote bag…). & so it continues in this manner, getting gradually worse & worse, until you finally leave (but not before sitting on your suitcase so it will finally zip up) & your hosts breathe a sigh of relief.
You know, you can save yourself an awesome amount of pain if whoever you’re staying with can just provide somewhere for you to hang your things. At least, your most-worn things: your oversized cardigan, your leather jacket, your scarf, whatever. Ditto on having somewhere to put your shoes, though that tends to be considerably easier to arrange. But sometimes there really is nowhere for you to put your stuff.
I think you know what I’m going to say: just try not to take over the entire living room with your belongings. Zip your suitcase at least half-way. Try to stack things in an orderly fashion. Line up your shoes. Do what you can to reduce the visual clutter. Just make a bit of an effort, because it will make a big difference.
If the person you’re staying with has to do side-turns & strange shuffles to get past your collection of tea-kettles, or WHATEVER it is you have in that enormous bag, they are going to get miffed. Quickly. So it’s really in your best interests to keep your eye on your own personal sprawl. I set fire to someone’s shoes once. I’m just saying!
Strike a balance
There’s nothing worse than someone who constantly asks you for permission to do this or that, but at the same time, opening your door to some kind of hurricane-person who leaves their toenail clippings all over your bedspread is pretty bad too.
Do your thing, but be considerate. We all have different ideas of what is acceptable or “normal”, but I think you understand what I mean. Allow who you’re staying with to live their life as simply as possible, but don’t be afraid to ask them if you can’t find something or you’re not sure about how the shower works. (Showers, man. Every single one is different. I wish the people who make showers would just get it together!)
Perhaps this should go without saying, but if you’re a pleasure to be around, it’s more likely than not that your host will be sad to see you go. We’ve spoken about charm before, but remember that this extends beyond just smiling & saying please & thank you. It also means taking an interest in your host’s life as well as making conversation with any of their friends who you happen to meet. If you can’t do those things, maybe you should stay with someone you like better!
This can take a number of forms, from helping put the groceries away, to clearing dirty dishes, to buying your host dinner or introducing them to someone you think they’d adore. People don’t like to feel as if they’re being taken advantage of, & I don’t mean to sound like your mother or anything, but you’re not staying in a hotel — so don’t treat it like one. You’re in someone else’s space, & a great way to show your gratitude for that fact is by being useful or helpful. You get it, you understand, I know you do!
The way in which you help out doesn’t have to be generic, either — I have bought strange-looking exotic plants, placed Band Aids on bleeding thumbs & re-organised bedrooms in the last 3 weeks, all as a way of saying “thanks so much” for letting me stay.
Leave something when you go, by which I do not mean a radical case of avian flu or an incredible collection of lipstick-stained cigarette butts. Something nice! Or at least useful.
How about flowers or a plant which doesn’t require a lot of work? (A moth orchid is always a good call.) You can also chip in grocery or fuel vouchers, buy chocolates, write a long love letter outlining all of your host’s exceptionally positive qualities, or replenish things you noticed they were running low on. Pretty much everyone appreciates these sorts of gestures, & if they don’t… that’s their problem, innit?
What are your favourite, time-tested, tried-&-true ways of ensuring your time in someone else’s house goes well? Who is the worst house-guest you’ve ever had? How about the best? What did they do that made them so much more fun to have around than anyone else? Let us know in the comments!