The Perfect Houseguest: The Do’s & Oh Hell No’s

Spring is finally here and summer is within view.  The warmer weather  heralds the approaching season of vacationers and having bought a lake front home, we’ve become the place to be.

Last year was our first summer on the lake and for 3 months straight, I barely had time to replace bedding and restock between guests and many groups would descend upon us at once and for extended periods.

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Having suddenly become everyone’s vacation spot for the first time and surviving it, caused me to consider what a good houseguest is as well as what sort of Houseguest I have been.  A wonderful houseguest is a delight whose return visits are looked forward to with joyful anticipation, however a poor one not only is no longer invited but dreaded.

While doing research for this post, I discovered hosts from around the world had much to say on the subject and more specifically, that I am not alone.  I found reoccurring faux pas and pet peeves that I have endured myself.  Have we become so self centric or have we forgotten the equal importance of being a good house guest as to being a good host?

Let’s delve into the Do’s, don’ts and the ” Oh Hell No’s!

First, if you have not been specifically invited but would like to come for a visit, talk to the host and plan your visit during a time that is convenient to them and their schedule.  Don’t force yourself upon them nor invite yourself to their existing plans. Along with this, do not invite others to come with you!  Another important rule of etiquette is to set and stick to specific arrival and departure times.  Don’t show up unexpectedly in the midst of their preparations nor overstay what they’ve prepared for and absolutely do not just show up with your bags in hand!

If you haven’t hosted visitors, you may not have considered the amount of work and planning that goes into having visitors or vacationers at your home.  For me, I begin a couple weeks in advance of the arrival. The entire house is cleaned from top to bottom in the fashion of a good spring cleaning.  Beds that haven’t been used in months, are stripped and laundered.  Each meal, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts are planned ahead and a list comprised of all ingredients needed. Each bath is equipped with freshly laundered towels and stocked with essentials my guests may have forgotten,  shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste,  toothbrush,  razor, lotion and soaps.

Hostess tip:  I always pack my own essentials while travelling but when paying $100 or better for an 8 hr use of a hotel bed, I do not hesitate to take the provided toiletries….I paid for them!  I collect these in a box I label,  hostess supplies.  If these are unused, consider putting together baggies of toiletries and distributing them to the homeless.

Considering the additional work and expense the hosts are undertaking to provide a clean, inviting environment, wonderful meals and entertainment, one must consider how to be considerate of them and here are a few suggestions.

When your host / hostess says ” Help yourself. Make yourself at home.”  DON’T!  While your hosts are being polite and want you to feel at home… they want you to feel, at their home, not yours.  Don’t rifle through their things, help yourself to the fridge or pantry, etc.  Do pick up after yourself, keep your room tidy and ask for your needs or to use their items. Respect for others property and space is something we all should have learned as children.

Speaking of children:                                               When visiting or vacationing at someone elses home, do make sure that you aren’t taking a vacation from your parental duties.  Make sure your children are well behaved in others homes.  Don’t let them run wild, ransack the house and do not expect your host to be your babysitter, correct your kids for you or take up their caregiving.  It’s an uncomfortable position to place your hosts in.

I can’t believe I have to add this one but…do your laundry at your home!  I had unexpected guests show up at my home the day before I was to recieve invited guests.  They trashed the guest rooms, descended upon my pantry like locusts without even asking, eating up meals I had planned for guests and brought with them 5 loads of laundry!  I’ll put all of these under the “Oh Hell No” section.

Bringing a hostess gift may sound antiquated in today’s world but it’s not.  Just as bringing a bottle of wine or flowers to a dinner party, it is a token of appreciation with the acknowledgment that your hosts, for all intents and purposes, are supporting you and/or family for the duration of your stay.  They’ve provided shelter, the extra utilities, meals, entertainment.  They’ve gone to great lengths in cleaning, providing toiletries,  beds and towels that smell of fresh linen…it’s worthy of gratitude isn’t it.

Do, either take your host to dinner or purchase and cook a meal for them during your stay.  Be helpful during meal prep or make sure that you do the cleanup.  If your host / hostess refuses to let you do the dishes, insist that you help them in doing so.  I once had 12 people, 5 family groups in my home at once for 5 days, who ate 3 meals a day.  That’s 180 plates of food.  Number of meals provided by others, ZERO.  Number of people who helped prepare meals, ZERO.  Number of people who cleaned up after a meal, ZERO.  By the time I cooked a meal then served it, while everyone else was out enjoying the lake and I had cleaned up afterwards, it was time to start the next.  I was literally chained to the kitchen the entire time!  Trust me, it’ll be appreciated.  It makes these tasks less work and more social, allowing your hosts to be apart of the festivities and fun instead of feeling like “The Help”.

Much frustration may be avoided if as hosts / hostesses,  we set a specific time for breakfast.  Clay is an ultra early riser, therefore coffee is always ready when guests begin to wake but it’s difficult to manage breakfast if guests are all getting up at different times.  You don’t want guests who got up at 7am starving while waiting for the 11am risers and throwing off the lunch meal schedual.  Find what works for you and communicate it to your guests.  In my house, we may offer coffee and pastries to early risers while stating that breakfast will be served at 9am, lunch a 1pm, dinner at 6pm.

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Departure day:  Ask your hosts if they prefer you to make the bed or strip it.  I usually will get up early on departure day to gather towels and bedding and launder them, remake beds and restock towels prior to leaving though I don’t expect that from my guests.  I personally prefer guests to put used towels in the laundry basket and just place the bed in order but asking your hosts preference is best.  For me, I’m exhausted after hosting so I take the rest of my day after guests leave to relax.  Piles of bedding left on floors pressures me to get to work right away where I’d rather get to that tomorrow.

In a nutshell, communication is key to  time spent together and enjoyed by all…be polite and show gratitude.  Don’t be the recipient of a great time but a part of one.  If you enjoy your time together and long to be invited again, don’t hesitate to go the extra mile.  My young niece, Cait, is so adept at graciousness that she sends a Thank You note after each visit, describing what a wonderful time they had and having her is always something I both welcome and look forward to.

From Cait:

Thank you guys from the bottom of our hearts for hosting us this weekend! We truly had an amazing time and love your new home. You two went above and beyond with the food and accommodations. We’re so blessed to have you guys pour into us and love on us. Love you both! And I think Henry conveniently left his fishing pole and tackle box so he has an excuse to return this summer!

 

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28 comments

  1. as a host, I always made it clear that people were on their own for meals! they were literally free to make themselves at home and help themselves to anything without asking… but i ain’t preppin’ food for no one!!

    weirdest experience I ever had: friends traveled with an power toothbrush identical to the model that i use and, do to limited outlets, plugged it in next to mine (though that shouldn’t have been needed as they have 14-day batteries). when I brushed my teeth, with MY toothbrush, the wife freaked out and accused me of using one of her families toothbrushes. I could not convince her otherwise and am sure that, to this day, she believes I used one of their toothbrushes… even though I’d made sure to grab mine and it was wet from fresh use!

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  2. Wait this is a thing? I mm pretty sure I always feel like I’m such a bother I like to make it seem I’m not even there using/eating anything. I guess I never have people visit that long. I’m always begging for people to come. I thought living next to a ski resort would help. Nope. But I guess I’m better off after reading this!! 😉💕. Ps you sound too good to be true. 😘

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    • Well that just makes me feel sad. I’ve moved about so much in life and so it seems that everyone else does as well. Rarely are people born in midst of all there family, grow and remain within that community of family, nieghbors they’ve know all their lives, friends they’ve grow up with.
      I too long for their visits but younger generations arent being raised as the oldest were.
      They’ve lost valuable skills along the way and how to be a houseguest is one of many. Not all experiences are bad but the bad ones sure stand out. Lol
      I think that to a degree, I bring some of it on myself. I go overboard, pressure myself to create perfection, do too much. It’s also a flaw of mine … the insane cleaning, meticulous attention to detail, elaborate meals, etc are ways that I express love and affection toward my people…and sometimes taken for granted or unappreciated. I think they may have enjoyed the gift of myself instead, actual time with me instead of the scullery maid I make myself. Then again there are those who simply have an attitude of arrogent entitlement .
      I do think that I should give equal time to the subject of a proper host and hospitality as well. I have had equally crappy experiences as a guest. Lol

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      • I definitely agree. And I think moving as a kid, a lot, does have that effect. So many times I’d start getting comfortable and developing true friendships only to be ripped away again. I told my daughter, the other night, that if I had any of the social media options the number of close friends I’d have would be pretty big. It was hard to keep up with friendships by writing letters and sending postcards. I was really good at that but after a short time it became less important. I also wonder if that is why my kids have ran so far away from the house so soon. They lived here their entire lives. Only hearing about places I’ve lived. And while I know there are a number of people who continue living where they grew up, I would be very curious to know how many of those had parents who also grew up in that one place. My thoughts are that there would be a very high correlation. Especially when you consider that those “movers” have family all over and the kids at least get to see other places when they visit. I don’t know. I think I got off topic a little. I easily had you pegged as an incredible host. Just simply by your stories, and personality. (Well online personality 😉) and for the most part I am kinda that way, but I get very self conscious when people choose not to come back or when family chooses to stay at my brothers, who is 45 mins away, rather than here. Especially knowing that I have so much more space and am closer to a lot more things. I begin to think it’s me, or that my house is dirty or smelly or that I am doing something wrong. It’s kinda funny. Because that translates when I stay somewhere else. Like when I took my daughter to Texas and stayed with my parents. I kept everything hidden, cleaned, and every day I’d wake up put the room back as if I were leaving. I know I don’t have to do that but I think it’s something in the back of my head that feels like if I don’t it will come back to bite me in the ass. My sister has an amazing pool at her house in Dallas so she has people stay there all the time, even though she has 3 grown kids and a grandson living there. She is just miss social lite but there are many a time that she’s said things in confidence about people behaviors. It’s sad really. It is definitely a sense of entitlement which seems to be a very fast uncontrollable epidemic. And I have no idea where it comes from, especially when I know their parents.

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      • I completely get that. I made friends easily but after having to leave them behind, I developed a new skill, being friendly without forming friendships. Looking back, it feels sad but we coped. You are beyond considerate as a guest and I’m certain your self consciousness is misplaced and you are a joy.

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      • You are too sweet! 😊🥴 it’s a blessing and a curse. I really don’t have close friendships. So sometimes that’s a good thing. But it also means a lot of quiet weekends. Something you coveted when the kids were here but now it’s kind of depressing at times.

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      • That’s true, as we grow older, we are venturing into unknown territory for the first time. We are learning to adapt the best we can. My focus had been on the kids, their needs, dreams, lives that I’m not quite sure what to do now. I’m rediscovering myself.

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  3. Wow what a great hostess you are. We don’t have a lot of overnight guests but this applies even to just day visits. Often my guest will ask what they should bring and I am ready with an answer. Some times it may be a dish to pass that will goes along with what I am planning for the meal. We have begun regularly telling people to bring what they want to drink. I will supply water, tea and coffee but we will not have an open bar and every type of soft drink. For an outdoor event in the summer bring your own chairs, bathing suits, beach towels etc….
    I also will add that if I tell you to help yourself please do so because I am not waiting on you.

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    • Ruth, I love how you have everything perfectly under control. I suspect time and experience has honed your skills as they are currently doing mine. Lol
      I love your take on the “help yourself” too. My experience this year was a bit different. One of the families how showed up never asked anything. These were the ones who rented a condo nearby but stayed at our home with all our guests from morning to night but expected me to provide all their families meals, drinks etc. They and their teens simply and constantly raided my fridge and pantry, gobbling up items that were meant to be used in meals for everyone including my invited guests! My meticulously planned menus were shot! I had already spent over $700 on food but kept having to repeat shop for what they were depleting to the tune of another $300.
      Not only did they have no respect for me and my home but they had no consideration for others. If I were laying out a sandwich bar for lunch with chips and snacks, they’d grab all the chips and snacks and the guests wouldn’t have any! They showed up at my house a day early and trashed the guest rooms I’d prepared for our invited guests, overtook my laundry by bringing 5 loads with them and before morning when my guests arrived, they had gone through all the drinks I’d had purchased for the week for my guests. I even caught one of their teens going through my drawers! It was a horror!

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      • That is right Laura. Time and experience are great teachers. That does sound like a nightmare. My kids don’t even bring their laundry here to do it without asking.

        My attitude is if I invite guests over it is because I want to enjoy spending time with them. Having a simple menu that is prepared ahead of time or having them join me in the kitchen works. I even consider doing dishes together quality time. LOL. With others pitching in the work gets done quickly then we can all enjoy doing other things.

        I guess we have a nobody rides for free policy. To get the kind of service you provide should come with a hefty price tag. I know you might be doing it because you enjoy it or out of love but it should never be taken for granted.

        One of the things that I have learned throughout the years is that is ok, and often necessary, to correct other peoples kids, so if a parent is not doing my husband or I will. It usually comes as a shock to the child (and sometimes the parent) but they seem to respond better to us than they do their parent. If they do not listen to us and the parent does not address the issue then they likely will not be invited back.

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      • These are Pearl’s of wisdom, Ruth! I have been guilty to a large degree of contributing to my own misery by being the ultimate hostess by going all out to wow and pamper guests and only succeeded in making those events into a job for myself. I created an environment where I was providing a great time for everyone that I couldn’t partake in, placing each of us in roles of giver and takers with attitudes that followed suit some of them adopting along with that the attitude of entitlement and expectation. This summer will be a breath of fresh air to some and a rude Awakening for others. Lol

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  4. I’m honored to be included in a small way. You are an amazing hostess and have been blessed with such a servant’s heart. I have already learned from you and been encouraged on how to host others in my own home by seeing you “in action” but this post is also pure gold!

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  5. Thankfully I only host one or two people at a time and most are overnight stays. So I only have to do breakfasts but the prep time before and after is the most time consuming. With Easter looming, there will be lots of people travelling around so I can expect a coupe of guests I think. I love hosting as I meet some fab people and haven’t had any bad experiences yet, apart from the odd broken glass.

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    • That’s fantastic! I love entertaining and pride myself on being the hostess with the mostest but have occasionally found myself at the butt end of some very rude behavior. Sadly, that tends to come from extended family members. You can almost count on at least ass of a family member in any given get together. Lol

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      • Loved this article. Lots of great tips. I don’t have situations like this anymore but I’ve had my share of rude visitors in the past. I have been a long term guest in other’s homes (missions) and have always tried to be useful and courteous in whatever way I could, never overstepping but being one who could be appreciated. Long term you become more like family though. We did have separate food and things like that though. I can’t imagine someone coming in and just eating whatever they wanted and trashing your house knowing you had invited guests coming the next day. I can’t imagine it anyway. Who goes to someone else’s home and acts like that.

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