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Five Rules That Make a House Guest Best

Updated on March 9, 2019

There's No Place Like Someone Else's Home

Don't overstay your welcome.
Don't overstay your welcome.

Our homes are our personal spaces of quiet refuge, which is precisely what makes opening your home to others such a wonderful gesture of hospitality. Inviting someone to stay at your home says, "You are welcome to share my private space." If someone puts out the welcome mat and opens the door, make sure you're a great house guest and not a boorish intruder who takes advantage of an act of kindness.

How can you be the best house guest ever? Just remember to be "ful" of yourself in a good way by following these five simple rules of sheer and unadulterated courtesy. You and your host will both enjoy the experience, and you might even be invited back again. How wonderful!

Rule 1: Be Respectful

Don't respect someone else's home like you would your own. Respect it MORE. It's not a department store, so don't walk through the house touching everything. It's okay to make polite observations about someone else's home or d├ęcor, but remember you're not the "good taste" police so avoid making judgments. What you think in your brain doesn't have to come out of your mouth.

Respect the homeowner's rules, like taking your shoes off at the door or not smoking in the house or keeping your feet off the coffee table. And if you don't know what the rules are, watch the homeowner. If he takes his shoes off at the door, do the same. If he doesn't put his feet up on the coffee table when sitting in the family room watching TV, don't you do it either. If you don't know what the house rules are, ask. Your host would rather you ask than be put in the position of having to ask you to not do something.

Do not snoop! Don't go through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom or through the dresser drawers in the bedroom, or even the refrigerator or cabinets in the kitchen. Don't invade your host's privacy.

Rule 2: Be Thoughtful

Being thoughtful simply requires remaining vigilant about the needs of others. Observe what your host is doing and interject some random acts of kindness when appropriate, like opening a door for her or helping her carry something heavy. In short, "thoughtful" means being "thinkful" about someone else.

"Thinkful" includes knowing when to leave. Don't overstay your welcome. Before you arrive, discuss your schedule with your host and make sure you don't intrude upon his schedule. If you're coming to visit for a week and will have to rely upon your host to drive you around while you're there, it's pretty important that he's aware of all that. If possible, try to be independent to some degree if you're going to be staying with someone for more than a couple of days. Don't assume your host's life is going to stop completely while you're there.

Rule 3: Be Helpful

Unless you're bedridden and recuperating from major surgery while staying at someone else's home, there's no excuse for allowing yourself to be waited on by your host. Sure, it's tempting, but don't give in. Offer to run errands or buy groceries, prepare a meal or do the dishes. Remember that your host is a member of your family or a friend and not a hotel maid and concierge.

Don't wait for your host to ask for help, volunteer on your own. But do make sure your efforts to be helpful aren't hindrances to your host, so when in doubt, ask. For example, ask your host if it's okay to strip the bed and bring the sheets and towels to the laundry room on your last day there. Better yet, if you have time to wash and dry the sheets and remake the bed before you leave, ask if that's okay.

Dump your bathroom and bedroom trash cans into the garbage can. Wipe down the bathroom vanity and put items you've moved during your visit, like a chair or vase, back to the position it was in when you arrived. In short, when your host walks into your room/bathroom after you've gone, make it look like you were never even there.

Rule 4: Be Delightful

Try to be an entertaining guest when appropriate. That doesn't mean you have to sing and dance for your host. But your visit changes the normal routine of your host, so take the time to make it enjoyable for both of you. Sit and visit. Be light and funny when appropriate. Talk about things relevant to your host's life. Offer to watch kids for a few hours to give your host a little free time. Do whatever you can to give your host a little joy during your visit.

Rule 5: Be Grateful

Never forget to thank your host for his hospitality. Follow up your visit with a thank-you card (yes, those still exist and some people actually use them), an email or phone call. Send flowers or a nice bottle of wine after your visit. And if you're in a position to return the favor, make the offer. If you've been a great guest, your host will probably be a great one for you as well.


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