Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Be My Guest

This is the time of year when people travel around the world to see one another, and, happily, a lot of our favorite people end up making pit stops in New York City. That means that our usually docile social life perks up a bit, and that we have a few houseguests who will be availing themselves of the Murphy bed in our guest room in the coming weeks. And we, ourselves, will be taking over the guest room at my in-laws' house in Boston over Christmas, and back here in California at my parents' house for New Year's. While receiving visitors is one of my favorite things (what could be better than friends coming to see me in my cozy nest and I don't even have to put my shoes on?), there is certainly such a thing as a bad houseguest. As the saying goes, "Visits always bring pleasure - if not the arrival, the departure." When someone is planted in your personal space, sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference between the former and the latter. Here are some easy tips about how to be the kind of houseguest that gets invited back again and again.

1. Keep It Clean: This one is obvious, but no matter how much your host implores you to "make yourself at home," remember that you aren't in your home. While it might be fine for you to leave your bed unmade, dirty socks on the floor, and dirty dishes on the coffee table chez vous, don't do any of those things while staying with someone else. Keep the guest room and guest bathroom tidy, as if they might walk in at any moment. And when you leave, offer to strip the bedsheets (your host may or may not want to deal with the laundry right away), gather up used towels, and do a thorough check to make sure you are leaving the spaces you used in good order. I'm not saying you have to mop or clean the windows, but, think like CSI, and try not to leave an excessive amount of your DNA lying around: dispose of your used tissues, nail clippings, and any unusual amount of hair you may have left in the shower drain. Gross to read about, I know, but even grosser to pick up after someone else.
2. Lend a Hand: Your hosts may enjoy catering to your every need, or they may not. To offset the work they are doing on your behalf, offer to help with the little chores around the house- cooking, walking the dog, etc. (or offer to write their blog for them). The day after Thanksgiving, I came downstairs to see that my mother-in-law had already washed all the dishes, and I nearly fainted with gratitude. You don't have to offer to paint their house or mow the lawn (grand gestures are unnecessary), but that's the effect you should be going for.
3. Go With the Flow: No matter how much they love you, chances are, your visit is disrupting your hosts' usual daily rhythms. Be mindful of that, and try to ease into their schedule as much as possible. Eat when they eat, and if you are up earlier or later then they are, do your best not to disturb them. Unless you have major jetlag as an excuse, don't sleep in late and force them to tiptoe around you. If you make plans with other people while you are in town (which is totally fine), let your hosts know ahead of time, so they know they are free to make their own plans during that time.
4. Come Bearing Gifts: Bringing an inexpensive token is a great way to soften up your hosts when you arrive. And, I always say, think ahead, and a gift at the beginning of the visit can be much less elaborate or expensive than sending flowers or something after the fact. Alternatively, you could offer to take your hosts out to a meal or cook for them in the house- but make sure to schedule the event at the beginning of the visit, so it really happens. And always always send a thank-you note afterwards: It will cost you five minutes and a stamp, which is a far better deal than $450/night to stay at the Holiday Inn in Chinatown. And it's a sure-fire way to be invited back.

P.S. To my not-too-distant-future houseguests: while your visits were the inspiration for this post, I know you all to be gracious and kind people, and did not write this as a pointed hint towards you. I am sure you all have lovely houseguest manners all on your own, and JM and I are so looking forward to seeing you. That is all.
image credit: chrisstott.com


Anonymous said...

Good post. I actually think in Manhattan guests ought to take their sheets and have them professionally laundered and returned to you all nice, clean and folded!

Go the extra mile and do this, guests! Your hosts will really appreciate it.

Also-stay no more than 2 days. Longer visits get icky in small apartments.

Unknown said...

I have a question about when we stay at my boyfriend's family's house. His grandmother doesn't like me too much even after 2 1/2 years. What can I do while we are there to kind of "get on her good side"?