The house guest who is invited back

I asked my Facebook friends for etiquette dilemmas or issues they wanted me to address in my next blog post. One person asked me to speak to the etiquette of being a house guest. She asked, “What do you do with the bed linens when you’re leaving? If you’ve been there more than 3-4 days how much cleaning do you do, (i.e. do you clean the bathroom?) If you wake up early, do you get up and move around or wait for the host and vice versa?”

Great questions and a timely topic as I’m sure many of you are either visiting friends or family or are hosting them in these last days of summer.

Being a great house guest is an art. You want to make it as easy as possible on your hosts. Here are some tips to help you be a visitor who is invited back.

Don’t assume. First off, be sure you are actually a wanted house guest. Do your friends or family have the space, and are they available to host you? Also, never assume your children or pets are welcome. In fact, unless your darlings have been invited, don’t ask to bring them.

Be helpful. It’s a lot of work to feed and entertain visitors. Make it easier on your hosts by offering to clear the table, do the dishes, help with meals, pick someone up, etc. While you don’t need to do a deep clean of the bathroom you used, do keep towels picked up, the sink wiped clean and your items put away.

On the day you are leaving, strip the bed of the linens and take them to the washing machine or leave them in a pile on the bed. Fold any blankets or comforters you used. Don’t forget to take the pillow cases off of the pillows.

Be thankful. Even if you disliked the food you were served or didn’t enjoy the opera your hosts took you to, thank them anyway. Find something positive to say.

Be independent. Don’t expect your friends to entertain you every moment or your visit. Have some activities planned and bring a book or cards for those moments when your hosts are busy.

It is perfectly fine to get up and move around if you rise before the others. But, do keep the noise down so that you don’t wake them. If you can do it quietly, go ahead and make some coffee. Your hosts will probably appreciate having a hot cuppa joe ready for them when they get out of bed. If you tend to sleep in later than your hosts, try to change your schedule to accommodate their agenda. That said, your hosts may appreciate having a quiet half hour to themselves while they wait for you to rise.

Bring a gift. Either show up with a little something for the hosts or purchase an item while visiting. When you’re out and about, if your host seems interested in something find a way to purchase it later and present it before you leave. My Australian nieces did this when they stayed with us for a week. As we were looking at the handcrafted items at the Pike Place Market, my husband and I admired a cute tandem bike frame. The girls found a way to go back and purchase it, and on their last day, presented it with photos of the four of us.

Lastly, don’t forget to send a handwritten thank you note within 48 hours of leaving your hosts. They put a lot of time and energy into hosting you, be sure they know how much you appreciated their efforts with a nice note – a phone call or email is not enough.

What questions do you have about either being a house guest or hosting people in your home? Have you ever had a nightmare visitor? Are there certain things you always try to do as a guest?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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