How to Be the Perfect House Guest

With summer coming up soon, a lot of us will be traveling.  I often host my friends who want to stay in Portland and hang for awhile.  Some are great house guests and some?  …not so much.  Here is my own interpretation of the perfect house guest, as opposed to the other kind.

Things you should know

#1 – Regardless of how good a house guest you are, you will be work for your host/hostess.


When I am here alone, or when John and I are here, we are not as diligent about cleaning as we are when guests are coming. Neither of us is a slob, but when guests are coming, we make sure there are clean sheets on the bed.  We make sure the carpets are vacuumed, even though we do this every week anyway….if guests are coming, we do it again.  We make sure everything is tidy and dusted and ship-shape so that our guests are comfortable….so even if you plan to just sleep somewhere and not be there all the time, be aware of the fact that your presence takes energy.

#2. – Don’t put your host/hostess on the spot.


Remember that when it comes to someone else’s home, your needs are not necessarily the other person’s needs.  I stay TREMENDOUSLY busy.  I have my own business.  I am in school full time.  I care for 4 year old, Ingrid.  I’m married.  I’m busy, ok?  If you contact me to ask if you can stay here and I hesitate, even for an instant, you should find other accommodations.  Do not put your host/hostess on the spot.  I am, personally,  very good about inviting people when I have breaks….but when I don’t have breaks, you make my life very difficult just by being here. What I do entails a high degree of concentration.  Give me a break.  I don’t want to have to stop to clean my house when I have work to do and I don’t want to have conversations unless I have the time.  Really.  Don’t say, “…but I won’t take up any space…”  LISTEN to your host/hostess.  Go with their initial response to your request. If you hear hesitancy in their voices, find a different place to stay.

#3. – Try not to take up too much space….and please…don’t be a slob.


When staying in someone else’s house, try not to take up too much space.   Keep your things neatly folded and in one area.  Don’t scatter your belongings out all over the place, even if you have your own room.  For some of us, this is disconcerting and distracting.  Just keep it all neat, ok?   Oh….and make your bed when you get up.  If you’re sleeping on the sofa, fold your bedding and place it out of site until the next night.

#4 – Pitch in and help!


If you were staying at a hotel, you’d pay money to do so, right?  If you stay in someone’s home, you are costing them money.  You are using their water, electricity, heat and oftentimes, eating their food and so forth.  Do a little something around the house to show your appreciation for being there.  This is not to say that you should spend your entire visit working for them, but grab a broom and sweep off the front steps.  Water the plants.  Dust.  Do a little something to show your gratitude and earn your keep.  You ARE work for your host/hostess, whether you think you are or not.

#5. – Be mindful of the food situation


There are a few rules to follow for eating when staying at someone else’s house.  Even if your host/hostess has said, “Eat whatever you want!” be mindful that food costs money.  Don’t eat the last of anything unless you check with your host/hostess first.  Ask, “Were you saving this last piece of pie?”  CONTRIBUTE to the food stash.  Take snacks with you when you go.  Even if you take your own food to eat, you should contribute something to the community larder.  Jam.  A loaf of artisan bread. A few nice apples.  Something….anything.  Don’t just go to the fridge and help yourself and eat everything up.  Attempt to be cool.  You might be asked back, if you do.

#6. – Strip your damned bed, people!


Look.  If you’re going to stay with me, I’m not going to put someone else between the sheets that you have just slept on.  I don’t know what you’ve done there.  Please.  Before you leave, strip your bed.  Wash your sheets and replace them, if you have time, but at the very least, don’t make your host/hostess strip your sheets.  Jesus.  What are they, your maids?  STRIP YOUR BED!  Really.  Why should your host/hostess have to do ANY cleaning up after you.  You just got a free place to stay!

#7 – Give a small gift.


This is over and above the food contribution….It is nice to show one’s appreciation with a small hostess/host gift.  Just shows you’re a decent human being.  Ya know?  Doesn’t have to be anything expensive.  Could be a flower or a poem.  Could be a small book or a photograph.  Be a good guest.  Show your gratitude, please.   Let the host/hostess know that he or she isn’t just being used.

#8. – For F*ck’s Sake!  Don’t STEAL


I live in a small space and I know what I have.  If you stay in my room and then I notice that my white bathrobe and my highly-prized turquoise and black cowboy boots are missing the day after you stay here, chances are, I’m going to know that you are the person that took them.  Duh.  I am a generous and benevolent person.  If you love something that I have and ask me for it nicely, there is about an 80% chance that I’ll just give it to you, or at least lend it to you.  Don’t steal.  It’s bad karma for you and downright hurtful to the person that opened his/her home to you.

#9. – Watch those interruptions


Don’t play loud music.  Don’t burst into the working person’s office to chitchat.  Keep the TV OFF, if you think it might disturb the person that is working.  Really.  Keep interruptions to a minimum.  You have come into another person’s space.  Be respectful at all times.

#10. – Get into the Groove!


Try to fit into the groove of the household in which you are staying.  Don’t sleep in, if everyone else is up.  Don’t talk loudly on your phone late at night.  Don’t smoke in a household of non-smokers.  Don’t bring a bunch of nasty meat into a vegetarian’s house.  Clean up after yourself.  Don’t be obtrusive.  Try to get a feel for the situation and do your best to fit in while you’re there.  Most important of all, leave the space at least as neat as you found it, if not even more so.


I hope these tips have been helpful.  I guarantee that if you follow them, you will be asked back more often. 

Published by Stacy Alexander

Stacy Alexander - Visual Artist/Writer/Professional Fact Checker

2 thoughts on “How to Be the Perfect House Guest

  1. Ok..tell the an awesome houseguest right? I even make you lunch when you’re busy.:) John makes great coffee btw!!!♡♡

  2. You are the perfect house guest, Michele. No complaints, whatsoever. You were very understanding about my having to work during that time and you made some AWESOME food while you stayed. Thanks for your understanding AND the great grub! John does make great coffee.

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