10 Habits of Excellent House Guests

Don't be "that" guest. Keep the holiday merry for family and friends who welcome you into their home this season.

10 Habits of Excellent House Guests Photo by Kojonsak Tui / Shutterstock.com

Bunking with family and friends is part of the holiday fun — in theory.

Worn mattresses, pet odors and less-than-ideal room temperatures can deflate the highest of holiday spirits. But show some compassion for your host. Yes, you paid a fortune in cash, time and energy to travel to your loved one’s home. But they also put in a lot of time, effort and yes, cold hard cash, preparing for you and other houses guests. Plus it’s an inconvenience — no matter how much a host denies it — to have other people in the house.

Make the season cheerier with these 10 house guest rules:

1. Bring a gift

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Yes, that’s true even if you are staying at the behest of your mom, your sister, your cousin or your best friend. It’s probably even more important if you stay with someone very important in your life. It’s easy to forget how quickly the cost of extra food, specialty foods (such as gluten- dairy-free), and time off work to prepare the house and more adds up. A token gift shows you realize and appreciate the literal and figurative cost your host has expended. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a gift. Flowers and foods are always nice (as long as you are sure there are no allergies!). Need more ideas? Check out our list of awesome host gifts.

2. Offer to help, but don’t insist

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The offer to pitch in around the house – whether that’s doing dishes, clearing the table, or even taking the dog for a walk – is a great way to show the host you appreciate their efforts on your behalf. But one caution – don’t insist. I am one of those hosts who want to control all of the activities in my own kitchen. Not only does it help me keep track of what foods and beverages are coming in and going out, but it gives me some needed alone time, too. Offering is terrific. But graciously accept the host’s answer if they decline.

3. Conserve on linens

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Many hotels change bed and bath linens daily. Staying in someone’s home offers no such expectation. Sure, you can request new linens but again — have mercy on your host. Make do with the same towels, washcloths and sheets for as long as possible to spare your host laundry duty. The host has already done a lot. Don’t add laundry to their already bursting “to do” list.

4. Supply your own toiletries

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Again, your friend or family member’s home is not a hotel. Don’t expect them to supply shampoo, soap, toothpaste, hand creams and other toiletries. Bring a razor, nail clippers and even a hair dryer too. Sure, if you forget something, it’s fine to ask to borrow something. But bring your own. And if you’re driving to the hosts’ home and realize you forgot the soap or shampoo, stop and buy some for yourself.

5. Keep your guest room tidy

 filippo giuliani / Shutterstock.comfilippo giuliani / Shutterstock.com

I’m a bit of a clean freak. Oftentimes my guests aren’t. Yes, they clean up before they leave but the site of clothes and more strewn throughout the room and beyond adds extra stress to my life. Sure, that’s my problem. But it’s nice when guests err on the side of caution and keep the room somewhat presentable. Reader’s Digest suggests you use drawers to store things and make the bed. That may be overkill but at least keep things neatly stacked.

6. Clean up after yourself in common areas

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Food left on counters, shampoos spilled in the bathroom and other messes force your host into the housekeeper role. Don’t do that. Even if you would leave food out at home and store it later, use extra discretion when you’re a guest. Take the extra few seconds and clean up quickly. The caveat, as mentioned earlier, is if the host asks you not to do so.

7. Happily join in

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If your host announces dinner is at 6 p.m., cheerfully go to the table even if that’s earlier than you’d prefer to eat. If your host wants to show you photos or have you join in a game, graciously agree. If you stay in a hotel or dine at a restaurant, you can generally create your own schedule. When you’re a guest, let the host take the lead on timing and activities, recommends Emily Post.

8. Ask about house rules

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What time do your hosts go to sleep? Is there a concern about noise from the guest TV late at night? Do they prefer you always keep the front door locked or is it OK to leave it unlocked if you go out for a quick walk? If you are up late and the dog is crated, is it all right to release it? No matter how well you know your host, ascertain and follow the house rules. It’ll save upset and bad feelings, says Real Simple.

9. Leave on schedule

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Yes, your host is happy to have you stay with them. But they are likely looking forward to returning to normal life, too. Arrive and leave when you had planned to do so, recommends Real Simple.

10. Offer farewell thanks and a thank you note

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Yes, you thanked your guest when you arrived and hopefully presented them with a gift. Thank the host again when you leave and when you return home, write and mail a thank you note. Make the thank you note an actual written acknowledgement, not an email. Your host went to a lot of trouble for you. Take a few extra minutes for them.

What is your pet peeve about house guests? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham @NancyDWrites

Nancy Dunham is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, D.C., metro area.


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