The dos and don'ts of being a guest and hosting one

Being a house guest or host can be fun, but there are rules for both parties, writes Carol O’Callaghan
The dos and don'ts of being a guest and hosting one

Benjamin Franklin once said, guests are like fish, after three days they start to smell. Obviously, it depends on your relationship with the person and that person’s knowledge of your home’s routine — along with their ability to fit into it.

Some guests we’d happily have stay for a month, others, at the extreme, can ambush personal space.

Online journal Psychology Today, says: “They [guests]. disrupt our routines and usurp the high amount of control we normally enjoy in this personal territory.

“If their routines interfere with ours, or if their presence restricts our normal use of home spaces, stress is likely.”

This is especially true when a host has gone to a great deal of trouble for a guest who behaves as if they’re staying in a 5-star hotel, with maid service, expecting the house and the host’s life to revolve around their needs, while they spread themselves and their belongings to the point where the host feels like the outsider. Not good.

Personally, I love houseguests, getting their room ready, adding touches like familiar photos, books and magazines, and cooking their favourite dishes for dinner. But there are do’s and don’ts for both parties, a balance where the host isn’t left exhausted and the guest feels at home.

Hosts — there are some basics, and after that, it’s up to you how much you want and can do.

  • Room ready: Put clean linens on the bed. They don’t have to be fancy, but an already made bed sings ‘welcome’ loud and clearly when the guest arrives. Two pillows are the minimum, ideally one soft and one hard, and an extra duvet or blanket for chilly nights.
  • Fluffy stuff: This might seem an obvious one, but place at least one nicely folded towel on the bed, and stock up on toilet rolls. It’s surprising how quickly you’ll get through the paper stuff with an extra person in the house, and you don’t want them calling out in embarrassment from their perch.
  • La toilette: Extra soap and shampoo won’t go amiss, especially if guests travel light with airport liquid restrictions in carry-on luggage. Add a packet of toothbrushes to the shopping list — who hasn’t forgotten to pack one — and a few feminine supplies, for which a guest with a lady emergency will be eternally grateful.
  • Meal time: You may be an enthusiastic cook, taking pleasure in looking after guests, but it’s not possible to serve up all meals if you work, especially if guests stay several days. Have coffee and a selection of teas ready for breakfast, along with fruit, bread, porridge, or bacon and eggs, and invite them to help themselves. This will make guests who want to help feel they’re making a contribution.
  • Snack attack: These are essential for night-time, especially after drinking. Nuts and crisps can be turned into a bowl with ease, but for something more substantial, cheese and crackers or a good quality bought pizza popped in the oven will satisfy. No matter how busy a host is, chatting together in the evening makes guests feel at home

Houseguests — making your visit a positive experience for your host, guarantees an invitation to return.

  • Gift giving: Show your appreciation, especially with a contribution to the catering. A bottle of wine or something from an artisan bakery are particularly welcome. Don’t arrive with hands hanging...
  • Time-keeping: Show up at the agreed time and phone if you’re delayed.
  • House rules: If you and your host smoke, it doesn’t necessarily mean smoking is allowed in the house, so ask, and bring slippers in case outdoor shoes are a no-no.
  • Good manners: Don’t ambush the host with your belongings spread around the living room, especially if you’re sleeping on a sofa bed. Fold it away every day so the space returns to its normal function, and ask where you can put your bag. Offer to help with washing up, cooking, clearing the table, or grocery shopping. If the host refuses, entertain the children with stories, games or a visit to the park.
  • Be tidy: No matter how little you care for tidiness at home, in someone else’s house put things back where you got them; strip the bed before leaving and put linens and towels by the washing machine. And, boys, put the toilet seat down — you’re not at home

Next week, we’re preparing a guest room for Airbnb lets.

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