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How to be a Great Houseguest

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Not long ago, I wrote a post about how to be a good host when having overnight guests stay with you. Now it’s time for the flip side: How to be a great guest when staying in someone else’s home!

Personally, I don’t like staying in other people’s homes, but I love having houseguests!  I’ve been lucky over the years to have considerate houseguests who have been a pleasure to have around. Thank goodness I have great friends!

But if you’re not sure how to be a great guest, or you just want to double-check that you’re a polite and gracious guest, these guidelines are for you.

Bring a gift

Show up with something (other than your luggage). Flowers are always welcome, but bring a vase as part of the gift and set the flowers up for your hosts. Baked goods are great (as long as you know that your guests like sweets). A gift certificate to a favorite store or restaurant is also a thoughtful gift to bring along.

Something cute for their home will leave a lasting impression. A nice set of coasters, a personalized cutting board, a set of cute glasses …There are lots of hostess gifts under $50 that will show your hosts you appreciate them!

Or if you can fill a hole with a practical gift, all the better! I know someone who stayed with friends at their lake house and noticed that they didn’t have any nice beach towels. The next time she stayed there, that’s what she brought as a hostess gift!

A Citizen watch makes for a great hostess gift, or a gift for yourself to keep you on time when staying at someone’s house. The Ladies’ Diamond is the perfect match!

Take care of a meal

…Or two or three, depending on how long you’re staying. Offer to cook dinner for your hosts, or take them out to their favorite restaurant as a thank you. But let them choose! Some people don’t like other people puttering around in their kitchen.

Also, be as self-sufficient in the food department as your hosts will allow. If everyone takes care of their own breakfast, then make your own toast and clean up after yourself. If the host insists on cooking every meal for you, insist on helping in some way (that way might be cleaning up, if you sense your host doesn’t want your cooking help!).

And please, if you have some kind of special dietary need, take care of it. If you’re vegan and need a certain kind of non-dairy creamer for your coffee, bring it. If you absolutely have to have a certain kind of cereal in the morning, bring it. If your host insists on shopping for you before you get there, leave him or her some money for what they bought. Not just for the portion you used, but for everything special that you requested (chances are the host is not going to use the soy cheese after you leave).

Respect the flow

Respect the flow of the family you’re staying with. Do they get up early or sleep in? Do they all show up at breakfast fully dressed and ready for the day, or are PJs the norm until noon on a Saturday? Ask some subtle questions so that you’ll know how to fit in and not wreck their routine.

Clean up after yourself

There is always some extra work involved when there are houseguests, but don’t add to it any more than you need to. Keep your things tidy, and pay attention to how your hosts do things. Do they wash each dish as it gets used, or do they leave things piled in the sink until there’s enough to fill the dishwasher? Do they sweep the floor after each meal? Try to fit in, and also respect if there’s something they really don’t want help with. (For the record, you can sweep my floors any time, but I’d rather you not do my dishes. I have a thing about that.)

Leave a note

Bringing a little card and leaving a thank you note is a really nice touch. One of my friends takes it a step further by sneaking into his hosts’ bedroom (at an appropriate time!) and doing his own little version of turn-down service, complete with wrapped chocolates or a little gift and a note. It’s a sweet gesture, although you have to be the judge of whether your hosts will appreciate you being in their room!

Don’t be nosey

Just because your friends or family members are opening their home to you, that doesn’t mean they’re opening their entire home to you. Don’t snoop in medicine cabinets, drawers, or closets!

And the most important tip of all…

Don’t stay too long!

These are my tips to help you be a great houseguest. What are yours? Let me know in the comments section below!

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