How to be a good house guest

November 5, 2014

suitcasesGirlfriend tells me that last holiday season she had the house guest from hell. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But as she described it, her house guest was a bit inconsiderate.  So the holidays are coming and she’s anticipating more company. Maybe you are, too. Or maybe you’re going away and like us, will be house guests this season.  (By the time you read this we will be house guests.)  I asked girlfriend the other day, how can house guests avoid annoying their hosts? She had a lot to say, but here’s the gist of her “how to be a good house guest.”

1) You may be a last minute decision maker, but your host may not be. It’s only good manners to set up the visit well in advance so your host can make their own plans. Don’t hold them hostage to yours. Be clear about when you’d like to arrive and when you’d like to leave. “Like” is the pertinent word–your desires may not coordinate with theirs and since they are hosting you need to defer to them.

2) Let me be blunt: If you are at someone’s house for vacation –or any reason, really–remember that their hospitality is saving you at least $200 a night in most places. Surely you can afford to spring for a dinner for the family once during your several-day stay. Even if you did bring a nice set of soaps as a hostess gift. Dinner doesn’t have to be expensive. It just needs to be bought.

3)  And speaking of hostess gifts,  know your hostess’ taste because not every hostess gift is enjoyed. Like some soaps. Many people don’t use soaps in their guest bathrooms. Like me. I put out the much more sanitary pumps. I also don’t like floral aromas so floral soaps I get are likely to be given to someone else. And usually, hostess gifts are only useful to the woman of the house, while dinner? The man can enjoy, too.


You don’t ever want to merit this t-shirt.

4) When people come to visit me I usually take them all around the Bay area, sometimes driving more than 1,000 miles while they are here. I’m proud of where I live and love to share it. Girlfriend lives in another part of the state and also carted her guests all over, for a week. She was glad to do it. But. Remember, your host has been these places dozens of times. They’re making a good time for YOU.  It’s always so nice when a guest offers to buy a tank of gas to participate. Or buys lunch. Just saying.

5) Your hosts’ bedroom is sacrosanct. Do not knock and walk in as if you own the place. They do not want to be seen in their thong or en deshabille.

6) Pitch in if it’s wanted; don’t if it isn’t. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like people in my kitchen. I don’t want you to wash dishes and I don’t mind putting out your plates, making your coffee, setting the table, putting out a meal. For some reason I find it intrusive to have people knocking around in my cabinets and kitchen.  I know others don’t feel that way–they’d rather you fended for yourself. Not at my house. I am happy to take care of these things.  Bottom line: Ask your host’s preference.

So there you have it. A few tips for being a good holiday house guest.  And if you’ve got some tips of your own? I’d love you to share them in the Comments section.

29 comments on “How to be a good house guest
  1. Lisa Scott says:

    I love having house guests…. if they don’t help themselves to all the alcohol in the cupboards and not at least buy a bottle of wine…… yes I have been eaten and drunk out of house and home!!!!

  2. Good advice for house guests because they don’t always, ahem, treat your home with respect.

    Our favorite guest? My husband’s cousin who can only be explained to be like Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” and stays with us once a month. Our extra bedroom is neat, clean and tidy when he arrives and when he leaves. He says please and thank you and is a joy to have.

  3. Kim Tackett says:

    Here’s my peeve. Pay attention to your host’s morning habits. If they are early risers, and sit quietly with coffee (and ahem, their computer), give them a little time to do so in private. Then show up, and sit quietly with them. Don’t start talking and intruding on their space. Give them a half hour, and everyone will be happier.

    Also…Steve (because he can draw) often draws when we’re away. They are just sketches, but I have to tell you, people love it when he draws their house, or their dog, or just a corner of their table…and he tears the drawing out of his book for them. I try to take pictures of something in their yard, or just something cool in their home, and people really appreciate that I appreciate their home. Either than, or they think I am stalking them.

  4. Laura Kennedy says:

    My pet peeve? People who insist on helping to clear the table even if you’ve asked them NOT to. I have about 1 square foot of counter space in my 1930s kitchen, and unlike my guests, I have advanced cleanup-coping skills in this limited space.

    I have threatened to break the fingers of particularly persistent guests. This usually works, but I would really prefer not to resort to that. I’m sure Emily Post would not approve.

  5. We have been very lucky to only have nice and respectful house guests – including our kids’ friends!

  6. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Good suggestions. I find one of the hardest things about having company is putting everything on hold so that I can be available to them. Luckily, we enjoy having company. I just have to be organized so I can be ready for them.

  7. Mary says:

    We will be having several house guest over the holiday season, many which have stayed with us before…maybe I should print these suggestions and place it in a very pretty frame on the dresser. Thanks, Carol

  8. Nora Hall says:

    Great advice for all. Even if we THINK we’re good guests we can always learn something!

  9. Great tips. I especially appreciate it when guest truly do make themselves feel at home — get into the fridge when they want, etc. Oh, and I REALLY appreciate it when they don’t overstay the welcome. And when they’re good to my animals. 😀

  10. To me a good guest is one who is also a good friend, which means that we’re comfortable enough together we don’t have to stand on ceremony.

  11. penpen says:

    When I’m a house guest, I try to make myself scarce for at least an hour or two every day–gives my hosts a chance to have their house to themselves. And I appreciate it when guests do the same for me.

  12. Here, here. Your post has sparked an idea for a post of my own. A- funny now that my mother is no longer living-kind of a post. Hm…let’s see how desperate I get as the days of November click past. 😉

  13. Great post, Carol. These are necessary reminders for all of us. My mom is coming up in a couple weeks and will be spending 21 days with us. For the most part she’s a great house guest, but about once a day, she decides to take a nap on the couch in the family room…the busiest part of our house. I’ve said things like “don’t you think you’d be more comfortable in your bedroom?” or “sorry if we’re being loud.” She says it’s fine and goes on snoozing and snoring away. Would this bother anyone else or am I just being too picky?

  14. My In Laws own a bed and breakfast although most people are pretty good. But there is a few who can be totally on the other end of “jerk” scale.
    Tonight I’m going to spend the night at my son and his wife…They just been married little over a month.
    Sure glad it only one night.

    Coffee is on

  15. WendysHat says:

    We rarely have houseguests because my family all lives in town, with my parents living 3 doors down, and my husband is private and likes things quiet. I can imagine there are some horror stories though!

  16. I have seen many examples of this type of post – but, and I mean this, this – is the only useful one I have ever read! Great, useful post!

  17. Estelle says:

    Great tips. I always appreciate it when a houseguest comes bearing some delicious food item or liquor for dinner. I also love it when they bring a toy or a doll for my daughter. I offer my many books for their reading pleasure and like to give them their own toiletries.

  18. Carolann says:

    Great post! The one pet peeve I have is when I give 110% to guests that stay here and when I stay at their house I’m lucky I get 50% lol. I guess it’s just the way some people are. Most folks that stay are great though…and I always enjoy having them.

  19. We have had my brother-in-law (husband’s brother) stay with us for 2 nights each week, nearly every week, for 6 years, because he has a business he runs that is nearby (he lives in Northern CA). He has gone from being a houseguest to a member of the family, and he can be quite difficult to be around. I estimate we’ve saved him around $40,000 in hotel expenses. It’s an odd situation but what can I do, he’s family.

  20. I stress so much about being a good guest and a good host. I am afraid I am the guest that just wants to help but I end up being a nudge. My mother hates help in her kitchen but I feel bad and try to help anyway.
    I won’t do that anymore.

  21. Good advice, Carol! We don’t have many houseguests, but will share this with my sis who does.

  22. Barbara says:

    We love to entertain, and that includes having house guests. I think the key to having it all go smoothly is for the hostess to be relaxed. I don’t mind a little help in the kitchen clean-up, but I can be insistent when I say, “No thanks, just sit and chat with me while I finish up.” Based on my experience in others homes, I think you’re either comfortable with guests or you’re not. If you’re not, it is really hard to be the guest.

  23. I would like to add two of my biggest pet peeves. While I love your dog at your house please don’t bring it to mine. I know this sounds awful but some people are allergic and with me I have an autoimmune disease that doesn’t allow me to have pets. I have a niece that knows this and still shows up with her dog in tow and just drops her down in my house while my husband and I both panic. I love dogs, I adore dogs but don’t want to end up in the hospital because of an inconsiderate guest. and number 2 respect your guests things. I have a friend that came to our house because I am “almost to the beach” even though she said it was because she missed me yeah right. Anyway she showed up with about 3 hours notice with 3 yes 3 teenagers who managed to lay on my brand new leather sectional (seriously 2 days old) in ways that are not conducive to keeping it looking new and when your children are as big as oak trees this is even worse. My husband and I like nice things and we take great care with said things so imagine my horror to find a small hole in my sectional from an inconsiderate kid(17) with things from her shoe that she didn’t bother to take off before sitting on her feet! Needless to say we took them to a park bought dinner and sent them on their way never to be invited back again.

  24. Rosemond says:

    Agreed. Springing for a nice dinner is always a welcome Thank You!

  25. Linda Hobden says:

    Great tips. I always give the host a bottle of wine (their favourite plonk or the wine I drink) or chocolates even when visiting just for the evening. I’m also one that doesn’t like too much help in the kitchen – and I tend to offer help rather than just steaming in if I’m a house guest.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "How to be a good house guest"
  1. […] Good houseguest manners are a must, don’t you agree?Since summer  house guest season is coming up soon, today I’m sharing an oldie but goodie on how to be a good houseguest. […]

  2. […] It could be because you aren’t being a very good holiday house guest. But never fear. I’ve got some helpful hints here on how to be a good house guest.  […]

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