Show houseguests the rules before showing them the door
QUESTION: I just had a houseguest stay with me and I’m still appalled at their manners!! Are there any rules we should throw out there for house guests? What is the worst thing a house guest could do while staying with you?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: When staying in someone’s home, offer to help with dishes and assist with cleaning sheets. Be on your best behavior. I’ve had someone burn popcorn in the middle of the night while staying with us before. I would call that a big “no no.” That was not the best smell to wake up to.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Do you have a lot of houseguests? I understand that people who live in resort areas where people like to vacation have to set boundaries right up front for everyone, including friends. On the list might be things like how meals and groceries will work and who pays/cooks and cleans the kitchen, what to do with your bed sheets when you leave and other things that came up when they hosted houseguests in the past.
If you have certain expectations for when people come, please tell them up front in an email — as if you send it to everyone. While someone is there, if you are getting frustrated, I think it’s OK to ask them to help you with the dishes or something like that. But do your best to be clear about your expectations ahead of time. I don’t have a worst house guest example, but I can imagine one might be making you as the host do all the work while the guests make a mess in your living room and expect you to clean up after them. If you are a houseguest, don’t make a mess and clean up after yourself, offer to help with chores and/or pay, be conscious of how you would want someone to act in your own home and show your appreciation afterward with a gift or a note.
HELEN’S ANSWER: There are no set rules for houseguests, but if you are staying with someone, offer to help with the meals and keep your room picked up. Offer to wash the towels if you are there awhile. Good manners dictate that you provide a meal or two if you are visiting. It is always good to know when a guest is arriving and when he is leaving.
On the “worst thing” question: I have had a houseguest completely trash the bedroom while on a visit. I was appalled that he didn’t try to keep his things together or off the floor. It was a disaster. He was definitely not invited back.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Jane Jayroe, former Miss America and television anchor and a current columnist for The Oklahoman: Now that I’ve been the host several times instead of the guest, I have a different perspective. I cringe as I recall my younger days when I stayed with my aunt in Dallas and left the bathroom in a mess from spreading my makeup and hair supplies from one corner to another. Her beautiful home was like a castle to me and I acted like a princess.
I wish I could take it back and here are my suggestions, if not rules, for guests. Settle on when you are arriving and leaving before you arrive. Leave the bedroom and bathroom similar to how you found it. Take the linens and towels to the utility room, unless the host gives you different instructions. Take your trash out. If you break something, get it fixed. If there’s something that doesn’t work in your room, let the hosts know before you leave.
I haven’t had guests who did “the worst thing.” An annoying thing if you’re staying in a home without the host, is leaving the house bare of necessities you’ve used. Don’t let your hosts come home to a lack of wine, coffee, toilet paper or other important items. And don’t leave smelly things in the refrigerator or the trash.
Leave or write a note of appreciation. Act like you’d want others to act if they were guests in your home. My friends and family have taught me how to be a better guest.
Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is 40-plus, and Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.