Service of Good & Bad Houseguests

August 11th, 2022

Categories: Flexibility, Gifts, Guests, House Guests, Manners


Image by 5460160 from Pixabay

I’ve been both host and guest many times, the latter since childhood when in addition to packing my clothes my mother sent me off with clear guidelines. “Check the bathroom sink and leave no hair in it;”  “Make your bed in the morning” and if there was a cook, “Thank her as well as Mr. and Mrs. ___ when you leave.”


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

An acquaintance awaits a two week visit from someone who doesn’t sound like house guest material. Long before arrival she announced demands regarding her accommodation reflecting countless quirks including dietary ones. For starters: “I need silence to sleep. No light.” Her host’s apartment is on a main thoroughfare. On learning about her foibles, were I the host, I’d suddenly develop chronic migraine and postpone the stay until 2035.

Most have had some memorable house guests. For this post I dredged a few out of my memory that mercifully had otherwise been long forgotten. There was an American stationed in Ankara, Turkey, who stayed with us in Adana for R&R. He sat for hours in the living room, drank whiskey and smoked nonstop without paying attention to where the ashes went. I envisioned holes in upholstery and rugs not to speak of fire and he wasn’t good company.

There are those who make a shambles of your home, leaving their stuff all over the place and the guest bedroom a disaster. If you’ve planned a dinner party coinciding with the unfortunate visit, and you like to entertain in a tidy home, the stress on the host is palpable.

Still others act as though you have hot and cold running help. I’ve lived through them too. That’s why, on the last morning of my visit I strip the bed and ask for clean sheets to prepare the guestroom for the next visitor. I volunteer for KP as sous-chef peeling and cutting as instructed, offer to wash dishes and if appropriate, invite the hosts for a meal.

I was told by someone who owns a shop that guests don’t bring house gifts anymore. Do or would you? Have you had spectacular house guests–either good or bad? To be a welcome house guest a person needs to be flexible, don’t you think?


Image by Anna Moskowitz from Pixabay

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12 Responses to “Service of Good & Bad Houseguests”

  1. Helen Said:

    What a coincidence! Had an unexpected houseguest Monday. My friend Ronna unexpectedly in from North Carolina. She’s the perfect houseguest. We ordered dinner in and she offered to pay and I said no. She cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher talked to the parrot and gave him a peanut! We watched tv and went to bed. I made breakfast again cleared the table etc. Yes she brought a gift…always does. Made the bed perfectly, bathroom was spotless. I love it when she visits. I consider myself blessed to know her.

  2. Martha Takayama Said:

    It is hard for me to comfortably have house guests in my one bedroom apartment. It invariably causes stress just on the need for using the living room for a bedroom. I don’t even want to remember unpleasant experiences in our family home. We very rarely had house guest in my family’s home although there was a guest bedroom and bathroom on the first floor. When I am a houseguest, I always bring a present or presents and try to tailor them to the person and the environment. I have always tried to be considerate and not make demands and only find it comfortable to be a
    houseguest at the house of a couple of very old and very close friends.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Helen,

    Ronna is a welcome guest for sure. May she be cloned!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    It helps to have space. There was plenty of it at my country house and the way it was configured guests had their own bathroom and bedroom far away from ours. Didn’t matter when someone got up or went to bed. And we could close the door and isolate a mess.

    It takes energy to have guests if you must entertain them. Years ago we frequently visited a couple upstate who expected guests to take off and do their own thing during the day and to weed and do other garden chores, buy their own lunch etc. That worked well because too much togetherness can be well, too much. But the guest needs to have a car.

  5. Erica Martell Said:

    Erica on Facebook: Guests need to be flexible and considerate of those they stay with, helping out in the kitchen and making the bed or stripping it when leaving. I would bring a hostess gift but it shouldn’t be required.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Erica,

    I would bring a house gift too such as fun, extravagant paper products, wine or if they like breakfast pastries, a collection. They can keep in the freezer. Pretty candles, guest soap or anything that they will use-or easily pass along to someone else–works well.

    If you’re invited near a holiday such as Halloween or Memorial Day, special, tasteful seasonal accessories are fun. And who doesn’t love fabulous napkin rings?

  7. lucrezia Said:

    I usually show up with a wine bottle. I don’t feel forced, just enjoy doing that. That said, I don’t think such a gesture is or should be mandatory, especially if visits are frequent.

    I wish Ann Landers and/or her sister Abby were alive to add their two cents!

  8. Eileen Dover Said:

    Always bring a little something!

    As a child, no house guests allowed. And I wasn’t allowed to sleep out either. My parents were very strict and we didn’t have parties often. But my mother always had a box of Entenmanns cake that we weren’t allowed to eat, it was for guests if they stopped by.

    As an adult, I visited friends in Aspen, Colorado. They didn’t want me to leave! I made my bed, tidied their house, walked their dog, made breakfast and dinner daily. Had a great time skiing too! Retrospectively, should have stayed for the whole winter, they would have given me a job at their restaurant too!

  9. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: I always bring a hostess gift (how’s that expression for dating myself?!), even if it’s something small, a home-baked good or bottle of wine. As for guests, yes they should be flexible for sure! And if a host is too nervous, all I can suggest is either don’t host or just do cocktails and hor d’oeuvres at home and eat dinner at a restaurant where people can pay for their pickiness.
    PS, love the image you featured.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    A question I should have asked is how long should a guest stay (if not family)? Two nights?

    Good idea to take the pressure off and plan to eat out one meal at least. Hard to sightsee all day and then race home to cook unless grilling and the sides are simple.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Ann and Abby got me started loving to read advice columns. Would be fun to write one too!

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Eileen,

    I had fun on overnights as a kid. On one memorable one my friend and I were dragging and complaining as teens might when her dad said “hurry and get dressed. We’re going to Radio City!” The three of us soon jumped in a cab and caught a 10 PM show. I remember thinking “My dad would never have been so spontaneous.” We snapped out of our doldrums pronto!

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