Sunday, July 7, 2013

Guest List

Before everyone who has ever stayed with or hosted us starts worrying, this post is not about you. We were with two other couples staying with our close friends (and I’ll add the most gracious, amazing hosts) when I broached the subject of houseguests. I asked the group what they think makes for an issue free guest stay. The conversation quickly shifted to worst case scenario experiences and within minutes I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face. Everyone has a nightmare guest story that becomes a great story later.

I'm no etiquette expert but a few considerate moves can relieve any potential guest stress. These are what I think are the pivotal issues in a host/guest relationship. Things are a little different with family but even there a little forethought helps.

Know where you are going
By this I mean know what type of host you are dealing with, there are only 2 types:
There’s the loosey goosey/anything goes (LGAG) or organized and anal (OAA). While the LGAG host is seemingly the way to go these hosts may leave you with the nasty sliver of soap and no coffee in the morning. OAA doesn’t sound like as much fun but you’ll get perfect directions, a well planned stay and your favorite cocktail waiting for you. In case there is any doubt, I am from this school of hosting (and living). And I’m not alone. I recently learned of a friend’s mother who has a spreadsheet of menus broken down by guest. She does this so as not to serve anyone the same thing twice. I worship her.

When would you like us?
Most hosts  (especially when OAA) want to greet their guests so whenever possible rather than saying “we should be there at …” ask your host what time is convenient. There’s a grace period and understanding for traffic but if you say you’re leaving at 8am, leave around 8 or give your hosts a heads up that plans changed. We’ve had friends we thought were buried in an avalanche only to hear “oh we stopped for lunch and skis”.
Same goes for departure, I felt terribly with our friends mentioned above. We were getting reading to leave and my friend said “you’re out of here already?” I hadn’t made this clear ahead of time. When you can, have the discussion and find out what works for everyone.

What “is there anything we can have in the house?” for you means
When a host asks this, it means are there one or two special requests you’d like to put in.  A list isn’t cool, neither are obscure asks. I had a client who sent a host out for chia seed and a friend who told me she had to search in upstate NY for spelt pasta a guest asked for. Same goes for any allergies/dislikes “I’m allergic to dairy” is legit but some of my happy tears I referred to came when a friend referred to a 1-page response to “is there anything we can pick up” complete with each family members food preferences, brands of choice and preparation suggestions. If you like chia (and you should) BYO, same goes for vitamins or any foods you’re really tied to or pertaining to a dietary restriction but don’t bring full on groceries to someone’s house and further don’t stick to only “your food”.

Timing may not be everything but it matters
I know, I know you’re going to stay with someone and it should be relaxing; however it’s a house not a hotel and guests need to be mindful of the schedule. “What time is everyone up?” Or, “what’s the plan for tomorrow?” It is a good way to gauge things. Nothing worse that cooking breakfast or making lunch only to have to clean kitchen a second time. Take cues, and especially if children are involved, encourage your kids do the same.

Great guests do these five things
Unload dishwasher
Put a load of laundry in
Help cook
Replenish things as they run out
Keep things neat (even if they don’t at home) I received a tweet from  @EdgyRD “great houseguests make their beds and close the door when the go to bathroom” no comment on the last part.

Great hosts do these five things
Make coffee (even if they don’t drink coffee)
Give you a bed with pillows they’d want to use
Don’t create a stressful environment even if hosting is stressful (this one a work in progress for me, trying for type “A minus” this coming winter)
Refresh the toiletries in the bathroom (no Pert Plus circa 1990)
Go the extra mile with food or activities really putting thought into your stay.

And finally, TY
Say thank you in person, via email or via phone. Nothing feels better than knowing your guests had fun and appreciated the effort.  Or if you’re an anal and organized guest (and you know who you are) send a hand written note.
What type of host are you? What do you think great guests/hosts do? And what is your houseguest or host pet peeve?


  1. I was watching the today show the other day, and they said if a house guest brings a dog without telling you, you should accept it and be kind. I laughed. NO WAY! I would be so mad. I mean...isn't that rude?!
    Great tips, I'll be a house guest this September, so these are good things to know!

  2. so funny. I wrote a post like this two years ago and apparently some people who read it were thinking that i was talking about them personally. here's my article:

  3. Great post! My favorite guests are the ones who have researched where they are going, know what they like to do, and make plans (with and without the host). My least favorite guests are the ones who just show up and expect the host to be concierge/tour guide/travel agent.

  4. you see and I have no problem concierging or assisting with all of that. Not to worry, plenty of other pet peeves.

  5. I recall, that's why I wanted to cover this but not insult anyone. I think their are lots of guest situations around food too.

  6. that's insane (dog) unless you have a dog or invited the dog etc. You're such a loyal today viewer.

  7. Sam @ Mom At The BarreJuly 8, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    I burst out laughing at the Pert Plus mention, along with having a brief high school flashback!
    I'm definitely an anal host. Luckily I haven't had bad experiences with houseguests. Except for this one time when a friend mentioned they may need a place to stay but that they would let me know for sure. Next day my doorman was buzzing me at 6am because the friend was at my doorstep!

  8. Sam, I think that's perfect example of someone just not realizing that staying, even "crashing" requires communication and takes effort.

  9. Reminded me of when we hosted friends with dogs a few years back - we have a dog and they'd asked in advance if they could bring theirs and we'd said yes - only to find out at the end of the weekend, that we had been the "test run" to see if their dogs could handle traveling! Um, the answer was NO. Probably four years later and we still cry laughing when we remember the disaster that was that weekend!

    Great post, Lauren! Agree with all of it!

  10. Type A-, that is fantastic! I should work towards that myself, as I am usually a Type A+, and not always in a good way. Uptight is usually how it's described, if you're being nice. Anal if you're not. I like these guidelines though, and I really wish everyone followed them. Especially my mom and my in-laws. Oops, did I say that out loud?

  11. You said it but as a fellow "uptighter" I hear you and can relate completely. I will accept I am...particular but usually the late or less than considerate who call us A's out, just saying.

  12. The worst are the people who aren't actually your house guests but act like they are - the people who refuse to take a hint when you tell them that you need to go to bed soon because you have to get up early, or when you are literally falling asleep on your own couch because you're so tired and they take another hour or two (or three!) to leave.

    Or the house guests who overstay their welcome when you have a lot of other things that you need to be doing.

    Other than that, anything goes in my book.

  13. Also I am lactose AND gluten intolerant and still feel terrible about asking for substitutions, both at other people's homes and in restaurants. I usually offer to bring something for myself.

  14. great post....I needed to put this on a sign last weekend

  15. As someone who leans more LGAG than OAA, I can say that you are slighting us a bit. I definitely take care of my guests, and hope to give a "perfect directions, a well planned stay and your favorite cocktail waiting
    for you" kind of experience. But I'm ok with my guests not making the bed, or playing with my kids after a meal instead of cleaning up with me in the kitchen.

    I think there's a relaxed middle ground that makes for the perfect host too. If I know I'm going to be at an OAA kind of home, it tends to stress me out to no end, always worrying if I'm being a terrible guest.