How to Be a Good Houseguest

how to be a good houseguest

While on our trip to the east coast my daughter and I had the privilege of being houseguests at both my friend JJ’s house in Virginia and her cousin Zoe’s farm in Lancaster County, PA.  Not only did this save my daughter and I a ton of money but it was also a way to spend some quality time with two families I absolutely adore.

I don’t know about you, but when people open their homes to me, I try really hard to leave a small imprint.  I want to be the kind of guest that people would love to have back.  I want The Girl to be that kind of guest too.

Here are my top 10 tips on being a great houseguest:

  1. Bring a gift. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, but it should be a thoughtful token of your gratitude.  It’s just a simple way to say, “Hey, thanks for letting me sleep in your sheets.”  Think local–something your guest couldn’t easily get ahold of.
  2. Keep clean.  Your guest should hardly know you are there.  Keep your stuff confined to the space your host provides.  That means, don’t leave shoes, purses, etc. in the front entry way.  Slip them off and carry them to your room.  Your host should not have to look at your clutter…ever.clean dishes
  3. Offer to pitch in.  If your host provides a meal, help with dishes, wipe the counters…whatever you can do to be more help than work.
  4. Don’t complain.  This probably seems like a no-brainer, but if you are sleeping on an old pull-out bed, remember, it’s free.  No complaints about crappy sleep.  You are in their space, and they get to offer whatever they are willing/able and no more.  Special diets aren’t your host’s problem.  Be gracious and blend in with the culture of the house without complaining.  Enough said.
  5. Be clear about your plans.  Let your host know exactly how long you will be staying, what time you will be arriving, etc.  Let them know all of the activities you have planned, so they know when you will be out of the house.
  6. Don’t bring pets, kids, etc. unless you have already cleared it with your host.  Along the same lines, don’t invite other friends over to the house you’re staying at, it’s unfair to the host.
  7. Err on the side of modesty.  Don’t trippy trop from the bathroom to your bedroom in just a towel.  Get dressed out of your jammies before you make it into one of the common areas of the house, etc.  Everyone has different comfort levels, erring on the side of caution will keep you from unintentionally offending.
  8. Don’t expect your host to entertain you.  Have plans that include getting you out of the house frequently.  You can always invite your host to tag along, but it gives them a courteous “out” if they need to get some things done or need some personal time/space in their own house.
  9. Bring ALL of your own stuff.  Toothpaste, shampoo, etc.  Bring it all.  This includes personal snacks.  Don’t be raiding your host’s pantry whenever you get the munchies {unless they offer}.  That way, you leave a very small mark on the house you are staying.
  10. Send a thank you note after you leave.  I know it seems like over-kill when you have also brought a present, but being overly gracious never hurt anybody.

Those are the big ones as far as I am concerned?  Any I missed or that you strictly adhere to?  Even better, ever had a bad houseguest?  What did they do?


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  1. CrownofJules says

    If I may add…none of these rules apply to a parent staying in your home – this was the mistake of a lifetime.
    At the time, being a stay-at-home mother and wife to a disabled Husband, I would be able to clean for a solid week before my parents would drive a 3-hour trek to visit our house for a 2 to 3-day weekend (or longer), once a month or so. It would be *spotless* to honor their presence and to show them appreciation for the multitude of gifts (groceries!) they would shower upon us. I’m talking decoratively-folded towels, windows/walls washed, ceiling vacuumed-kind of clean. Each night, I would cook grandiose meals that took me all day to prepare. Fresh breakfast and homemade pastries each morning. I would sweep, mop, clean, organize, and make their bed whilst they stayed, as well. Like a hotel! I was raised in a dirty, cluttered home, so I tried to show that my home was not that way – to please my father. (I’d be so exhausted and fed up when they left – it kind of ended up that way in between!)
    Other than the once-a-month weekends, my parents would stay each major holiday – the entire holiday – and I could not decorate my house so as not to offend them. I was “insulting” them by asking to take my children to their other grandparents for the holidays – “We’re here to spend time with you! You can go over there any time”… and we learned it was best to celebrate Christmas the next weekend, Easter on Monday night, and Thanksgiving on Tuesday. I was raised that actions meant more than monetary gifts, so I made my actions as spectacular as I could! Apparently, my actions fell on blind eyes or something as I was accused of not being appreciative. I was told my house was dirty and I “should have cleaned up” after them and my kid sister while they stayed in our 3-bedroom, 1-bath 1,000 sq.ft.home with my two tiny kids, husband and I.
    Because of my choice (around their three dozenth visit) to become upset and mention the mess they created in my home I worked so hard to maintain *just for their visit*, my father never spoke to me again. Within this pride he had, he forbade my mother from telling me he was in the hospital on his deathbed. Regrets suck.

    • PattyB says

      You did an amazing job with your parents. You are not responsible for their bad behavior! Apparently, you learned how to be a good host from someone other than your parents. Good for you! You were awesome.

    • Peggy Stenglein says

      Oh my, you are hurting! I’m sorry your parents treated you that way, who knows why people act the way they do, but you tried, and you try your best for your family. Telling you your house was dirty was to touch a sensitive nerve to make you feel bad, because they were mad. Some people won’t let you please them, just know you tried your best. Your family now is your priority, it is when yous say ‘I do’. Hopefully your dad made peace before he passed on, even if only to himself and the man upstairs. Enjoy your family now, that is what is most important. Take care. :)

      • Julie Ann says

        Peggy! In these past 10 years, I’ve never looked at it that way! The thought of Dad asking His Heavenly Father for forgiveness, even though I do not follow religion – only faith – the idea of that taking place in his mind, his heart…if even only just my own hopes…makes me feel – different.
        A little better, I think.
        Over the years, I have seen only loving, happy dreams about my Dad…even though I thought he hated me to his end, the message was always fatherly and loving. My dreams always told me he had finally “approved of “me and my personal achievements had brought him joy and satisfaction.
        Thank you for helping me feel that and connecting the dots.

    • Kamiko says

      GOD Bless you and your patience, this is why since 1997, I have only had 2 visitors. I am not such a patient person. one left each day on thier own to a hotel they were staying, and the other after 3 months was asked never to return. 😉

  2. TC says

    I agree with what you said here but I love to provide our guests with toothpaste, shampoo, bottled water, fruit and flowers in the room, I also put magazines and books in for them to read too.
    I show them how to use the coffee maker, where the tea and other essentials are and say make yourself at home because I love having guests but don’t want to have to totally wait on them and this way I give them permission to help themselves so if they get up before me (never happens) they can at least have coffee or tea with waiting for me.
    All our guests turn out to be thoughtful enough to help with the dishes and clean up and often prepare a meal for us which is great, one dear friend always brings us coffee and pastry on a tray in bed and brings the paper for the Hubby, (she has to order me back to bed to enjoy it though or she has to get up extra early to catch me out but it is a lovely treat for me).
    I usually offer to prepare a meal when I am a houseguest and clean up which is usually well received especially as we always take some nice wine for the host too.
    The biggest peeve I would have is picky eaters and I would add one thing to your list, help your hosts by stripping the sheets of your bed and putting them and the towels in the laundry room so it is one less chore to do, that is the one thing I don’t like about having lots of guests is the sheets and making beds afterwards, you might ask your host if they have spare sheets so that you can make the bed for them before you leave.

    • Stacey says

      I will remember your idea to get the beds made up with clean sheets for our hosts. We occasionally stay with family and I always try to make as little work as possible for them. I never knew quite what to do about the beds, so I always made them up neatly like I found them. I will definitely step up my staying-as-a-guest skills on this!

  3. Cecily says

    If you have a dietary restriction its best to inform your host in advance. Neither you nor your host would appreciate a case of anaphylaxis.

  4. Kamiko says

    when i stay at my mother in-laws, i help with the cooking, as well as the cleanup. we usually also tend to make them 1 freezer meal, as well as take them out to dinner. lots of times we even buy our own food, instead of eating theirs.

    i hate onions, and i refuse to eat them. luckily for me my hubbys grandmother was the same, and his mother is prepared for me. she understands i dont eat onions, and has no issue with me not taking food that is laden with them, and even preparing my own food to eat when i dont care for hers. most of the time she does make food is can have , to make up for the ones i cannot, so i am part of the dinner too! very sweet of her!

    when my own mother stayed at my home for 3 months, she insisted on cooking meals for us riddled with onions, then threw tantrums at the dinner table if i refused to eat, or i picked out the onions. this caused daily fights, along with my asking her to stop cooking for me. which caused more fights and name calling in my own home. i was so glad to see her want to leave, i bought her ticket for her, so she could become my brothers problem and his family! :(

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