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On being a considerate guest and a gracious host...

Yesterday, I appeared on Access Carolina to talk about house guest etiquette. Check it out here:

1. Don’t wear out your welcome.

For hosts and guests, establish a framework around the visit: arrivals, departures, any scheduled events, down-time, and meals. The adage, “After 3 days, guests, like fish, begin to smell,” is still a good guidepost for the optimum length of a visit, especially if you as the guest are displacing someone from their room or are camped out on the pull-out in the living room. If it’s an extended visit, there are certain do’s and don’ts to make it a pleasant experience all around that I’ll touch on in my next post.

2. Love me, love my dog (cat, hamster, ferret, etc.).

The subject of pets really needs a post all its own as well. It can be fraught with hurt feelings and controversy. If you are the guest with the pet, ask if it’s acceptable to bring said pet. But keep in mind that not everyone is set up to handle a visiting pet—maybe there are allergies or phobias, the house isn’t pet friendly from a style or safety stand point, there is a resident pet who doesn’t take kindly to interlopers—whatever the reasoning, be prepared to accept no with good grace. It is then on you to figure out whether to accept the invitation and make arrangements for your pet or to graciously decline. If, however, Fido/Puff/Humphrey is welcome, remember that you are responsible for the care and keeping of the pet—its needs, its messes (both inside and out), exercise, etc. If your dog sheds like a yeti or even just leaves a difficult-to- discern dusting of fur, please offer to run the vacuum before you leave, especially if your host doesn’t have a fur friend of his/her own.

If you are the host with the furry bundle of joy and you have invited someone over for an evening or for an overnight visit, also keep in mind that not everyone is a pet person. It’s on you to ensure that your guest’s needs are met, perhaps by keeping an overenthusiastic creature in a separate area of the house. Don’t force your pet’s company on your guest. If you do insist that your guest make nice with the canine/feline/rodent you love, don’t be surprised if future invitations are declined.

3. Clean up, clean up, everybody, clean up.

Seriously, clean up after yourself. Don’t leave water/toothpaste/cosmetics all over the bathroom counter. Belongings need to be contained, beds need to be made, messes need to be addressed. At the end of your stay, ask your host what to do with bed linens and towels.

As the host, make sure your guest has the necessary towels, pillows, blankets, etc. to make their stay comfortable. Ensure there are extra rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom, so they aren’t caught in an uncomfortable situation (seriously, this happens!). It’s also nice to have some bottled water and a few snacks; no one wants to go foraging in an unfamiliar kitchen.

4. Don’t go empty handed.

As the guest, it’s nice to show up with a small gift of appreciation for your host. This does not need to be a lavish, expensive purchase; it’s just a small gesture that expresses thanks for the hospitality. A bottle of wine, flowers or a plant, a candle with an unobtrusive scent, cocktail napkins with a funny saying—in the south, we call such things surcies, and they make excellent hostess gifts. I’ve received a jar of homemade jam, Callie’s biscuits (FYI:, a six-pack of Diet Coke back when I was addicted to them, and a gift card to Starbucks---none of which were expensive gifts, but all of which were absolutely perfect for me, so look at your host’s favorite things and take your cues from that as well.

And always follow up with a thank-you note!

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