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How to Be a Better House Guest

Woman greeting her hosts with a bottle of wine
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

When you’re planning to stay one night or many nights under someone else’s roof, there are some things you can do to ensure you’re a better houseguest. Here’s how to impress your host and ensure you’re always welcome.

When it comes to houseguest etiquette, there are some simple things to do to be a better guest. Whether you’re staying with friends or family, you can’t go wrong following these golden rules.

Bring a Gift

You might not usually think to bring a gift when you’re an overnight guest. It’s a common courtesy when you’re a guest at a party, but it’s also a smart thing to do no matter what kind of guest you are. Someone is inviting you into their home; it’s only polite you thank them for it.

You’re thanking your host for more than just a place to crash—they spend time cleaning up their home for your arrival, grocery shopping, meal planning, and more. Pay them back for their extra work around the house with any of the following:

  • A bottle of wine
  • A gift basket (fruit or something even fancier)
  • Kitchen or bar gift sets
  • A decorative candle

Pick a gift that suits the host. You don’t want to bring a bottle of wine to someone that doesn’t drink, and you don’t want to bring a candle to someone who suffers from allergies. One thing you’ll notice about our list above is that other than the kitchen/bar gift set, everything is consumable. When in doubt, always give a gift that can be consumed in some fashion. This saves your host from having to store it indefinitely or feel guilty if they don’t keep it and display it when you return.

Learn the House Rules

Almost everyone has rules and rhythms in their home—get to know the system followed where you’re staying, even if you’re only there for one night.

Rules could be about how late they prefer you to come in at night, whether they want tabs on your coming and going, or it could be about cleaning up after yourself (which you should do anyway) and what goes in the dishwasher or needs to be hand-washed instead.

Purchase Your Own Groceries

There are a few different reasons to bring your own groceries along. First, you don’t want to use the last of someone else’s milk when they needed it for their breakfast. Second, you don’t want to impose if you have special dietary requirements.

You can ask, ahead of time, if they can make room on a shelf in the fridge and freezer for your food. By having your own space, it’ll be easier not to mix your stuff up with theirs in case you do bring some similar items.

Some hosts will balk at the idea of you buying your own food and insist it’s part of their hosting duties. If they refuse to let you purchase and stock food, you should definitely offer to take them out to dinner while you’re there or prepare meals at home (more on that in a moment).

Clean Up After Yourself

If your host supplied you some towels, don’t leave them lying in a wet heap. Reuse your towels, just like you would at home, and then hang them to dry before tossing them in a hamper when it’s time to leave.

Keep the room you’re staying in clean. It may be your personal space for the duration of your stay, but you shouldn’t leave it looking like a pig sty. Your host may need to get in that room for something, so make sure they can without tripping over your dirty clothes.

Another cleaning faux pas is not minding common areas. Leave every space you use in the state you found it (or cleaner). Wipe up toothpaste on the mirror, clean up crumbs on the kitchen counter, and put your garbage in a trash receptacle rather than on the floor.

Help Out Around the House

Not only should you be cleaning up after yourself, but you should be offering to help out with other cleaning and household duties. Here are some times to offer help:

  • Help with food prep
  • Help with cleaning up after meals
  • Offer to set the table
  • Help out with general cleaning like vacuuming and tidying up

One bit of advice: besides simple stuff like cleaning up after a meal, it’s best to ask your host how you can help. People are particular about their homes and how things are done, and it’s far better to ask and have your host direct you towards an activity they’d like help with than to use the wrong cleaner on their brand new stove or the like.

Cook a Meal for Your Host

If you’re a talented cook or at least have enough chops in the kitchen to put together a solid meal built around your favorite dish, offer to cook dinner one night. You foot the bill for the food, cook and serve the meal, and clean up the kitchen and dishes afterward.

If you’re not comfortable in a kitchen, don’t fret. Offer to treat your host to dinner at a spot of their choice. This gives you a chance to spend some quality time with the host—even though you’re spending time at their home doesn’t mean they have the available schedule to hang out much.

Don’t Be Underfoot

Everyone needs their personal time. Make sure that you give your host some time to themselves. Even if you’re only visiting for one night, make sure to make yourself scarce once in a while.

If you’re spending a few days there, ask what sights there are to see. You can invite them to come along, but understand if they have their own stuff going on. If it’s a nice day and your host has a yard, spend some time relaxing outside.

Alone time is good for everyone. Plus, if you’re staying with someone away from your hometown, it can be fun to get out and do some exploring. Check out shops, go to parks, or take a walk around the neighborhood.

Clean Up Before You Leave

Don’t pack your stuff and walk out without cleaning up the messes you’ve made. Some things to take care of include:

  • Stripping the bed
  • Putting your dirty towels with bedding in a pile or a hamper
  • Empty the trash in your room and the guest bathroom and take it out
  • Wipe up any spills and pick up any garbage
  • Don’t forget to check under the bed

Before you leave, take the trash out and put the dirty linens in the laundry room.

Part with a Gift

You may not have had the best idea of what to get your host as an initial gift, but now you’ve stayed at their home and gotten a feel for the things they’re interested in. There are many things you can do for the parting gift, from food items to something useful for their kitchen. Just go with what you’ve learned, and you’re sure to pick something they’ll appreciate.

Don’t Forget the Thank You Note

Thank you notes are a dying art, but they shouldn’t be. Sending a thank you via text message while you’re waiting for your flight is great, but we recommend also sending a personal handwritten note when you get home. There’s something to be said for the personal touch.

With the tips and tricks outlined above, you’ll make a good impression on your host and always have a place to stay in the future.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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