Houseguest 101: Apartment Therapy’s tips for how to ace a visit

woman guest suitcase
Don’t be the worst houseguest your host has ever had. / Thinkstock

Being a houseguest can involve more discomfort than than a fold-out couch and a lumpy pillow. Sharing space with friends and family is often a given during the holiday season, but it doesn’t have to be as awkward as a midnight trip to an unknown bathroom. As the CEO and founder of the design and lifestyle blog Apartment Therapy, Maxwell Ryan knows his way around a cramped apartment, which is why we asked him for his best advice on how to survive a stay at the in-laws (or anywhere else).

A smooth arrival

The first step of any stay as a guest is the planes, trains and automobiles that get you there. Ryan says these transitional moments can be loaded with tension for hosts, and it’s on guests to be clear and consistent about their arrival times. “If you’re supposed to be arriving at 6 p.m. on a Friday and you don’t get there until 7 and there are multiple text messages about where you are and being on your way, it’s exhausting,” he says. “What’s really helpful to a host is if you arrive and depart on time” — meaning that guests should figure out how to get to where they’re going.

Arriving with a gift in hand is another thing Ryan recommends: “I think it’s better to show up with a gift than to leave a gift. A gift given at the beginning ‘covers’ your stay, if you will. There’s no reciprocity if you give first.” Sure, leaving a bottle of wine isn’t an insult, but arriving with a token of appreciation shows a host that you thought of them beforehand (though Ryan agrees with your mom — don’t skip the thank you note.)

During your stay

Routines and schedules can seem like no big deal until you’re hopping and dodging them like a game of double dutch. Ryan says the simplest way to ease scheduling mayhem as a houseguest is to respect and adapt to the routines of the hosts, which can mean asking for specifics and communicating clearly about schedules. “What’s interesting perhaps is that the point of it is to be a great guest, because you might not have a great host,” he says. “There are going to be some geat people out there in the world who are not the best hosts.”

Towels on the floor might work in your apartment, but they’ll render you persona non grata in another person’s home. Ryan’s advice is simple: “Leave the house cleaner than you found it. Put away all the dishes, wipe down the counters, clean the floors.” While you’re at it, get in on some sous chef duties — or whip up your own contribution to any shared meals. It doesn’t hurt, Ryan says, to offer to chip in for groceries or pick up a nice dessert or bottle of wine to go with a meal.

Go away

Giving your host some time off can be key to making a stay comfortable for all parties involved, Ryan says. “No matter what your situation is, plan to have some time away from your hosts, and let them know that they don’t have to take care of you the whole time,” he suggests. “Being independent is a really nice strong signal to send.”

Quick tips to houseguest heaven

  • Be observant of how your host’s household runs. If you’re observant, you won’t have to ask too many questions.
  • Keep the bathroom clean and dry. “In our own homes we don’t mind if the water sputters so much, but when you’re a guest it means you probably are using the bathroom more than it would be used, so give everything a little wipe down when you’re done.”
  • Offer to chip in for groceries. “[The offer] doesn’t have to be accepted to be effective — some hosts like to do everything themselves and that’s OK, but at least you can say you offered.”
  • Always make a good effort to figure something out before asking your host — be a quick study.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.