We welcome them with open arms, and good intentions, but after a while, it can turn sour. Having house guests is a lesson in communication, patience, tolerance and acceptance — and it works both ways. Sure the company can be great fun, but it’s a lot of work, and after a while, enough is enough. As the old saying goes, “Don’t wear out your welcome.”
My extended family, including close friends, are scattered across the United States and England. In order to see each other, we need to make a huge effort and travel to each other’s homes.
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The flights alone are expensive, especially with a partner and/or children to bring along, so naturally, we offer rooms for our guests to stay in, to help alleviate their costs. But none of us live extravagantly, or have extra guest rooms waiting to be used. So we make do.
At my dad’s, we sleep in his den; at my brother’s, it’s the pull-out bed in the living room. Wherever, we make it work.
Luckily, we haven’t yet made ourselves unwelcome by staying longer than acceptable, but as our family grows, I feel that window of time will shorten. It’s one thing having a girlfriend come and crash on your couch. It’s another when she brings her boyfriend who you don’t necessarily know or like. And it’s yet another when she arrives with crying baby in one arm, over-excited toddler in the other, and all the appropriate paraphernalia.
In our house when someone comes to stay, they get a queen-sized blow-up mattress on my office floor. It’s a decently comfortable bed, with room to move about — but not much. And there’s nowhere really to unpack. But we explain all that before would-be guests make their decision.
Yes, we’ve had visitors stay whom we would have preferred stay elsewhere. On one occasion, we gently suggested some local inexpensive hotels, but to no avail. So we prepared ourselves to make the most of the situation: we purchased food and drink we knew they’d enjoy; I tried to get some work done beforehand so as not to be in their way; and we discussed how we would deal with some of their habits, such as smoking.
The week flew by and we patted ourselves on the back for making it through without incident. Yet, on the way to the airport, our guests thanked us by stating they had felt “cramped” in our home!
Like I said, patience, tolerance and perhaps a bit of humour are necessary when house guests visit.
Try these tips when having guests, or becoming one:
- Don’t overpack. Only bring necessities; offer the basics (towels and toiletries) and the obscure (beach toys, or ski goggles for winter).
- Make some plans so you’re not just stuck in the house. If staying a while, make outside plans, giving your hosts a break.
- Know your limits! Don’t allow people to overstay, and don’t make the same mistake as a guest.