So if you’re reading this, chances are you are (or about to be) out of a place to stay. But sometimes it can be difficult to stay somewhere when you don’t know your timeframe and have cranky hosts. So he’s some tips to being a good house guest:
1. Announce your time frame
Don’t give the ambiguous “just for awhile”. That easily turns into weeks or months of mooching. First off, you need to know yourself what your goal time is. Is this a transition while your looking for a job? Is this a ‘my parents kicked me out and I need to get back on their goodside’? Once you know your timeframe, communicate it to your host.
2. Keep your space tidy
Whether your sleeping on a couch, bed, or in the corner, keep your space tidy. This also means that you don’t move all your worldly possessions into all the crevices that are their house. No collections, no knick-knacks, you should have your bare necessities. Ideally you should have two bags that you keep your stuff constantly tucked away in. Remember, your host is doing you a favor. You can do a favor by not trashing the area of the house they’ve lent you. (and I don’t care if their house is a wreck or straight out of an episode of horders. Don’t contribute to the mess)
3. Help around the house
No matter how good you think you’re doing, your host has probably more stress just by having one extra person around. You can help alleviate this by doing chores and the like. (especially if they have a job and you don’t. nothing is more frustrating then coming home after a long days work and seeing a ‘freeloader’ lounging in your wreck of a house) In the same breath, if they are doing chores, make a point to get up and help. They will appreciate that you are considerate enough to offer.
4. Never take something without asking
This can be as simple as a leftover portion of food in the fridge. If you don’t ask, and they had plans for that food, they’ll be pissed. This counts for everything, not just food. You may think, “oh, its just a roll of toilet paper” or “its just a couple pens” but small actions like this will stress your host and make them think of you as untrustworthy.
5. Follow their rules
I don’t care if they have rules like “lights out at eight”! These people have put you up, its their house, so follow the stinking rules! Make sure you know the rules on the first day as well. You want to know what’s expected before you accidentally break a rule. This can be difficult however, especially if they have rules like “no smoking” and you’re used to a pack a day. If any of their rules seem overly difficult, you can try to find a compromise, but know in the end they don’t have to give you any slack. Be grateful for anything you get.
6. Show that you are making steps to leave
You don’t want your hosts to think that you’re fine mooching. If your goal is to find a job and move out, drop hints in conversation that you remember this goal. Maybe mention different places you’ve applied to or interviews you’ve had.
7. Don’t pester
You have to read your host and see how much interaction they actually want. If you’re with an old friend, maybe they’re fine hanging out… but what if you’re with a friend’s parents? They may be fine with hosting you, but don’t want to converse and hear you complain about your boyfriend’s sister who said this and that at some party. Figure out how much interaction your host wants and stick with it.
8. Dont burn bridges
Eventually you will leave and hopefully on good terms. If you follow the above rules, you should be alright, but make sure that you communicate how appreciative you are that they kept you for so long. If you can afford it, buy them a small present. (a restaurant gift card and a bag of candy is an easy gift, and costs a whole lot less than rent in an apartment would’ve cost) If you really are dirt poor, at least a heart felt hand written note can leave your hosts feeling good about putting you up. This is important in life in general, but for hosts especially since if you fall on hard times and need a place again, its nice to know some people that have enjoyed your company before.
So there you have it. Follow these rules and the experience should be relatively civil for all parties involved.
(and yes, many of these rules have been broken by myself and friends. So don’t make our mistakes! Follow the rules!)