Friday, 26 August 2011

House Guests and How to Survive Them

We love them right? Friends or family who we don't see that often and live too far away to come just for a day or evening. So we offer them a bed / mattress / tent in the garden for the night. That way we get to spend some quality time with them, catch up with how big the kids have got, remark on how much weight they've lost since you last saw them, and generally relax and have a fun time.

Or not.

Let's be honest, it is hard work isn't it?

We have moved about a fair bit and we have friends who have moved around a fair bit so consequently we have friends who are far flung. Some we see quite often, some we don't see much, and some we wish we saw a lot more but distance and time prevent it.

If you have to travel a fair distance to get to see them, then you are going to spend at least one night with them which probably means a weekend and there are only 52 of them a year (last time I counted) so chances are, like me, you only get to see them once or maybe twice a year.

And it is indeed a great pleasure. I love it. If only it wasn't at my house.

It is with a sense of despair that I have realised I may be a bit of a control freak. I do a good "relaxed, laid back, hey no problem" face when underneath I am aching to move that abandoned rucksack, put those shoes somewhere more convenient, or just chivvy them along in our (only) toilet.

Yes, thank you so much for making a coffee but actually I like it a bit stronger and with more milk. 

Oh, you let your children stay up till 10 in the holidays.

To be honest, I would prefer it if you didn't leave your used teabag in the sink.

I used to think that my increased anxiety levels were purely down to the fact that I am not a domestic goddess in any sense. The necessary housework required to ensure that guests would want to cross the threshold and then remain there was a major undertaking, requiring much muttering under my breath and swearing at the hoover, normally accompanied by a bit of bashing, slamming and general blustering through anything in my way. So by the time guests arrived rather than a hostess who floated through offering drinks on arrival accompanied by canapes, I would be snarling at a knot in the hoover cable while spraying Mr Sheen in my wake.

I have since recognised that although housework contributes to house guest stress it is not the whole cause.

I know it must come with age, and I am cringing at myself for the slow transition into my mother (runs screaming from the room), but I like my home, the way it is organised, the routines we have, and the sanctuary it provides. And I get stressed when we have people come and stay. I hope that I have not reached the stage where my guests feel uncomfortable (Mother, take note) and can sense any irritation. I'm pretty sure I haven't tutted at a guest yet and any raising of my eyebrows has been strictly restricted to the back of my guests head. [As a complete aside, I have to mention the time we went to visit my parents only to be welcomed at the door (after a 2 hour drive with 3 young children) with a "Well, better late than never." and a "Don't put your bag there please". Bless.]

It is hard to shuffle your life around to accommodate other people into it (even if it is only temporary) but I know that the reward for doing so is the pleasure of seeing my dear friends and being part of their lives as well as me being part of theirs. And lets not forget that it is very likely I will be a guest in their home too and they will have to put up with my little habits and foibles.

So for the record, here are a couple of my coping strategies for when the invasions happen:
  • Get all the cleaning, ironing, housekeeping done before anyone arrives so you don't have to worry about it or try to do it around anyone else (guests do not appreciate the smell of bleach or the fact that you need Take That at full volume to clean the bathroom).
  • Relax the children's routines a little and work out a compromise of bedtimes to avoid overtired kids and give you some adult time.
  • Discuss food preferences before they come so you don't have awkward "Johnny can't eat fish" conversations 5 minutes before you dish up fish fingers for tea.
  • Have some ideas about what you are going to do and have a plan B just in case.
  • Hide anything that you don't want your guest to see before they arrive (bills, letters, dodgy ornaments) and get out things that you want them to see (like the gift they bought you last birthday that *cough* didn't quite match your decor).
  • If your guest offers to help then accept it and put them to work.

And a little advise for the guest:
  • Remember you are the guest in someone else's home (so don't waltz in with all your "Johnny needs to have semi skimmed lactose free goats milk on his Shreddies in the morning" *smiles sweetly* requests).
  • There is a toilet brush and can of air-freshener in the bathroom for a reason.
  • Don't expect full waitress service.
  • If you offer to help expect that offer to be taken up.
  • Don't expect a lie in.
  • Feel free to make a cup of tea/coffee (black with half a sugar/white with no sugar please).

This post is scheduled to reach you just before your weekend guests arrive.

Photo credit:


  1. All so true - as I have got older I have become less keen on house guests for the reasons you state. Plus I frequently have unexpected teenage ' house guests' on unscheduled sleepovers to deal with leaving me less keen to have any others/ Oh dear, I am definitely sliding slowly but surely into Grumpy Oldom...

  2. All so true - as I have got older I have become less keen on house guests for the reasons you state. Plus I frequently have unexpected teenage ' house guests' on unscheduled sleepovers to deal with leaving me less keen to have any others/ Oh dear, I am definitely sliding slowly but surely into Grumpy Oldom...


  3. Sooo true... As an expat we have so many visitors! Let's just say that some of them will be invited back, and some won't! Emma :)

  4. Great post and so so true! I love having people stay but have learnt to relax and let them put things away in the wrong place - yes that's you MIL!!

  5. I am rubbish at being a host. I buy all sorts of posh food at Waitrose that we can't afford, get super stressed about cleaning and give myself a migraine just in time for the arrival of our guests.

    Or, I go to our friend's house in Guilford and am so happy to be there that I down a bottle of champagne so that I can't put my make up on to go out for dinner. Such a classy bird. But then I am sober for the experience of getting home and finding 4 5 year old and under children still awake at midnight. It's much easier to cope with sober than ratted....

    If only Luxury Family Hotels were cheaper, we'd use them all the time for our meet ups!

  6. I am so with you on this! We are on our third weekend of house guests. People supposodly come to help, but in actual fact I just spend two days cleaning up after everyone and making a million cups of tea. I need to be rich and have a granny annexe....

  7. Well, here's one. I had my daughter's fiance as a house guest for six months. He came as the night in shining armor to give emotional 'support' while I was going thru radiation for breast cancer. He really thought he was doing me a tremendous favor. He had to have a dog. We grew to love the dog. But in the interim it was quite stressful. Our carpet is ruined. I didn't ask for rent as he was 'family'. My big mistake. He left, ring in tote, took the dog, Never said, Thank you for having me in your home and thank you for all the tasty meals and doing my laundry and allowing me free reign. I was so stressed out that I began to lose sleep. I dreaded getting up in the morning and couldn't just go in the kitchen and prepare myself something without worrying about Mr Save The Day. He had no clue. He actually thought we were lucky to have him there. He helped out here and there, but nothing huge. It's expensive having an extended house guest. Not just monetarily, but emotionally as well. Never again.


Oooh, I do like a good comment :-)