How long will the visit last? You may not have an exact answer, but you still need to talk about it. Come up with a ballpark figure. Are you looking at days, weeks or months? Again, this may feel awkward and not very gracious, but it needs to be discussed. If you are the host, the best thing may be to state a time in your invitation. “I’d love to have you stay for a month while you look for a new place.” If you are the guest, give your best guess about how long you may need. If you really don’t know, just ask what would work best for the host.
Who will cover groceries and meals? Do you want to eat together or separately? Really think about this and come up with a plan. This may be one area where things aren’t cut and dried. You may go with the flow: someone shops; someone cooks; both throw money at the groceries. For the guest, if you are at all able, it’s great to be generous here. If you don’t cook, offer to order takeout.
Where does everyone belong? Sleeping arrangements are straightforward, but figuring out public spaces can be tricky. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law both work from home. In the summer Thom’s de facto office is the screened-in porch overlooking the lake. We kept out of there to give him literal and figurative space. When Aunt Dawn was on the phone or at her desk, we tried to leave her alone. For the guest, are there certain places the host would prefer to keep private? Are there times of day when everyone needs to be out of the house? Questions like these can help a host recognize and articulate some basic needs without feeling ungracious.
What are the habits of the house? Do the hosts take off their shoes at the door? Retire early? Get up late? Are you quiet in the morning? Who makes the coffee? Paying attention to the seemingly little things can make a big impact on everyone’s comfort and happiness.
Where will stuff be stored? Where should the guest park the car? Hang a coat? Store shoes? For the guest, ask your host if there are any no man’s lands. Be explicit: “Is there any place it will drive you crazy to see our junk?” Dawn is easygoing, but when I pressed her about pet peeves, she realized she liked to keep her island clear. The corner near the front entry was a natural landing spot for the household’s miscellanea, but once I knew her preference, I was on our family’s stuff like a hawk.
All told our family stayed with Thom and Dawn for six weeks before we found a good rental and began the arduous task of rebuilding. All of us look back at this part of that terrible summer with tenderness. My children still say, “Remember when we lived with Aunt Dawn and Uncle Thom? I loved it there.”
How about you? Have you ever hosted a long-term guest or been one? Please share your story in the Comments.
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