Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mi Casa Es Su Casa! Or Is It?

This post is going to see oddly out-of-place for my blog, maybe, but you'll have to trust me. I have a lot of training and experience teaching skills for communication.  I'm not saying I know everything there is to know about communication, (and my students clearly don't always embrace my wisdom), but do my best.


If you are ever a guest in our home, I think you will be very happy; Mr.4444 especially loves to entertain (cook!) for company, and he is often heard saying, "Here is your first drink--From here on out, you know where everything is--Get it yourself--Our house is your house."  We always enjoy company but have never had anyone stay here more than a few days.

A friend of mine has invited a family member to live with her and her family because she is going through a tough time financially. These days, parents often agree to have their adult children move back in with them, too. Whether such an arrangement is made between friends or family members, things can go very well or result in strained (or worse--the end of) relationships if not handled well.  One way to avoid this is to communicate. Here are my recommendations for setting up a successful longer-term house guest situation:

If possible, sit down before the move-in to talk about the issues I've outlined below. If that's not possible, have the meeting as soon as possible. Also, (and this is important) at that meeting, choose a date a few weeks out from the move-in to sit down and talk about how things are going. Agree that that meeting will take place no matter how things are going. That way, it won't be awkward to have the meeting. 

First, hold a meeting to discuss the important topics below. If necessary, put things in writing and sign it to indicate clear understanding for both of you (athough, if this is necessary, you might want to rethink this arrangement.) At the very least, you need to have this list (edited for your own needs, of course).

What is the time frame for this stay? A few weeks? A month? Three months?  Are you comfortable leaving it open-ended? If you have one, what is your must-end-by date?

*Who will set/clear the table for meals? (which meals?)
*Dishes-Must they be done immediately? Do you share philosophies on this subject?
*How will laundry be handled?
*Hair in the tub? Who gets to handle that?
*Snow removal/Lawn Care

*Are you morning/evening people? How are you going to work that out?
*What about TV/Movie watching?
*Do you expect to inform each other of your whereabouts if you won't be home at night? [Worry factor--not just being nosy]

*Does the house guest assume freedom as any other family member? Are any rooms off-limits?
*Do you and your spouse/family have any expectations about having parts of your house to yourself sometimes? (living room, swimming pool, etc.) How will you communicate that?
*Is your guest welcome to bring overnight guests into your home? If yes, under what circumstances?
What expectations are there surrounding the guest being able to invite other guests over (to join in dinner, to entertain themselves, to enjoy the pool, etc.?  (Thanks, Nota, for this addition!)

*Is the house guest going to be responsible for any bills/expenses related to the house? Cable? Water? etc.
*If the house guest is not responsible for financial support, will he/she be expected to do anything else in exchange? i.e. babysitting, lawn work, errands, etc.
*Bathroom Supplies--Will the guest be expected to provide their own shampoo/conditioner/soap?

*Will the house guest be welcome to share all meals with the family?
*Who will shop for groceries? Pay for groceries? How often?
*Will the house guest have a special cupboard for his/her own favorite snacks, or will everyone just share everything? [Some things matter!  For example, I have a House Rule: Whoever bakes the cookies always gets the last one.]
*Who will cook meals? Will you share responsibilities?

*If you have pets, how does the house guest feel about them?
*Does the house guest have a pet of his/her own? What are the expectations for that pet?
*If you both have pets, who will pay for expenses related to the pet? i.e. pet food, damage, etc.

*Will your house guest be welcome to use your vehicles? If so, which ones? Under what circumstances?
*If sharing your vehicle, do you have any expectations regarding paying for gas, oil, etc.

*What role, if any, will your house guest have in caring for your children. Discipline? Babysitting?

*Telephone-If you have a land-line phone, do you have expectations about how that phone is answered? [I find it annoying when people just say, "Hello?" when they answer someone else's phone.]
*Are there any pet peeves that either of you feel strongly about?
are there any house etiquette rules? putting down toilet seats? observing recycling? that need to be observed. We usually give each other 20-30 minutes of "wind down" time upon coming home before we get into any heavy discussions or mention to-do lists. That kind of thing. (from Nota)
*Is your house guest to be considered a member of your family? If so, does that mean they'll be invited to join  you on family outings or vacation trips?
*Who controls the thermostat in your house? [Hey--Some people really care about that stuff!]

I'd be very interested in other suggestions you would add to this list.

Check-In Point--
After a few weeks, it's important that you sit down and talk about how things are going, even if you think they're going just fine.  Each of you should talk about what's going well and what might not be going as well or as expected; talk about how your expectations (both of yours) have fit or not fit with the reality. Refer back to your list for reference points. If it's going well, congratulate each other on how you've managed to make something potentially-icky go well. Then make a plan to meet again in a month or two (put it on the calendar!).

Good luck!


  1. This is great and very appropriate for me to read. MY MOTHER-IN-LAW MOVED IN WITH US IN DECEMBER. Maybe I need to go over this list with her. :)

  2. Over the years I had long term guests and we did sit down and discuss many of the things on your list before they moved in. Sometimes it was successful and sometimes not. I am so glad that our little hippie house is only large enough for hubby and me. I think his sister is coming for a few days in Oct so we will see how that goes. She is the only one we would even consider having here and sharing our special world.

  3. Anything longer than a week is too long in my book!

  4. We've never had an extended stay guest. I think it would be challenging to say the least.

  5. I think because of the way the economy is right now, this is more important than ever!

  6. Very practical post! I would add about the guest of guests - it's not just an overnight thing. What expectations are there surrounding the guest being able to invite other guests over (to join in dinner, to entertain themselves, to enjoy the pool...)? I usually know every person that's in my house and I'm a private person, so for me - a guest having friends I don't know over would make me uncomfortable.

    Also, are there any house etiquette rules? putting down toilet seats? observing recycling? that need to be observed. We usually give each other 20-30 minutes of "wind down" time upon coming home before we get into any heavy discussions or mention to-do lists. That kind of thing.

  7. I am neither planning to have, nor to be an "extended stay" guest, but your list is very comprehensive. And the most important thing is to have the meetings no matter how you think things are going!

    It is important to have a way to communicate other than significant looks or snide remarks. (How do I know this?) How can I store this list in case of need?

  8. Good list containing a variety of topics.
    Everyone's situation is different yet there are common aspects. Communication is a key thing because letting bad feelings grow too long inside only leads to explosive scenarios.
    Just 2 more thoughts -
    Ask the guest(s) what one thing bugs them that you would not probably know - then discuss.
    second - do you think part of your list could be used for premarital discussions?

  9. I think this is an awesome post! I wish we had thought of a LOT of those things before allowing our adult child to move back home. The other thing that I wish we had done was to write out what we had agreed to and have her sign it so she could never say "I didn't know ..."

  10. The only time we've had an extended stay guest (aside from our kids- hahaha) is one winter when my father in law came from Florida and was going to stay with us a few days. Turns out he was actually fighting some depression and he stayed with us about 6 weeks. This was back before we had kids, early in our marriage. It was never an issue. We just flowed along with it- especially as we slowly learned that he was seeing a professional, he was struggling, etc. He needed to be with family. What was interesting was this was still a tender point in a type of reconciliation between my husband and his dad and I think that 6 week period ended up being instrumental for them.

  11. Wow! You are good. It's funny as I read this I'm watching State of Georgia in the background. And she's complaining about her aunt moving in. She could've used your advice. I think you definitely could write a book of this stuff, a book of tough conversations and how to have them.

  12. I love discussing stuff in the comments section! You offer so much! Thank you. I will respond via email but plan to add your suggestions to the post itself. :)

  13. Wow! What a fantastic and extensive list. The additional comments and suggestions are great too! Thanks!

    Like Ann, I would like to store this info. How can we do this?


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