The Forever House Guest – Is the Worst Yet to Come?

Have you ever opened your home to someone, say, the son of a friend or a relative out of generosity with the assumption that they would be staying for a week or two and have a month or two go by. Did the situation come to a head when they either moved out, almost by force and with ill feelings or there would be 'difficulties' between you and your spouse or other family members?

Where do you draw the line in the sand between open hospitality and being taken advantage of? We teach our children the value of helping our fellow man. The preacher preaches that it is only right to help someone in need if it is in our means to do so and society has taught us that being charitable is what is expected of us; "I didn't raise you in a barn!" the words reverberate, banging around our heads, taking on the ominous sound of our mothers' voice! But what are the expectations between you and your houseguest. Usually we actually do the right thing and make the offer and that's fine, until some of the rules start to become a little blurred and tiny slights begin to raise their dark heads. I mean, lets face it; a seven-day period should never have turned into sometime before the next new moon!

What guidelines should you set for the person you are accommodating: limited time on the computer so they don't dominate the machine 24/7; limited access for those who perhaps know more than you do and can make changes to your programs or add a program without your knowledge and approval. After all, changes don't just 'happen' by themselves! Do you know what your visitor is doing on your computer when you are in bed and they are up until 4 am? Perhaps going to bed at 11 pm instead of 4 am so they can get up in the mornings like the rest of your household. How about cleaning up after him or herself in the kitchen or helping around the house more. Going from bad to worse, you become their chauffeur when they don't have wheels and now expect you to drive them places or worst of all, they are out of money and ask you to pay for what they need or want and tell you - very politely, "I'll pay you back!" Break out the truckload of IOU's!

It is an unfortunate side affect that the recipient you, magnanimity, opened your home to for a hebdomad has now overstayed their welcome by one twelfth of a solar year. The backlash has you wondering why you offered in the first place and strongly wishing you never had. The arrangement always starts with the best of intent, as my husband is quick to point out that if you can't help somebody out now and again, what's the point. Well, I hasten to say; there are a few good points to not opening your door quite so easily. When the situation starts to become 'unfriendly', your houseguest has become your house pest and its time for him or her to take their leave of your home so you can have the peace you knew before their arrival.

Even if you are in the right, that nagging feeling of guilt comes into play as perhaps your helpmate or the rest of your kith and kin see your invitee as trying to find employment or an apartment or both, and you, the 'bad guy or girl' wanting them OUT for reasons your ménage don't see. Or the guest may sense their danger and do things in an attempt to sooth your feelings like more help around the house, more consideration of your feelings regarding certain house rules. Still worse can be the sloppy house sitter when you go on holiday for fourteen days and leave specific instructions that they callously ignore. You come home to a house that is in turmoil that you have to immediately set about doing a major clean just to have a place to sit or have a bite to eat!

Perhaps being more careful and choosy isn't such a bad idea and curbing your altruism and your best intentions to people you know something about, is the better precaution to having a virtual to a total stranger in your home who is, beginning to dominate things a little too much. If the situation has become burdensome, have a look at your communication with your boarder or home sitter. Maybe all that is needed is open and friendly chats, as was the case with my own invader this past autumn; my husband and he go on famously but he and I barely spoke, so I began opening conversations with him and that was all that was needed to release the tension and stress we were both feeling. It is stressful having long-term company at anytime no matter who they are, it feels like they are invading your territory; this is compounded when they have a tendency to monopolize a particular aspect of your personal space, like your computer, television or even a family member.

The best defense is twofold: don't open your home at all and suggest the YM/YWCA or make it a point to know something about the person, then based on that, sit down and write out the house routines, presenting them to your lodger with the mutual understanding of exactly how long they have been invited to stay and when you consider that they have over-stayed their welcome. Include your expectations of them and what they can expect from you, with limitations.