In my book “Hosting With Style: Beretta Fleur’s Guide to Parties and Homemaking,” I wrote a chapter called “Gracious Hospitality,” and I’ve been living it for the past month.
Here in West Palm, Florida, my sister’s family and my husband and I have been co-habitating under one roof. My husband and I help out with cleaning, organizing, grocery shopping, and childcare while they give us a roof over our heads while we’re looking for long-term jobs and a home. It’s working out really great!
Here’s how I’ve been helping to make our Family Compound feel like a functional space….
1. ABC: Always Be Cleaning
Except for when I’m working or relaxing with the family for a few hours, I’m doing spot cleaning. A 3 bedroom/2 bath pool home shared by four adults, two kids, and three pets doesn’t keep itself even mildly organized. So I circulate from room to room every few hours, doing little tasks that make everyone’s life easier. This can mean, while en route to the shower, picking up a fresh stack of towels from the laundry room, or unloading the dishwasher (a task I loathe, by the way) so that my coffee mug doesn’t start a cavalcade of dirty dishes into the sink.
If you work during the week and don’t have the luxury of being your hosts’ live-in maid, do your hosts a favor and either set aside a half day or a couple evenings to play cleaning catch up.
2. Keep Busy With OPB: Other People’s Busywork
Time stands still for one man or woman only, and that is the man or woman who is sitting on the couch waiting for a second interview phone call. If that’s you, then Gracious Hospitality can work in your favor. Your job, besides looking for a job, is now Errand Boy. Take the car (or your own) and go to the grocery store. Wash the car. Pick up the dry cleaning. Return stuff to the store. Get the mail. Do some hand mending, drop off junk at Goodwill, take the cat to get spayed, take the pool water to get tested. Do the things for your hosts that you never had time to do for yourself when you had a job.
It's hard to believe that this time last year, I was "living" outside in a park downtown at Occupy Toronto, with several hundred other people.... Read more
3. Watch The Kids
In France or Manhattan, you’d be an expensive Au Pair instead of Intrusive Relative Kicking the Youngest Child to the Couch. So cheer up and know your worth as a provider of free child or pet care.
Help them do homework or clean their rooms. Teach them to swim or ride a bike. Sit for them to give your hosts a night off. Shuttle them to and/or from school, make lunches, make them snacks, and play with them. If your hosts have pets, pack the pups off to the dog park, groomer, or vet. Trust me, you’re useful, because it takes a village to raise a child or pet.
4. Feed The Masses
Grocery shopping for several people can climb into the hundreds per week. I like to save money by buying in bulk, so every week or so my husband and I pop off to Costco for a bunch of ground turkey, chicken, and veggies. Then I spend a few days a week cooking some simple meals that please everyone and make yummy leftovers. A household favorite here is Turkey Meatballs, various pastas, cheese, and steamed veggies. We set it up like a buffet and everyone makes it how he or she likes it. I prefer meatballs over veggies with red sauce, while my niece only eats plain spaghetti with butter and cheese.
Another thing we like to do is grilling out. Just buy some bulk foods of choice, marinate for an hour, and grill. It feels like a party, even on a weekday.
If you can’t cook, spring for a pizza once a week for the family, or buy groceries that are ready to eat and easy to prepare. Mac N’ Cheese is a general crowd pleaser, and it’s a couple bucks. (If you wanna get fancy, mix it with a can of albacore tuna fish and steamed sweet peas.)
There are millions of great recipes online for everyone from the carnivore to the gluten and free vegan. Recipe.com and Supercook.com have recipes you can generate from what’s on hand in the pantry or fridge.
So how do YOU make sure to be an awesome crash pad guest?
Comments on 4 ways to be an awesome crash pad guest
Great tips! I try and abide by these rules every summer when visiting my aunt and uncle, which tends to be an all family affair of ~15 people, which have now seeped into the rest of my life as one roommate of six. Roommate A may have been the one to leave that glass on the table and forgotten it, but that doesn’t mean it has to sit there until Roommate A remembers about the glass from two weeks ago. Same things goes for chores! Roommate B’s job might be trash duty, but whoever fills the trash up so the lid can no longer close should take the trash out and change the bag.
Ahaha! Growing up we ate macaroni with tuna & peas all the time. Even now when I stay with my sister, that’s usually what we end up making for lunch. Sometimes people think it’s a bizarre dish, so when we’re together we know the other “gets it” when we get nostalgic about our childhood lunches.
Great tips! Errands and “busy work” sometimes take up mental space and add stress if you’re trying to figure out when you can get out of work early before the place closes, so having someone take care of that for you would be so helpful.
It seems these tips could also apply to your own space when your partner is working extra long hours to get ready for an event or for students with exams, etc!
And don’t forget the thank-you card after the fact. I have found that they go a long way towards remembering the good times and forgetting the bumps that occurred as everyone looks back on that time.
Oh yes. In fact, now that we’ve moved on and gotten our job/place situation straightened out, I’m making a DVD of the photos/videos we took during our stay as a “thank you for the memories and hospitality” gift. Great point!!
Really helpful tips! I wish our long-term guest would read this….
One thing to add maybe: Make sure to give your hosts some nights to themselves. I really miss those evening my husband and me used to spend on the couch with wine and cheese and 4 hours of some stupid show, talking about our nerdy thoughts of the day. With a guest there, this just doesn’t happen. Also, sex is better when I know there is no one in the other room…
Yep that’s covered in depth in the chapter of my book… that and Limit Your Personal Drama… lol… that’s a really good point to bring up here too.
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