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Phoenix Forward magazine

How to be stress-free when you have houseguests

Maintain your sanity when houseguests visit

Your mother plans to stay with you for the holidays. Or your old college roommate is coming for a weeklong visit. Or your cousin has invited herself to spend the weekend at your tiny apartment. You want to enjoy the company of your friends and family, but you want to maintain your sanity, too. What to do?

“There are some easy, efficient ways to enjoy your houseguests’ company,” says Debrah Hall, PhD, an online instructor in the psychology program for University of Phoenix. Here, Hall offers her top tips for stress-free hosting:


Set boundaries.

Explain gently but firmly your house rules. Don’t want guests eating other than in the kitchen or dining room? Are some rooms strictly off-limits? Do you prefer not to share your computer and to keep your cat inside? Say so. Setting parameters before or immediately after your guests arrive will help make the visit more pleasant for everyone.


Get out and about.

Plan some activities outside your home. A trip to a local art gallery or theater, or even a walk in a nearby park, will get your guests out of the house and give them less opportunity to mess up the kitchen or hog the TV remote.

In fact, Hall says, it’s a good idea to create a list of attractions for houseguests who might be interested in taking advantage of what your community has to offer — museum tours, high-end shopping, must-try restaurants — without you.

“If you live in a city with great amenities, give your guests a short list of places to go see and how to get there,” suggests Hall, who is head of the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences in Houston. “Hosts need some time off, too.”


Maintain your own schedule.

Having houseguests, Hall says, doesn’t mean giving up your entire life — and good guests know this. Be up front about when you’ll be away and when you’ll be joining your out-of-towners on outside jaunts. Email your schedule in advance of your guests’ arrival or post it on the fridge once they get to your home.


Know a freeloader when you see one.

Friends who are between apartments or who want to crash on your couch while they look for a job are not houseguests, Hall says. “They’re taking advantage,” she emphasizes. “And you have the right — and the necessity — to say, ‘Let’s start thinking about other friends you might stay with starting next week.’”


Keep your needs in mind, too.

If guests are overstaying their welcome or are behaving badly, Hall says, a generous host will at least pretend to take the blame. “After a week of bad houseguests, you can just say, ‘I find that I’m needing my space,’” she says. “It’s about getting back to your life and your serenity at any cost sometimes.”


Accept offers of help.

Guests who want to pitch in should be given chores. They can do dishes, walk the dog, set the table or cook a side dish. Most guests want to feel useful. If guests are offended when asked to help out, Hall notes, they have the option of leaving.

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