What Makes a Good House Guest…..and, how to survive (and enjoy) family and friends.

if you build it they will come|positively Jane

If you build it they will come….

As my husband and I got older we had many many conversations about where we wanted to retire.  We called it our FRP - Final Resting Place. That’s all my kids heard about (probably for about 10 years!). Even tho we thought we were moving to SC, one thing we knew for sure…..we wanted to move to a home that would be a ‘destination’ for our family and friends.

We found a lake in GA and built a home. All of the rooms that we use (except for my craft room - see that post HERE if you haven't already seen it - a dream come true for me) are on the main level. The guest rooms are upstairs where my family and friends can have as much privacy as they need. We have lived in our new home for 10 months now. The winter months were pretty quiet for us which was great - we spent our time unpacking and organizing. And then…..summer hit and wham…..a destination place we definitely became. We have had family or friends about every other week that we are home (we do try to squeeze in vacations for ourselves now and again). And, we love it!

But I am older now….
Now, something happens to the body as we get older...actually a lot of things....but, in this context, it slows down.  The things I was able to do, and take in my stride when I was younger, are harder now. I get tired :) I have talked to multiple women that are retired, and even tho they love their family, they always end up doing the all the work, aren’t very happy and are just plain tired. I don’t want to be unhappy or just plain tired. I want to enjoy my family and friends.

So, in the interest of everyone having fun and relaxing (including me) I asked a friend of mine how she handled all of her guests.  Mo lives at the beach and has someone from April thru October....and she enjoys each and every one. Mo has her ‘Beach Rules’ (now at the end of her rules she gives a list of the local hotels…in case her Beach Rules are not acceptable. I don’t think anyone has stayed in a hotel tho!) My husband and I then came up with our own ‘Welcome to the Lake’ , which we send out to everyone who is coming. So far so good!

if you build it they will come|positively jane

Team cooking -
When all of my kids moved out I decided that they were now ‘adults’ and that mom no longer had to be their ‘chief cook and bottle washer’. So I put ‘team cooking’ into effect. I assign teams (2 per team) and ask them what they would like to cook.  The 1st team that responds cooks that meal. I.e. - if Fajitas are chosen then that is the only Mexican meal for the week.  They have learned to be pretty quick with responses AND, they start saving recipes before they even arrive - I love that.

if you build it they will come|positively jane

Because they are my kids, I ask them to send me their grocery list and I make sure to have all the food items that they need. The team is responsible for not only the cooking, but for the setting of the table and ALL their own clean up.  (I learned this the hard way....my husband and son will make bacon, eggs, and French toast....they use every pan in the kitchen and don’t clean up as they go along.)  So, if ‘You Use It - You Wash It’ is my motto. (I think that should be a sign in my kitchen - what do you think? I will make one with my new Cricut - stay tuned Or - maybe aprons…..that would be so fun). I mix up the teams for each visit. Heaven forbid they should get comfortable with each other :)

Other family members and friends -
So, what happens when other family members and friends come to hang out for a while? Again, I want everyone to have fun and relax - but my home is not a hotel where they can laze around and do nothing...or bring nothing. So....

  1. I will text or email before their visit and ask what they would like for breakfast and lunch. I make sure I have that in the house. Do they drink anything special (like coke)? Anything I should know before they arrive?

  2. I let them know that we are mostly keto and snacks are at a minimum so they might like to bring their own.

  3. I ask them if they would like to pick a night and help cook dinner. If they ask me ‘what can I bring’ I usually ask them to stop at the local grocery store and buy the ingredients for that meal. Usually every one asks if we have any dietary restrictions before they come, but in case they don’t ask, I will let them know I am no dairy, wheat/grains, and sugar.

  4. I send out our ‘Welcome to the Lake!’ This pretty much covers it all anyway.

  5. And, when they are here, I am not shy in asking for help. I realize that some people don’t really don’t know what to do or feel like they are in the way...so they do nothing. Almost everyone is grateful to be asked and wants to do something! I learned the hard way, that if I don’t ask, I grumble. And, I hate to grumble - it is not very becoming! Asking is the better alternative for me!

Welcome to the Lake!
(This is an excerpt of what we send out. Click on the button below for the complete letter that you can print out, copy, and send to your family and friends. One of our friends wants to frame it and put it in his vacation cottage in PA!)

Kitchen and Food – 
- Bring any adult beverages that you would like to drink – we don’t have a very large selection. 
- Bring whatever food or snacks that you would like. If you would like to cook a meal, that would be great (takes the responsibility off of me every night). We have a grill, green egg smoker, steam oven and regular oven.  We have a few dietary restrictions and would be happy to let you know what they are.
- We think family meals should be a technology free zone so we can gather and chat – (I will have a basket for you to put your phones in).
- If you open the dishwasher and the dishes are clean, please empty it and put the dishes away. If you aren’t sure where they go, leave them on the counter and I will put them away (so I can find them later).
- You can either wash dishes by hand (which includes drying and putting them away) or place them in the dishwasher. Only dishes in the dishwasher (not pots and pans, tupperware, etc.)

Children -
- In the interest of minimizing spills (stains) and crumbs (ants) – we ask that children consume all food and drinks at the table or the kitchen counter. (probably should apply to some adults too - especially me).
- Vacations are more fun when kids are rested and adults can have uninterrupted conversations. Please have all children, age 6 and under, in their bedrooms by 9 PM.  

Bedrooms – 
- Please make your bed every day – it gives me a feeling of peace. We have plenty of dressers and closets so feel free to unpack and feel like you are home.

Misc - 
- No smoking in or around the house.  I don’t like the smell. Thanks. 
- Do not dive off the dock, boat or jet ski – we have shallow water and floating logs and we want you to be safe.


My actual ‘Welcome to the Lake’ letter is available for you too. It will be delivered directly to your inbox. Have fun!


I have no idea if any of this resonates with you or not. The folks who come to stay with us are not strangers. They know us, our personalities and idiosyncrasies, and are usually not surprised :).

What about you?
Do you have a summer house/cottage/vacation destination? Does all (or most) of the responsibility fall on your shoulders? Is everyone ‘on vacation’ and forgetting that you are not the Ritz Carlton or the Hilton Garden Inn? Are you enjoying your family and friends? If not, give it some thought and figure out how that can change for you - maybe a ‘Welcome to the Cottage’ letter is something you need to do - or something similar. Or, start the team cooking - we really do love our team cooking!

Or, are you a house guest that is forgetting that you are staying in someone’s home….usually for free…and is not being a team player? Make a bed. Pick up your stuff. Chop some veggies. Take your hosts out to dinner. Do the dishes. I am sure there is something you can do. A little goes a long way.


I did search the internet and found some interesting articles about what to do or not do as a guest in someone’s home. Here are a fewWhat Not to Do’s-

  • Forget to ask about the house rules.

  • Leave a trail of clutter and take over the house with your own stuff.

  • Leave your wet towels on the bed or floor.

  • Stay up all night watching TV or blast music. Never cause your hosts to lose sleep OR, stay up so late you can’t participate in daily activities.

  • Smoke in a non smoking home.

  • Be inconsiderate of time and plans - ask when dinner will be ready and be on time.

  • Bring your dog or cat without prior permission.

  • Leave your dirty dishes in the sink.

  • Stay too long.

  • Speak negatively about the host family when you leave.

I found these ‘What to Do’s’ -

  • Arrive with a gift

  • When you arrive ask how ‘things are done’ to avoid misunderstandings. I.e - should you take your shoes off in the house.

  • Lend a hand.

  • Make your bed and keep you bedroom clean and tidy. Hang up your wet towels.

  • Treat the hosts to a nice meal.

  • If you have dietary restrictions bring your own food - do not ask your host to provide special food for you.

  • Keep your stuff out of common areas and don’t clutter up the house.

  • Send a thank you note. (Since I make cards and mail them regularly this particularly touches my heart).


And that seems to cover it I think. So far this summer I have enjoyed everyone that has come. And, I am not dreading any future guests. My college roommates will be here when this post goes out (we have known each other 48 years). See the post about Sparkle HERE. My 2 younger kids, their spouses and a few of their in-laws will be here for a week. My sister and mom will be here for almost a week. And, my Pottery Barn co-workers will be here for about 4 days. Whew!

And, if you get a chance, check out Nicole’s blog and store - Studio 46:10. She is an awesome calligrapher. She embroiders on t shirts, stitches on hoops and makes awesome place cards (some are even stitched!). She also has a Podcast about ‘Faith, Marriage….and Everything in Between’. Podcast HERE. This is her YouTube version ‘Loving Your Wives and Respecting Your Husbands’. I promise you will enjoy her.

Big Hugs,

Jane