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Oct 14, 2012 08:22 AM

An open letter to my house guest....


Dear Houseguest --

We are so glad that you could come to see us, and we had a great time visiting with you and showing you around the city.

I sincerely appreciate your tolerance when we had to do something for work, and respect your ability to head out on your own. I sincerely appreciate your keeping things reasonably neat and tidy -- my kids are expected to hang up wet towels and make their it's nice that you didn't have to be asked to obey the house rules.

I also appreciate your efforts to clean up the kitchen and load the dishwasher....but....

The fact that my kitchen is not arranged like yours should not have been taken as an invitation to reshuffle my kitchen to meet your expectations, particularly when you didn't cook in my kitchen. I have specific places where I store things, and your efforts to re-organize me and my system while I was at work mostly just irked the snot out of me. Rearranging the front row of spices wasn't help -- it left me shuffling through the cabinet while things lurched out of control on the stove because I didn't know you moved things, and I don't know what your system is.

Really? If I tell you to just leave my kitchen alone because I know where everything is, I expected you'd take that as a real answer, not some vague protestation --- and your actions indicated that you feel my system and my kitchen aren't up to your standards.

So next time, really -- stay out of my kitchen. I want you to come back; I want you to enjoy yourself -- but my kitchen is MY kitchen and MY domain and you need to keep your mitts off, and since you can't help yourself -- just keep out.

    1. re: Uncle Bob

      that's just it -- it wasn't!

      My MIL and I get along quite well, and she wouldn't do that!

      1. re: sunshine842

        Kinda thought it wasn't your MIL...but had to ask. ~~~ For me, this person would 'neva' be a house guest of mine again. ~~~ If you're gonna be there at all times so you can monitor her.. then that's another matter. ~~~ I wonder if she went through your 'sock' drawers....maybe checked to see if ya had any holes in your underwear....

    2. I'm sure most of us have experienced something like that to some extent when hosting house guests. If they were staying with us 10 months out of the year, their attempts at being "helpful" might become an issue. If they come to stay with us for short visits infrequently, their good intentions would not be of significant concern. I have more important issues in life to be fretting about. Of course if they are good friends I would feel comfortable expressing my feelings to them in a manner that would get the point across and if they were truly good friends they would respect our wishes as the homeowners.

      Were these guests friends of yours? Did you mention anything about your preferences?

      10 Replies
      1. re: Fowler

        Yes, they were friends (I've never had a houseguest who was a stranger...) -- and yes, I did ask this person to not "help" -- a day or two earlier, they'd put something away and it took me 20 minutes to find it -- and I did mention that I have specific places for specific things.

        (and I get quirks of personalities, too -- but I was just a little stunned because it wouldn't ever even cross my mind to reshuffle anyone else's kitchen without their knowledge and consent -- especially if was just a temporary visitor. It leaves me rummaging through all my drawers and cabinets, because it was a lot of items -- including things I didn't even use during the visit -- and it's driving me bananas. )

        1. re: sunshine842

          Wow, as my gramma used to say, the NERVE of some people!" I get irked when DH consistently puts my implements in the wrong spots...I'd be mighty miffed if someone deliberately went against my wishes and rearranged my stuff!

          Though I've got to admit a desire to redo some of my sister's drawers and cabinets...but I subdue the monster.

          1. re: sunshine842

            I guess if they refused to respect my wishes and it was only a short term visit I would simply remind myself that they are guests and spending time with them is more important than the annoyance of hunting for this gadget or that spice in the rack. If I could not get past their attempts to be "helpful", I would probably not invite them to return. Problem solved either way.

            Thank goodness they did not try to be helpful and do the laundry. They would probably mix the blacks with the whites with the reds all in hot water!

            1. re: Fowler

              They are a guest in my home and they are taking it upon themselves to rearrange MY things in MY home to suit THEIR preferences.

              I took time off work (there were things I couldn't miss), stayed up late talking and laughing, prepared at least one meal per day for this person, and two or three a few times, and made no complaints about the bathroom being tied up, etc., etc., etc....

              and this isn't one or two items -- this is a long list -- from misplaced dishes to the rearranged spice rack to putting things away that I keep on the counter for a reason.

              I'd have been less peeved had they worn my clothing out of my dresser.

          2. re: Fowler

            <I'm sure most of us have experienced something like that to some extent when hosting house guests?>

            I've never had this happen and I've hosted many house guests. I would interpret my house guest's 'helping' as a message to me that their way is much better than mine. Sunshine should not have to mention her's her kitchen, her home and her way of doing things.
            It's rude and insensitive.

            1. re: latindancer

              >>> I would interpret my house guest's 'helping' as a message to me that their way is much better than mine.<<<

              I must have too much of a soft heart because I believe that when a friend tries to help me they are genuinely doing something that they believe is helpful. I am also secure and do not view their attempts to help as some sinister way of sending me a message that "their way is much better than mine".

              We must have vastly different views of our friends and their motives.

              1. re: Fowler

                there's a fine line there -- putting dishes away, even if they're in the wrong place, is definitely an attempt to help and I wouldn't interpret it as a passive-aggressive swipe at my kitchen. Frustrating yes, but but overall a good intention.

                Much as I like my visitor, I couldn't help but interpret the myriad little "fixes" as a not-too-subtle hint that my kitchen and my ways aren't up to their standard -- doubly so when this person mentioned several times that they don't cook much at home.

                Throwing away sponges - a new one!, putting things away in cabinets, and moving the fruit bowl from the place where it has stood for several years is not a benign "trying to help" -- I cannot imagine what one's justification might be for re-organizing someone else's spice cabinet, **especially** when that person didn't cook a single dish in my kitchen, other than to imply that they know my needs and my kitchen requirements better than I do....which is NOT helpful to me nor to our friendship.

                As before -- no lost sleep -- but there will be limits imposed should this person return for another visit.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  My future plans with said person would be a joint vacation together as opposed to staying at your home. That way you get the quality time without their invasive reorganizing.

                  1. re: Dcfoodblog

                    and if it's a rental cottage how confusing can the generic place settings for 4 and the obligatory disposable S+P shakers get? (smirk)

                    that's when the washing-up reaches critical mass.

                2. re: Fowler

                  "We must have vastly different views of our friends and their motives"

                  To each his/her own.
                  If my friend chose to come into my kitchen and "re-organize me and my system" as Sunshine stated yes....the message to me would be that my way just didn't measure up and perhaps my guest's way was more efficient/better.
                  My friends would never be that presumptuous.

            2. WITH YOU 110%

              Up to your standards,not just like yours.I don't give one tiny little hair on a rat's ass.

              Fortunately for me and our friends,all of us are with you.If I can't find it,what good is it.You own it for a reason and keep it in a PARTICULAR PLACE for a reason.

              Sue & Steve BIL& WIFE are in the charter yacht business.A galley kitchen is purposed down to the last dime size patch.THEY UNDERSTAND ...and do the captain and staff keep helpful meddlers out.YOU BET
              Three neighbors on the same corner in Chevy Chase always took care of each other and beasties for trips and bad weather.Not one of us EVER put anything away,not trusting the memory to exact.If I needed something,found it in a cupboard and used,it was washed and left in PLAIN SIGHT.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lcool

                Love when guests wash the dishes for me, hate when they put them away. Now even worse, I have an in-home aide that comes a few hours a week and not only can't I find my cups, knives nor utensils without a major search; I told her not to do the laundry but she does anyway, and despite a 3 compartment hamper, puts it all together, even the handwash. Boo! Unfortunately I need help with my husband so how can I complain without sounding like a jerk (just a rhetorical question). Luckily I just found my solitary grapefruit spoon as I was out the door to buy a whole new set. Whew!

                There I feel better already. She's a gem otherwise! Now next week, I have some new "friends" coming for a long visit, we have talked online for the last year or two but never even in person. I am somewhat nervous to tell the truth, and this subject is just making me more so. Don't know how kitchen oriented she is, guess I'll find out!

              2. thanks to all, by the way -- I knew most of you would understand my frustration!

                18 Replies
                1. re: sunshine842

                  It sounds to me like your friend could be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. I have friends with this, and it's a really tragic disease. People with OCD aren't satisfied unless objects are arranged to their satisfaction. It's possible that rather than being rude, your friend really couldn't help herself.

                  1. re: JonParker

                    I don't think so - because I saw no other OCD behaviour in any other way throughout the visit. (usually that burden manages to spill itself in more than one place)

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I hate it when guests load the dishwasher (always break something), when they try to put things away after they've been in the dishwasher (always in the wrong place), and when they offer to help clean up after dinner (that's my ocd).

                      1. re: whs

                        I loved the help cleaning up after dinner and loading the dishwasher (and to give credit, only had to move a couple of things, and they are because of some quirks of my individual dishwasher, so specific mostly to my house!) -- but putting things away in the wrong place and rearranging where I keep things really got up my nose.

                        Biggest thing I have is that I prefer everyone to just leave stuff on the table, because it's easier to load the dishwasher if I don't have everything heaped up on the cabinets...that's my quirk. I've been known to carry things back out to the dining room table when people leave so I can load the dishwasher/clean up the way I like to do it.

                        We all have our screwy quirks, don't we?

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Well, they're not screwy quirks if I have them too! My kitchen is tiny and there is no dishwasher (apart from me), so I need a clear staging area to dry "cleans" and stack "dirties" as I see fit. And plate desserts somewhere along the way. When people empty the dinner table and stuff the kitchen, it's just no help at all. Rant over. My sympathies, s842.

                          1. re: monfrancisco

                            my dishwashing quirk is I can't stand it when folks try to 'help' by putting everything in the sink stacked haphazardously. thx. now I have to unload the sink to re-wash out the food bits before I can even start on the dishes. thx. even worse when it's a double sink and both basins get filled with stuff.

                            1. re: hill food

                              OMG I can't stand that either!! It's especially aggravating when I already have the beginnings of a neatly organized stack of dirty dishes on the counter next to the sink and some butt clown will completely ignore the "staging area" by chucking their dirties (caked with leftovers and all) into the sink while I'm retrieving serving plates or bowls from the dining room. Really??

                                1. re: Mutch2Do

                                  Mutch2Do & hill food

                                  Quirks abound.I do not want clear,clean and load help.The smart people I know that have zero understanding of a well and septic are numerous.I want to get things loaded in a way that works here.All food scraps into two bowls for whatever animal eats it (small farm).And the table for 10-16 easily means 50-75 stems,many tall with pinot bowls.None of which I want willy nilly off the table.
                                  Loading both dishwashers,reasonably to accommodate large plates and stems requires a plan or quirk if you will.
                                  Once a guest,sort of friend to all made the mistake of,to proceed emphatically, tell me how she does it.Another guest instantly quipped up,"Mary,just when was the last time you and David hosted a dinner for 18,five courses & paired 9 wines,4-6 bottles each,three desserts with more wine,cognacs and whisky?"
                                  Not another word,harsh or not was added,by anyone.

                                  1. re: lcool

                                    I want to come to your house for dinner. Would it be rude to invite myself? :)

                                    1. re: cleobeach

                                      not at all rude
                                      All who do fine in outspoken chaos are welcome here.We have a sign on the way to the barn,"leaving chaos,passing ulcer gulch,entering insanity alley" and please disregard the beggars and mooches.

                                    2. re: lcool

                                      9 wines, 4-6 bottles each! About 45 bottles of wine. That's 2 1/2 bottles per person plus cognac and whiskey! Must have been a heck of a party. Can I come with cleobeach?

                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                        Keeping in mind when old cellared wines are coming out one never knows where the problem bottles are going to turn up.Some fragile enough that we don't decant or stop at 2/3 - 3/4 of the bottle.So calculating for the one per case that got hurt etc in transit and up to 25% waste the bottle count comes down by 1/3 instantly.With a 600+ case cellar and our age we aren't in the wine storage business.We drink it with friends and host,donate for charity.

                                        1. re: lcool

                                          dinner for 18? there's not enough xanax in the world and if I took enough to deal with it then dinner would never happen. I gotcha on the trash. we don't have trash service where I am, so yes clean up really isn't any more difficult (ok gotta rinse out the recyclables as they'll be around for few weeks), but does require a bit more attention.

                                      2. re: hill food

                                        I agree. I hate it when people think they are 'helping' by putting dishes in the sink, RIGHT NEXT TO THE DISHWASHER! I'm speaking primarily about family members so it really does not happen often in our kitchen.

                                    3. re: sunshine842

                                      Biggest thing I have is that I prefer everyone to just leave stuff on the table, because it's easier to ................................................... I've been known to carry things back out to the dining room table when people leave so I can load the dishwasher/clean up the way I like to do it.

                                      I completely relate to this! My friends are trained that when I say "leave it" they leave it. Still working on the husband though, he has a complusion to stack things to the ceiling if left unsupervised.

                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                    It does, but it could be in an area where you wouldnt notice or care: say making sure that bath towels hang the exact same distance from the rod. I mention this because reorganizing the spices and deciding that some items belong in cabinets is classic OCD behavior. People with OCD often know that their behavior is irrational, but feel helpless to stop. It's a really scary disease.

                              1. You know this person, so you know if he or she is likely to redo things to make them "better." If she isn't, is really a kind, thoughtful soul, then I'd overlook it. If she is a kind thoughtful soul who literally did rearrange all my cabinets I'd be pretty peeved too. If it is just a few things out of the dishwasher, then I'd just move on.

                                When I am at someone's house during a visit, I wont' put anything away unless it is obvious where it goes. I've had guests stick things in strange places, and it is never a happy time looking for whatever it is that has been misplaced. But you just have to over look a little of this.

                                If you truly feel that this guest tried redo your stuff to suit her ideas, then I don't know if I'd let her back in my kitchen.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: sueatmo

                                  Yes, as I mentioned -- my visitor (never mentioned a gender, incidentally) rearranged my cabinets, put stuff into cabinets that I keep on the counter (like the bottle of olive oil with a pour spout that lives next to my stove), moved the lower level of spices around, **moved the fruit bowl** (???), threw away a brand new single major thing -- just a laundry list of penny-ante little bullshit that makes it NOT my kitchen.

                                  ...and no, won't be allowing this otherwise very pleasant person into my kitchen again.

                                  I totally get the desire to help -- but I totally don't get the urge to re-organize.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    This person needs to get a life! But just move on and if it ever comes up again, tell her to leave your kitchen alone. You are justified in being highly annoyed.