Being the perfect host, becoming the perfect guest

Visitors love to come to Ashland, and that means many residents end up playing bed-and-breakfast owner, unpaid maid and tour guide to all the friends and relatives who descend upon their homes.

Most Ashlanders also love to travel, meaning they may find themselves in the role of guest in another person's home.

"The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host, Becoming the Perfect Guest," by Kathy Bertone, is a handy guide to navigating these roles with grace.

The book is divided into two parts, with the first half offering tips on how to be a good host.

While Bertone seems to relish the role of host more than most, she still acknowledges that having house guests can feel like a home invasion.

Being prepared and making guests feel welcome and comfortable can ease the anxiety, she writes.

Her practical tips include making sure that sheets are freshly laundered, providing a variety of pillows (flat and fluffy), making some room for guests' items in closets and drawers, putting a night light in bathrooms and providing books, especially ones about local attractions.

Avoid putting loud ticking clocks in guest bedrooms, have toiletries for guests, use liquid soap in bathrooms instead of a slimy bar of used soap and, for your outdoorsy guests, have insect repellent and sunscreen available.

One often overlooked courtesy is to move your vehicle so guests can park in your driveway or in front of your house, thus avoiding long treks with heavy luggage.

While opinions differ on whether to schedule events for the visit, Bertone recommends making a flexible plan for practically everything, from outings to meals to who will handle the dishes and other household chores.

She also notes that you don't have to spend every minute with your guests. Everyone enjoys some alone time, and a break from each other will leave everyone refreshed and with more patience.

I approached the second half of Bertone's book with some trepidation.

With warm, welcoming and generous relatives living on the Oregon Coast and in Central Oregon, I confess to being a serial moocher of the free lodging they offer. Yet I always feel a bit guilty about taking advantage of their generosity.

Luckily, I found out I'm not the world's worst house guest, and that I generally follow good guest rules — although there's always room for improvement.

Always try to arrive on time, call if you will be delayed, and give your host a warning call about an hour before you arrive. A small gift will help show your appreciation, Bertone writes.

She recommends keeping all your stuff inside the guest bedroom with the door closed, rather than letting your junk clutter up the host's house. Pack appropriately, remembering that you are not moving in with all your belongings, but be sure to bring essentials and the things that will make you comfortable.

Always offer to help, even if the answer will be "no," and if you can, sneak in some secret chores, such as pulling weeds in the garden.

Pick up after yourself when you are packing to go, and leave the guest bedroom and bathroom as clean — or cleaner — as when you first arrived.

Finally, send a thank-you note after you're back home, preferably by snail mail rather than email, to let your hosts know how much you appreciated their hospitality.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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