Good houseguests know that when staying with family or friends, it’s best to make the host’s duties as light as possible. That could mean offering to cook, treating your hosts to a meal out, and tidying up throughout your stay.
But sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what would best help — like the bed situation before you depart. Should you strip the sheets or make the bed up with the dirty ones so it looks nice?
My mother-in-law graciously strips the bed after she and my father-in-law stay with us. Sometimes she even washes the sheets, and on really glorious occasions, makes the bed again with the clean linens. With two small kids producing copious amounts of dirty laundry 24/7, I really appreciate this gesture.
But I have also stayed with some people who prefer to just have the bed made up again until they are ready to do laundry.
“Since I don’t know how people like to wash their sheets, I don’t want to just leave a pile on the floor,” said one Southern Living editor. “Making it feels neater, and they can decide what they want to do after.”
How do you figure out which is the way to go? Etiquette experts say it’s simple: Ask your host.
“Every host has different preferences, and it’s always best to ask your host what they would prefer,” Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert, told Southern Living. “A good guest would, at the very least, make their bed and also make sure the guest room is tidy before their departure on the final day.”
Advice columnist Heloise and her etiquette expert friend Peggy Post both agree with asking your host what to do and also tidying up your room each day, including making the bed.
If your host says to strip the sheets, Heloise says to take everything off the bed, fold the sheets and put them at the bottom of the bed, and put whatever comforter, duvet or cover was on top of the bed back over the bare mattress.
However, making up a bed of dirty sheets or folding dirty sheets at the foot of the bed to look nice is just a pantomime of being a good guest, John Swansburg wrote for Slate.
“They are efforts to prove that you are a good guest not by actually making life easier on your host, but by demonstrating that you are aware of the conventions of hospitality and are willing to abide by them however annoying it may be to do so,” he said.
I think striping the sheets and piling them in the laundry room, or in a contained (though not folded) stack that’s easy for your host to collect, is helpful.
You could also ask your host if they have other clean sheets you could make the bed up with before you go, as Gottsman told Martha Stewart Living.
Along the lines of “ask your host,” The Home Edit’s Clea Shearer has written about how her mom has very strong feelings about what to do before leaving her house as a guest.
“Upon checking out of my mother’s house, you must strip the sheets and put them in a pillowcase, and place the sheets, along with your wastebasket, by the bedroom door,” Shearer wrote in a partly tongue-in-cheek blog post. “Place your used towels by the door as well, UNLESS there is a speck of makeup, in which case you should run out the door immediately and never look back.”
That seems a little extreme, but at least there are clear expectations!
What do you do about the bed sheets and towels when you stay at someone’s house? What would you want a guest to do when they stay at your place?