The true and simple rules for house-sitting.

E-mails you don’t want to get from your house-sitter:

“I’m leaving a month early.”

“Do you have a plunger?”

Since  the end of May I’ve made two long trips, to Alaska and New Jersey, spending about 14 weeks away from home in all. During that time I had two house-sitters and two dismaying communiqués.

One caretaker was a friend of a friend. The other was someone I know slightly. Both were looking for a place to stay for a while. All I asked in return for the free flop was that they bring in my mail.

What I didn’t ask for:

  • A nearly dead potted tree in the living room
  • Many of that tree’s leaves on the carpet
  • An oven floor covered with grease
  • The relocation of a stepladder, floor lamp, straight chair, shopping cart and the contents of two dresser drawers
  • My kitchen nightlight removed and plugged in under the dining table (still trying to figure that one out)

Books were moved around. The bath towels rearranged in order of size, even though the house-sitter didn’t actually use them. (More later on why that bugged me.)

The dining table and desk was entirely cleared off (I never did find the little container I use for scratch paper). Dishes and pans were rearranged in the cupboards. And I came home to a big pile of dirty towels and sheets on my bedroom floor.

When asked about that last one, via e-mail, here was the house-sitter’s response: “I didn’t have the time or money to wash them.”

But…you used them. And you make more money than I do!

At least there were clean sheets on the bed.


Why mess with things?

I will be the first to admit that my place is slightly cluttered. But I like having my vitamin bottles on the breakfast bar. I like having a piggy bank there, too, and an egg-shaped teapot, and the salt and pepper shakers that resemble pots on a stove – all three were gifts from friends, and they are cheerful.

Yes, I need to organize my bookshelves. Yes, I need to do something about the clutch of paperwork on the dining table. Yes, I need to find homes for a few tchotchkes.

But here’s what I don’t need: People to move things around the way they like and then to leave it that way – which, in turn, leaves me trying to figure out where my paperwork went.

Why move the shopping cart? It wasn’t in the way. Folded up and tucked between the couch and the cedar chest, it was barely even visible.

My bath towels are stored in a small plant rack in the bathroom. I put them in small-large, small-large order so that I can pull out one for my hair and one for my body. When I got home I had to take them all out because the sitter had put the small ones all at the bottom. But he’d brought his own towels – why’d he mess with mine?

The worst part was finding the two dresser drawers emptied, presumably so the house-sitter could use them. Some of the items in the drawers were deeply personal, including letters from old friends and from my mother. After a few minutes of frantic searching, I realized that the extra suitcase the house-sitter had set on my bed probably held the items. It did.


Whose comfort?

This rant may sound a bit querulous. But it’s my place. I have things the way I want them.

No, the caretakers weren’t paid – but neither did they have to worry about rent or utilities for a month or more. (In Seattle, that could have cost them some serious bucks.) I live within walking distance of shopping, two movie theaters and a transit center. There was Internet access. I let one of them use my library card.

Yes, I told them to make themselves comfortable. The result, though, was that I was uncomfortable when I got home from my trips.

During that Alaska visit, incidentally, I house-sat for two different people – and I neither moved furniture nor left dirty linens lying around. (However, I did pick up tree branches that came down in a windstorm, deadhead flowers, brush matted hair from around the cat’s backside and wrangle a couple of escaped stick-bugs back into the terrarium.)

Ditto for the place I’ll be watching for a few days in January: When the owners return, things will be as they left them.

It’s not my house, that’s why. I don’t get to decide that a stack of charitable requests shouldn’t be on the kitchen table. Even if it were in my way, you know what? I’d either live with it, or I’d move it temporarily and then put it back when it was time for me to leave.


A few simple rules

I’m planning a trip to England and Wales in early spring. Because I’ll be gone fewer than 30 days I can just have the post office hold my mail. However, I proposed the following deal to an upstairs neighbor: I’ll care for her cat while she’s away for long weekends if she’ll pick up my mail should I decide to take a trip lasting more than a month.

She’s happy because in the past she’s paid me to watch Kitty. Now I’m willing to do it for free and she may never have to reciprocate. Or she may move by the time I take another four-weeks-plus journey.

I’m willing to take that chance. No more house-sitters for me. My place is a mess, but it’s my mess. I don’t want people to mess with my mess. (And for extra credit: Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!)

Do I sound impossibly cranky? (I mean it, you kids – stop cutting across my yard!) That’s because I am, sort of. But you will benefit from my persnicketiness, because it has resulted in my creating the True And Simple Rules For House-Sitting. If you decide to market yourself as a caretaker, follow these few rules and you’ll have all the business you want:

  • If you move it, put it back.
  • If you make a mess, clean it up.
  • If you bring a tree – and why would you? – take it with you when you leave.
  • If there’s no compelling reason to touch someone else’s belongings, don’t.

Make yourself comfortable, but not at the expense of the homeowner. Leave your OCD tendencies back at your own place. Bring quarters for the laundry. And for heaven’s sake, leave the nightlights alone.

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  1. Mollymouser

    If you ever come and house-sit for me, you’d be completely welcome to rearrange our towels! (giggle!) And dusting ~ that would be fair game, too!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Molly: Yes, but would I be allowed to comb matted hair away from the cat’s butt?

    • Patrick

      You obviously don’t expect anyone to live in your home after inviting them to live in your home.My suggestion is don’t have people house sit for u f u cannot handle, (The relocation of a stepladder, floor lamp, straight chair, shopping cart and the contents of two dresser drawers)
      your yourself stated that your house was cluttered,if they cleaned at all u should be thankful.This is not a bad experience,in fact you had a good one compared too many.My suggestion is,if you can not deal with people living in your home do not invite them to live in it.

      • Donna Freedman

        The “clutter” to which the article referred was stuff like a stack of papers on the table and those items along the breakfast bar (which were set there for purposes of decorating). In both areas there was plenty of room for one or even two people to eat.

        And nothing was actually CLEANED. Things were just moved around. I’d cleaned the apartment thoroughly before I left. When I returned it was tidy-ish but not clean-clean, e.g., the tub was dirty and the oven was filthy.

  2. No cat butts here , but you could detangle the dog’s beard! And of course all 3 of the dogs love to sleep in the bed with you. . .

  3. And don’t rent out a room should be on the list too. I learned that lesson quite well after our roommate asked me to put her laundry away and there was a loaded hand gun in her drawer. It was a good thing that my kids were not allowed to set foot in her room. Oh and did I mention that she was a RN and was using our insurance to fill prescriptions cheap for her family.
    I think that just having someone get your mail and stop over to check things is the way to go from now on.
    Have a great week!

  4. Well wow. As a full-time, longterm housesitter, I’m flabbergasted! I definitely agree with the “if you move it, put it back”, no matter what. I take detailed photos so I can make sure I put things back where they belong.

    I have to say I’m surprised that you wouldn’t have left empty drawers for your housesitter. Wouldn’t you have done that for a houseguest? Or am I missing something? Regardless of course, if they emptied out drawers they should have refilled them.

    Sorry you had such a bad experience!

    • Donna Freedman

      @SimplyForties: I pushed stuff in my closet aside to make room for them to hang stuff up, but clearing out drawers honestly didn’t occur to me.
      It’s probably because I’m accustomed to living out of a suitcase when I make long trips; the friend with whom I stay most often doesn’t have a dresser in the spare room, and at my dad’s the dresser is already filled with stuff. So I just hang up what needs hanging up, and leave the T-shirts and unmentionables folded in the suitcase.
      Very smart of you to take photos. You are a true professional!
      Thanks for your comment.

    • Hi Simply Forties… I ask this of you because you seem experienced in this world. Is it reasonable for a home owner to request the house sitter has “no visitors” during a THREE MONTH house sitting stint? (I should also mention that she chose me to stay at her place b/c I work from home and prefers that I do not spent the night out. Also, she is not paying me.) Kinda feels like solitary confinement to me.

      What say you?

      • Even though I’m busting into a conversation unasked, but think my being a house-sitter for 3 years gives makes me somewhat of an authority on the subject. What’re reasonable requests by the homeowner are irrelevant if you’ve agreed to their terms and taken the job. If you don’t agree to their terms, don’t take the job. Simple as that.

  5. Donna Freedman

    @SonyaAnn: Will you put MY laundry away, too?

  6. “If you bring a tree, take it with you when you leave.”


    I’m only slightly sorry for your not so great house sitter experiences–mainly because reading about them gave me a good laugh.

    Ah, idiots and @$$#%*$–fodder for blog posts, Donna. Fodder for the blog…

  7. This reminds me of when I was a kid and went away with my parents for a trip I can’t remember now. When we got back my mom was boiling mad because the relative who was supposed to stop by and watch the place messed with just a few things. There were two metal baskets with orange plastic flowers in them. The relative yanked all the flowers out and washed them and then dumped them back in the basket haphazardly. Then there was the time my brother in law used the fancy just- for- show bath towels that were hanging on the “towel rack.” That was a major offense in my mom’s eyes.

    Your rant was totally justified. Why rearrange someone’s home? Leaving anything dirty is uncalled for. I wonder why the person didn’t use a bit of the money they were saving by not having to pay rent to clean the laundry.

  8. Oh something like that would have driven me crazy! ESPECIALLY the taking things out of the drawers… I probably would have cried over something like that!

    I don’t blame you for being annoyed.

  9. Maybe having a Pet Tree is the newest fad. And, when it died, he could not bear to touch anything so precious and dead.

    I rescued a college professor friend and allowed her to be a houseguest when she was homeless. I cleared out closet space, drawers, counter space, and kitchen cabinets. She brought a dog and tied it to my neighbor’s fence, the links in a chain link fence, my swing, the supports in my basement, support to my house near basement, and to the back porch rail. When you live in my house, even a pet tree would be offensive…lol. Yes, I asked her to leave.

    When I went away for a month, I asked another friend to look for and forward a check to me, walk though the house and around the house. No problems. But, she never is. I have no pets to tend. Well, now someone could chicken sit and protect them from raccoons.

  10. In general, when I house sat, I would clean the apartment head to toe before I left, so it would usually be cleaner than when I got there.

    I can’t say I paid particular attention though to the location of salt and pepper shakers on the counter. Some things might have been moved around some and I wouldn’t have even realized I did it.

    Lesson learned. Make a list of expectations and hopefully they will be followed. Sorry you didn’t have a good experience.

    • Donna Freedman

      @First Gen American: You’re right. I should have discussed their expectations as well as my own. Had the one house-sitter said, “I expect to use a couple of dresser drawers,” I would have cleared them out myself. Had the other asked me to take everything off the desktop so he could work, I would now know where that little scratch-paper container is. And had I said, “I want to find the place the way I left it,” maybe the oven would have been cleaned and the laundry done.
      Or maybe not. And some of it I couldn’t have anticipated anyway. The nightlight, for example. When I first noticed it was gone I was mad, thinking that the first house-sitter had taken it with him. It’s an amusing little gadget that I bought at an art gallery. The front has a photograph of a hand-lettered sign that says, “For your safety, and the safety of others, please — NO POETRY.” As soon as I saw it in the gallery I laughed out loud, and bought it.
      So why move it into the main room and plug it in under the dining table? Beats me. But maybe I should have put it in writing: “For your safety, and for my peace of mind, please — LEAVE MY SHIT ALONE.”
      Lesson learned.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  11. I don’t even want to think about our current freeloader. Counting the days until the semester ends…

  12. Sandra Gonzales

    Oh my goodness.. I didn’t catch that the potted tree wasn’t yours until the end. You know it makes me think that those kind of people have some audacity or are just plain idiots. I have in-laws like that. I know they’re family but I don’t think it gives them the right to get into every nook and cranny of my home.

  13. Your rant is well warranted! I can’t believe people would leave your place in that kind of condition when they were getting way more out of it than you were. The excuse of “I didn’t have enough money” is a HORRIBLE one. Still amazed to read this story and it bothers me as though it happened to my own home! There needs to be way more respect and etiquette than that.

  14. Argha! Don’t get me started on house-sitters. Just be glad they didn’t steal you blind and then later send their sh!thead boyfriends around to burglarize your house!

    Ever since my last adventure in house-sitting, I also have relied on friends and neighbors to watch the Funny Farm and feed the pets. Many neighbors are happy to watch your place, in return for knowing you’ll watch theirs.

    They brought a tree? Maybe it was their idea of a house gift. Too bad it croaked. 😀

  15. Well, this is the second time I’ve heard this rant, since I heard it over the phone the first time. And I’m still just as appalled.

    When you housesit, you are expected to leave the place as you found it. At least, that’s my understanding. I’ve always done my best to leave no trace of myself whenever I watched someone’s place. And if I ever moved paperwork — which is doubtful to begin with — I would either put it back or leave a note saying specifically where I put it and why.

    The nightlight thing is weird. I think maybe he wanted to use the outlet for something, but just put it on the counter — don’t move it somewhere random. And who the heck doesn’t plan ahead enough to have money to do laundry? Let alone do laundry that’s someone else’s stuff you were using???

    I think this is why you really miss me since I moved to AZ: I never messed with your stuff.

  16. FranticWoman

    I think it is wise you do no use housesitters again.

    I house sat for years – for pay – and come clients I would not work for again. I had a client go to Florida for the winter – and turned off the gas in the house. Um…how can I live there like that? She also expected me to be a real house cleaner – as in deep clean – and to not even use her toilet paper. It wasn’t like she was paying me to be a house cleaner. I was paid to house sit/pet sit only. I house sat once for friends – for no pay – to take care of her three large dogs. I saved her hundreds of dollars by doing so. What did I hear upon their return? How furious she was I drank her three cans of soda, how incredibly rude that was and how I was a big mooch. (??) I drank them for convenience I agree, I could have bought my own but they were there and I helped myself. Sigh.

    Anyway, I had a lot of clients. Perception on both sides is interesting.
    And, just so you know, I do not recall 30 days later every single exact square inch placement of a person’s belongings. I could easily forget to move something as minute as a nightlight. Most likely it worked better for them in a different room. I might forget how you stack your towels (if I moved yours to make room for my own). If they truly LIVED there, one cannot go 30 days with no individualized preferences enacted.

    I can only assume you didnt leave them available drawer space or they would not have had to make their own. Your post comes off as ridiculous – as in there should be zero trace of their existance and that it is completely unacceptable how obvious they had been there. In a perfect world, that would be nice. Frankly, I find it odd you would leave some (messy?) piles around but of course it is your house so you can do as you please. For my stay-in pet sitter I go out of my way to have things organized, clean and tidy for a “guest”. I know how frustrating it is not to be able to find things, obvious things you would think you could find with ease. (such as my clients who “hid” the toilet paper in a toy chest in their guest room. Really. I wouldnt think to look there). Mostly I want my sitter to take good care of my pet, keep my belongings safe and have the mail and newspaper brought in. If she forgets to take the trash out it really is OK.

    I do think moving such personal belongings as old letters out of the drawers was going a bit too far. I would have refrained from that. I do the best to leave things as if I were never that, but really, it isn’t that easy to do 100% – esp. in some cluttered/packed with stuff places I’ve stayed in. I always do wash the towels and sheets though,that is a standard rule.

    • Donna Freedman

      @FranticWoman: Your friend with the three dogs sounds like a real treat. My reaction would have been to remind her — in a style that Miss Manners calls “coldly correct” — that having saved her several hundred dollars, I perhaps unwisely assumed it would be all right to enjoy a bit of refreshment. I would then have handed her the cost of three cans of soda and said, “Now that we are even, I would like to announce my retirement from the pet-sitting business. Perhaps the next person you pay will be able to afford her own sodas from the large fee you will be required to pay for her services.”
      And then I would make it stick.
      As to my own situation, maybe you missed the part that said he brought his own towels and didn’t actually use mine. He just rearranged mine for no reason that I can discern. Ditto the nightlight: If he wanted to use that particular electrical outlet (which is in a somewhat awkward place, so I can’t imagine why he would), he could simply have set the light on the breakfast bar that’s six inches away.
      In a previous comment I acknowledged that it never occurred to me to set aside drawer space. Closet space, yes, but not drawer space because I’m so accustomed to leaving things in a suitcase. My mistake.
      The piles of stuff in my life (mostly books) definitely should be more organized. But I’m chronically pressed for time and more to the point, it’s my house. If I decide to leave a stack of new PF books next to my desk, then that’s my business.
      And the moving of items wasn’t really necessary to be able to function. For example, the (short) pile of paperwork was set at the very back of the dining table. In the space that remains there is room for two place mats and the salt-and-pepper shakers. Surely if he wanted to write a letter or eat his dinner he could have done so without clearing off the back of the table. Heck, he could have had a dinner guest and still had enough room (see “two placemats,” above). Apparently he moved the paperwork because it offended his sense of what a table should look like.
      He can have his own table any way he likes. I prefer to have mine this way.
      Finally: All I wanted was my mail brought in. In return, they each saved many hundreds of dollars on rent and utilities. (Seattle’s not a cheap place to live.) In fact, the first housesitter was saved from having to stay with a very unpleasant relative, his only other option at the time. This deal was heavily weighted in their favor, not mine.
      We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I wish you better luck with house-sitting clients in the future. Seriously: That (former?) friend with the three dogs was way out of line.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

    • Kcharbs

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for that response. I couldn’t have said it better myself. It sounds like the author’s home is a tad unorganized, cluttered and messy. Heaven forbid if someone attempts to actually live there for several weeks and not remember where all of your “stuff” belongs. Did you expect your house to not be lived in? SMH…some people aren’t meant to have house sitters. And they need to figure out what their priorities are…and protect your valuables/keepsakes/personal “stuff.”

      • Donna Freedman

        Yet it’s still *my* house, not theirs. I don’t mind if people live in it — as a housesitter, I live in the space I’m watching, but I make sure everything is as it was when I leave.

  17. LovesACat

    I once paid the neighbor girl to take care of my cats while I was on vacation. (She came over with her mother.) Apparently every time she came she SHUT THE DOOR to the room where their litter box was placed forcing the cats to pee in the dining room and elsewhere. (My son would stop by and open it.)

    I not only can’t figure out why she did this, I REALLY can’t figure out what in the heck her mother was thinking. My dining room carpet was absolutely ruined and I have never forgotten it.

    • Donna Freedman

      @LovesACat: You’d think that after the first time the smell might have clued them in…? Wow.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.


      The same thing happened to me in 2014. A friend was watching my house while I was in the hospital. I had to direct him over the phone step by step what to do in the house. On the 5th day…I was finishing up walking him through adding litter to the litter boxes and as he left that area he said, “Oh should the door be shut? It was before.” I then realized (no matter how much he initially denied it at first) that one of his previous visits he had SHUT the bathroom door which in turn lead to the catbox area. And here I am flat on my back in the hospital with pneumonia. Asked him to check the bed for signs the cats “went” on it. “No it looks fine.” (Sure it does!) When the doctors released me they said to go home and REST. I went home to a bed and bed clothes FULL of cat piss and poop. With no energy to spare, weak lungs,I had to pull off and throw out most of the bed clothes and turn over and sleep on the NON-SLEEP side of that bed, only clean portion. Plus clean the kitchen floor. My cats are very well behaved, use the box no matter what. But they couldn’t get to it and were desperate. Same here, why would anyone do that when its clear the cat boxes are through that door. But…happened! Sometimes: it pays to hire professionals, I tell ya!

  18. Wow, what broad feedback you’ve gotten!

    We happily house and pet-say for some people who have been a huge positive impact in our lives. We made sure to do as we were told, and not let anything rot in the fridge (we made the best hamburger soup we have ever had!) took care of three confused cats (who are these people!?!?!) and made it a point to let it look better than when we had arrived – cutting the grass even though we weren’t asked (it wouldn’t have been pleasant to return home to a jungle of a yard!) and making sure to put things back where we found them in the kitchen. We had a great time actually, and would happily do it again for them if the opportunity arose.

    Just my experience, hope there was no confusion like you had when they returned home – I’m pretty sure we didn’t move anything unnecessarily, well except the one kitty when he went on the counter where he wasn’t allowed. 😉

  19. Shorty Britches

    I find it amazing, I also had someone in my house last summer. A little longer, about 4 months. It was suppose to be one single guy and he ended up moving in his girlfriend and her two boys! Needless to say when I got back in my house my REAL wood floors had seveal dents and scratches that they tried to hide. The main bath tub was absolutely disgusting!!! I had to use bleach and vinegar to get the mold cleaned out of the grout and tile around the tub. The bathroom had been remodeled no more that a year or so ago so I was not happy. My niece came and helped clean, poor thing. She spent about 6 hours cleaning two bathrooms. I can’t believe someone would shower in that, much less let their kids! Then I have trees that were ‘trimmed’ and others that were cut down! One difference they were renting and suppose to buy the house. I will NEVER do that again! It took me about one month to get everything clean and feel like I was back at home. It seems there are a lot of people out there that just do not take consideration for others property. If you want to really ‘know’ someone, let them stay in your house. You will be surprised. Oh, and by the way my husband and I rented a condo in Florida and the owner was shocked. She couldn’t even tell we had been there. People listen, that is the way it should be. And if something happens, like an accident damaging something, admit it. Don’t think it won’t be discovered, it will and if you are friends it can destroy relationships. I know all about it.

  20. Tracey H

    LOL about the dead tree. Are you sure it wasn’t a marijuana bush/tree? A dead marijuana tree could definitely be considered a gift!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Tracey: Nope, it was a ficus. Although the marijuana explanation would make sense as to why she forgot to take it with her…. 😉

  21. I’m considering the opportunity to house-sit. I’m middle-aged and I’ve had my own place for many years now. I’ve pretty much always maintained it to be relatively clean (being perfectly clean is no longer a option I wish to pursue). This is basically how I would go about my business as a house-sitter; though, I would probably be a little bit more cautious because, for example, I might very well forget to move that candy dish back to its original location before the home owner’s return.

    As for rules when house-sitting, I would keep it simple and ask that the house-sitters follow the simple rule: “Be respectful.” At that point, I might present hypothetical situations and ask the sitter to explain how she might respond to it; here I would get a feel for the sitter’s ability to ‘be respectful’. But of course, those of us who know how to be generally respectful understand that directive; issues arise when we are forced to try to explain it. It is at that time when we are explaining, we then get into the trap of trying to be a bit more descriptive without sacrificing the original directive. As such, the result of that usually turns out in one of 2 ways: a) you become too descriptive and inadvertently fail to cover all your bases, or b) the sitter finds nothing wrong in remodeling the kitchen with paper and glue because the owner never specifically said s/he couldn’t do that.

    I suppose I could be a bit more descriptive than simply, ‘be respectful’, and that is: ‘Return the property to the condition it was in before you (the sitter) arrived’. But even that directive can be problematic; eg, some wear and tear should probably be expected for extended sittings.

    Still, I am interested in house-sitting. Though, I would have to speak with the owner to get a feel for what s/he expects and what s/he could/should expect from me.


    • Probably a good idea in retrospect to establish some rules in your house. You assume that most people would have some basic commonsense, but there are some people who are out for themselves.

  22. cheapcat

    We have 4 cats and have had professional petsitters and friends take care of the cats. We couldn’t tell that the petsitters had been there, except for the happy cats with clean litterboxes, food and water. A friend who is really good with animals was having some financial troubles, so we asked her to watch the cats & we would pay her the cat sitter rate. Not the best idea…

    We came home & she had also vacuumed the house, which was nice, but had jammed an attachment onto the vacuum hose so hard that it took 2 of us to pry it apart. She rearranged end tables & chairs, which was annoying because we had to move a lot of stuff to fit the dog crates & beds back where they normally go. There is a reason we had big empty spots, it’s where all the giant dog stuff goes!

    We asked other neighbors to watch the cats & came home early to them sitting on the couch giving the cats treats & playing with them. They also vacuumed our house, but brought their own vacuum! They wouldn’t take money, so we took them out to dinner – & they still tried to pay. I think they’re keepers – we watch their cats when they go away too.

  23. My brother in law house sits (dog watches/upkeep) while we travel (often) for work. It’s been over a year and little things are starting to bug me. His new girlfriend sleeps over every night and throws her cigarette butts in my gutter. When we get home, my husband and I just want our privacy. Neither of us are very social so I’m sure they think we are just rude. I do want him to keep house sitting but when we are home I’d rather he wasn’t staying here. Any ideas on how to gently ask him? Hell, I’d pay him double if he did stay when we are gone what we ask (which he does do as best he can) and then go whe we are back. We are leaving for about 12 days on Wednesday. I want to ask him before we go. I’d be glad of any suggestions.

    • Donna Freedman

      Does he not have his own place? If he does, or if he could stay at his girlfriend’s, try telling him, “I’m glad to have a relative as a housesitter instead of having to go through an agency. But once we return we need our privacy so we can decompress from the trip and get ready to go back to work. In the future, we need for you to go home once we’ve checked with you about anything that happened in our absence.”
      As for the girlfriend, maybe you could leave a can of sand out back. Say, “I appreciate your not smoking in the house. You probably don’t notice the litter that cigarette butts make, but it bothers me. Please put all the cigarette butts in the can.” If she ignores you, then you have to make a choice: Do you want to alienate BIL or do you want a clean landscape?
      I don’t envy you, having that conversation. And by the way, I don’t think you’re rude for wanting your house back. Nor do I think you should pay double just to get him to clear out. Make “going home” part of the job!
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  24. While I totally get that it’s annoying – you didn’t pay these people and you said they were acquaintances at best, so what do you expect? As much as you feel you did them a favor by letting them say – they are doing you a favour too so you should consider not being so anal.
    I’m with you and I would be irked too I mean I don’t get why people would rearrange your house – and you would hope they would have enough common sense/respect to leave your house as they found it… however if you want a professional – hire a professional. If you want someone to do it for free… you’ll have to lower your expectations

    • Donna Freedman

      I guess I expected that my favor to them was greater than their favor to me: All they had to do was pick up the mail. I don’t have pets or plants. In return, they got a free flop vs. having to pay rent. In Seattle, that’s quite a decent savings.
      Contrast that with my most recent house-sit, in New York City: The apartment owner e-mailed to say the place was cleaner than when they left, and that I should stay at their place more often. (All I really did was empty the dishwasher, do up the few dishes from the lunch we had before they left, wash out the cat dishes and scoop the litter boxes.)
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

    • It’s a mutually beneficial situation, especially in a big city where rents can be extremely high. I’ve known many people who have done housesits to save for a deposit or are doing renovations on their own home. I even had a friend who housesit for a year when she couldn’t afford the mortgage repayments on her place and had to rent it. My recent housesitters saved around $2,000 in rent, utility and food bills for the three weeks we were away. Why should I have to pay them on top of this?

      • Donna Freedman

        I just house-sat for free in Manhattan. It was just for a few days and “mutually beneficial” indeed: They got someone to feed and pet their cats and I didn’t have to pay for a NYC hotel.

      • I’m not saying you should have to pay them… my point is just that if you leave your house with someone you hardly know – it comes with the risk that they could be they type who won’t respect your home. If you don’t want to worry about that kinda of thing then hire a professional.
        I’ve had friends house sit and came home to a mess and I could tell the cats never got any attention. So next time I hired someone and the house was cleaner than I left it and the cats were happy.

        • After my house sitters from hell experience (just discovered that they broke the brand new dryer as well) I have investigated some of the sites where house sitters and house owners can connect. Most of them charge a fee for house sitters (but not for home owners), so that in itself screens out the irresponsible types. Many of the sitters provide police checks (great idea)and references. I will probably go down this route again if my neighbour was unavailable to check up on the house and feed the cat. Hiring and paying someone is not financially feasible for some people – some of us have the added expense of children.

  25. I’ve just come back from 3 weeks holiday overseas. I arranged for a friend and her partner to housesit for the duration and look after the cat – a mutually beneficial arrangement considering they can’t afford to rent after moving interstate. I left detailed instructions for them, a set of keys, plenty of cat food, cleared out room in the closet to hang their clothing, and completely cleaned the house. A few days before we left the partner requested I provide him with internet access as he is running his own business – impossible at such short notice and with so much to do.I returned to find a almost spartanly tidy house. Only problem was they had chopped out a large part of my jade plant by the front door, rearranged furniture; helped themselves to all my non-perishable food in the freezer and cupboards; cut additional keys; broken one of my lead crystal wine glasses (there were plenty of cheapies they could have used); there was a film of grease all over the countertops, back splash, stove, microwave, and all down the wall, and none of the sinks or toilet had been cleaned. And the worst thing is I’m missing a pair of casual, orthotic shoes that were pretty pricey. I’ve never had this experience with housesitters before. Not even an apology for any of the damage, and I’m still waiting to get my keys back because they weren’t there when we returned.

    • Donna Freedman

      Hmmm….given that they cut additional keys, you might want to consider changing the locks. If they can’t afford to rent, they might get broke enough to come in when you’re not home and help themselves to more food. Desperate times may call for desperate measures.
      Sorry about the shoes, especially.

      • The keys were finally returned – deposited in the post box. Changing the front door locks is on the agenda. Just found out from a neighbour that the cat practically lived and was fed at their place for the 3 weeks duration of our holiday. I have since found out that having a written contract is quite common for housesitting in Australia, and templates are available on house sitting sites. However I don’t think it would have made any difference to these freeloaders.

  26. I get your point and sympathize with you, but…

    I am a long-time house sitter since 1990; took a break and am now returning to the business. I freely admit up-front that I have a little touch of OCD. I can not handle clutter,( I also, can not do animals who mess the house). I am sorry to say, I would have cleared off your table. However, with proper notice, I request 72 hours,I would certainly have put it all back. I have never to my knowledge had a dissatisfied customer.

    Interestingly, I love to travel and went to house sit for a elderly woman who was afraid someone would steal her treasures, she had many and I had to walk gingerly about. But did I hire a house sitter for my own home—umm, no. I came home to a completely empty house. The thieves even stole the shower curtains and emptied the pantry.

    I cried for weeks. I would have traded that experience for a dead ficus any day.

    Hire a house sitter,the peace of mind is worth it. But do ask about their disposition with regard to clutter. I know many sitters who will happily live “on top” of your stuff.

    And, thank your for sharing your experience.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Tonjia: That’s awful! I’m sorry you were burglarized. I agree that having a housesitter is worth the aggravation. However, I still think that people who do this for a living should put things back in their places, or at least leave things alone. Some of the commenters who house-sit seem to do just that.
      I just did a house-sit in New York City and the only thing different about the place when I left is that the dishwasher was emptied and the dishes in the sink were washed and put away.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  27. So I have a problem of etiquette that I really can’t seem to find an answer for. My husband and I just got married and for our second living situation together, we are house-sitting. The house was the bachelorette pad of an old church friend of my husbands parents, and she and her husband have since moved to their own place out of state. She just doesn’t want to give up her house, for the occasional visits they make back to our town. We are paying rent and utilities, and plan to be there for at least 10 months. Aside from a room cleaned out to fit a bed and our clothes, there is next to no space for any of our toiletries or cooking supplies. Since this is such a long-term stay, and we are paying rent, would I be out of line for moving things to make space for personal items? I did clean off a desk to make space for my computer, since I will simultaneously be working on a masters thesis. We do fully intend to return things back to where we found them when we arrived. I’m just not sure what etiquette dictates for this situation.

    • Donna Freedman

      I don’t see why not, since you’re renting the place and since you plan to return everything to where it was. Another reader suggested taking pictures of each area you plan to alter; I think that’s a great idea.
      Good luck with your thesis.

  28. I’ve been wanting a chance to vent myself. Because of a new life partner, my house would be vacant several years until he retires, at which time we will live here. I’ve had 3 housesitters over 4 years, with imperfect results. I figure it’s unwise to leave a place vacant for long periods for security reasons. In addition, there’s houseplants to consider. And without a cat, the place would be overrun with mice – that’s why I got a cat in the first place.

    I come back for 2-3 weeks, 2-3 times per year. For that reason, I didn’t want to rent the place out. So someone gets a free place to live for most of the year, only needing to clear out for 2 months or less. The only utilities not covered are propane and firewood. Covered: electric, phone including long distance (in country), high-speed internet, satellite TV, trash service. The well’s covered in the electric, and I pay for septic pumping.

    What do I expect? You stay in my house for a year, you owe me a deep cleaning. I want my cat and plants alive. I need the yard mowed, and I have a riding mower to do it with. I have a property manager to handle needed repairs that arise.

    What do I not expect?

    Repairs: I don’t want to come home to plumbing problems and a broken picture window. If you break stuff irresponsibly, not routine maintenance, just get it fixed so I never know about it. If it is routine maintenance, let me know and we’ll make arrangements so I don’t have to come home to a pile of unpleasant “surprises.” So I don’t have to spend my limited time at home waiting for plumbers and other repairmen.

    I don’t really expect to have stuff missing: blanket, crockpot, ladle, whatever. Though I know you can’t expect perfection in such matters. It would be nice if you’d replace light bulbs that burn out, without presenting me with a receipt for reimbursement. You’d never do that with a landlord you’re paying rent to, so why do so when you’re staying for free for a year or more?

    You’re responsible for propane and firewood. I left the tank full and maybe half a cord or more of firewood when you moved in last summer. I returned to almost NO wood, and the propane’s down to 25%; if I’m not careful, I’ll have to fill it. NOT our agreement. By the time I leave next week, the wood will be down to nothing, and I had someone gift me with some from an apricot tree they had to cut, or there wouldn’t have been enough for this visit.

    I definitely do not want to come home to a house full of baby stuff, and find that you’ve been using my home as a day care center for hire. People leave their kids off for you to care for them, they pay you for it. NO NO NO NO NO! My house is not childproofed and the liability issues boggle the mind.

    About your stuff: Keep some sense of boundaries about it. It almost seems as if a hoarder has moved in. I get that you like your coffee maker, but do you really need to bring FIVE of them into my house? I get that you like your refrigerator magnets and little ceramic knickknacks, but please pack them away when I come home. I want to be able to find and get at my own belongings when I’m home. This housesitter’s “re-organizing” is not crazy like the last guy, who went through every last thing I owned and rearranged everything. It was horrifying. He couldn’t stop even after I gave very explicit instructions: Stay out of that closet! Again, you’ve got to expect some of it, it’s unavoidable. But even while reorganizing everything, he didn’t dust. Pulling a book off the shelf brought up a cloud of dust. Maybe I’m unreasonable, but if I only have a couple weeks at home, and I pay almost all the bills, I don’t want to feel like I spend all my time cleaning and fixing the place up to make it nice for the housesitter.

    Don’t kill my dog!! The dog that stays with me, and is only in the house when I am. In this case, the housesitter was experimenting with creating a skin scrub with sesame oil and coffee grounds as primary ingredients. She abandoned the project, leaving the vile concoction in a zip-lock bag on the pantry floor. The dog got into it, and the blood pressure spike from the caffeine triggered a stroke. The dog, aging anyhow, likely will never fully recover, though he’s well enough after a couple weeks so we didn’t have to put him down. However, he vomited the stuff up, twice, requiring extensive repeat laundering to clean up, trips to the dry cleaner, special extra laundry supplements, and having to live with some stains forever. That and $200 of vet bills along the way.

    Maybe you couldn’t help letting the indoor cat out in the dead of winter. In these parts, the coyotes get them fast. The cat’s gone, so I had to expend time and energy to locate a new one. Then there’s the matter of vet bills for spaying, coming in at around $150.

    With broken glass ($500 for picture window and gas heater), extra laundry and dry cleaning, vet bills ($350) and misc., it’s closing in on $1000 of needless expense for a period of 5 months occupancy. That’s above and beyond mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities and routine maintenance. Is this the best I can expect? Sigh!!

    And then there’s the matter of cleaning. I’ve been working on cleaning shelves and drawers. I won’t get it all done during my 2 weeks at home, and it’s been my primary pastime. In the process, I found a crockpot in the pantry (not mine, which went missing) with thick encrustment of the horrid, rancid substance that almost killed my dog. With all my cleaning, I do refuse to clean the housesitter’s abundant stuff.

    House plants: The succulents look pretty good, but the three plants requiring more water are iffy. The ficus, a big one nearly 8 ft. tall, lost about 75% if its leaves, ditto on the angel wing begonia. They might be salvageable, maybe. The Boston fern’s a longer shot. I guess you’ve got to expect they won’t all make it, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it’s worth the headaches.

    I suppose I could be glad that more than $500 worth of glass wasn’t broken. My booze wasn’t all gone, and at least the counters, sink and bathroom were reasonably clean. The plumbing repair was minor, coming in under $100, though it’s too bad it was left for me to deal with.

    I could go on, but these are the main points. Like I said, you can’t be too picky about stuff like putting books or videos back in exact order, or the occasional dish broken or cast iron pot left with thick rust encrustment. Annoying, but probably unavoidable.

    I guess my rant’s somewhat spent now. I need to do some work on the kindling before it gets dark.

    • Donna Freedman

      Wow. Just….Wow. I wish you luck in finding someone who realizes what a good deal this is and will leave your place spotless.

  29. Okay! I understand the lady at the top being upset, Let me explain one thing the comment about OCD Leave It at home, This is a true illness, can a deaf person bring his hearing while he is at your house, Can a blind person suddenly see when they are at your House?

    I understand I house sit and you should not go through peoples cabinet and drawers, rearrange furniture, etc. however if you are having someone come to your home and stay, the house should be clean, fresh linens put out so they don’t even go to the linen closet, table cleared enough where they can eat comfortably, provide cleaners for them to clean up after themselves, leave the toilet tissue, trash bags, paper towels You know the things most people have on hand to maintain their own clean homes. A list of house rules can help everyone; most people have good intentions and most people respect one another. Some times you may need to go in a cabinet or drawer looking for something you need. You can forsee ever situation that would come up and Sitter’s can’t bring everything with them. Remember the big picture is your home safe, is it clean, maybe have some one do visits the next time and not do stay overs.

  30. I am a longtime housesitter in the U.S. When I read the initial ad for the housesitting, I often get vibes of just how well of a match the housesitting might be. If the ad is full of DO NOT DO x, DO NOT DO y, THIS & THAT are not allowed, etc., I automatically rule the opportunity out as coming from an innately mistrustful person.

    To tell the truth, I tend to treat people as they treat me. Many of my “clients” have cleared out bureau drawers for me, made space in the closet with empty hangars, stocked the refrigerator with basic food items, changed to fresh sheets on the bed and given me a bathroom space. I have been treated many times as if I am a valued “friend” or “guest” in their home. I tend to return the favor and am generous and giving and respectful in my housesitting duties. But on occasion, I have been ushered into a cluttered messy house with no thought given to my comfort or accomodation and it puts a whole different slant on the housesitting experience.

    Treat others as you would wish to be treated!

  31. Bostonian

    I do home exchanging and frequently also hire house sitters. I think it is the homeowner’s responsibility to clear clutter prior to the person arriving. In a house sitting situation, this is particularly true if the person’s “compensation” is use of your home.

    I stuff all my clutter in a closet before exchanging my home or having a house sitter here, and I put a “private” sign on it. I also clear out a dresser for the guests and make sure there is closet space. It takes an hour, and it is a considerate gesture to leave the home in a condition that will please the highest number of people.

    On the other hand, I have arrived in both house sitting (and outright RENTAL!) situations where clutter made the home unlivable for me. I am a cook, and I can’t use a kitchen with stuff all over the counters. What I do is take thorough pictures, find an empty closet and put all the crap in the cabinets. Before I leave, I use the pictures to put it back where I found it. I also will never again go to those locations.

    Bottom line is you were both wrong. The house sitter was wrong to not return your items where you left them. But you were wrong too. It inconsiderate to leave your house in a condition that most people will find unlivable. Most people will not want to share a breakfast bar with your vitamin bottles, your piggy bank and your egg shaped teapot. They want it nice and clean to eat breakfast, and maybe, put their own vitamin bottles. 😉

    • Donna Freedman

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. The breakfast bar in this case wasn’t usable because I don’t have tall chairs. Plenty of space on the kitchen table, despite a small stack of paperwork there. The place was clean and neat except for the pile of papers at the back of the table — where there was no seating, as the table was situated in a corner — and the vitamin bottles on the countertop.

      The people who house-sat for me were both anxious to find a free place to stay. They didn’t ask to be paid, because free accommodations in Seattle are their own reward. When they walked through the place with me neither one said, “Gosh, I can’t stand the way you have vitamin bottles on the counter/papers on the table, and do you mind if I rearrange your bath towels?”

      Had they done so, I would have put those items away. Since they didn’t, I figured that they were happy with the status quo.

      Put another way: I’ve house-sat for a couple of different people in New York City. The only changes I made to their environments were to wash dishes left in the sink and take out the trash on trash day. It wouldn’t occur to me to mess with their stuff because it is their stuff, not mine.

  32. Michelle

    Hi Donna,

    Thanks for the great info. I am thinking of trying “caresitter”, and I’m doing some research.

    Thanks for your input.


  33. Lizzie

    a friend needed a place to stay. We need a sitter for a month. We took the friend in almost a month before we leave. It was agreed he will be house-sitting for a month in exchange for a place for him to stay temporarily. Electric, water & wifi are included for free. So far he’s been invited to dinner when we eat at home. But are we required to provide for his food while we’re gone as he house- sit?

    • Donna Freedman

      You don’t need to provide food — after all, he’d be feeding himself if he were in an apartment. In fact, you might want to make that clear, e.g., “It’s OK if you want to use our spices or to open a can of soup now and then but please don’t clean out our cupboards and freezer.”
      From what I’ve heard, you have to be very specific with some people or they’ll pull out the old, “But you never said I couldn’t (eat your food/drive your car/have a huge party…”

  34. Wow! This is a case of both the home owner and the sitter both sucking. At least it was a perfect match.

  35. This is nothing. I just returned to find that my sitter left the house filthy–dirty dishes, etc. all over the kitchen attracting bugs, clutter all over the house, didn’t change the sheets before I came home, didn’t clean the floors or toilet once during entire 2-week trip, allowed my dog all over the sofa even though I told him not to (at least the cover is machine washable, though it may e stained), and, if all that isn’t enough, he left used kleenexes and used condoms on my bedroom floor. And this was a paid job.

  36. I had a paid house sitter leave condoms (used) on my bedroom floor, among other ills. So this is nothing.

  37. catlady

    So interesting to see I am not alone! I think you are perfectly right to be upset. And those who disagree with you: let someone leave a tree or shrubbery in the middle of their house!

    Here is my story: a long time ago a close friend used to volunteer to cat sit (not live in the house) anytime I was away. I never took advantage: in the 8 to 10 year period in which all this happened she only sat for me 4 or 5 times. I always brought her a souvenir gift when I returned and I never asked more of her than to : take in the mail, feed the cats, change their water and empty the cat boxes. For that matter I always left plenty of food and water out to begin with so she didn’t even have to come every day and no trip was more than 2 weeks long, usually less.

    The third time she house sat for me she claimed the flushable cat litter wouldn’t flush (common sense: don’t overload the toilet per flush!) and she left all the cat turds in a bucket in the house in 90 degree weather in a closed house for several days–when the garbage barrel was right outside the door. Lean over the railing, lift the lid, and drop the litter in. She did not. And she knew it was there because she lived in the same trailer park and had the same set up. I could never get the smell out of that rental after that. Then I moved to a condo. Told her one room was off limits to the cats and if they pee’d on any bath or kitchen mats just put them in the washing machine or in the tub I would deal with it when I came back.(I had one problem cat.) Came back to a bath mat full of cat piss plopped down in the center of my living room on my carpet with a fan running on it and the back sliding glass door wide open presumably to fuel the fan with air to dry the mat. (Translation: come and rob me via my cat-piss carpeted living room!)She also opened up that one room to the cats I left closed and told her not to touch(causing several $ worth of damage to my clothes from the one cat–and what was she doing in there?) And: she bought a huge cat condo–she’d asked if she could buy one cat its own “bed”–and in the process of setting up this humongus cat condo, the size and weight of a heavy furniture piece, took pictures off the wall and left them on the floor. When she said bed I assumed something small. Based on all this I am sure you are SHOCKED there was a “next time” but there was (all though it was the LAST time!) because I was desperate and she volunteered and she was a best friend and I hated to hurt her feelings when she offered.

    The last time, the trouble began even before we got in the door. Driving me back from the airport she told me the “humorous” story of walking one of my (INDOOR!)cats OUTSIDE and watching him chase a pit bull. ??!!! These had been indoor cats for years. “But you take them out for walks now and then, right?”/No I do not and that was the whole point of a sitter the last 8 plus years! INSIDE the house was a horror story. I had tried to think 6 steps ahead this time. Told her if anything broke, all utilities and appliances were old and to LEAVE IT for me when I came home. The message was very clear: leave everything for me, just take care of cats and mail. Nothing else, ‘you don’t have to do anything else’. Also: “no need to do dishes, dish washer is empty, just put dishes in there. I’ll run dishwasher when I get back.” No such luck. You could not think 6 steps ahead, she would leap over all attempts. The inside of the house was a mess. (I am no neat freak but I do clean before each trip so I don’t come home to a mess or have a pet-sitting friend deal with too much clutter.) She had placed PILES of open loose catnip all over my recently steam cleaned rugs (to this day I don’t know where she got so much open catnip in BULK like that! It was everywhere!)”Oh they haven’t eaten that yet.” ??? (For the record this woman owned cats herself. But I never saw her house look the way she left MINE! EVER! Its ironic if you had to choose a house-sitter by comparing dwellings you’d choose her! But I am far more respectful in other peoples homes despite the clutter in my own.) Then in the kitchen, thank god she left the can sitting by the sink and I saw it. “What’s that?/”Oh I went to wash dishes and you’re drain was stopped up.”/I told you, you could put the dishes in the dishwasher.”/”Oh it was no trouble to wash dishes. And that’s when I noticed you’re drain was stopped up.”/”THAT is a garbage disposal you just put DRAINO crystals down! See it says garbage disposal around the rim…”/”Oh. Oh. Well my double sided sink doesn’t have a garbage disposal and I thought…” (sigh. Thinking was her biggest problem!) The good folks at Johnson&Johnson customer service told me had I used my dishwasher I would have had to have replace it, costing thousands in damage to the unit and surrounding plumbing. It would have been a nightmare. As it was, she melted the garbage disposal and paid me over $500 to replace it. (The Johnson& Johnson rep asked me WHY she did that. “Apparently she has mental health problems I wasn’t aware of.”/Mind you she didn’t act abnormal (sorry I can’t think of a kinder word, “troubled”?) and had a law degree. But I was beginning to realize something was “off”. I am OCD and she always said she was but, I think she was OCPD.) I had never asked her for compensation on the other things that got destroyed as it was free help and the cats liked her. But this time I had tried everything to think around every possible damaging thing she might do and clearly it was impossible. She offered to pay and I though hell yes! She was only asked to help me out with the cats and the mail. Instead each time out she’d destroy stuff that had nothing to do with what was asked of her, I never corrected her on the other things just left more gentle instructions the next time, continued to value her for the well meaning friend she was, but it just got worse and the last 2 sittings were the last straw. Ironically, too she was always complaining that her friends asked too much of her (while volunteering eagerly and saying it was ‘no trouble at all’.) I still have nightmares over all this and it was years ago! I’m now in a position financially to hire a trusted professional pet-sitter for my longer trips from home. Funniest of all: I didn’t end the friendship over all this, but later she did. She dumped me from her life right before her wedding (invited me verbally and then withheld the written invitation without telling me. All my friends went) merely because I was friends with someone she disliked! After everything I put up with in her she was intolerant with me because of mere “guilt-by-association”! (On top of everything else I think she was phobic.) Anyway, that’s my story. For long weekends away I put enough food and water out for the cats and lock up. Longer trips I pay a professional. One of neighbors helps with some outside stuff occasionally, that’s it. No friends involved!!!

    • Donna Freedman

      That’s quite a story. Now that you’re hiring someone, you’re probably asking yourself why you didn’t do that years ago.

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

      • CATLADY

        Yes I am! Except I know the answer: I was BROKE and couldn’t afford to pay anyone to cat sit. Even my trips were often paid by relatives with frequent flier miles. Also because each cat sitting event happened years apart, I tended to forgive and forget silently and let the memory “soften” if you know what I mean. And she was always there. My friend. Waiting to be of assistance…took me years to see her “M/O”. (Oh there’s more!) Thanks for responding and good luck with house sitters. I have housesat on at least 3 occasions and most were folks who knew what my own housekeeping efforts looked like–and were then pleasantly surprised to see how well I treated their homes. That is because MY home is mine and yours is yours and I always tried to leave rooms just as I found them. 🙂

  38. Happy camper

    Too negative!!! Think positive. Someone made sure your mail was picked up, that your refrigerator doors were shut, that your pipes were not broke or dripping. Your house sitter turned on lights so that others thought the house was occupied and not vacant and your toilet was flushed so mold wouldn’t grow! Seems to me they did there job for a few small out of order items that you are complaining about.

  39. Patrick

    Btw clean your home before inviting someone to live in it and be thankful if people take care of your animals whether it be combing or otherways.My guess is you will not post these comments,because the truth hurts.

  40. Laulau

    So I am house sitting for a now retired ex boss. No written agreement. We’ve been here for 7 months minus a two week stint that the owners came back. She emailed asking if her niece and friend can crash “in her spare room” the two days they are passing through town. I feel this is a very awkward position to put us in but do I really have the right to say no?

  41. Courtenay

    I had a similar but worse experience. It was a “really nice woman” who wanted a place to stay for a month while she and her husband worked out some issues. Turns out, she really just used my house as a Tinder spot, where she would invite random men in after hours and have them stay (I found this out from my neighbors). She did not water any plants [my neighbors rescued], I had to re-seed my yard, she not only had her four kids over, she had their friends over as well. Her kids broke my daughters pottery and a very special cup of mine. She moved my dining room table, overflowed my toilets, and re-programmed my scale so that it was programmed for her and one of her “visitors.” [I know this bc my husband was User 1, and my husband is not a 5’4″ 42 year old female, and as I was User 2, I am not a 5’10” 25 year old male.] I asked her about the breakage and she hemmed and hawed, finally admitting her “littlest one might have broken it.” Which she never told me prior to my asking. Needless to say, my neighbors have offered to do any house sitting in the future. Appalling behavior.

    • Donna Freedman

      Good heavens. I guess you’re lucky she didn’t burn the house down or that any of her conquests didn’t steal a few items on the way out. Luckier still that your neighbors will step in should you have to go away again.

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  42. Your extremely ungrateful

  43. I can’t imagine this. I house sit for people regularly and care for their pets. I don’t touch a thing that isn’t necessary. I wash sheets and make the bed and tidy up and even clean up after the pets so that the space is clean for the owners return. I have dusted not being asked but nothing is ever moved. I have only ever wanted home owners to be happy on their return. Can’t imagine any of what you speak of. I am paid but certainly if I was staying because I had nowhere to go I’d be wanting to help where I can but still respect it as your home and leave your stuff alone. I don’t even open doors to rooms I have no business or need to enter. This person obviously had no respect but we all are not like that.

    • Donna Freedman

      I’ve been told I leave my house-sits cleaner than they were when I arrived. But I don’t touch stuff that, to me, is off-limits. for example, if there were a load of laundry left in the dryer I would fold it — but I wouldn’t open dresser drawers to see which one was for socks and which for T-shirts. Rather, I’d fold it and leave it in the basket on top of the dryer.

      Maybe it’s a boundaries issue for some folks.

      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.


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  4. How to Rack Up Mega-Savings on the Megabus | Money Talks News - [...] go. But the destination is the same, no matter how you get there.More stories on DonnaFreedman.com:The true and simple…
  5. Want a chance at a $100 Amazon card? Join this Tweetchat tomorrow. | Surviving and Thriving - [...] to New York and Philadelphia in July: companion fares on Alaska Airlines, the Megabus, five days of house-sitting, and…
  6. Rubbed the right way. - Surviving and Thriving | Surviving and Thriving - […] the two social-buy deals were due to expire in early summer and I have to leave in a few…
  7. A dead-tree update. - Surviving and Thriving | Surviving and Thriving - […] a recent post, “The true and simple rules for house-sitting,” I wrote about how startled I was to come…

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