During our time in Alaska, my husband and I had the fortune of living in a relatively nice place for relatively good rent (this combination seems to be almost non-existent in AK unless you’re friends with who you’re renting from, which is the case for us). Although I have my share of complaints about our pretty new, yet poorly built condo, the three bedroom, two car garage house had certainly had its perks. Namely, lots of space. Despite his claims to the contrary, my husband has a lot of shit and, up until recently, so did I.
The one bedroom that wasn’t occupied by us or our gear was reserved as our guest room. This room saw a variety of use, from the visits of parents to, once, a short-term roommate. Based on the experiences we had from the various inhabitants of the guest room, I’d like to offer some advice on being a good houseguest/roommate.
1. Invite yourself to use the spare bedroom. Our mentioning of an extra bedroom in casual conversation is pretty much the same thing as an invitation for you to stay in it, so you should just go ahead and assume such. When you call to say you’re coming to Alaska (surprise!) and tell us what time you need to be picked up from the airport (because actually asking for a ride is an outdated formality as well), and I ask you where you’re planning on staying, just laugh at my hilarious joke. Need a place to stay for a week or two every month between coming off the Slope and flying to some sweet climbing trip because you’re homeless? Well, we’ve climbed together a few times and there was that restaurant we ate at together that one time, so we’re practically family. And I’d never refuse a bed to my real brother, would I? Plus, when I come home from my horrible job, grumpy and angry at the world, the thing that’ll really cheer me up is hearing all about your “epic” climbing plans.
2. Whatever you do, DON’T clean up after yourself. I’ve kept this on the down-low, but my real desire in life is having a full job and being a housewife at the same time. And even though I don’t want kids, in part because they’re miniature tornadoes, I definitely DO want someone in addition to my messy husband to clean up after. So when you leave, please don’t wash your sheets, or clean your toilet, or even turn off the lights. I don’t get to do those things enough already. My mom taught me that not only should you clean up after yourself when you visit someone, but you should do something nice, like get them a card and a bottle of wine. Obviously my mom has no clue what she’s talking about. Dirty underwear? Now there’s a true thank you gift.
3. If (extremely reasonable) rent has been previously agreed on, pay at your own leisure. My landlord expects me to pay rent on time every month. That guy is an ass. All those idiot utilities companies charge late fees and threaten to “turn off our heat” if I don’t pay my bills on time. Jerks. You’re a friend who’s told us you want to rent our extra bedroom for a few months and we’ve gone out of our way to offer you rent at a price you couldn’t otherwise find in Anchorage unless you lived in a cardboard box? Just pay whenever you feel like it. You’re a week late and I’m wondering where the money is? I’m just joking, really. You’ve already “realized” that I’m way too nice to kick your ass out (or so you think), and damn it if you’re not going to take advantage of my hospitality.
4. If you plan on staying multiple times and/or for more than a week at a time, don’t offer monetary compensation. Especially if you’ve invited yourself, as advised above. Things cost money. Like the water you use showering and washing your clothes (but not your towels or sheets). Or the gas you use when you turn up the heat but then leave your window open all day. Or the electricity you use when you’re staying at my house while I’m out of town and I come home a week after you’ve left and find all the lights still on (leaving lights on is only my pet peeve when I do it). Or the food I bought and you ate. I bought all that for you anyway. In general, when you add a third person to a household, it costs more money to operate that household. But we’ll foot the bill because we make so much money. We work for the government, so we’re practically millionaires.
My husband and I are laid back people who are willing to help our friends out however we can, sometimes at a monetary or time cost to ourselves. Take total advantage of it. I’ve given you all the advice you need to do so. Chances are you’ll get away with it once (shame on you), or maybe even twice (shame on me), but that’s all it takes before you won’t be able to show up uninvited and be let in the door.