True and simple rules for housesitting
Dirty sheets and towels on my bedroom floor? Really?
During that time I had two housesitters, each of whom sent me an e-mail I really didn't want to get:
"I'm leaving a month early," the first one wrote.
"Do you have a plunger?" queried the second.
One caretaker was a friend of a friend. The other was someone I know slightly. Both were looking for a place to stay; 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 housesitter didn't actually use them. (More later on why that bugged me.)
The dining table and desk were entirely cleared off. (I never did find the little container I use for scratch paper.) My radio was broken. 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'd he mess with that?
I will be the first to admit that my place is kind of cluttered. But I like having my vitamin bottles arrayed 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 pans on a stove -- all three were gifts from friends, and they are cheerful.
Yes, I need to organize my books. 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 them that way -- which, in turn, left 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.
The second housesitter apparently tried to turn on my bedside clock-radio, but succeeded only in pulling the knob right off. Rather than mention this to me, she simply put the knob at the base of the nightstand. (I later managed to get the unit working again.)
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 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 housesitter 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 housesitter had put on my bed probably held the items. It did.
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 and utilities for a month or more. (Seattle is not a cheap place to live.) I live within walking distance of shopping, two multiplexes and a transit center. There was Internet access. I even left the first one a free movie ticket and let him 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. (I did, however, 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 at the back of the kitchen table. Even if the stack 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 three-week trip in early spring. Since 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 (already have, for a four-day stint) and she may never have to reciprocate. Or she might move to a new building by the time I take another four-weeks-plus journey.
I'm willing to take that chance. No more housesitters 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 brats -- 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 HouseSitting. 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 there's no compelling reason to touch someone else's belongings, don't.
- If you break it, say so -- and offer to replace it.
- If you bring a tree -- and why would you? -- take it with you when you leave.
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, don't touch the nightlights.
More from MSN Money:
i came home after several months away to find my bedroom had been rearranged and the things taken off the wall were lying in the floor of another bedroom- an important refund document for seniors was missing off the coffee table and that knocked me out of a 403.00 reimbursement because i could not get it in by the deadline-
boxes of things stored in a spare bedroom in rows belonging to 3 different people had been piled on top of each other along one wall, mixing them up so it was no longer apparent to whom each box belonged -
2 living room windows were wide open in february and the furnace was on high- the gas bill was quadrupled for that month - the litter boxes had not been cleaned in 10 days , a hammer was needed to loosen the hard litter-with no clean place for them to go , they had used my bedspread on my bed for a bathroom for over a week-
not a drop of water was there for my cats- the faucet that i let drip over a bowl for them had been turned off- the chair i provided for my older cats to climb on to get to the water had been removed- they had been without water for god only knows how long-
over 2 years later, i still cannot find things that i look for because they have been moved-all of my tax receipts for one whole year was in a hatbox, they had all been dumped in with other papers - it took endless hours of sifting through each scrap of paper to get them all separated again- it was a nightmare-
i had spent years covering areas outside with mulch and getting ivy started to starve out weeds- the ivy had been dug up along with most of the mulch and i now have nothing but weeds again-
i thought i could travel a little after i retired- after this, i now limit my time away from home to no longer than maybe a week at a time for i am afraid of what i will discover if i return after a longer absence- as to why people take it upon themselves to move everything around is beyond me- i would not dream of taking things off someone elses walls and moving their furniture and belongings around-
i have constantly had to go repurchase items because i cannot find the ones i already had-
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