Hands Off: 10 Things You Should Never Touch in Somebody Else’s Home

published Nov 20, 2018
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As a guest and as a host, I’m two totally different people. When I’m hosting, I want my guests to feel at home. I show them where the glasses are, give them full control of the remote and invite them to switch on the ceiling fan if they’re warm. But when I’m a guest, I adhere to a totally different set of rules.

Those me-as-a-guest rules can be boiled down pretty simply: Unless I ask or am invited to mess with these things, they always stay off-limits:

  • The Fridge: And everything in it.
  • The Thermostat: Or the fan. You can politely mention if you’re warm or chilly, but don’t take the temperature of the room into your own hands without asking first.
  • Their Computer: You probably have a smartphone for anything pressing. But if you absolutely need a desktop, you can ask.
  • The Remote: Unless the controller is handed to you, leave the TV (or stereo, or any other electronics) alone.
  • Their Pets: At least, not without asking first. Animals are, well, animals. You never know their temperaments, or if they have places they don’t like to be touched. (My only exception is a pup or kitty that comes to me first.)
  • The Stair Rail: If the social area and the bathroom are on their home’s first level, no need to go upstairs (or downstairs) unless invited.
  • The Bed: If you’re in a studio and the bed’s out in the open, don’t sit down or hop on if there’s a better place to sit.
  • Toiletry Products: You’ll need the hand soap, obviously. But their bathroom isn’t a hotel. Ask before using their personal lotion or other items.
  • The Toilet Roll: I mean, use it, clearly. But if you’re a hardcore over- or under-roller, don’t switch the “backwards” roll over and make your host’s bathroom your toilet-roll-soapbox. (For the record, I’m a staunch “over”supporter, but I know many friends who keep their rolls under for toddler- and cat-related reasons.)
  • The Medicine Cabinet: You can laugh at the trope, but what reason is there to open up a friend’s medicine cabinet? Unless there’s an urgent bathroom emergency that desperately requires a q-tip, steer clear.

There’s one semi-exception, of course. With old friends and close friends, I do make myself at home in their houses. But I guess it’s because there’s already a history of implied permission there.

Do you agree? Or would you rather guests make themselves at home?

Re-edited from a post originally published 4.7.16, refreshed on 11.20.18 and 11.26.19-TW