Your Airbnb host is not your maid
From dog housesitting to vacationing, treat their home like your own
Whenever my family would go to someone’s house for dinner, I dreaded the end of the meal. I could see the wheels in my mother’s brain churning away. She was already plotting where the dish liquid was, how many cabinets there were, what rags were available and how quickly she could start washing dishes at someone else’s home. And I always got dragged into helping her clean up, especially for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. It was the most annoying way to spend time as a guest when all I really wanted to do was lean my head back on the couch pillows and enjoy the itis.
Also, when I’d go hang out at my grandparents’ home, I always noticed fresh towels in their second-floor bathroom. There were little plastic bins for Q-tips, a new tube of toothpaste, a fresh box of facial tissue and paper towels, and plenty of blankets. The linen was clean, and the laundry always seemed to be done. Even after my paternal grandmother passed away, my grandfather was a stickler for keeping those second-floor bedrooms and bathroom in tip-top condition.
These habits from my grandfather and my mother are embedded in my own brain as an adult. I can’t stand clutter (like my grandfather) and I must never leave someone’s home less clean than when I got there (like my mother). I used to never humor the idea of being an Airbnb host or guest, but considering I spent a total of nine days in my own home for the month of August, I’m coming around. My only hesitation about being an Airbnb host is this: I would want someone to treat my home like they’d treat their own (or better) — and that means treating their homes like my mother and grandfather treat theirs. That is my motto as a dogsitter and housesitter.
The dog comes first. When you’re housesitting for someone’s pets, the main goal at the meet-n-greet is to see if the dog likes you. If (s)he is hostile or just doesn’t seem to be into you that much, it’s time to roll out. For some dogsitters, maybe it’s fun to get a dog to warm up to you. Not me. I believe a dog is a good judge of character, but I love me too. If I can’t get that dog to be calm and cool around me within the first hour I’m there, I’d highly recommend cancelling the dog housesitting job. Do not risk your safety trying to make a few hundred dollars you’ll end up using in the emergency room.
But in addition to befriending the dog, warming up to the owner and taking a casual tour to see what’s what, pay attention to how the home is currently being treated.
Decide whether you can tolerate a messy host’s home. If it’s a mess when you get there and you’re hearing apologies about how it’ll be clean by the time you come back, don’t expect it to be clean. The owner invited you over for a meet-n-greet in the first place, knowing full well you’d see the place. Be prepared to be in a home that’s a bit messy.
Recommended Read: “Dogsitting 101: How to sift through dogsitting gigs”
But even if the home is messy, what you do not want to do is make it messier.
Put away dishes. Your Airbnb host or the dog owner is not your maid. Airbnb guests pay to stay in that home. Dogsitters are being paid to be in theses homes. While these two groups vary, they both have to eat and drink. And if you have the working arms and legs to make a meal, then your body works to clean that meal. While it’s up to the homeowner to decide at what level this person is comfortable with a stranger going in the cabinets, as long as that’s OK, put all the dishes you use away. Hopefully the homeowner hasn’t left you with their dirty dishes. But if you’re already cleaning, does it really hurt to clean their leftover utensils and plates?
Remember this isn’t your bathroom. Whether you sit or squat is totally your business, but don’t be that disgusting person who leaves autographs in anyone’s bathroom. Don’t leave wet towels on the floor, smudges on the mirror or shaved hair in the tub. While this is your bathroom to use for the moment, just bathe and get out. Don’t go nuts and start lighting candles; just use the vents. And bring your own body washes, shampoo and conditioner, soaps and lotions, unless you are specifically told it’s OK to borrow theirs. (And bring a fresh set of towels just in case the owner somehow forgets to give you a set. Unless you ask ahead of time, this is not always agreed upon.)
Be careful what you watch on Netflix or ROKU. I’m not judging what anyone watches on their favorite streaming sites. Five shows I’ll never miss are “Black-Ish,” “Kim’s Convenience,” “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj,” “The Late Show” and “The Daily Show.” Clearly the last three are highly political, so my stance is pretty much a given. Just know that whatever you watch at someone’s home is something that’ll be in their viewing history. If you’re proud of what you saw, then cool. If not, maybe watch it on your own tablet — but keep in mind if you’re using their shared Wi-Fi, they’ll be able to track that, too.
Try to replace what you use. I don’t know what is up with people’s homes and paper towels, but I can only find them in homes with children. And I am never without facial tissue or paper towels. More often than not, I can find neither so I just bring them along. Although I opt for a travel bidet (and a non-electric bidet at home) instead of toilet tissue, the odds are very slim that I’ll find that in an American home. Replenish what you use. Don’t leave one lone tissue in the box (if it’s theirs) or an empty cardboard roll on the toilet tissue dispenser. If you can easily access the replacements, just sit them out.
If you use the washer/dryer, wash the dirty clothing you use there too. I challenge you to find a homeowner who won’t be relieved that you washed and dried your own towels and comforters. Now they don’t have to do your laundry and theirs. (The only reasonable argument I can find against using the appliances is too light of a load or the bacteria scare in washing machines.) If you get the green light to use their appliances, at least wash the same sheets, pillowcases, blankets, dish rags and other items you used from their homes when you got there.
Take out the trash/recycling. I know some people will cringe at this idea and feel like it’s walking the lines of a maid. But for dog walkers especially, if you have time to pick up dog crap and toys during your stay, what harm will it be to take out the trash before you leave? While I’m too eco-friendly to throw out a bag that’s barely been used, I usually just dump all the small garbage cans into the bigger one to make a reasonable trash load.
I understand why people think staying in someone’s home is just temporary and they are more concerned with their vacation location. They don’t care what the homes look like; their goal of being in this home is to find some place to sleep while they travel. But this person is trusting you in his or her home. I cannot count the looks of pleasant disbelief and the thoughtful emails/reviews left on my dogsitting profile for keeping that “my home is your home” attitude in mind. It’s also gotten me a few repeat clients, too. (And for Airbnb guests who are frequent travelers, you may end up with a host who is so relieved by your hospitality that when rates go up, yours won’t.) Whatever you do, just don’t be that house guest that they’re still seething about.