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The Rules for Crashing at a Friend's Place

The key to being an amazing houseguest is learning how to talk, walk and breathe like a ninja.
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Brown sofa in a vintage living room - rendering
Brown sofa in a vintage living room - rendering

This post originally appeared on Map Happy.

Everyone's been there, trying to stretch the dollars. I've crashed my fair share of couches, worn out my welcome (I'M SORRY, INDI AND ANDY) and have been an avid Couchsurfer when times get rough. These days I pay it forward as much as I can but that doesn't disguise the fact that there are basic guidelines. The key to being an amazing houseguest is learning how to talk, walk and breathe like a ninja.

The other option is being homeless.

Be practically invisible.
Don't be messy. Wash the dishes. Walk softly. Talk softly.

For all intents and purposes, leave as little trace as possible. Minimize and occupy as little space as it is possible for a 110-pound, 5'3 person to occupy. Let everyone have the bathroom first. See no evil, hear no evil. You are a ninja in the night.

Clean up the sheets on the couch -- daily.
Couches are in the common area, right? Well, guess what happens when there's a guest sleeping on a common area? It's no longer so common. Be aware that the space you're sleeping on is where most inhabitants of the household would usually congregate outside their respective bedrooms so make an honest effort to fold up the sheets and put them away every morning. Let other people sit on the couch. It's about being respectful.

God, it's good to be in your 30's and have friends who have money and spare bedrooms.

Don't bring guests over.
At least not without permission from the person whose name is actually on the lease or mortgage. Being a guest doesn't entail the ability to bring over other guests, unless you're at your parents' house. I don't know about you but at least my mom is pretty cool about it.

It might be a little different if the invitee is in the same friend circle as your friends but, yeah, no extra overnight guests, plz. (I also think this applies to Airbnb guests).

No. (James Lee / Flickr)
Help out.
I have i-banking friends. Artist friends. Everyone makes a different income. The important thing is that you are able to contribute what you can contribute and, in the event that the shoe is ever on the other foot, to pay it forward.

Be prepared with a gift for short stays--"thank you" cards have a permanent spot in my travel bag--and if you're staying longer, definitely carve out time with your host to take them out to dinner. Cook a homemade meal if that's beyond your means. Make 'em your famous cookies. Show your appreciation.

Finance startup Splitwise even has a guest calculator about how much to contribute. Amount varies depending on how much your friends love you.

Offer to pay for long-term stays.
Anything longer than a week starts dangling into weird long-term territory. Two weeks is super substantial; any longer than that and it might even be possible to turn into a real subletter (or freeloader). Definitely preempt to pay for some rent and/or utilities; still beats staying at a hotel, right? To keep everyone happy, if I'm going somewhere for a while, I usually like to stay at a place for a week max and will arrange another place as a backup, at the very least. For the sake of your friendship.

Long-term stays are relevant to how often you visit.
I'm a bit more gracious to someone I'm close to who I haven't seen in two years and lives in freakin' Munich or someone's who helped me out substantially. If I see you every weekend... we might need to have a conversation.

If you get asked to pay for the utilities, prepare for an exit.
No one wants to have the discussion. (starmanseries / Flickr)

This is a clear sign you're wearing out a welcome. As much as I love my friends and I don't want to them to leave ever--okay maybe that's not true--there's a point in time where everybody should start paying for the fair share of the rent if you're in the spare bedroom all the time or if I haven't been able to sit on the couch for longer than a week.

If I've gotten to this point where I've asked this, it means I don't want to tell you to get out. But I do want you out. This is not my passive aggressive way of telling you to leave. But maybe it is.

Make life easier for everyone by getting the hint. Love you!

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