There is a certain intimacy involved in having house guests. You make their bed before they arrive and change it after they leave, you give them your towels to use, you provide food and beverages for them and become aware of their likes/dislikes/allergies. All things we don't necessarily do for/know about friends until they have come to stay.
    These things are fine and pretty much what our guests expect. But what about the House Rules? Do we leave the toilet seat up or down; do we rinse our dishes before they go in the dishwasher? (I stayed with a friend years ago, and recently heard that it drove him crazy that I cleaned the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.)  Do guests leave the door open to have/continue a conversation while in the powder room? Do they borrow your clothes without asking when they are a size 16 and you are a 6 (oh – this makes me look so thin)?
    I have friends/guests who have decided to clean things out for me – my desk, my refrigerator, my closet. I felt like a child when my father told me if I didn't clean up my room he would throw away anything left on the floor or bed. He did, and my grandmother climbed into the trash can to retrieve my stuffed animals in the middle of the night. There I was again – all grown up and secretly sorting through the trash for those old photos that someone decided I no longer needed, for goodness sake,  they were from the sixties and reminded me of when I was young, carefree, and thin; all good things in my mind. Possibly, before long, those photos will be considered vintage and collectible!
    There is a line of intimacy that exists in our house – one that guests should not cross. That line divides our personal space from the common space we allow our guests to share. There is an entire list of TMI that occurs when crossing this line: their personal hygiene habits can be boisterously displayed on your towels (for those guests I do have a set of black towels); her stay-forever-red lipstick now seems permanently etched on your wine glasses; and please – please – if you are kind and thoughtful enough to leave bathrobes for your guests to use, wash them after they leave along with the sheets and towels, and do not forget to empty the pockets first; don't ever assume they didn't use the robe even if you know they brought their own. Don't ask any questions about this – just accept it from one who has been there and you don't want to know where that was!
    Ms. M.S. summers in Maine and people are constantly vying for invitations to her waterside cottage. They might not be so quick to vie if they saw her list of  “House Rules” first; it resembles a not-so-very-short story which would instill visiting fear into a dragon-slayer. Guests who actually read them are wise, and those who do not will certainly cross lines, step on toes, and be posted to the “Those Who Will NOT Be Invited Again” blog. One such foolish guest actually went into the refrigerator while Ms. M.S. was out buying lobsters for dinner, and gathered all the ingredients she deemed necessary for the dinner salad. (Rule #116 (or maybe # 23, I got tired of counting) is: “Did I mention that you may not come into the kitchen? A lot of thought went into that 7 x 9 foot kitchen design and it didn't include you. If I want you in there I'll issue an invitation.”) Imagine how very thrilled Ms. M.S. was when she came home from the lobster pound and found an elaborate salad sitting on her kitchen counter that, not only was not on her dinner menu, but did include all the ingredients she had purchased to make lunch for a meeting she had the next day! (Need I mention the grocery store is fifteen miles away and has the opening hours of a bank?)
    Our good intentions are not necessarily those of our host/ess – so when in doubt, ask first. If you are the host/ess, it doesn't hurt to have a list or set of house rules for the things that are important to you and guests may not know.  However, if you are the guest, don't ever forget to take the host/ess a really, really nice gift!