How to Handle House Guests That Stay Too Long

Four Methods:Setting Boundaries and Staying SaneReminding them GentlyReminding them DirectlyBeing a Bad Host

Playing the gracious host or hostess gets old quick when you have invited house guests who begin to outstay their welcome by days and days. Hopefully it's an unfortunate mistake on their part, and a kind reminder will have them out the door. But some guests can never seem to take a hint. Knowing how to handle the invitee who begins to treat your house as hotel is the most valuable skill in a hostess' repertoire.

Method 1
Setting Boundaries and Staying Sane

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    Make time a part of the invitation. Prevention is the key. Present a clear and obvious start and finish date/time for their stay--whether it's a dinner party or an overnight guest. If anything, this allows you to save face if it comes down to showing them the door.
    • Get it in writing. If an appropriately formal event, consider invitations in print with an end time to really make it known.
    • Mention how the time has passed, or how close it is to the end of their stay. A sympathetic "I can't believe the weekend's almost over" or "What a shame you're leaving tomorrow" is a sly way to remind them of when it's time to go.[1]
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    Have a schedule. Particularly if your house guest has come for a vacation, have a rough itinerary of what you'd like to do together, with at least one thing being the last thing you do. Whether you save the best for last, or just want to relax on the final day, having activities as sign-posts for your guest's stay is a convenient way of reminding them when their stay is up.
    • If hosting a party and you weren't able to establish it beforehand, a short "I think this might be it for me" from the hostess will have guests understanding that the current activity is the last.
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    Never forget your "me" time. No matter how long your guest is staying (but especially if it's on the long side), always leave time for you to relax alone in your own home. Let your guest know ahead of time just when this will be so there's no confusion. Make them aware of when you usually go to bed and get up, so that they can avoid interrupting your sleep.
    • Also consider making it clear which parts of your house your guest can wander in. It's awkward and unnerving to find your guest in your bathroom when you never thought to clean it.
    • If desperate, think about buying your guest tickets to event, or any other outing. Try being honest and suggest you need the house to yourself, even if only for a bit.
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    Don't let being a good host make you uncomfortable. As a rule, only be a bad host if you've got a bad guest. But whether it's first thing in the morning or right before bed, you might not always feel like playing maid and concierge. Be firm when trying to get this point across to your guest: you have no intention of lowering your standard of living on their behalf.

Method 2
Reminding them Gently

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    Suggest an outing. Offer your guest(s) a trip to the mall, or simply a walk around the neighborhood. Make the suggestion as "one last thing before you go." Getting the guest out of the house is the biggest step, and afterwards you can simply show them to their car (or have a taxi waiting) rather than inviting them back inside.
    • If hosting a party, try not to leave anyone behind. The idea is not for some to leave and for one or two to stay behind and raid your pantry.
    • Make sure everyone has their things. If the plan is to have the trip out be out for good, don't allow any excuse to get back inside.
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    Do something boring. Here's where the tactics begin to lose some subtlety. Consider switching from video games to a roaring game of pick-up sticks; or from chatting over drinks to helping you wash your cat. Plenty of guests will opt for the door over something they'd rather not do.
    • While this is a tactic better suited to partygoers, the house guest who's stayed a day or two over will think more fondly of home or a hotel if they're no longer being entertained.
    • Make sure the door is always an option--don't suggest an alternative with such zeal that guests feel obligated to participate.[2]
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    Use body language--gently. Look busy, or agitated. If it's the last day of a house guest's stay, act like it. Gather your guest's things and move the conversation from the living room to the doorway.
    • Consider making their bed or re-fashioning their room as it was before they arrived.
    • Try being appropriately unavailable as the end of their stay approaches; start working or doing things around the house.[3]
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    Fake having to leave. How subtle you choose to be is at your discretion; it could be anything from "I've got to run" to "My grandmother is in the hospital." Only the worst guest would consider staying in someone's home during a family emergency. Alternatively, you could pretend another guest is coming to take their place.
    • Careful getting caught in a lie--if you can actually manage to have somewhere to be, all the better. But if you say your grandmother's in the hospital, be sure your grandmother is aware, and that your guest doesn't work in the emergency room.

Method 3
Reminding them Directly

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    Tell a "bad house guest" story. This is a not-so-subtle way of letting your guest(s) know the limits. Consider doing so before the guest overstays their welcome, so they know their boundaries in advance. If they persist, offer a sly "you're being a little like [bad guest] right now" to really drive the point home.
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    Use a friend. If able, have a friendly guest scoot the impolite guest towards the door. Invite a good friend over the day the house guest is meant to leave, and have them leave simultaneously. Have her repeat your hints about the time, or about how "we really should get going," etc. It always helps to have an example of a good guest to show the bad guest just what they're doing.
    • If you're especially worried about an overstay-er for a party, get a friend to give them a ride. This way, when the friend knows its time to leave, the overstay-er has no choice but to leave with them.
    • Know that the friend has to leave as well. Don't recruit someone else to show a bad guest the door (unless they're just that bad) and try to keep them around--booting the overstay-er will usually be an all-or-nothing affair.[4]
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    Find a new place. For overnight guests who test your hospitality, suggest they visit a hotel instead. If it's a guest to a party, and is someone who just insists the party never stop, offer an alternative venue where the party doesn't have to stop. Suggest a bar or a dessert place to end their night.
    • Be careful not to become responsible. Play the host who, unfortunately, cannot host any longer, but don't apologize for setting limits. Don't pay the cab fare (unless you're desperate), don't buy the hotel room, just be direct and get them elsewhere.
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    Offer to get their stuff together. The final act of a kind host is to see that their guest makes it comfortably out the door. To assure your guest that time has come, gather their things and put them by the door. Ask them questions about their leaving on the day of, or things such as "Are you sure you left nothing behind?" These are just more unambiguous signs that their stay is over.
    • For party guests, offer them a last drink or piece of dessert. If the latter, suggest they take some home with them--and meet them at the door with the bag.
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    Give them chores. If a guest has truly overstayed their welcome, let them know they ought to start pitching in around the house. Have them pick up after themselves, and suggest they do a fair share of the dishes and the tidying up. At worst you've a new helper around the house. However, most house guests would be reaching for reasons to leave once doing dishes entered the itinerary.[5]

Method 4
Being a Bad Host

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    Ignore your guest(s). Stop being social, and give them as cold a shoulder as you can. This is definitely a last resort, as it meets rudeness with rudeness, but some guests are so dense as to never take a hint. When your guest begins to feel more like the cable guy and less an invited guest, the door will be all the more appealing.
    • Don't leave them happy, though. Plenty of terrible guests would be thrilled to sit watching your big TV in silence. Act as though the TV is "out of order," and tell them that they're on their own for dinner. Stop being a host, and start being a roommate.
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    Do something they don't like. Forget boring, if you know your overstaying guest well enough, do whatever bugs them. Play obnoxious music, insist on reciting Elizabethan poetry, keep the channel locked on C-SPAN--whatever you have to do. House guests who overstay do so because, for whatever effort it would take to leave, they'd rather stay where they are. Turn that reasoning on its head, and your guest will be out the door in moments.[6]
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    Entertain someone else. If you haven't a good friend there to move your guest to the door, invite one over. Then, pay exclusive attention to them. Make the overstay-er feel as though they're intruding on an intimate meeting of good friends. This, hopefully, will reveal the guest's impoliteness more clearly and have them apologizing all the way to the door.
    • For guests who stay several nights, pretend this good friend has come to take the room they had been using. Make this appear to be a long-standing invitation, so the overstay-er has no choice but to find new room and board.
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    Tell them to leave. This is the ultimate last resort, and there's not much to it. For the guest for whom none of the above had any effect, there is nothing else to do than to tell them, directly: "You need to leave." By this point, don't ask them to leave--tell them. Do as bars do: shut off the lights, hang up the chairs. Make it unthinkable to stay any longer.[7]


  • Keep a gracious attitude as long as possible. Even guests who overstay their welcome should have a positive memory of the gathering.
  • If possible, know your problem guests ahead of time.
  • Make it obvious what food/drink is for the guest, and which is for your home and family.
  • Be diligent about keeping up your guest's amenities; then, why it's time for them to leave, withdraw your diligence. Unwashed towels and a un-made bed are an obvious sign.


  • For parties, know how alcohol might affect your guest's ability to leave.
  • Be prepared for some hurt feelings if it comes down to showing someone the door.

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