Life Advice



Please Warn Me Before Guests See Our Dirty House

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I seem to have a different point of view about how tidy the house should be when visitors are expected to arrive. To that end, he will inform me if someone's planning to stop by.

For example, we planned a trip over the holidays, and he did not share with me until the evening before we left that his daughter and her new girlfriend were going to stop by while we were away to check in on the house and my mother-in-law (who lives with us). I ended up cleaning the house the best I could until late that night, to make sure that the house presented well to our guests in our absence.

This is not the first time people have stopped by for a visit with little to no warning, or straight-up without my knowledge, so that I could make sure things were tidy and presentable. I have communicated my concern to my husband; however, my feelings are not considered, as the house looks just fine in his opinion.

Am I the only one who still feels it's important to make your house tidy for visitors, or that I should at least be given fair warning to clean properly?

GENTLE READER: Although you likely feel that your husband would approve of the state of the house even if it were buried in a mudslide, neither he, nor anyone else, has questioned your premise -- that it reflects poorly on the homeowner when a guest finds a mess.

Unfortunately, husbands and wives, children and parents, boyfriends and girlfriends seldom agree on what constitutes a mess. Miss Manners recommends starting from the former point of agreement, not the latter point of disagreement. If you require him to help with the cleanup, he may see the benefit of advance warning -- or he may convince you that there is a midpoint of tidiness that is mutually acceptable.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We hosted an event at our home where a couple arrived 45 minutes before the time on the invitation. We were still getting ready, and we had not yet sequestered our rambunctious dogs, as we generally do when we are entertaining.

My husband attempted to hold onto the dogs so they wouldn't jump on the guests. In the melee, he sustained a bad fall. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt beyond a mild cut and a bump on his head, but it was a scary moment. I was upset and did make a rather curt comment to the guests that they should not have arrived so early without letting us know. Isn't this as rude as arriving late?


What is one supposed to say or do when guests arrive before the host and hostess are ready to receive them?

GENTLE READER: One is supposed to say how happy you are to see them; one is supposed to do whatever is necessary to finish party preparation -- which, Miss Manners is aware, will demonstrate the inconvenience caused without your having to be rude.

The gladiatorial battle with the dogs -- and the subsequent fall -- accomplished the latter, if only you could have held up your end by doing the former.


(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)






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