Establishing Vacation Home Rules
July 10, 2012 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Help me set some reasonable rules/guidelines for being at our vacation house with guests or our adult children so that I do not do all the cooking. meal planning, laundry and tidying during vacation.

We have a condo in a resort town that is desirable for our twentysomething children to visit and guests too and I would like to establish some ways of being there together that will help me feel like I am on a vacation right along with everyone else instead of being the condo slave.

Since we have only had this condo a couple years I can really have a clean start at setting some expectations so that it is enjoyable for everyone.

I noticed that during the 4th of July at my parents cabin (that had 14 people in it for 5 days), the garbage cans were overflowing, wet towels were loaded up in the bathrooms and on beds and people left their stuff all over the place. I did my part to help with that but feel like some rules should be established. Also my mother wants everyone to help with all meals so if someone takes a meal off to go read or sit by the lake they feel guilty! So that is not a great option either.

Any recommendations welcome!
posted by seekingsimplicity to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Chore list on day 1, everyone signs up.
posted by spitbull at 1:03 PM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I forgot to add that my brother and his wife (who have 2 kids ages 7 and 5) asked to use it for a week and brought their newkitten with a litter box. They also brought a babysitter (my niece). We are letting them use it (without us being there) and asking that they pay for cleaning after they leave. Any other things you would establish with those kinds of requests?

It kind of makes me nervous because everything in the condo is new to us and we have worked very hard to make it nice.

It is much easier for me to not be there while they are there watching them trash the place.
posted by seekingsimplicity at 1:07 PM on July 10, 2012

At a fishing camp my father in law takes me to, meals are handled this way: If you eat, you must either cook or clean up. Campers who don't eat that meal don't have to do either. People self-select very well for either cooking or cleaning, depending on their personal preferences.
posted by jon1270 at 1:14 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've stayed at similar places where everyone agreed to a set schedule for whose turn it was to clean, cook, etc. It worked fine, but it of course does depend on everyone actually buying into it and doing their part when it's their turn.

I've also noticed that some members of my extended family fall much too easily into the "slave" role. E.g. there's a few dirty dishes in the sink, so they just go start washing them without saying anything, even if it's not their dirty dishes. I definitely understand not wanting to live in a house with dishes piled up in the sink, overflowing trash cans, etc. I hate that stuff too. But sometimes I think you have to let that stuff sit for a while to get across the point that no one else is going to do it. If you keep giving in and cleaning up after people, they'll get used to it, and it will become the expectation. Though again, this depends on the group of people - if the people you're inviting over are perfectly happy to live in squalor, that strategy won't work (but you might have an uphill battle anyway).
posted by primethyme at 1:14 PM on July 10, 2012

Re: cooking and meal planning

When we've done this (big family, parents now grandparents, rental beach house) we've put each family member (or couple) in charge of one specific meal during the vacation, delegated before arrival. This usual means the responsible party prepares and cooks everything, cleaning up as well. If they don't want to cook, they must instead take the group out to a restaurant.
posted by Rash at 1:15 PM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

We build teams for family reunion cooking/cleaning. Aunt A's family for day one, Uncle B's family does cleanup that day. Switch the next day, add in other people, etc. The cooks make the menu and do the shopping. The cleaners set the table and pickup.

Everyone needs to be responsible for house rules vis a vis picking up their own crap and doing their own laundry. Some tolerance needs to be allowed for personal differences, but they can certainly pickup their own towels.

You can also build an expense kitty. The kitty pays for all agreed upon expenses. Every time it needs a refill, each participant over the age of 10 throws in 20 dollars. So Bob and Carol throw in $80 because they are there with their two teenagers. Ted and Alice throw in $40 because junior is still a tiny eater.

The cleaning fee is definitely appropriate for people with exclusive use of the place. Collect if before they leave.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:16 PM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Whenever going up to friends' cottages, we've always followed the "If you don't cook, you clean." rule. Everyone has to cook at least once, everyone has to clean at least once.

If there's any remaining cleanup after imbibing the night before, cleanup is a team event first thing the following morning. No having fun till the place is cleaned up.

I've never complained being a part of this, it's a fair system. Often we're enlisted to do some major chore that needs doing, I've helped unload tons of firewood, I've helped build a deck, etc, all in return for the pleasure of getting to visit a vacation home with friends.
posted by smitt at 1:18 PM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

We do a lot of house share vacation with friends, and what generally happens is that couples bring stuff for meals they would like to cook and everyone takes a day, or a night, or a meal (depending on the number of people and number of days), and deals with everything. So food is made by a group, dishes are done by them, kitchen is cleaned &c. Then someone else. It helps that we all like to cook.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:18 PM on July 10, 2012

We have several friends who have vacation homes and it sounds like a lot of people use the same rules we do: everyone picks a day or meal, buys all the groceries for it, prepares it, and cleans up after it. Usually people of good will and happy tummies help with the cleanup. Bonus points for bringing beverages to share!

Everyone is responsible for their own linens. This means that on the last day, each couple or family does a load of laundry that includes the sheets they slept on and the towels they used. The sheets are put back on the bed and the towels go back in the linen cupboard.

This has always worked for us very amicably.
posted by chatongriffes at 1:23 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

My in-laws owned a few cabins and the most helpful thing was that the "adults" in the family sat down and wrote up a check-in/check-out guide for the cabin. Check-in included guides to stuff like turning on the water, turning on the heater, turning on the hot tub etc. Check-out stuff included all the cleaning tasks, plust winterizing tasks if necessary. Having it written out in a checklist makes it really, really easy to split it up when it comes time to leave, and there's no arguing because it's on the list.

It sounds like you might also want to include a daily maintenance sheet, which again could be divided up per day.
posted by muddgirl at 1:25 PM on July 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

Everyone cooks or cleans at every meal they participate in --- if they choose to eat out somewhere instead, then no cook/no clean; if they eat at the cabin by themselves (not as part of the bigger group) then they cook AND clean.

All laundry (bed linens, towels, and their own personal clothes) is the responsilbility of the person who used them; parents are responsible for what their minor children use.

Everyone helps clean the cabin before they depart --- this includes kids, who can dust or haul toys out from under things, for instance.
posted by easily confused at 1:31 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Beach Rules: Whoever cooks does not clean.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:34 PM on July 10, 2012

What about a chores drawing the first night? Draw up a list of chores, put them all on pieces of paper in a hat, and have everyone draw to see what they'll be King/Queen of? I'm sure there will still be some nagging involved, but at least everyone will be clear on what the baseline expectation is. You could re-draw daily so no one gets stuck with dishes every night.
posted by Ys at 1:34 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know what to say about laying ground rules for group vacations in the house when you're there, but I have an opinion about people using the place when you're not there:

We spend a lot of time at my in-law's place near a ski resort, often when they are not there. There is a House Binder that has a "house opening" checklist and a "house closing" checklist, as well as schedule of visitors for the next few months.

Both checklists include information about what to set the thermostat to, how to take out the trash so bears don't get it, whether to strip the beds or remake the beds when you leave, what sort of food can be left in the refrigerator (pretty much nothing but butter and condiments), what sort of food can be left in the cabinets (if you have any issues with mice or bugs--nothing that isn't in a can or jar), where to store your ski gear (if you're leaving it). Other things peculiar to both my in-laws and their particular house, but it's all there, on the list and you check it off when you come in and you check it off when you close up the house to leave. Basically, everyone just respects that this is my in-laws' house and we are guests and we follow the rules, treating the house with respect, and making sure we open and close the house as requested. I don't know how to establish that baseline of respect if it does not already exist.

The House Binder also includes: instructions for the hot tub, instructions for the snow blower, instructions for both booking and paying the person who cleans the house between occupants, instructions for using the cable, instructions for using the internet, instructions for the washing machine and information about the town (how to get a cab, where to buy groceries, et cetera). It's very useful.

Or, you know, what muddgirl said.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:42 PM on July 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

How long are you going to be there? It's the, uh, non-green option, but you can just tell people to put in x amount for disposable things. There's the obvious, paper plates and plastic cups and so on, but also disposable cookware. (Also, you will need lots of large garbage bags.) That's what I would do for 14 people over 5 days, vacation is too damn short to spend that much time cleaning. For small groups (a family unit), you can use the real dishes because small groups will probably already have some sort of system for who does what cleaning.
posted by anaelith at 1:58 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know how to establish that baseline of respect if it does not already exist.

I'd say that a statement to the effect that if the rules are not followed then the condo will not be available in future would be a pretty effective deterrent, as long as it was followed through.
posted by winna at 2:31 PM on July 10, 2012

Maybe also look into getting a separate insurance policy to cover damage as well as liability and divide the premium amount by the expected number of guest groups per year and ask people for a standardized payment for every guest visit (when you're not also in the group staying at the condo). This would help you recoup if there is damage to your condo/belongings and also would protect you in case someone gets injured while staying at your place and tries suing you for medical costs, etc.

You'd be shocked by how quickly family and friends who otherwise have your best interests at heart can turn around and try to make a claim against your insurance policies or assets if something bad happens.

The amount you'd ask as a payment would be small and it'd be a screaming deal compared to having to rent a condo outright. I'd be happy to pay into something like that as it'd give me peace of mind as a guest.
posted by quince at 3:12 PM on July 10, 2012

When we do our multi-family stays, we have signup sheets for meals. It's usually three on cooking, three on clean-up. You can't cook and do clean-up on the same meal but you can on the same day.

Every family is responsible for their living area. With the common areas, just have a daily "clean-up" time--everyone has an assigned area/task and everyone works for a set time (20 mins or whatever). Make sure expectations are clear.

Our biggest struggle has been about what time breakfast is served, especially when there are small kids who wake up at 6.
posted by wallaby at 3:56 PM on July 10, 2012

Having it written out in a checklist makes it really, really easy to split it up when it comes time to leave, and there's no arguing because it's on the list.

It sounds like you might also want to include a daily maintenance sheet, which again could be divided up per day.

Nthing muddgirl and crush-onastick! If it's written down, then it's in stone. Have it understood that if you violate the law, there will be one warning, then be fined or barred from future festivities in the condo. That doesn't mean never attending another family reunion, but it could mean the personae non gratae would have to get a motel or stay in a tent.

Take pictures of every room in the place when it's clean to post in the 'bible' to use as your standard. Also have an inventory of all common items--sheets, towels, lawn chairs. Have a labeled place for everything, and everything to be put back in its place when people leave.

Meals are one expense. You also have to think about what to do concerning the disposables: This is what part of the expense kitty can be used for. Don't get stuck with having to purchase all the paper towels, toilet paper, detergent, etc. For folks that will be there when you are not, have a list on the fridge that people can note what needs to be bought, or make a checklist of things that have to be left in the cabin before they leave. No one wants to arrive at 11 pm Friday night when the stores are closed and find no toilet paper.

Make it understood that there is a standard of tidiness that needs to be maintained, and don't be afraid to politely ask someone to pick up their strewn items, or to empty the garbage. All dirty dishes will be returned to the kitchen! People might grouse at first, but if you set the standard early, everyone will become accustomed to the standard, and you'll be much happier. Have plenty of garbage cans, places to hang towels, places for wet coats, storage for shoes, etc. If there seems to be a problem area with things being strewn about, you might want to brainstorm how to control damages. Often towels are left lying about because there is absolutely no place to hang them. Same with coats and shoes and sports equipment.

You may also want to keep some things there just for your family. Consider a locking storage area so things aren't 'borrowed'. You may also want to keep some spare clothing--extra sweats, socks, sandals, coats--in case someone gets wet or the weather turns off nasty.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:40 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

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