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My Sister-in-Law Is a Bad Houseguest


Published August 17, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.

Dear Reverend,

My sister-in-law recently spent five nights in our small, one-bathroom house. My husband and I had fun hanging out with her, but we were also annoyed by some of her behavior as a guest.

Like, she used my deodorant without asking. She couldn't keep track of which bath towel was hers — gross! She never put her dishes in the dishwasher or even by the sink. She let food from the freezer melt all over the counter.

When we bring this stuff up with her, she makes us feel like insane neat freaks. Are we? Do we just have to put up with this next time she visits? She's stayed at hotels in the past, but they're too expensive for every time.

Notya Mayde (female, 34)

Dear Notya Mayde,

I feel your pain. I like things a certain way in my house, and I often find myself cleaning up in the wake of visitors. Keeping your house tidy and expecting a guest to do the same doesn't make you a neat freak. Your sister-in-law sounds like a Messy Bessie who gets defensive about her sloppy ways.

If this weren't a relative staying at your house, I would suggest being a gracious host and shrugging it off. But since she's family, there's no need to sweep it under the rug. Let your husband do the talking. He's the sibling, so he shouldn't have to pussyfoot around her. He can be polite but straightforward, letting her know that she has to play by the house rules.

And before her next visit, you could sort of sister-in-law-proof your house. If all your towels match, get one for her that is a totally different color or print and have a place for it in her room. Keep toiletries that you don't want her to use in your bedroom. You get the idea.

In the big picture, you enjoy having her come to visit, so the few days of frustration might just be worth it. Besides, it could be fun for you and your husband to vent about it over a glass of wine — or three — after she leaves.

Good luck and God bless,

The Reverend

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