DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend and I rented a summer house with another couple, and we made a list of agreements for what we can and cannot do. That includes who can spend the night, how many guests we can have at any particular time and responsibility for guests' needs, including for food and drink. We were clear, but that seems to have gone out the window. Our friends keep inviting other friends to come and spend the night. I usually cook, and they all eat without even offering to contribute -- money, dishwashing ... anything! We still have a few weeks left of summer. What can I say to our friends to get them to honor our agreement or make new guidelines that are fair to everyone? -- Duped, Stamford, Connecticut
DEAR DUPED: It is time for a “come to Jesus" meeting. Sit down with your housemates and remind them of your agreement -- and how they are breaking it. Appeal to their sense of decency, and point out that it is not fair for them to bring their friends without prior discussion and to have sleepovers with people who aren’t splitting the cost of the house and not pitching in for food, drink, cleanup, etc.
The reality is that many people have guests stop by unannounced at summer homes. A bit of flexibility is a good idea, but being taken advantage of is not. Go over the ground rules that you set up, and implore them to step in line. You may also want to agree to days when guests are welcome and what you expect them to do to prepare for them and to clean up after them.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Do you think it’s right for me to have to wash the sheets of the bed of a colleague who stayed in a room that I now have to stay in for a work trip? He spent a week in this room. Now that he's gone, my boss told me that the cleaning lady won’t be back for a week. If I want clean sheets, I need to make that happen.
I am outraged. We aren’t staying in a hotel; we are in a house that is overcrowded. I feel like my colleague should have washed his own sheets. Since he didn’t, it is left to me, even as my boss’s assistant is here and her job is to handle administrative duties. I am one of the highest-ranking members of our team. I just don’t think it’s right. At the same time, I don’t want to be seen as a prima donna or as difficult. What should I do? -- Dirty Sheets, Sag Harbor, New York
DEAR DIRTY SHEETS: Since you have to sleep in the bed, you should wash the sheets just to ensure that they are clean when you lie down. You can also speak to your boss privately to make it known that you don’t think it was fair for this task to be left to you. If no cleaning person was available, the staffer who used the sheets should have prepared them for the next person in line to use that room.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)