“But what if they go through my papers or steal my mother’s silver?” My friend Allison had set up a great exchange with a family in Denmark. Now she was worried. “What if they ruin my good towels?”
Good communication and careful screening helps you feel confident that you can trust guests to take care of your things and respect your privacy. But there are no guarantees. Things get broken and disappear, and an occasional guest may go through your files, either out of curiosity or while trying to find the appliance manuals. Here’s what you can do to help protect your privacy and valuables when short-term guests stay in your home.
Store your valuable items and private papers
You can put personal papers and small items such as jewelry and mementos in boxes marked “Please do not open” and store them on a high shelf or at the back of the garage, put them in a locked closet, or leave them at your sister-in-law’s house while you’re away. For more security, move extremely important papers and valuable jewelry to a safe deposit box.
Remove fragile, delicate, or valuable furnishings and artwork
The best way to protect your rickety antique chair or the Giacometti you inherited from a long-lost uncle is to put them somewhere inaccessible, such as a locked area of your home. If you often invite short-term guests into your home, you might consider renting a small storage unit for things you do not want broken or lost.
Buy inexpensive replacements for your good household items
If you plan to exchange or rent out your home often, it might be worthwhile to buy low-cost but perfectly acceptable replacements for some of your expensive towels and sheets, dishes and glassware, and cookware. Stores such as Ikea and Target are good sources for attractive, serviceable housewares. You may also be able to find replacement items at your local thrift shop.
Protect your computer files
Most people travel with laptops, phones, and/or iPads these days. If you do decide to let guests use your computer, create a password-protected area for your personal documents. Even better, put your computer away and buy a cheap second-hand laptop for guests’ use.
What’s Next: Stock up on the basics