Baffled Over Guest Bath

pink_overallsJanuary 3, 2007

DH and I visited relatives over the holidays. They live 500 miles away. They invited us so we could be with extended family for four days after Christmas. This is a family of four  my SIL and BIL, and two sons, one 16 years old the other 21 years old. The Mom has told us in the past that the hall bath is The Boys Bath, and that she doesnÂt use it. I guess sheÂs given up even going in there. In their two-bath house, this would be the bath guests use, so thatÂs why I am baffled.

What am I to conclude when the bath weÂd be using during our stay has no towels set aside for us, no hand towel, not a washcloth in the house, and no bar soap visible? There is mold around the shower and dirt on the baseboards. The toilet seat is one of those vinyl covered foam rings, and there is a tear exposing the sponge stuffing. The vanity top is cluttered with the assorted toiletries for shaving, dental hygiene, deodorants and contact lense cleaning, so thereÂs no place for even a small ditty bag, let alone clean clothing when youÂve showered. There is one towel bar and no robe hook. There are unpainted drywall patches where the towel bar used to be before this one was wall-mounted. The rest of the house is clean.

Okay, itÂs family, so itÂs fine to ask where we can find towels and soap to use. Done. But what can a guest do about such inhospitable conditions? Since we were sleeping on the floor in the living room, having towels in our room wasnÂt an option. I tried to keep our luggage and belongings clustered in a corner. I felt it wasn't appropriate for me to clean her bathroom.

I should add that we arenÂt talking here about a family of backwoods dropouts. These are educated people with good jobs who live in a contemporary three-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood near a metropolitan area. My SIL works in real estate and is certainly aware of current trends in lifestyle and home design. Our relationships are friendly and we all enjoy each other. Over the past five years, this family of four has spent four different week-long summer vacations visiting our home. WeÂre in similar financial situations (they actually have more discretionary income) with similar style homes, but when they visit us we feed them, make room in our home for them, take them to all the local attractions and sights, and do everything we can think of to make the stay comfortable and fun. The major differences between us are that as a couple, they are 20 years younger, and that my SIL is apparently not a happy woman, whereas DH and I enjoy each other .

IÂd say that the guest bath gives a message to guests, and I feel that the message weÂve been given is "DonÂt come back." I can understand a woman giving up on a family of three men keeping their bathroom clean. I can only assume that if my SIL has girlfriends over, she directs them to her private bath off the master bedroom.

Has anyone else been given this message by family? If...

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First let me say that I have two sons, 19 and 16, and their bathroom is the also the guest bath as you've mentioned above. But not only for overnight guests, but any guests who come to the house for dinners, parties, visits, etc.

The funny thing is, I can really identify with the vanity top cluttered with the assorted toiletries for shaving, dental hygiene, deodorants and contact lense cleaning. But what I don't understand is how the mom can just let that all go and never go in there to clean up, especially if guests are coming! I'd be horrified if guests saw my kids' bathroom in its "natural state".

I taught my boys long ago how to clean a bathroom. They don't do it unless told to of course, but they do their duty as ordered. I recently hired a housekeeper to come in regularly so there's minimum clean up duty in there nowadays. However, the clutter on the counter still persists and must be cleaned up and organized when guests are expected.

That sort of thing, imho, is basic hospitality. Just as I wouldn't serve my guests water in a dirty glass, I wouldn't expect them to use a dirty bathroom!

As for getting a "Don't come back" message from relatives, well yeah, that actually has happened to me before, but not because of a dirty bathroom, it was a different sort of situation. I've not been back since it happened (about six years ago) but I know the occasion will come up where we'll need to visit that part of the country again. My future policy: HOTEL. In the grand scheme of things, the expense of a hotel is not all that bad when considering the comfort of all involved. And based on past experience, the idea of staying in someone's home where I'm not comfortable for even one night is so repugnant to me, I will never knowingly repeat it.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 5:08PM
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Yes, it will be a hotel next time. To think we could have relaxed in a clean and comfortable room of our own instead of worrying about wearing out an already thin welcome!

One plus to this kind of vacation experience is that once back home, you feel like you've arrived at a lovely little boutique hotel or B&B. I try to make a point of leaving my house spic and span whenever we leave for any length of time and boy, did it pay off this time!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 8:53AM
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This reminds me of myself as the perpetrator - Christmas (2005) we "deep cleaned" the house from top to bottom, repainted rooms, bought furniture for guest rooms, had the garden spic and span and hosted the large family event only to realize during the day that the guest bathroom we never use apart from my haircuts, wife's dying hair etc was overlooked and was an absolute disaster area! It really was a terrible mess with no towels etc, there wasn't even any soap to wash hands until we were alerted to the problem by a SIL. I'm still embarrassed when I think of it now but nobody mentioned anything and this Christmas was the largest with twice as many relatives (40) attending... nobody mentioned the mess last year and this time the bathroom was immaculate.

How could I overlook such a thing after all the effort we put into the big event! Well it's just one of those things I guess. We both work in retail and the trading hours are crazy and on top of our efforts to get the place ready for a large family gathering we honestly forgot to clean the bathroom.

It doesn't make sense to me that your relatives would invite you to stay and then leave a dirty bathroom with no towels just to ensure you never returned. Maybe, like me, they forgot that room... maybe she got sick of asking the boys to clean it up and gave up? Obviously it is playing on your mind and I think you should bring it up with with them or forget it as you get along with them. I do agree that a motel is a good solution though.
Just my opinion,

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 10:03AM
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My sister came to visit - she lives in S america and has a maid. She used my guest bath and said, horrified, "Do you know you have a water balloon in your bathroom?" Well, not only that, but over the holidays I spent each day playing with my three kids and husband. Did not take time to scour my bathroom, not even when I knew my sis would be stopping by. I now hope after reading your p.o.v. that she doesn't assume it was a message being sent to her that I don't want here here - my message if any is that I simply did not clean my bathroom - period. Not much else deeper going on there-

I imagine if you had offered to clean the bathroom - it is family after all - just said, hey gimme your cleaning supplies, I'm going to tackle this boy bath! She would have been grateful and would have appreciated the help from the visitors. If not, then at least she could have been the pissy one instead of you! Point being, there's no need to be upset about this, it wasn't intended as an insult to you. Let it go, and if you can't live with it then pay for a hotel next time.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 11:14PM
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I wouldn't take it personally. I would think the bathroom may be point of contention in the family and the mother has simply decided that it is their responsiblity to clean and that she will not give matter what.

Plus, if it's anything like the bathroom my kids use, even if I cleaned it, it would be a mess by the next shower time anyway. You really think that hand towel is going to stay put!

I would have just asked for the necessities you need and then asked where to dispose of them. But again, I wouldn't take it so personally (especially the lack of a robe hook and the unpainted drywall), or think it's unhospitable. If the bath is good enough for the boys to use, it can't be all that bad.

And not everyone has the same level of cleaniness in their house for guests. Plus, they may have spend hours if not days cleaning the rest of the houses and simply run out of time. I'd take what you can get, and if your stay needs to be more perfect, I'd suggest a hotel next time...just be leary of the bed bugs and unwashed comforters--LOL!!!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 11:15AM
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I don't know that it was an intentional message (we didn't want you here in the first place, so take this, and don't come back), but it certainly IS a subliminal message that she doesn't think your comfort is that important. Even IF--best case scenario--she'd forgotten about cleaning that particular bath ahead of time, your asking for towels should have been a jolt that sent her running in to check to see if the boys' outhouse was presentable for guests. It's unconscionable, IMO, to invite guests and not provide basic cleanliness for them.

Has anything like this ever happened to us? Afraid so. BIL invited us to stay at a resort while we were on vacation. He had an apt. with a friend. We got there, and there were no sheets on the bed. Apparently, he and his friends didn't use them. At all. Ever. YUCK!!!! and we had our small daughter with us. I ran right out and bought a set of sheets (which I took with us when we left!). Now, we didn't expect to find the summer place of a bunch of 20-something guys to be immaculate, but sheets? Well, we certainly never stayed with him again--just not my cup of tea. And I can assure you, that I definitely WOULD have cleaned that bathroom--no way I'd have used it as you describe. Or I'd have made some excuse to use the grown-up bathroom. Too bad if someone were embarrassed--they should be to invite guests into something like that.

You have to decide just how important this is to you. It doesn't sound as if they were all that welcoming--they had you sleeping on the floor, as well as not bothering to clean the bathroom before your visit (I could live with the patched plaster, but not the mold, lack of soap, etc). Me? I'd definitely stay in a hotel from here on in--when I travel, I prefer to be comfortable, and I don't really enjoy feeling like I'm imposing on someone. When we visit family now, we like the freedom to come and go that a hotel room provides.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 7:21PM
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I agree with the other posters: this wasn't a message to you. I think you are probably correct that she has just given up on keeping after those two sons to keep the bathroom tidy. Don't be too hard on her for that -- sometimes parents do know better but simply have to pick their battles -- although I agree that when company is coming that would have to share that bathroom, she or her husband should have gotten it cleaned up. And you were right just to ask for towels. Probably you did the same thing about not having space to put your stuff down: "Hey, nephew, how about putting some of this stuff away so Uncle Bocephus and I can have a little space?"

I am a little puzzled by some of the remarks, though. A torn vinyl seat, dirty baseboards, and unpainted drywall patches aren't pretty, and perhaps more towel bars and hooks would be convenient, but I think it's going a bit far to consider these things expressions of hostility. My mom just stayed in our guest room, where there are huge patches of wallpaper peeled off by the builder who is going to be remodeling it. I apologized for the mess, but I am sure she didn't take the fact that we hadn't completed the remodeling in time for her visit as a personal message that she is not welcome.

I think that this may be another one of those situations in which there is more at issue than a bathroom. Perhaps ask yourself how you would have interpreted this bathroom if it had been your best friend you had been visiting instead of this sister-in-law, of whom you do not seem to be especially fond ("my SIL is apparently not a happy woman, whereas DH and I enjoy each other").

Anyway, you are to be congratulated on your self-control in remaining a polite guest, and in being a good hostess who is considerate of her guests' comfort. I am sure your guests all learn from your example.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 1:03AM
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Pink: Im sorry all but I agree with Pink. She was invited to stay there. I dont care if it's the "boys" bathroom. It should have been cleaned; even if they had to do it or she hired someone. I always make sure to do a once over when I know guests are coming. I leave either in the guest room or bathroom, fresh clean towels, body wash/bar soap and even put a new roll of TP on so there is enough there for them. Relatives or not they were asked to stay there and the bathroom should be clean. I dont have a problem paying for a hotel room but if I was invited to stay there those kind of things go along with the invite.

PS...there is a difference between clean and downright dirty. Dust is one thing but mold is another.

Hey just my .2cents.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2007 at 11:51AM
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