If the first rule of housesitting is that something always goes wrong, then the second rule of housesitting is that the homeowners always come home early.
It never fails – whether they’ve gotten the flight times wrong, decided to return a day early, or – horrors – you’ve gotten the day mixed up yourself, odds are, the homeowners will return not only when you least expect it, but most definitely when you’re least prepared for it.
Take, for instance, the time I was housesitting and had enjoyed a late night out. The animals were taken care of, the house was even clean, but as I got home after midnight, I kicked my heels off in the living room, slung my wrap over the back of a dining room chair, put my purse on the kitchen table, and left my dress on the bathroom floor after changing into pajamas. Normally, even in my own home I’m not this messy! But for some reason that night, I came home exhausted and didn’t take the time to be tidy. I was under the impression that the homeowners were coming back the next afternoon, so to my mind, I had the morning available to pick up after myself and throw the sheets in the wash. I had already cleaned the bathroom, the kitchen, and vacuumed the floors. But that was a little difficult to prove to the homeowners when they came home at some point during the wee hours of the morning! I woke up and nearly had a heart attack when I saw their luggage in the living room (next to my heels, of course). Luckily, that wasn’t the first time I housesat for this particular couple, so we had a chuckle about it later when they expressed their surprise at my uncharacteristic mess, and I vowed to never be so slovenly again.
Of course, sometimes even when you’re doing the right thing by cleaning the house, you can still get caught in the act. I was housesitting for a couple with a new baby, and decided to do a deep clean of their entire downstairs, especially the kitchen and bathroom, as a present for them before they got home. For those who don’t know, a deep clean is when you start from the top down, first cleaning top cupboard doors and handles, then removing everything from all countertops, wiping down the countertops AND washing the items that go back on them, then wiping bottom cupboard doors and knobs, then finally sweeping and mopping or vacuuming the floor. Take it from this former house cleaner – it takes a lot of work to deep clean a room. Once again, my intel had led me to believe that the family was due back mid-afternoon, so you can imagine my surprise when they walked in at 11:30 a.m.! As this occasion was pretty far into my housesitting career, I was as prepared for this situation as I could have been. I had actually just finished all of the cleaning, even the mopping, and had been in the process of taking out their garbage. I went ahead with that, then quickly shoved my remaining unpacked items into my bag and skeddadled so that they could settle back into home. But can you imagine the mess their house would have been in if I had been only halfway through that humongous project?!
The law of averages states that something will always go wrong with a housesit. If the only problem is that homeowners come back early, that’s easy enough to prepare for by making sure the house stays neat and tidy while you’re there, and that (whenever possible) you’ve finished almost all of your chores either the
night prior to or several hours before the family is due home. A little preparation can save you a heart attack, or at least a lot of embarrassment!