House Sits That Is –
We started this house-sitting Odyssey as our way to move away from our life in Los Angeles: work-a-day, congested, busy, high rents, etc. We had different goals in mind than other house sitters.
Most are moving towards something they want like travel, adventure, new places and people. That’s all great, and we may get there yet. We were moving away from something, towards what, we didn’t know.
Necessity dictated what we looked for and took on: had to be in greater Los Angeles, had to fill gaps in our schedule to avoid hotel stays. We took anything that met those two criteria. We completed 17 house sits in the first 24 weeks. (Then another 17 before the end of the first year.)
Simple math shows that we moved around a lot, every ten days or so. We know of house sitters who prefer having stays of six months or more. You can see this by looking at profiles on the house sitting websites.
We went for intensity and did we ever find it. We did have some longer stays and had some experience to compare and evaluate.
The Short Stay Drill
We say hello and goodbye to the hosts: walk the dogs right away or sit with the cats. Make the first day an easy and fun day for them. Short stays don’t allow much time to settle in and get organized: we have to hit it fast, or nothing much happens but the daily chores.
That’s fine, but if we stay organized, we get to take advantage of being in all these new, terrific places. We like to meet the neighbors as well, but that rarely happens on short visits.
Here’s the funny thing about short stays – we have to unload almost as much as we do for a longer stay! We bring in our sheets, pillows, and comforter and strip the bed. We fold all the owner’s bedding and make the bed with ours.
That way, when it’s time to go, we just strip the bed, put our bedding in the car and make the bed – no laundry. It also saves a lot of time if we’re leaving early in the morning.
We grab the laptops, and we each grab a small weekend bag. However, we do not unpack our bags: we use what we need, and back it goes in its bag.
We also don’t want to drag all our stuff around town, so we empty the back seat of the car and stash those things inside and out-of-the-way.
Communicating with the Homeowner
On short sits, this happens quickly, mostly short messages with a picture or two of the pets. We find hosts want to know right away how things are going but then aren’t too worried after the first day or two since they will be back soon.
We try to get reassuring news out fast and describe how things are going: that usually suffices.
Getting to Know the Pets
On short stays, there is less time to get to know the pets. It’s likely we’ll know the pet’s routine better than we know the pets. Let’s face it; cats are pretty easy. Dogs, we focus on the walks and fill in around those.
Still, we watch carefully for anxious behavior and do what we can. Usually, the owners have provided clues about what to look for and what to do, and that helps a lot with animals we don’t know so well.
So far, we’ve been able to learn what we need to know quickly and most of the time we’ve had a visit before the stay started and that helped a lot.
Food & Cooking
One aspect of life that is dramatically different during shorter sits is my desire to plan a bunch of meals, make a shopping list, and cook healthy food. Jim doesn’t have much interest in meal planning ever, so that’s not a factor.
We don’t do a lot of scratch cooking during short visits, never the things we normally do like frittatas, casseroles, soups, etc. It just doesn’t seem to happen.
The result is we spend a lot on food at restaurants: it’s meal time, and there’s nothing to cook, so out we go. Sometimes a couple of tacos will have to do. It’s not quite the same as eating meal-to-meal on the road, but close.
We mostly follow the pets around, some sweeping or vacuuming, and touch up the kitchen and bathroom. On the way out destroy all traces of our presence. Not much to it really.
For Longer House Sits
Longer stays let us get to know the house well, where the best markets are, parks, hiking trails, maybe a few neighbors and if we’re lucky some fun local events.
Just like home, really. Dig into the pending file, return phone calls and emails. Take care of business that’s been on hold. Jim has a collection of temporary library cards and always manages to find a library.
Best of all we get to know the pets, their likes and dislikes, and their daily habits. There’s time to form a strong bond. Here’s the key: happy pet – happy house sit.
Jim empties the car; I fill the house, even set up the carved stones and crystals. We try to set ourselves up as we would in our home.
One thing we’ve learned to do is take a few photos inside the house to make sure we can put everything back on our way out.
We usually bring all our kitchen gadgets out and use them. The counters are full of our stuff, and we have empty bags all over.
Communicating with the Homeowner
For the first few days of a longer house sit, communication with the homeowner is the same as for a short stay. We communicate the first and second day.
After that, we mostly go by the owner’s preference and get in touch if we have questions or issues with the house or pets. A lot depends on the specific pets and temperament of the owners.
On longer sits, cleaning is a bigger part of the house sit, and we often put together a weekly cleaning checklist. The list expands depending on the size of the house, the number of pets, and how much of the space gets used.
Every single home we’ve stayed in has plenty of cleaning supplies and appliances, all the things needed to keep a house with pets clean.
Jim gets into a Zen thing with the broom on the decks, patios, and sidewalks and inside with the vacuum. We find out where cobwebs turn up and clear those out too.
Apparently, every single dog and cat in the world love slobbering on sliding glass doors, so that needs tending often. We love doing all this as it helps us feel at home, taking on an ownership perspective.
Day Trips – Exploring
We look forward to exploring the most. Get out the maps, get into Google and see what’s going on and what’s in the area. Even with dogs we can get out for a couple of hours and cover some ground, or take them along on some trips, when appropriate.
I love taking lots of pictures. Jim looks for coffee shops and rides his bike around. That’s how we get to know a new area and take advantage of our nomadic lifestyle.
Food and Cooking
I make a shopping list, Jim buys the food and fills the fridge, and then we cook, cook, and cook some more.
Staying longer in one house enhances our diet significantly. We have time to plan, shop, prepare and eat healthy food; which is our preference.
So, do we prefer short, or longer house sits? It turns out that until writing this post, we hadn’t discussed the matter. They both have their pros and cons.
One of the biggest issues for anyone is food. It’s much more of a chore traveling as we do. We eat healthier on longer house sits and save money on food. Getting to know the pets well is also a big positive for longer stays. They also let us stretch our budget further as it eases up the travel expenses.
On longer sits, we get to know an area and have time to visit places and get a good feel for the town or city.
On the other hand, if we don’t like an area, a short stay is better than enduring weeks in a town we don’t like. If there are no good health food stores close by, short is better.
Finally, and this is unique to us, longer stays let us notice the movement of nature, the changing weather, what’s up with the flowers and trees, even the phases of the moon. Not that we’re pagans or go out dancing in the woods under the full moon, but the contrast to living in a huge, crowded, concrete city is fantastic, and we take advantage of it whenever we can.
What’s Next – Jim goes north again
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