Vacation season is kicking into full gear and so is the search for available house sitters. Whether you just need the house checked for security and the mail picked up or you need someone to care for the living things you leave behind (i.e. pets, house plants, and landscaping), knowing someone is handling things back home can make your vacation that much more relaxing.
I recently spent a week house, pet, & plant sitting for family. Thanks to their forethought and attention to detail, it was smooth for me, and I’d like to believe, fairly atraumatic for their three pets. Our pre-departure conversations gave me a clear picture of what they needed and the demand it would make on my own schedule. Detailed written lists made it easy for me to settle in and keep the pets in a routine.
Here are some considerations that will make your own house sitting experience better:
Clearly define the assistance needed and the estimated time investment up front. Let them know your expectations. Do you wish them to stop in every day or stay in your home? Will they be just checking mail, or tending to pets and plants, as well? If there’s a chance your travel time may be extended, mention it ahead of time. If the sitter will not be available, you may need a Plan B. Better to know now and set it up, before you leave town.
Should they stay or should they go? If you do wish them to stay, be sure to set boundaries on what is and is not available for them to use, take, or share. Let them know what bedroom and bath to use and set out towels and extra toilet paper. Clarify what food and beverages may be consumed. Clearly state whether the vehicles, pool, etc., may be used and if it’s okay to have friends over. Though it may not have any legal standing, putting this in writing and having the sitter sign off on it will further stress the rules.
Designate a place for mail and newspapers. Let them know when to expect newspapers and if there may be deliveries. If you need the trash put out while you are gone, list what (trash cans, recyclers, yard waste), when, and where (curb, front of garage, alley).
Be very specific about your pets and their needs and temperaments. Caring for Doogie the dog is very different from caring for Squeezer the boa constrictor. Write down where the food can be found, the feeding areas, frequency, and amounts. If medicine is administered, be sure to include the dosages and the process of how to administer it. What are the exercise routines and where are they allowed, both in the house and outside?
Leave watering details for plants. Not all of us have a green thumb. To avoid casualties, list location, frequency, and amount of water for the plants. It wouldn’t hurt to put an additional sticky note on each plant pot with the amount and frequency, as well. Let them know when to expect the automatic sprinkler system to kick on.
Give them any pertinent household and emergency information. This info includes: WiFi passwords, alarm codes, house and vehicle keys; phones numbers for local food delivery, veterinarians, a helpful neighbor or friend, etc. Leave an itinerary of flight schedules, driving routes, and the contact information for where you are staying. This is often overlooked because of the convenience of cell phones. But, cell phone coverage may be spotty or nonexistent where you are going and you may be unreachable in a true emergency. It will also be helpful if something should happen to you along your trip and you need to be found.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. But, it will give your house sitter the information needed to care for your home confidently and hopefully allow you to disconnect more completely.