Hello, my name is Jessica and I am a full-time couch crasher.
After losing my job last year and subsequently moving out of my apartment, I began staying on friends’ couches for what I thought (and hoped) would only be a few weeks until I found a new job. Weeks turned into months, months turned into a year, and so far I’ve lived the last 13 and a half months of my life in other people’s homes.
I’ve slept on couches, sofabeds, air beds, futons, in guest rooms and master bedrooms while housesitting. I’ve stayed in grimy Brooklyn apartments. I’ve stayed in multi-million dollar SoHo lofts. I’ve had “one-night specials” on a futon in Harlem. I’ve settled for a month (by myself) (!!!) in a gorgeous Park Slope coop. But no matter where I am, no matter how dingy the sheets or expensive the shower curtain, there is a standard I live by that stays the same. I call it the Crasher Code.
The Crasher Code exists because, no matter how funky, the home I am staying in has been paid for by someone else, someone with a job, and they have graciously offered it to my broke/ unconnected/ stranded ass. I can’t pay them, but still they’re willing to see my six-foot frame sprawled across their pullout as they tiptoe out to work in the morning. Bless them.
So in addition to the standard houseguest protocol (make your bed in the morning, wash your dishes, don’t eat their food unless they offer it [I am not good at this one]), and to make up for the fact that I can’t offer any monetary compensation for the white-blonde “unicorn hairs” they’ll inevitably find scattered around their apartment after I leave, this code dictates a few small things I can do to soften ye olde houseguest blow. Maybe it’ll help you the next time you find yourself bedding down in someone else’s living room.
1) Fill the Brita pitcher.
This is New York. Every human between 18 and 60 has a Brita pitcher in their fridge. And every single one of those people hates refilling it. Each time you pour a glass, fill that baby to the top. They might not notice, but they won’t ever notice that you emptied it. And really, that’s the goal.
2) Clean the drain after you shower.
Because of my aforementioned “unicorn hairs”, anytime I take a shower there’s a little golden nest hugging the drain. Do I want my hosts to have to pull my damp, soapy hair from the pit of their bathtub next time they’re cleaning, conjuring the image of me slack-jawed and drooling on their CB2 throw pillow? No I do not. So I fish it out. And if they left hair in there (hey, it’s their shower), dig in and get it out too. Yeah it’s gross, but just imagine the park bench you’d otherwise be sleeping on. And then wash your hands.
3) Replenish those paper goods.
Just because you can’t pay them doesn’t mean you can’t help out with a few little things. Notice they’re running low on TP? Buy a pack. Hear one roommate ask another to get a roll of paper towels? Pick some up that afternoon. It’s a cheap, easy way to help out. And it means you don’t have to use their organic single-ply toilet paper anymore. HOLLA.
4) Keep your suitcase closed.
This is a subtle one, but I’ve found it makes a big difference. If you’re staying in the living room, keep all your belongings within the bounds of your suitcase and keep that baby closed. Nobody wants to see your underwear strewn across your exploding toiletry bag and your crumpled sweatpants tumbling from the gaping mouth of your luggage when they settle down to watch Breaking Bad. You don’t have to keep it zipped, but make sure everything’s inside and the lid is down.
5) Clean sheets, washed towels, can’t lose.
Leaving is emotional*, but if you have enough time in the morning, wash your sheets, pillowcase, and towels. This is especially important if you were sleeping in their bed while they’re away (be sure to re-make the bed). They won’t expect it, and it’ll be one less thing they have to take care of in your wake. Bonus points for throwing in their towels too. No time? Strip your bed and leave everything that needs to be laundered in a tidy stack somewhere visible but out of the way. They can throw it in with their next load.
A little thank-you note with a bunch of flowers goes a long way and puts a sweet “button” on the end of your stay, especially if they’re out when you leave. I keep an envelope of pretty notecards in my suitcase for scribbling heartfelt thanks before I take off. They’re always a hit, and if you include flowers it’s nice feeling like you left some beauty in your wake.
And there you have it. The Crasher Code. I’ve been “on the road” for a long time now, and no matter where I am, no matter how brief or long, these things stay the same. They keep me sane, and (hopefully) keep me from wearing my gracious hosts too thin.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a replacement box of cereal to buy.
*”Moving days” are the worst. There’s the uncertainty of where you’re going next, the lugging of all your worldly belongings up and down multiple flights of concrete stairs, through crowded trains, across subway grates… Your arm hurts. You’re sweating. This is when you’re most likely to cry. Even if you’re leaving a gross place and feeling gleeful and free from the dungeon, moving day just blows.