A woman slouching in a sofa chair

Throughout my time in college, it was common knowledge that I was not the typical college student. You were not going to find me pulling all-nighters, going out late or spontaneously going to a movie at night.

My friends knew that I was not going to join them when they went to the library or a coffee shop after 9 p.m. The one time I pulled an all-nighter, it wasn’t even to study. If my cousin called or texted after after 9:30 p.m. and I answered her, she would remark mildly, “I am shocked that you are not asleep yet.”

While I enjoy a good time immensely, most of my life I have been somewhat of an old soul. I drink tea, read a book with a candle lit and go to bed around 10:00 p.m. every night. There were, of course, exceptions, especially because my house was commonly known as a hangout place. It was off-campus, and because I was fortunate enough to live with some of my dear friends throughout college, we had similar friend groups.

While I enjoy a good time immensely, most of my life I have been somewhat of an old soul.

Our house had a big, open living room that was perfect for movie nights and a spacious yard where we could congregate when the weather was nice. While I would describe myself as an introvert, I also like to say “yes” when I can. There were frequently groups at our home for Bible studies, watercolor sessions, breakfast dates, Saturday puzzle marathons and game nights.

In the beginning, I struggled with what to do. It felt so rude to ask people to leave when they were still hanging out, but I also felt rude yawning constantly or bowing out to go to sleep when I could barely keep my eyes open anymore. After several late night games of Apples to Apples that found me leaving before they were even over, I started to ask myself how I could set boundaries that were reasonable and suited for me, as well as my roommates (the majority of whom were definitely night owls).

I started to ask myself how I could set boundaries that were reasonable and suited for me.

While my friends would send me pictures of banners that said things like “Please leave by 9 p.m.,” I felt that there had to be a polite way to communicate when a guest had overstayed their welcome. I had to get my house back in order before the next day as a personal rule. I knew that we all wanted our own space back when people would stay for an hour or so after our Bible study ended just to catch up.

I found that the most polite way to tell someone to please leave was not to half-jokingly say, “Alright, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!” Instead, I would wait for a pause in conversation and then say something like, “It’s been so great catching up!” This little hint was normally enough for my guest to understand that the night was wrapping up, or in the case of overnight visitors, that our time together had been enjoyed.

Then, I would stand and offer to walk them to the door and make sure that they got to their car OK. As we walked, we would exchange goodbyes and make plans to see each other again.

Learning to set boundaries for yourself is crucial, especially when it comes to protecting your space and your personal world. If you can graciously tell someone that they have overstayed their welcome—whether it is a friend on a weeknight or an overnight visitor—you are learning to value your social, emotional and, oftentimes, physical health.

Have you ever had a long-term guest? How can you communicate well when someone has overstayed?

Image via Jason Barbagelott, Darling Issue No. 13

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