09 March 2011

How to Couch-Hop Successfully

Edit: This has become one of my most viewed/searched posts! So I'd like to add a little disclaimer: When I wrote this I was in the middle of a long and very frustrating period of time where someone was living on my couch and not doing so very successfully, as I've put it in the title. My irritation definitely comes through in my writing, but I didn't really think about it or notice it until rereading this post much later! So please don't take this post as being accusatory or harsh... It really is meant to be informative and all the tips ARE very important things to remember when couch hopping if you want to be on good terms with your hosts. Hopefully you can find the humor in my snarky attitude as I now find the humor in that crappy situation! If you're couch hopping, the best of luck to you!

I'm writing this not because I've done a lot of couch hopping in my day, but because I've received a few couch hoppers and I've figured out what they do right and what they do very, very wrong in their situation. Most people who read this probably won't have to couch hop very often if at all but if you do these tips can come in handy. Most of this is about how to not piss off the people letting you sleep on their couch so that you a. can sleep there again, and b. don't lose friends.

1. Remember that you are couch-hopping. This means you are hopping from couch to couch, not planting yourself on one couch indefinitely. The key is multiple couches. You'd be surprised at how many people will try to get around this.

2. Before you get yourself into a couch-hopping situation (if you have a choice about the matter that is), make sure you know at least 3 people who would be willing to let you live on their couch for 1-2 weeks. Don't decide to move somewhere all spur-of-the-moment and only call one friend there and ask to stay for a bit. The more people willing to take you in, the less annoyed each of those people will get with you.

3. Make a time agreement with your hosts before you arrive. The longest you should ask to stay any one place is two weeks, with one week being the best amount of time. Don't be vague- as good of friends with these people as you may be, they're still paying the rent as well as the utilities that you use while you're there. They are going to want to know when they can expect to have their couch back.

4. Cycle. This is where the above tips all become especially useful. If you have called multiple people beforehand and made reasonable time agreements, you can ask your hosts if they would be willing to let you cycle back around to them. Meaning, you spend 1-2 weeks on each person's couch, giving each host a 2-4 week period when they don't have to deal with you. See, you're hopping. from couch to couch. couch hopping.

5. Don't think of this as a permanent situation. If you want to spend the next six months sleeping on different people's couches, you better have a lot of people willing to take you in. Couch hopping is supposed to be something you do while you are trying to get back on your feet. So, you should be actively getting a job, working, and looking for apartments while you are living on someone's couch.

6. Seriously, get a job. Not only will you have extra cash to buy yourself food/pay your host/start saving for a place of your own/buy yourself stuff, you will get out of the house and let your host have some time in their house to themselves.

7. Don't ask for food. If your host doesn't offer it, they probably don't want you to eat it. If they do offer it, don't go crazy and eat everything. Look, this might sound harsh- if you're couch hopping you're probably broke and starving anyways- but that doesn't mean your host can afford to feed you. They're already giving you a roof over your head, and they are the ones that have to pay for that roof. Don't expect them to feed you too.

8. Pay in some way. Whether it's by doing chores, buying food, or by paying in actual cash, do something to make up for the space and money you're costing. Think about it this way: you are getting a place to live- probably with a comfy place to sleep, access to a kitchen and bathroom, and controlled heating. Your host is getting nothing in return. Not exactly a fair trade- so try to pay in some way.

9. Think about utilities. Ask your hosts what they pay for. If they don't have to pay for any utilities then feel free to go to town, but if they do don't be taking 30 minute showers or leaving all the lights/the tv/the computer on while you're not there/sleeping. Unless you are giving your host money to pay for utilities, you shouldn't be using more than you absolutely have to.

10. Don't try to hang out all the time. If you're couch hopping, chances are you have a lot of free time. The same might not be true for your host. Odds are they have work, school, or other responsibilities and they don't have time to always be hanging out with you when you're bored.

11. Do try to make new friends! go out to coffee shops, shows, community events, whatever. Getting out is the best way to make new friends, stumble on job/living opportunities, and get to know your new city.

12. If all else fails, turn to family. If you can't stick to cycling couches or paying your hosts in some way, you need to go back to the people who will take care of you no matter what. A lot of people who couch hop do so because they don't want to live with their family anymore, but if you can't couch hop successfully you shouldn't be making your friends pay for it. You might not like living with your family but chances are they will still take care of you.

13. Don't make it awkward for the host. If they ask you for money (if you are staying longer than you first agreed upon) or ask you to leave, do so graciously. If you can't pay the money, go to a different couch. If you are asked to move out, do so by the day requested and bring all your stuff with you. Your host's apartment is not your storage unit any more than it is your apartment.

14. Stay safe. Don't look for couches to sleep on on craigslist (unless you check the person out a lot beforehand) and don't go off to any stranger's house. If you planned ahead and found several people willing to take you in, this shouldn't be a problem. Unless of course all those people kicked you out- in which case refer to tip number 12.

15. Follow that old scouts camping rule- leave the place looking better than it did before you came. This means, wash a dish if you use it. Clean up your messes. Make sure the living room still looks like a living room, not like your bedroom.

There you go. If you follow these tips you should be able to couch hop without making your hosts hate you. Couch hopping can be something you do out of necessity or something you do for fun, but either way you have to remember that you are asking a great deal from people to sustain your current lifestyle. Be responsible and remember that even though you don't have to pay rent, your host does. The last thing someone wants to do while couch hopping is lose all their friends, so be respectful!

Happy couch hopping :)


  1. I've never had to do this before. I've only had a friend stay over... but that was only for a weekend and it was fun.

  2. weekends are fun! It's when it starts to stretch into month long periods that it can get a little stressful... that's why it's important to only stay one place for a couple weeks tops :) also it's different if it's a close friend vs an acquaintance or not-so-close friend ^^

  3. you bring pretentious to a whole new level! PROtentious, if you will

  4. I personally find this disturbing. I am talking about the current state of affairs so many are finding themselves. It is awful, but Emily you are a wonderfully kindhearted person. I can tell that you have been taken for granted a few too many times and anonymous is either embarrassed because you hit the nail on the head and is being overly sensitive or he is a bit pretentious.