HOUSESITTING is, indeed, a wonderful way to see the world without the major expense of accommodation. We have enjoyed the use of homes by the beach in Australia and the UK, in a teeming city in Asia, the mountains in Switzerland and in some of England’s most picturesque rural settings, complete with thatched roofs.
But housesitting also can be – and should be, if done properly – hard work. And we’re not just talking about the cat that jumps on your head at 6am to indicate his hunger, or the large dog drawn almost magnetically to a freshly mown law, leaving you the job of cleaning up. Most housesitting hosts take a great deal of pride in their homes, and so should you. Our goal always is to leave our hosts’ homes in as good condition as we found them – at a bare minimum. Hopefully we leave them in better condition, meaning cleaner, tidier and with an occasional extra touch. Let’s face it, who wants to return home from a wonderful holiday only to be confronted with a grubby toilet or bathroom vanity? Who wants to put down their luggage and pick up their vacuum cleaner? Who wants to have to clean the pool before the kids can jump in? And having to cook when jet-lagged is no fun at all.
Our “strike rate” for securing sits has increased exponentially with our five-star reviews. And our five-star reviews have been the result of going that extra yard (not even an extra mile!). We discovered that early when one of our first hosts was about to return form an international holiday with her husband and two children. We assumed the kids probably would be tired and maybe slightly irritable and knew the husband had to return to his busy career the following day, so we took the time – less than an hour – to rustle up some homemade pumpkin soup. It is a simple recipe that requires easily obtainable ingredients, and we left it in the fridge with some sour cream, and a note on the kitchen counter with some crusty, fresh bread. It would have taken all of five minutes for them to heat the soup in the microwave and have a meal on the table.
We just regarded it as a nice thing to do, nothing extra special. The effect was incredible, and not just in a glowing review. We have been invited back twice. Since then we have tried to devote the final day of each sit to just making sure everything is in order for our hosts’ homecoming. Often it means a lot of elbow grease put into sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, maybe even in a few areas neglected by the host. Sometimes it also can mean spending a few dollars on some fresh flowers or maybe a small house plant or a scented candle to leave on the kitchen work bench or the living room coffee table.
It costs little, but means a lot.
Here’s the recipe we use for pumpkin soup:
1.5kg pumpkin (or butternut squash), deseeded, cut into small chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
1 onion chopped
1 carrot sliced
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup coconut cream
Heat oil in large pot on medium heat
Add curry paste and stir, about one minute
Add onion and cook until softened
Add pumpkin, carrot and stock
Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes or until carrot and pumpkin are soft
Mix until smooth, using a stick blender
Stir in coconut cream
Add a dollop of sour cream and serve immediately with crusty bread, or refrigerate and rehea