Q: A friend got mad at me for tossing a used tissue and a protein bar wrapper from my purse into the wastebasket in her just-remodeled powder room. She said the basket was "just for show" and that I should have known not to use it. What am I missing?
A: A lot of people decorate their powder rooms nicer than the other bathrooms in their houses, but not to allow someone to use a wastebasket is, I have to say, unusual. Seems to me anything set out in the open should be OK to use. Otherwise, it shouldn't be out.
Maybe this attitude is related to an old tradition of having special guest towels or dishes – or even a whole powder room – that isn't really supposed to be used by family. But most guests pick up on the "not for daily use" and feel a little intimidated.
One of the nicest things about being a host is having your guests feel comfortable and at home. I suppose if guests have their own off-limits bathroom, this "just-for-show" arrangement might make sense, but for most of us, it's a lot easier having usable things that aren't that precious.
I prefer to have a welcoming, comfortable, casual house for my family and friends to enjoy. I do put nice towels and bedding out for my guests because they look great and feel good. But I choose items that will be easy to care fore. And it's not a big deal if something happens. If you do get a brand-new wastebasket and it's not obviously a place for waste, toss a tissue in yourself so guests know it's OK to use.
For your future visits with this friend, don't throw anything away in her powder room. Plan ahead, keep your visits short, and ask what you should do next time.