If you’ve lived in Iqaluit for any length of time, there is a good chance that you’ve either: a) been asked to housesit, or b) asked somebody to housesit. With the threat of wilted plants, hungry pets, dead car batteries, and frozen pipes, Iqalummiut rely on each other as soon as airplane wheels lift off the tarmac. In fact, housesitting is so rampant, there is even a dedicated Facebook page to help with its coordination.
While the process of housesitting seems intuitive enough, there are some special considerations for doing so in the north. So here are my (un)written rules for housesitting in Iqaluit.
For the Host
1. Identify who would (and would not) want to housesit for you
Depending on the responsibilities associated with your housesitting gig, generally you’ll be looking for someone who is: 1) good with plants, 2) good with animals, 3) good with northern living nuances. If you’ve got somebody in mind, here is a handy flow chart to decide whether or not you should approach them.
2. Make a list of written rules
Most rules are unwritten, but everybody has their own opinion of house should be maintained. If you have certain instructions you want followed, spell ‘em out in an email or list.
3. Give a tour before you go
Even with clear instructions, nothing beats an in-person explanation about your water tank (“Watch the pump!”), furnace room (“Check for glycol leaks!”), fuel tank (“Keep it filled!”), pipes (“Run the water!”), etc.
4. Provide contact information
Sharing emergency numbers and internet passwords is intuitive. But you’re in Iqaluit, so cover all your bases. This includes utility companies and preferred mechanics.
5. Make a list of “idiosyncrasies”
Peculiarities. Eccentricities. Quirks. They exist everywhere – especially in the north. Does your dog have seizures during blizzards? Does your vehicle have a fickle remote start? Does your sliding door freeze shut? Your housesitter needs to know; otherwise, they’re going to worry that they’ve done something horribly, horribly wrong until you’re back.
6. If you’ve got a car, offer it up
Although there are instances when the option of housesitting is favourable for someone (i.e. if they’re relying on it as a temporary housing option), it can also be a chore – especially if your housesitter has no wheels of their own. Make it easier on them by giving them the freedom to hit the open road. All 20 kilometres of it.
For the Guest
1. Follow the written rules
If they’ve been provided, it’s for a reason.
2. Don’t eat them out of house and home
They’ll probably say, “Help yourself!” and it’s probably (somewhat) genuine. But let’s be honest: we all know that food is a precious commodity up north, and nobody is happy when their brand new jar of Nutella is scraped clean. Use your discretion.
3. Don't drink their booze
Don’t even look at it.
4. Don’t crush their internet
With completely absurd data limits for exorbitant amounts of money, internet is another area of homeowner protectiveness. Let's just say that wifi passwords are more highly guarded than a first-born son during the Wars of the Roses. Being given the mysterious alphanumeric combination is like being given a gift. A weird, intangible, technological gift. Trust is involved, especially when data limits are exceeded and an extra gigabyte will cost over $15. So avoid streaming seasons of your favourite show on Netflix and resist the urge to torrent like a maniac.
5. Avoid house parties
Unless you’re ready to replace what is lost/stolen/broken (which can be difficult given Iqaluit’s limited shopping options), avoid throwing a rager. Heck, avoid throwing any type of party. It’s a small enough town that word can – and will – get around.
6. Fess up
Broken plate? Stained rug? Empty bottle of scotch? (Oops.) Hopefully not. But if something went wrong, just tell them. Not only does this show that you're aligned with the whole "honesty is the best policy" mantra, but if they’re down south they could probably replace it while they’re in Ottawa.
Appreciate each other! In most cases, you’re doing each other a favour. Be thankful and appreciative on whichever side of housesitting in Iqaluit you fall.