How do you feel when you know you have people coming over? Does the mere idea make you break out in a cold sweat? Does it make you want to buy a new house or replace all the furniture? Do you start to worry that your lifestyle doesn’t quite meet up to the standard of “the Joneses”? I feel like I could write a book about this, but today, I’ll start to break down the barriers to having people in your home.
- Get the house ready. It might be a mess. That’s okay. Give yourself a few days to manage the chaos. Enlist the help of someone you trust, or a home coach (call me!) to help keep you motivated and focused. The rooms that require your earliest attention should be the entryway, the guest bathroom and whatever room you’ll be entertaining in. You can do this. If you tend to be a little ADD, play some music or a podcast to keep your mind busy while you tidy up and get things ready. Just clean and declutter, clear surfaces and freshen up each space. While you’re at it, reset your kitchen for food preparation. Clear the decks so you’re ready to make your magic in the kitchen. Close the door on any room you don’t want people to enter. Usually, people won’t be coming to your home to judge your cleaning abilities, but a “clean enough” and uncluttered space is welcoming and hospitable.
- Take stock of your supplies. Are you serving a meal or merely coffee or drinks? Go through your cabinets and consider what dishes and supplies you have and consider what you may need. Do you have enough plates, drink ware, serving dishes and silverware? Does your tablecloth fit your current table? What about chairs? Can you rustle up enough side chairs and folding chairs to fit all your guests? A quick trip to IKEA or your local thrift store can help you fill in the gaps you might have. I once bought a full extra set of silverware from IKEA and I go to that stash whenever I need extras. The silverware we registered for when we got married has slowly been losing teaspoons, so I bought an additional 12 off Amazon. They match. Sort of. Listen, I will forever sing the praises of white dinner dishes because it’s so easy to add in pieces that match, even when the brand is different, but if you want to use Fiestaware or your wedding china or whatever pattern you found at TJMaxx, it’s all good! Just make sure you have enough for everyone. Someday, I’ll tell you the story about when we had a huge get-together and the last person in the buffet line had to eat barbecue ribs with all the fixings off a single paper plate because I ran out of real plates. It was fine, but not ideal.
- Make a plan for food. I try to have a pantry that can accommodate last minute get-togethers, but ideally, I have some time to plan for an occasion. If you know me at all, you know I am a list maker. Tucked here an there in my cookbooks and notebooks, you’ll find menu plans for various dinners, parties and gatherings over the years. Make a menu, then make your shopping list based on that menu. If your house is in order, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare food and drinks. If food preparation makes you nervous, keep it simple. You can use your own beautiful bowl to mix up a bagged salad mix from Costco. Some frozen lasagnas are as good as homemade. A big loaf of French bread with butter is never a stranger at my table (though I do like to accommodate gluten-free guests as well). I recently learned that a charcuterie board can be an easy way to start a party. Chips and salsa are always winners. Cookies from the bakery (or even the cookie aisle) can be (almost) as good as your mom’s homemade chocolate chip delights. Try not to overcomplicate things. Your simple menu is secondary to the fact that you’ve invited people into your home.
- Get yourself ready. Yes, give yourself a minute to put on a swipe of lipstick and change into a clean shirt. Maybe you need to get the garlic smell off your hands or brush your teeth. Just schedule a moment to reset about a half hour before people are due to arrive. Consider some things you’d like to say, people you would like to connect with each other and ways you can make others feel comfortable.
A friend recently asked me about hosting people in her home. I basically said, just make the invitation and then open the door. I realize my answer was a little too simple, but this should hopefully show that it doesn’t have to be difficult either. A little time, thought and effort will make your open door feel like a haven to those who need a friend or for those who might be far from home. Hospitality is one of my favorite things to think about, so you’ll be hearing more about this from me in the months ahead.