1. Remember that people are more important than things. Having plastic on the furniture or carpets that cannot be walked on without first dubbing fresh socks speaks loudly that the house is not to be used to relax in, but to admire. If your family members can put their bare feet up on the coffee table or just grab a glass (any glass) to get some drinking water with, it won’t be a big effort for your guests to do the same. Does your home welcome people or make them unsure of where they can and cannot sit?
2. Keep the house tidy as usual (whatever your state of “usual” is) but don’t wait for everything to be bleach-clean before opening your home to guests. Furthermore, if someone stops by when there’s still a pile of laundry to fold, welcome them anyway and either fold while you talk or put it off for a while. There’s no need to apologize; this is your home and yes, there is work to be done in it. You don’t necessarily need to stop your work when people come over; they can visit while you tend the everyday needs or toss the salad.
Pizza is an easy meal to prepare and serve. This is sourdough crust topped with sausage, spinach, mushrooms and cheese.
3. Do have food and drink on hand, especially for those surprise, last minute guests. There is always *something* you could offer. For ideas, be sure to listen to my podcast, Fast Food: How to Feed People on the Quick. I have a designated tea drawer that my friends know they can just come dig into when they come in. You could have something similar for kid-friendly snacks, or at the very least, a lemon or some mint in the fridge to add to a fresh pitcher of water. Also have on hand a decent first aid kit for those inevitable boo-boos. You don’t want to offer a toilet paper wrap when a bandaid would be better.
4. Have a bin of toys for toddlers in various places so that when you have a mommy over, she can keep a close eye on her babe easily. For example, I have a shelf of toys in the kitchen, and a couple in the living room. It’s also easy for me to pull out a small bin of magnets or whatnot for an older child to play with at the kitchen table. For more ideas on toy organization, listen to Toys and Their Organization. This really helps with (a) mommies who are new to your house and don’t want to lose their child into unfamiliar places, and (b) helping you to quietly encourage and keep children close to their moms when you feel they are a little too wily to be beyond mom’s reach.
Have a place where people can easily hang coats (and hats!).
5. Just because you have folks over doesn’t mean you can’t “help” them leave when the time is right. Sometimes my kids will be getting really tired and *done* with visitors, and I’ll politely excuse myself or our family by saying something like, “….well…I’m so glad you took time to come over!” Or, if the visitor isn’t getting the hint, something like, “Well, I’d love to visit with you longer, but I really need to let you go so I can (bathe the kids….get to bed at a reasonable time….prepare for supper…).”
6. Do consider giving your guest your attention. That doesn’t mean your work has to necessarily stop (see #2), but it does mean leaving the phone to the answering machine and especially NOT checking your Facebook updates, tweets and emails! If you must take a call that you’re expecting, be sure to let your caller know that you are currently with a guest and will call them back. Give the person who is in front of your face priority.
You could always use paper goods, but real dishware is a real nice touch.
7. It’s all right to say “no”. Being “hospitable” does not mean you need to have an open door policy to anyone who wants to drop in at any time they want to or need to drop in. That being said, being hospitable does mean being available for emergencies and having some flexibility. Some folks are just plain needy and will take up all of your time if you let them; others would never drop by unannounced unless it was urgent. Use some wisdom to know when to bend, and when to stand firm and graciously say, “I’m sorry, I cannot give time to that today.”
8. If you’re having someone over for the first time and there’s a meal involved, it is all right (and appropriate) to inquire regarding allergies and so forth. But that does not mean you need to overhaul your own cooking to meet the needs of picky people (who always need their non-fat, only organic, homemade salad dressing on the side…or won’t eat anything made with salt….or must have a cocktail with their meal…or who have children who will only eat hot dogs, etc.). It is one thing to bend your meals to accommodate, it is quite another to receive the menu you “must” create. Personally, I never make separate meals for picky children (note: picky, not allergic)…but if their parent wants to bring or provide them a peanut butter sandwich instead of having my lasagna, I’m not offended. It’s their deal and they’ll figure that mess out at some point (we hope!). In that same vein, don’t stress if your overnight guests demand amenities you can’t or don’t want to provide. You are not a hotel, and they can (a) appreciate what you do offer, or (b) graciously stay someplace else. It’s amazing what people will sometimes expect (or demand) from you to meet or gain their approval! Just do the best you can in meeting their needs in love, and let them simmer in their own sauce over areas that are over the line for you or your family.
What can you do to make your guests feel right at home?
9. Try to keep at least one bathroom tidy at all times with a clean sink, fresh hand towel and plenty of toilet paper. Get the hair up off the floor every day and the toothpaste gunk off the sink. That way when your unexpected (or expected!) guest needs to freshen up, it will be a pleasant experience. And on the days no guest is using the loo, you will be blessed in at least one bathroom! It’s nice to have the plunger nearby too, to save face if a child clogs the toilet; the parent can just quietly deal with it. And speaking of such, remember that children sometimes have accidents; don’t make an issue of it! Just sweetly provide clean-up materials and don’t stress over your carpet, hardwood floor, etc. Remember….people are more important than stuff, and that includes kids!
10. Bless your guests. If they are sad, give them some understanding and some cheer. If they are down, offer some encouragement. If they are happy about something, try to join them in their joy. You can pray with them, or at least for them, while they are there. If there are children involved, I try to never send them away hungry. Think about how YOU would be blessed in their shoes, and do likewise. Let them leave your home refreshed and blessed!
Hospitality isn’t about having the perfectly set up home ahead of time. Hospitality is about serving people with love, and being open (and home!) to welcome them in their needs. May your guests be blessed by your hospitality, and may you have peace in receiving them. Certainly you can’t please everyone, but you can have quietness and satisfaction in the Lord knowing you followed His lead in how you dealt with folks.
For more ideas on hospitality (without going nuts!), visit the other High Five Moms in the next few days. Tell them I sent you; I know their little spaces in Blogland are awaiting to bless and encourage you, too.