Recently someone asked for my help with how to feel comfortable inviting people into her home.
I was quick with coming up with ideas; I love to have people come over. I love to feed people and welcome people here in this place.
Later, though, I was thinking about how funny (or maybe that is not the right word?) it is to be asked how to have company. There was a time, that doesn’t feel so long ago, when having people come over made me panic. It was not something I did well. I am, by no means, perfect at it now, but I do a much better job of it than in the past.
Josh and I got married when I was 18. Like, just graduated high school, turned 18, and then went on a honeymoon. One week my mom was making my dinners and the next it was my responsibility to be making the dinners. I was not good at it. I have always loved to menu plan and grocery shop, and have all the foods, but I have not always been so great at making the foods.
I’m sure there were a few people before him, but the first person I remember making dinner for after we were married, is my dad. It probably stands out the most because time spent with my dad was a big deal. There hadn’t been much of it in my life, especially not dinners, so to invite him over was pretty nerve-wracking. I didn’t know my dad well, hardly at all, and now I was going to make him dinner. The only thing I felt comfortable making was a roast with gravy and the rest of the fixings of mashed potatoes and some frozen corn. I remember straining my gravy. Straining it. With shaky hands because he was going to be at our apartment any minute and I had to get the lumps of flour out of it before he saw.
What a memory.
I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to not worry so much about the food, and concern myself more with welcoming him into my home and showing him how glad I was that he was there. I wish I could tell my younger self that that was not only the first, but the last Christmas meal I would make for him. So treasure the moment.
But we had the food, and we exchanged the gifts, and I truly don’t remember much of that evening. Man I wish I did.
Fast forward a couple of years and we have met some new friends and they will be coming to our home for dinner. I still did not have any tried and true recipes. Nothing I felt was good enough, but at this time in my life, I was more concerned with getting my house cleaned up enough that we’d even have a place to sit. Laundry and dishes were just not my thing. I could not get a handle on how to keep my home in order enough that it was not always a mad dash to throw all the laundry in one room and hope to be able to shut the door to said room. Did you watch Friends? Do you remember Monica’s closet? I feel like, years ago, every room of my house that had a door was just like Monica’s closet. Oh, and my oven was used for storage of dirty dishes.
So, to invite these new friends over was exhausting and overwhelming, and I just wanted to cancel. However, Josh would not let me. In fact, he later (much later, years later) told me he used to invite people over to home just so I would have to clean it. Isn’t that terribly sad and hilarious at the same time?
Anyway, we invited the friends, and I remember I made hamburgers and frozen crinkle cut french fries and we had a good time. This would later remind me that it is not always about the food you serve, but the heart in which you serve it.
I have no bullet points on how to have company, just a few suggestions that have made it easier for me these last few years, that may help you, too.
Start simple. I think the easiest way to go about feeling comfortable having guests is to first start with what you’re going to make. What meal do you make that you don’t even really need to pull out the cookbook for? What meal do your kids or husband love the most that you make? Choose that one, clearly it’s a hit. Make sure you have the ingredients on hand, and if not, get to the grocery store.
Invite the friend or family that you are most comfortable with, so that if you forget the canned mushrooms for the recipe and you need your friend to grab a can on her way over, you know it won’t be a big deal to ask her. (Not that that’s ever happened to me. Not that that friend actually abhors mushrooms.) But seriously, if you’re trying to get comfortable having company, start with easy company. The friend who will roll with crumbs on the floor and chickens at the door.
Yesterday I invited a friend of mine over for lunch. She is one of my favorite people and has been doing my hair for nearly 20 years but yesterday was the first time I’d ever had her over! I knew I wanted to invite her over, I know her day off, and so I quickly glanced at the calendar and sent her a text about a week and a half ago asking if she’d like to come over. A few days before she was to come over my youngest got sick and I didn’t get to the grocery store. I got my house clean, but there wasn’t a slice of bread in sight. And Sunday came and Sundays mean my husband is here and somehow we trash the place on Sunday.
It would have been easy in this moment to get overwhelmed and call off lunch. Messy house, no food, sick kiddo. But I really wanted to spend time with my friend. I always think about what actually needs to be done to welcome someone into my home. When I first started inviting friends or family over, I felt every room must be clean from top to bottom, and the task was daunting. By the time the house was spotless, the groceries bought, the food prepared, and the guest(s) showed up – I was pooped! Now, for me, what needs to be done to welcome someone in my home includes a clean bathroom, clean countertops in my kitchen, and my living room furniture cleared of all the clean unfolded laundry.
Notice how I said clean countertops. Not necessarily a completely clean kitchen. There have been many times I have not had a chance to wash all the dishes before my friend shows up. I make sure though that the dishes left to be washed are stacked in the sink and my countertops are wiped down. I make a quick sweep of the kitchen floor, no longer mopping like I used to before company, because really, that’s just extra time that could be spent elsewhere. Like texting your friend to tell her you’re excited she’s on her way over!
I have never been great at doing laundry, so often times there is a pile of clean clothes on a chair in my living room that should be folded and put away, but is instead just pulled from to dress ourselves each day. I clear this chair off in case we sit in the living room to visit.
And the bathroom.
While setting the table for our lunch yesterday I found two things that quickly made me embarrassed to have someone come over.
One was this:
We do not have four matching spoons in this house. I have small children so I cannot have nice things like matching silverware. We have only these four spoons. No more. And not even four matching ones. I truly hoped Barbie would not notice and then I quickly decided it was more funny than annoying or embarrassing.
Next, I found this:
Thankfully the crumbs were found before company showed up!
Okay. So we’ve picked our food, our friend, and our house is tidy enough. It’s time to just enjoy the time with your friend or your family. I know this is easier said than done, to be honest, I can still find myself in a panic after my guests leave. Was the food okay? Did my house smell? Did I make her feel welcome? Will she come back? Etc. But every single time I have to remind myself, people just enjoy being invited. It’s just nice to be thought of, right?
You know what I served Barbie yesterday? Tomato soup from the deli at Safeway and I made grilled cheese sandwiches and brownies. Filling, not fancy. The way friendship should be.
Invite your people. Make the food (or, heck, buy some of it premade). Tidy – but do not scour -the house.
Having company is fun.