Hospitality Hacks for the Domestically Challenged

acts

“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” ACTS 2:46

Hospitality isn’t necessarily defined by the production of food, however, there IS something magical that transpires when a group of people gather around a table and break bread together.  The simple act of sharing a meal, a conversation, a funny story can break through a fog of social awkwardness that might have taken six months of 5 minute conversation grabs.

I’m not a particularly gifted cook, but what I have learned to do with some modicum of competency is to gather people and create an atmosphere of comfort.  The thought of entertaining used to send me in to a spin, however, after lots of tears and tantrums I have developed some vital hospitality hacks.  This allows me to focus on the heart of hospitality, which is to create space.  Whether that space needs to be in my home or more importantly, in my heart.  Our children have picked up on this.  We’ve always been determined to have an ‘open door’ policy for their friends.  Interestingly, since I’ve stopped freaking out about maintaining a facade of domestic supremacy, we have more of their friends in our house.  In fact, all three couches in our family room pretty much form to shape the outline of 16yr old boys, friends of our eldest son, who regularly sleep there.

Most importantly, I’ve stopped viewing my house, my children, my food offering through a critical lense of scarcity.  We are good enough, just as we are.   {In fact “good enough” might be my new mantra….If I’m a “good enough” mum, a “good enough” host…that is indeed enough, Jesus will make up the rest}.   I am aware that with six kiddos we can seem like an overwhelming herd of buffalo when you’re first getting to know us and  this used to dissuade me from inviting people over.  Now I just embrace it and think “Well, our guests will always leave feeling happier about the state of their own home and family once they’ve witness our craziness.”  It’s a positive, not a negative.  Onwards!

Here’s my recipe for avoiding a nervous breakdown when people come over:

  1.  Grab a large laundry basket.  Throw everything into it that is lying on the floor or out of place.  Put that laundry basket in the laundry and deal with it later.  I usually require more than one basket….
  2. Wipe down surfaces.  If you have clean surfaces, generally the rest of the house looks clean.  You might want to include wiping down the kids. No judgement here, folks.
  3. Stack things.  Books, toys, sports gear.  If household detritus is stacked, it tricks the eye into thinking it is tidy. Although you might want to move the neatly folded stack of underwear from the middle of the table.  I can tell you from experience, that it’s not the look you’re after.  Especially if you’re in the early stages of friendship.  Once you’re my friend, whatevs.
  4. Give the bathroom a once-over, put a fresh hand-towel out, fresh soap and light a candle.  Hey presto, you’ve got a spa-quality bathroom. Note:  Do this yourself.  Learn from me. Trusting one of the kids to do it will result in social embarrassment.
  5. Plan a menu which has people serving themselves, rather than you having to plate up.  The food always looks fab on platters and those picky eaters can just do their thing without awkwardness.
  6. White plates, white platters and colourful tablecloths.  It always looks fresh and it always matches!
  7. BBQ’s are wonderful It gives your husband something to do and a focal point for the guys to stand around and chat.
  8. If people ask “Can I bring something?”  The answer is always YES.  Hospitality is about making people feel welcome and comfortable.  Everyone wants to feel a part of things and bringing something along to contribute immediately puts that person at ease.  This is not an opportunity for you to show off your cooking prowess.  This is about warmth and welcome.
  9. Music.  Get yourself on Spotify {or something} and get a great soundtrack album like Something’s Gotta Give or one of those Putumayo albums on in the background for instant ambience {Although World Music is polarising, so you might want to stick with Norah Jones}
  10. Give people jobs to do once they arrive.  “Here, can you pop this on the table?”  “Can you help serve the kids?” or in my dreams “Would you mind folding that laundry?”….ha!
  11. Best ice-breaker question ever to a couple you are wanting get to know: “How did you two meet?”
  12. Buy the best coffee/tea you can afford and serve it in nice mugs.  This matters.  Whether you’re offering an end of meal coffee or having friends over for a cuppa, you want them to feel special.  My plates and bowls are $1 specials from Kmart.  My mugs are where I’m happy to spend a bit extra.  Having said that, I bought the most fabulous paint-dipped mugs from Target for $4.  Bottom line, we need to conserve our resources and coffee and mugs is a good place to focus our efforts.

 

LAST MINUTE MENU FOR THE PANICKED

For when you’ve bumped into someone after church or at the shops on a weekend morning and in a rush of bonhomie you foolishly blurt out,”Hey pop on over for a quick lunch!”.  Don’t panic.  Do this:

  • Sausages on the BBQ
  • Lebanese flat bread
  • Hummus
  • Tabouli
  • Everyone assembles it themselves and the kiddos can just have sausages, Lebanese bread and tomato sauce.  Super easy!
  • Grab a Pavlova from the supermarket,  whip up some cream, add fruit and you, my friend, have a house full of very happy guests.

hospitality,+Jen+Hatmaker,+#forthelove

It’s not a competition.  Some of our most memorable, happy dinners have been the last minute, slapped together cacophony of tastes and flavours, laughs and “Sorry it didn’t set, but hey, let’s eat it with a spoon!” type of experiences.  I once served a dish to friends and when they complimented me on it and asked what it was I just said “Chicken surprise”….because it was a combination of two different chicken dinner leftovers with melted cheese on top.

Love God, love his people.  Especially the ones who seem a little alone.  Reach out to them, pop some sausages on the barbie and invite them to sit and tell you their story.  You won’t regret it.  Pinky promise.

Live Brave, sister!

Meredith xo

me

Meredith is the Editor of  Esther & Friends, wife to Dave, mum to six kiddos and Charlie the Wonder Dog.  She believes in the redemptive qualities of God, books and coffee and loves her church and its family with a passion.  Meredith also sits on the board for The Lisa Harnum Foundation which seeks to re-establish families who are fleeing the trauma of domestic violence.  You can contact Meredith here on estherandfriendsmail@gmail.com.

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9 thoughts on “Hospitality Hacks for the Domestically Challenged

    1. I have seriously considered the possibility that God has put me into my friends lives to make them feel better about themselves by comparison to my parenting/domestic fails. Not joking. Every second bible study {which I led} would be interrupted by a phone call from one of the kiddos schools to “discuss an issue”. It’s difficult to maintain a facade when you have so many demonstrable fails! My motto: embarrassment is a choice. xo

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  1. LOVE this! LOVE you! LOVE that my family have received this warm, relaxed, beautiful hospitality in your home…..though next time I’ll be on the lookout for your stash of laundry baskets!! And no, fold your own undies 😛!! xx

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