I pull the car into the driveway and my toddler shouts from the backseat, “My home!”
The simple phrase strikes me. My home. He could have chosen to say my house, but somehow, even at barely two, he is already starting to understand the idea that our house is our home. My heart sings with the excitement in his voice as he says it.
Over the years, I’ve given the idea of home and hospitality a lot of thought. I work to create a space that feels welcoming, cozy, and comfortable. Amid the crazy world we live in, it is my hope that our home will be a place of refuge and love to all who enter. Just like my toddler, I hope our friends and family will look forward to time spent in our home and feel like they belong.
Newlyweds at the age of 21, my husband and I were some of the first of our friends to get married. The concept of building a home and opening it to others has been part of the fiber of our life together from the very beginning. As the only married couple in our group of friends, our house naturally became the go-to spot for everyone to hang out. We had ten years of marriage prior to having children to work out a rhythm of hospitality for our family…often through trial and error! While hospitality looks a bit different now that we are parents, there are some practical tips that have helped us create a hospitable home.
Set out snacks. We like to joke that it’s our family motto that if you leave our house hungry, it’s your own fault. I always make sure to keep some simple snacks on hand for whenever friends stop by. Some of my go to snacks are nuts, cheese, crackers, and little oranges. These snacks can easily work for children and adults. When I’m feeling fancy, these snacks can also be transformed into a cheese platter. I also make sure to always have coffee and creamer on hand, as well as tea and a bottle of wine.
Cozy throws and pillows. We have a blanket basket filled with a variety of throws for when guests are feeling chilly or prefer to cozy up with a blanket on the couch. Over the years I have collected a variety of blankets, some heavy and some light, so they can be used for all seasons. I always make sure to buy blankets that can be machine washed from time to time. I also like to have some throw pillows on the couch to warm up the space and add to the cozy atmosphere.
Have toys available. Even before having kids of our own, we had a bin full of toys for when children would come visit. We slowly created the toy bin by finding items at the thrift store and made sure to have toys that kids of all ages could play with. When we are having children over, I always try to think about the specific ages of the children we are expecting and set out toys I think they would enjoy. For example, a bin of Legos is most likely going to be a big hit with a four-year-old boy!
Family photos on display. We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words and our family photos have a beautiful way of telling our family history. Having family pictures on the wall can be a seamless way to start conversations with your guests about your past and be a starting off point for you to get to know more about their past as well. Family pictures can be displayed in a variety of ways, but gallery walls are a popular way to group photos together in a meaningful way.
Don’t stress about the mess. This last point is challenging, because inevitably having people over brings out our insecurities and often we will find ourselves apologizing for dirty dishes, baskets of laundry, or clutter. No one has a perfect home and embracing the imperfections in your home and not apologizing for them will put your guest at ease that you are a real person with real messes too. This one does not come easily to me, and I often remind myself of the times I have gone to someone else’s home and been put at ease when I see it’s less than perfect. No one maintains an Instagram worthy home, so embrace the mess and don’t stress about having an imperfect home.
Each of these simple ideas help create a welcoming environment for friends and family, but I have learned that the best gift I can give my guests is to be fully-present and prepare my heart for their visit. As often as I can, I take time to pray for before friends arrive and try to anticipate how I can best love them during our time together. This practice has completely transformed the way I look at hospitality. When I am frazzled, furiously working to make the house reflect my high standard of perfection, I am weary and self-conscious. Taking the time to slow down and take my focus off my home and put it onto the people visiting completely transforms our time spent together. These are the times when my guard is down and friends start to become family. Letting go of perfection and choosing to open the door and let people into your home is a gift. As you practice this habit, your space will naturally become a hospitable home.
Sarah is thankful to be experiencing the joy of motherhood after journeying through years of infertility. She is married to her highschool sweetheart and together they are raising their two children in Seattle. Sarah is passionate about hospitality, encouraging other mamas, and slowing down to appreciate God’s daily grace. She is a fair weather blogger at www.thelittledove.com and is often on Instagram.