A few months ago, inspired by a contest I participated in, I wrote ‘I Want to See Inside Your Fridge‘. In it, I shared pictures of the insides of our bedroom closets and asked you to do the same. My friend Shannon, inspired by that post, shared pictures on her blog of real life spaces in her house. She also mentioned something that has in turn inspired this post (there’s a whole lotta inspiration going on these days!).
Shannon briefly wrote about having a welcoming home for visitors and it got me thinking. I want my home to be an inviting place. One that people not only feel comfortable in once they get here, but that they also look forward to visiting. So I began to think about what makes me feel welcome when I go to someone’s house. Because there’s a good chance that what makes me feel welcome will also make someone else feel welcome. And if I know what makes someone feel welcome, I can create that environment.
I began by thinking about all the homes I’ve been to. About where I’ve felt the most comfortable. The most relaxed. Where I’ve left thinking, ‘That was actually fun!’. And conversely, the places I’ve been where I’ve felt out of my element. Uptight and uncomfortable. Where I leave and think, ‘I’m glad that’s over.’
As I’ve ruminated over this, I’ve come to a simple conclusion. The homes in which I’ve felt the most at ease have been the homes that feel lived in. They are the ones that are not perfectly clean or perfectly decorated. Now don’t get me wrong; they aren’t filthy either, but a little dust on the furniture and a few stray items cluttering up the counter top almost make me breathe a sigh of relief. The house is inhabited by real people! On the other hand, when I enter a house that looks like a show piece, I spend most of my time holding my breath, worrying about ruining something, especially if the kids are with me! It’s stressful enough to bring your children to someone else’s home without having the added stress of perfection to deal with.
Of course, it’s not just the surroundings that create the atmosphere in a home. The hosts play a big part in how comfortable I feel. The people I like the most are the ones who are the most real. They’re not trying to impress me with their expensive furnishings or their gourmet snacks. Instead they’re the ones who plop down on the living room floor to play with the kids and who offer us chocolate chip cookies that may have eggshells in them because of the 5 year old baker’s apprentice. Sure, I might take a rain check on the cookie, but at least I’ll know that I don’t have to put on airs to try to impress them.
So if that’s my ideal, how do I measure up when I am the one to play host? I will readily admit that I tend to stress out before people come over about my less than perfect surroundings. I want everything in it’s place, even though I know that nothing stays where I put it for very long. I want things spotless, even though there are more marks on the walls than I can count. I plan to get everything organized, but end up praying our guests don’t ask for a tour of the house because I didn’t have a chance to clean up any room on the second floor.
And how do I behave once my guests arrive? Unfortunately, I think I spend a lot of time trying to keep up appearances. For example, the appearance that my kids are perfectly behaved and always clean up after themselves. Let’s face it; they’re good kids, but they’re not well behaved all the time and they rarely clean up after themselves. Or how about this one: The appearance that I’m always calm, cool, and collected. That one’s kind of silly because trying to appear calm, especially if you’re stressed out, usually makes you appear anything but.
After thinking all this through, it’s interesting to me that even though I know that no one demands perfection from me, I still feel like I need to pretend to be that way. I think part of it is this: Even when other people claim that their house is a mess or that mine is really nice, I don’t truly believe them. I figure they’re exaggerating in order to spare my feelings. It’s a simple matter of being self-centered and caring more about how I come across than how I can put my guests at ease. In order to have a welcoming home, I need to shift my focus from myself to my guests and what makes them feel comfortable.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Obviously we all have different personalities, likes, and dislikes, but I’m hoping there are some common themes when it comes to what makes us feel welcome. Give me your ideas and a few weeks to implement them, and then maybe I’ll have you all over for coffee. And if I truly mean what I’ve written, then I might even give you a tour of the house!