“Just make yourself at home.”
How often have you heard that phrase? Sometimes you genuinely do feel “at home,” as though you can plop down on the couch, grab the nearest blanket, and sip your cup of coffee without embarrassment. Sometimes, you feel just the opposite. Moving the blanket will destroy its artistic effect. And if you spill coffee on the white couch and rug, the bell will ring over your grave. Very soon.
So how can we make our guests feel at home?
I often wonder how to do this correctly, even though we have many guests in our home each week. “Just make yourself at home” rarely comes out of my mouth, because I know this probably won’t feel like their home within one short evening. But I do want to make guests feel not only welcome but also comfortable with grabbing that blanket or cup of coffee. I’ve read the short “tips on making guests feel welcome” articles floating around the Internet. “Put a water glass in their hands so they have something to hold onto while they’re talking.” It sounds like a great idea. However, sometimes people don’t want water. They say no to the offered glass–so then what? Your short list begins to crumble.
From the gracious hosts and hostesses I’ve had the privilege to watch in action, I’ve seen that making others “at home” has more to do with an attitude than the right steps. So what kind of attitude is that?
“Make Yourself at Home”–the Attitude that Makes it Happen
1. Relax! Not everything has to be perfect.
We’ll all enjoy your decorations, your lovely table-setting skills, and your gift for making your house a home. But if you’re aiming to create a house that looks too pristine to walk in (the fluffy white rug next to the spotless white couch facing a sparkling mirror), you will make people nervous.
When you’re getting ready for people, and even as you’re choosing your furnishings, consider real life. Even if you don’t have kids, you probably know people who do. Or you know people like me, who have a tendency to spill mustard on white things long after childhood has ended. Don’t stress about having a magazine-cover home. Just be you.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Oops! The four-year-old just spilled Kool-Aid on your carpet. Getting all bent out of shape won’t fix the problem. Finding a wet washcloth and handing it to the frazzled mom with a smile will do a lot more for her state of mind and yours. (If it never comes out–that’s the cost of hospitality, my friend. Ask us sometime why we started having plumbing problems…)
3. Let people know how your house works.
It’s so helpful to have an idea of the house layout. It doesn’t really matter where your dressing room is, but the bathroom is key. (I need to remember to tell people where our bathroom is!) And if you’re going to be upset if people track dirt all over your house, let them know where they can leave their shoes rather than glaring at them. 🙂
If you’re like me, you put your foot in your mouth on a pretty regular basis. Laugh at yourself, laugh with others, and enjoy the privilege of being together and celebrating friendship. And when not all goes according to plan…laugh some more!
Hospitality is not about presenting a picture-perfect image to the world. It’s about friendship, caring, and the legacy you want to leave for those you love.Hospitality is not about presenting a picture-perfect image to the world. It's about friendship, caring, and the legacy you want to leave for those you love.Click To Tweet
How Important is a Clean House?
I have to address housecleaning because the state of our houses is often the single biggest reason most of us don’t want people to come over.
We have all probably been in that house where we decided to “hold it” after a peek at the bathroom. Truthfully, we’ve all probably had our days when it was our bathroom scaring others away! Yes, I prefer a clean bathroom and kitchen–and at least a visible trail through the house to follow. Don’t we all? However, I have often truly been made to feel at home in places where housekeeping was probably around #98 on the top 100 priority list. Yes, cleanliness is wonderful. I highly recommend a quick cleaning routine as part of your preparation for last-minute guests. But don’t shy away from making others feel welcome even when your house has had a rough week or two.
What About You?
What makes you feel comfortable and “at home” in someone else’s home? Will handing you a water glass behind which to hide do the trick? Please tell us in the comments. (Maybe we’ll take your advice and become better hosts because you helped us out!)
If you’d like to learn more about hospitality, check out this section of our website.