This week we have another question from one of our readers, Becca:
I have been married for six years. In the first few years we hosted weekly hangout nights for our youth group kids in my home. I would clean and de-clutter big time so we could make room for rambunctious teenagers and their messes. I purposefully tried to clear all the stuff and unnecessary things out of the way because it got crowded and crazy. One of the youth said our home didn't look "lived in" and that comment stuck with me and made me wonder which part was too museum-like or uninviting.Here are the answers from our staff, and we invite the rest of you to leave your answers in the comment section.
Now when we have a birthday party or host a holiday gathering for family I find that our space is again, too crowded. I revert to moving as much out of the living space / dining room as I can to simply make room for people to move around, socialize, sit down and clear off spaces to serve food, etc.
What can a person do to open up a living space, still feel warm and inviting, but still accommodate a crowd of guests? Have you had this experience?
I can definitely relate to feeling the need for more space when opening my home to guests. My home has just under 1200 sq. feet. I have an eat-in-kitchen that holds a 4 person table for my 6 person family. To say we have a small house (by current American standards) is an understatement.
So how do I handle the space constraints and hospitality?
I have accepted the amount of space I have and work within it. The fact is I cannot accommodate a party for 30 people in my house. I would love to but we would be wall-to-wall people. However, I have a large fenced backyard that is great for a party with 30-50 people. This means I don't volunteer to host church Christmas parties (when there's snow) but I'm your girl for 4th of July (which is usually nice weather in New England).
I have also set up my home to be ready for hospitality AND my family. If I have to jump through hoops and move around furniture I'm far less likely to have people over. So I have chosen to keep the decoration on my living room tables to a minimum and permanently relocate furniture that gets in the way of hospitality.
This isn't always an easy decision. For example, I have a beautiful hand-carved Indonesian teak chest that my in-laws bought my husband when he was a boy. I would love to display it in my living room. But I know that my children and guests would sit on it and put their drinks on it, which could damage the chest. With that in mind, I have chosen to store the chest until we have a bigger home and I can use it with less concerns about it being damaged.
I suggest you evaluate how many people you can comfortably hold in your home and consider how you can rearrange your furnishings permanently to accommodate a hospitality lifestyle.
You should also ask your husband how what his thoughts and feeling are about hospitality. Does he consider moving out furniture a pain? Is there furniture or decorations he could "live without?" Don't underestimate the great ideas your husband has, he just might surprise you.
I just experienced this the other day. Hubby's birthday is at the end of July and we invited 10 adults and 16 kids over for a BBQ. Well, you know what happened? It rained! Not a little sprinkle that us Washingtonians could easily handle. No, it was full on pouring all morning and into the afternoon. Which meant I had to move my outdoor party inside. Our home is not large by any stretch of the imagination, but thankfully our living room and dining area are larger than average. So I was able to make it work.
First I removed any unnecessary large items. Like toys, my pile of sewing supplies and some of our homeschooling supplies. I neatly tucked these away in another location, then returned back to reasses the rooms we would be using. I pushed my dining room table up against one of the walls and placed the snacks out on it. I made sure there was enough seating for everyone and arranged the chairs so that there were a few smaller groups. I left out one box of toys that was appropriate for all ages (little people, duplo, etc) and two little riding toys to keep the little kids entertained. There were 4 one (some almost 2)year olds there and an infant, so keeping them entertained was a priority.
Praise the Lord that the rain let up and we were able to let the older kids run around outside and some of the adults chose to socialize out on the deck. Although, we would have still had a great, albeit cozy time inside it was nice to get out with all those kids.
Another suggestion I have is to maximize your vertical decorating space. If the only things in the room are large pieces of furniture or decorations that you remove every time people come over, it is always going to look stark and uninviting. Put some artwork up (even drawings done by your kids), hang a plant in an out of the way corner or decorations for whatever occasion you're all gathering for.
I hope my suggestions help!
Now we "open the floor" for the rest of our readers to leave their thoughts and comments! Thanks for asking the question, Becca!
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