5 Simple Hacks to Take the Stress Out of Hospitality

Hospitality was one of the unexpected side effects of simplifying.

Once we purged the stuff, it wasn’t so overwhelming to have extra people in our space. And when we started saying no to the things we didn’t want to do, we suddenly had so much more free time to actually have people over!

Who knew?

Unfortunately, though, my first few attempts at hospitality were super stressful. I had certain expectations of what everything should be and look like and I turned into a basket case whenever we had guests.

It didn’t take long for me to not want to have people over anymore.

When it dawned on me that my love of simple could (and should) extend into how we did hospitality, things got a lot less stressful and I actually enjoyed entertaining.

Here’s what I learned:

Keep food and drink simple

My loved ones are aware of my affinity for simplicity and know that unless I get some wild idea, they will not be eating a five course meal. Instead, “keep it simple” is my motto and I abide by it in all things, especially when it comes to feeding people.

And you know what? They love it. In fact, we recently had friends over who hadn’t had our burrito bowls yet (which is just a fancy way of saying we had beans and rice with some extra toppings). It was so good they kept saying they needed to make them at their house.

Delicious frugal food FTW.

Some of our favorite foods for feeding lots of people are:

  • Burrito bowls
  • Soup and bread
  • Roast chicken and veggies
  • Pulled pork sandwiches and salad (or any shredded meat I can make in my Instant Pot)
  • Potluck style meals where everyone brings something – especially great if you’re hosting a Friendsgiving get together

Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

If we’re serving drinks, too, we’ll usually stick to wine or one of our easy signature cocktails.

Prep ahead when possible

I’ll let you in on a little secret…I hate having help in the kitchen. Really. It’s my space to focus and do my thing so when someone asks me if I need help I say no.

Which is why I try to prep things ahead as much as possible so food is ready when guests arrive. Because we keep food so simple, this is really easy to do. (If they do arrive before I’m done, I make them a drink and tell them I’d much rather they chat with me while I finish things up. Much more fun.)

If you’re not as, um, quirky as I am, prepping ahead will afford you more quality time to spend with your guests.

Ask for contributions

I used to say no when people asked if they could bring something over. Crazy! Personally, I love bringing a gift of some kind when I get invited to someone’s house, so I figure if they’re asking they actually want to bring something, right?

Don’t be afraid to say yes and give them a suggestion. If you have everything you need for dinner, suggest a dessert or a bottle of wine.

There’s no need for you to do everything.

Clean the important places

I used to rush around my house, frantically cleaning everything. I’d even go into deep clean mode on my bookshelves. Not anymore. Now, I have three top spots I make sure are tidy and don’t worry about the rest:

• Kitchen: I make sure the counters are wiped and clear of everything but serving essentials and the food. I clean up as I go while making things so I don’t get stressed out about piles of dirty dishes. The table is clear, save for napkins and a bouquet of flowers.

• Bathroom: Now that we have two (hallelujah!), I just focus on getting one ready for guests. I make sure the usual items are clean, launder the hand towel and make sure there’s enough soap for washing. As my kids are older and in charge of cleaning the bathrooms (again, hallelujah!), I just check over their work. When guests arrive I just let them know which bathroom to use.

• Living room: I just make sure stuff is picked up and put away and vacuum the floors. Depending on how many people are coming over, I’ll pull in more seating.

If there are other kids coming over, especially littles, I have the kids make sure there are no choking hazards/easily broken items in reach. Otherwise I’ll shut doors and not worry about the places people won’t be hanging out in.

Besides, thanks to simple the house stays pretty tidy anyway.

Have a plan for the kids

As the mom of four, I used to shy away from hospitality because I had so many kids. It was stressful for me to think about dealing with them while we had people over.

Would they eat their dinner? Would they act up and “turn on the circus” as we call it? Would I need to set up a separate kids’ table?

Over the years I learned that by including them as much as possible and reminding them of expected behavior beforehand, it’s actually pretty fun to watch my kids interact with our guests.

We usually only have to tell them to turn off the circus once our twice and they eventually wander off and play.

That said, it’s good to have a plan for what to do in case of a meltdown. Here are some tips to remember for entertaining with kids.

And if you’re an introvert, it’s a good idea to have a plan for yourself as well.

5 Comments

  1. Seana Turner

    I call myself a “lazy entertainer.” I always ask people to bring things to share… and I often use paper plates and cups. I want to be willing to have people over and not worry about it. It works for me.

    Reply
  2. Jessy

    My hospitality rule is “only make four things”. I used to be overwhelmed and paralyzed because I thought I had to have meat, potatoes, vegetables, salad, rolls, dessert plus appetizers. Four things: meat, salad, sliced tomatoes, and pie, for example. If guests want to bring something, a dessert will be fine and I MIGHT add in potatoes. Yes, slicing a tomato counts!

    Reply
  3. Audrey Wyatt

    As an introvert who has to work myself up to go over to someone else’s house, I now know that the first thing I have to do when I get there is to find a job. I can’t immediately do small talk or “work the room”…I would rather go sit in a corner and pretend to play on my phone until I’m comfortable. One of the easiest ways for me to have a job is to help in the kitchen, so when you said that you tell them no, it made me panic a little. I completely understand that it is your space, but if you have any introverted guests, leave something for them to do, even if it’s folding the napkins…just something. This has saved me from uncomfortable situations (or not even going) so many times, and now my close friends and husband know that this is the only way for me to survive the first 15 minutes or so.

    Reply
  4. Hannah Beth Reid

    I love the phrase “turn on the circus” because it does exactly describe what sometimes happens with children!
    Great tips and examples! Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Dani

    We celebrate a sort of “Christian Shabbat” every Friday evening where we USUALLY invite people. Sometimes I’m really just too tired to talk with other human beings. But our family (also with 4 kiddos), really loves to have guests and one of our values is an open home. What makes it simpler for me is knowing that my kids will be kids, and when I have that in my head, it makes it a lot simpler for me around guests. With this mentality, they aren’t ruining the meal with their noise, they are part of the experience. Since we often have university students over, I find they actually like the life that happens at our table.

    Reply

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