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I love my family. I love my friends. Quality time is one of my love languages.
But I do NOT love having everyone over to my house.
I want to love it. Hanging out, eating a delicious meal, and having fun with the people who matter to me are some of my favorite things. But as a busy mom, it often feels like my hosting skills are non-existent.
My home is always a little messy. There’s usually cat and dog hair on the floor (and often even on the table). I get overwhelmed because I have very limited time to prepare due to the balancing act of the many roles of motherhood. Also, I’m extremely introverted, and sometimes the pressure of having people in my space can feel like a lot.
It can be overwhelming. Inviting people into our homes can cause such stress that it doesn’t feel like any fun at all.
But again, I do want to love hosting and know how to be a good host. I want to keep my home reasonable enough to have friends over to visit, and I want to do it without feeling overwhelmed or like I don’t have time.
Over the years, I’ve found a basic framework for hosting. It’s so simple, but it’s a great reminder that it doesn’t have to be an obligation that you dread.
Let’s start with making your home feel inviting, and then we’ll move into the simple tips that will make you a better host.
What Makes a Home Feel Inviting?
Hospitality is such a great word. It’s fun to say, and it brings up some lovely ideas – cozy home, friends and family around the table eating a warm and satisfying meal, a fluffy bed…
Hospitality means inviting people into your home and caring for them by connecting with them and sometimes feeding them. It can be such a beautiful thing.
It’s not about showcasing your perfectly tidy, impeccably decorated home. It’s about inviting your family and friends over to nurture your relationships.
Whether you’re hosting one person or 25, overnight or just for snacks, your job as hostess is to make your guests feel welcomed, cared for, and at home.
So what makes a home feel warm, welcoming, and like a place you want to spend time?
- Delicious food made (or taken out of a box) with love.
- Comfortable temperature.
- Good company – free and easy conversation.
- That “lived-in” feeling – not completely sterile, but not dirty either.
- Personality – your home should reflect your own unique style.
- Good, natural lighting.
- Comfy furniture that makes you want to cozy up.
And the most important way to make a home feel warm and welcoming?
- A host who’s truly happy you’re there and around whom you can be yourself.
But what do you do after your home is cozy-fied and there are actually guests in your home? And how do you do it all without getting overwhelmed?
Hospitality Tips for the Busy Mom – How to Be A Better Host
Below are a few tricks that make it a little easier to fill my home with the people I love. Some are tangible tasks that can be completed, and others are mindset shifts, but all will make it that much more enjoyable for you, a busy, overwhelmed mom who just wants to have some people over.
#1 – Keep Things (Mostly) Clean
The truth is, nobody cares. In fact, a too-clean, sterile home is a turn-off – it can make your friends feel bad about their own homes and housekeeping skills. Besides, a house that’s not perfect just feels cozier.
I mean, you don’t want your guests to have to move your to-be-folded laundry pile from the couch before they sit down… But you do want you and your home to be relatable, which means that your carpet doesn’t need to have vacuum tracks and it’s okay if your kids missed a few LEGO bricks during cleanup.
One important note – don’t ever invite people over and then apologize for the state of your home. It tells your guests that you’re more focused on your home than on them, and that’s not the goal. Most guests won’t even notice the areas that you’re apologizing for unless you point them out!
#2 – Hygge Your Home
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is one of my favorite concepts. It doesn’t really have a direct English translation, but it’s all about being comfy, cozy, and warm. It’s candles (unscented!), comfort foods, hot drinks, nights spent in front of the fireplace.
From this little book that I love: “It’s the feeling of home.”
Being a good host means making your guests feel at home, so you want them to be happy, cozy, and relaxed. Your home should feel like a home. I know – it’s such a revolutionary concept!
Think throw pillows, blankets in plain sight (on chairs, on a ladder, in a cute basket), and a hot coffee or tea.
If it feels hygge to you, it’ll feel hygge to your guests, and it will make them want to come back again and again.
#3 – Practice
To be a good host, you have to practice.
The first step is to extend an invitation. Start small by inviting one family, and don’t make it around a meal – a drink and a snack are the perfect jumping-off point.
If your potential guest has to decline, try again another time. And make sure to let them know that your door is always open.
Here are my super simple practice steps for hosting. They may seem obvious, but I may or may not have used this mental checklist myself! Once you see hospitality broken down into these overly simple steps, you’re going to wonder why on earth you’re over-complicating the whole hosting process.
- Welcome your guests into your home.
Sincerely welcome your guests when they arrive. Rearrange your face and open up your body language to make people feel welcome and like you actually want them there. I’m not a hugger, but if you are, then do that too 😉
- Provide a spot for their stuff.
Remember that your guests don’t necessarily know your house. Offer them a place for jackets, shoes, and purses or diaper bags. We have hooks and a bench right inside our front door – with those things right in my line of vision, it’s easy to remember to offer them up.
- Offer a Drink and a Snack.
Coffee, tea, water, or depending on the time of day, a glass of wine. Don’t make your guests feel weird about asking for something.
For some great snack tips, keep reading – #4 is all about the food 🙂
For bonus points: Show your guests where to find everything and tell them to help themselves. Then the next time they come over, hopefully they’ll feel comfortable enough to actually help themselves!
- Tell Your Guests to Make Themselves at Home.
It seems like a cliche or overused phrase, but hearing those actual words come out of your mouth can truly make your guests feel more comfortable almost immediately. It’s a magical phrase that will help convince your guests that they truly are welcome.
- Invite them to have a seat and relax.
This is another one that seems like a given, but you’ll instantly make them feel comfortable if you point your guests to the comfiest spot in the specific room that you plan to hang out in. By telling your friends to sit down and relax, you’re not only allowing them to sit, you’re inviting them to do so – and it does make a difference!
- Offer a Drink and a Snack (Again).
Maybe they declined the first time. Or maybe they finished their coffee and would like some water.
Make your guests feel welcome by frequently and freely offering food and drinks.
- Give Your Guests Your Full Attention.
Put down your phone. Look them in the eye while you chat. It’s really as simple as that.
- Say Goodbye.
When it’s time for your guests to leave, tell them how nice it was to see them. Let them know that you’d love to get together again soon.
See? Not so hard, right?
#4 – Don’t Over-Complicate the Food
Serving a snack or a meal? Make it easy on yourself.
It’s not all about the food anyway – it’s about conversation, connection, and warmth.
You don’t have to make a special shopping trip to have your guests’ favorites on hand, but do try to keep some easy snacks in your fridge and pantry.
I like charcuterie for this purpose. Unopened cheese, meat, and crackers stay good for a loooong time and are super easy to throw on a plate and serve. Chips and salsa, refrigerated cookie dough, and veggies and dip are other great choices.
When the guests have kids, you can’t go wrong with a small plate of fruit. Kids will almost always eat it, and there’s not a parent out there that doesn’t feed fruit to their children.
For meals, find two or three different things that are easy for you to make and feed more than just your family.
Frozen lasagna and a bagged salad makes for an easy dinner. Or a big pot of soup that you can make the day before and reheat.
We always have beef in the freezer because we order a half-cow at a time. So one of my go-to meals is shredded beef sandwiches made in the Instant Pot. I throw a roast or two in there and shred when they’re done. Put out a few barbecue sauces and some buns, and the sandwiches are done. Side dishes are potato and pasta salads, chips, and fruit or veggies. Depending on my time and energy, sometimes everything is made from scratch, sometimes everything is store-bought and pre-cut, sometimes it’s a mix. Easy!
Remember that food doesn’t have to be stressful. Frozen meals, paper plates, and plastic forks are perfectly acceptable. And you can always just order pizza!
#5 – Presence, Not Perfection
Your guests aren’t there to scrutinize every corner in your home – they’re there to visit with you.
It can be a battle, but every step of the way, you should be fighting that perfectionist inside of you and opening your doors to your friends and family.
What makes hosting feel so hard is the standard of perfection that we impose on ourselves. Dinner doesn’t have to be homemade. Your house doesn’t have to be perfectly clean. Your kids don’t have to be well-mannered tiny adults.
Your guests just want to enjoy your company.
#6 – Be Flexible
Be willing to think outside the box when hosting.
Do your friends have young kids with early bedtimes? Host dinner at a time that works for them – or host brunch or lunch.
Food allergies are another thing that can require some flexibility. Try to accommodate what you can, but remember that most guests who have food allergies are happy to contribute a dish that works for them.
If you’re hosting a family with a baby, create a quiet space for a nap. You can even go so far as to keep a spare pack-n-play or baby monitor in your spare bedroom if you know that you’ll regularly be hosting families with young kids.
#7 – Be Unpretentious
If you’re laid-back and not stuffy, your guests will feel that and be comfortable. When you have people over, you do NOT need to be super fancy or impressive! Don’t set the bar so high for yourself that you don’t ever want to have people over again.
Let people come in as YOU are, and embrace the messiness and craziness of your home. You might not have the same pretty food and drinks you’d have if you were child-free, and your house may not be clean and quiet, but the whole point of hosting is to carve out time and space in your life to enjoy quality time with the people you love.
It’s not about putting on a show while your guests sit back and admire you and your home – it’s about doing life together while they experience the rhythms and comforts of your home.
#8 – Be Yourself
Hospitality is hard. I want people to think I have it all together – a clean house, delicious food, and well-behaved kids – but why? Why do I want people to see those things? They’re not the real me.
Hosting is about serving others, not impressing them. It’s about making people feel welcome in your home, connecting with them, and allowing them to rest for a while.
Plus, when people come over and see your toddler running around in her underwear and there are dishes in your sink and dog hair on your couch, it makes people breathe a little easier with the knowledge that they’re not the only ones!
Sometimes being yourself means inviting people into your mess and being okay with that.
#9 – Don’t Overthink It
It’s simply not necessary. Don’t complicate your recipes. You don’t need 17 side dishes for burgers and hot dogs. Don’t spend 3 days cleaning when you know all of the kids are just going to mess it up anyway.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make things special, but once it starts being stressful instead of fun, you’ve gone too far.
#10 – Have fun!
Above all, don’t forget to enjoy your guests! They’re in your home for connection more than anything else.
A Special Note About Hosting Overnight Guests
Overnight guests are a bit of a different beast. But it’s still okay to make it as easy as possible for yourself to be a good host to them.
Make sure your guests have what they need to feel comfortable. Beyond clean bedding and their own space, I like to put towels and a spare toothbrush or two in their room so they don’t have to ask. Leave a note with the wifi password. Stick some fresh flowers in there. Put extra toilet paper in an easy-to-find spot in the bathroom that they’ll be using.
You can also give them a tour to show them where everything is – extra blankets, etc. That way, if they need something in the middle of the night, they’re not left with the choice of either waking you up to ask or rummaging through your linen closet uninvited.
And also let them know that they’re welcome in the fridge or to relax in the living room if you’re an early-to-bed person.
As an introvert, it’s SUPER important to me that guests have their own space. Obviously I don’t want to host at the expense of my own comfort and routine, so, for my sanity, I need my guests to not sleep in my living room 😛
Giving guests what they need or showing them where to find it provides a clear invitation to truly make themselves at home.
You guys, that’s it. That’s all you need to do to welcome guests into your home and maybe even enjoy doing it.
Why do we over-complicate the act of having people over? Why do we stress out?
By becoming more mindful of how you greet and entertain your guests, you’ll turn into an amazing host in no time.
I know these hospitality tips seem super simple and obvious – it’s because they are! They’re meant to remind you that having friends over is NOT some insurmountable task. Relax, have fun, and remember these basics.
Who are you going to invite over first? Let me know in the comments!