Growing up in a large family with 5 children our home was a busy place. My parents owned a home construction business and my mom also did in-home daycare for a few years, so you can imagine the fine balance between keeping a new home tidy and keeping kids content and letting them “be kids”.
Often dad would call mom and say there was an interested buyer for our home, or they wanted ideas to build and wanted to come look at the house. Today. In a few hours. Any mother reading this right now had a mini panic attack just thinking about this situation. Somehow my mother could get the house “sell ready” in a few short hours and always make people feel welcome in our home, despite the seemingly impossible challenge with so many children present. (I always knew my mom had super powers!)
I learned many wonderful lessons about hospitality from my parents by watching them bring people into our home. Often, it was simple but intentional actions that created an atmosphere where guests felt welcome. Here are a few of my top tips for welcoming others into your home.
Greet them at the door
This seems obvious, but I have seen many homemakers who simply yell from inside the house to come in, or just ignore the door altogether. How uncomfortable! Most days, my girls beat me to the door as they enjoy being the first ones to welcome people in. As I am usually in the middle of preparing food, or have messy hands and need a few extra seconds to wash up, this is helpful. Allowing my girls to great people first gives me a chance to clean up, and helps them learn important social skills.
When people come to your home, whether planned or not, be hospitable. Meet them at the door and greet them warmly. Offer for them to step inside, even if only for a moment.
It is your home, and you set the tone for the interaction by how you present yourself and approach the other person. Do you want your guests to feel important and welcome? Then treat them as though you are genuinely happy to see them.
Give them clear direction
Once your guests have entered the home, let them know exactly what you want them to do. Most guests desire to show respect for you and your home, but don’t know what your house rules are. Do you allow people to wear shoes in your home? Do you have a place for coats and purses? Let your guests know where they can put their belongings, and offer to help them.
Giving clear direction eliminates the uncomfortable feelings and further shows your guests that you are happy to have them over. I used to think that telling guests to take off their shoes would offend them. But I have found that when people know exactly what to do, it makes it easier for them to feel at ease in a new space.
If you want your guests to stay awhile, direct them into the kitchen or living room and offer them a chair. Most people won’t just walk into your home and grab a seat. They are waiting on you to lead the way.
Offering a refreshment for any guests that plan to stay longer than 10 minutes is always a kind and important gesture. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply offering a glass of water shows that you are welcoming them into your home. If you have coffee or tea readily available, that is always a great option to offer as well.
If you had planned for guests to arrive, it is important to plan and prepare an appetizer/meal in advance. Again, this shouldn’t be something that creates stress for you, and it can certainly be a simple, budget friendly option. For example, if you invited guests over for the morning, plan to have coffee/tea and pastries set out. If they are arriving in the afternoon, set out a simple crudité tray, cheese and crackers, or cookies and lemonade. Are your guests stopping by after dinner? Try having a simple dessert prepared to offer.
Obviously, if you invited guests for a meal that takes a bit more preparation. What if someone stops by right during a meal? If you have enough to share, offer for them to join you. Even if you are eating a simple meal. It is the offer, not the meal, that shows guests they are welcome.
Keep a clean home
One of the most common excuses people give for not wanting to have guests over is that their house is a mess. We need to stop using this as an excuse! Part of being a homemaker is learning to take care of your home. Does this mean that your home will always be perfectly put in place? Absolutely not! But, you do need to start taking responsibility for your house and work towards a home that is clean, and creates a place for rest.
Before anyone gets upset at that statement, I want to offer empathy. Every homemaker is in a different season of life, each with unique challenges. Perhaps you have a new baby at home and are desperately sleep deprived. Or you have a thousand children and are surrounded by a sea of toys. Maybe you or a family member are struggling with a chronic health issue, and life is overwhelming you. I get it. This is not meant to be judgmental or rude. Life happens and we can all offer up grace for one another and our imperfections.
However, sometimes we see the craziness of life as an excuse to not even try to keep up our homes. This furthers our stress! A house becomes a home when it is a place of rest. I encourage you to find a few simple routines to keep your home in order, no matter the season of life you are in.
This may mean rearranging your budget to hire a housekeeper a few times a month. Or, it might be that you need to declutter and minimalize the stuff, so you aren’t spending all your time cleaning up things that bring stress into your life. Once you find a way to tackle the mess, break it down into simple daily habits that will keep your home clean.
There are so many wonderful cleaning routines, tips and resources available online. Find a few ideas that work for your family to implement. Also, there is a difference between clean and messy. A clean home is important for the health of your family. I cringe when entering a home that is noticeably filthy, because it is not a welcoming space. But a slightly messy home, where children have been happily playing and family is simply doing life is perfectly acceptable and to be expected.
Don’t apologize for your home
This is one I still struggle with. Even though I have daily cleaning routines in place and have developed habits to keep a tidy home, we have 4 kids. Have you ever seen what kids can do to a room in 10 seconds flat? Complete and utter chaos. It really is impressive. Anyone who has ever had a child will understand this. But when you keep your home clean, a few misplaced items will not deter guests.
Maybe you feel that your home isn’t new enough, big enough, or decorated enough to invite others in. Don’t apologize if your home isn’t “Pinterest perfect”. Your guests are not expecting that. They came to see you, not your things. Apologizing for your home makes guests feel uncomfortable and as though they are intruding.
If your space really is a disastrous mess and guests showed up unexpectedly, it is ok to acknowledge it and then move on. Don’t dwell on it. Perhaps you will choose to serve coffee in the living room if the kitchen looks like a tornado just roared through. Be flexible and remember to focus on the quality time spent with your guest.
Also, don’t feel obligated to give guests a tour of your entire home. We live in a new home, and often when people come to visit, the girls want to show them every. single. room. Have a conversation with your family about what rooms may be off limits for guests. If you know that the closet or the storage room are not presentable and it gives you anxiety just thinking about people entering that space, then keep the doors closed. Most guests will respect your privacy and not insist on seeing every square inch of your home.
Most importantly, remember that the purpose of inviting people into your home is not about you. It is primarily about serving the other person. When serving becomes your focus, it is easy to implement these 5 tips for welcoming others into your home.
Now it’s your turn to share. What is a simple tip you use to help guests feel welcome in your home? Please share your best tips in the comments below.