You know how the story goes.
An old friend is driving through your town on her way to visit family, and she wants to stop by to say hi. She’s really sorry for the late notice, but the kids have just woken from a long snooze, so it’s a good time to stop. She’ll see you in five minutes.
You’re immediately elated. You haven’t seen this special person in what feels like a lifetime and you’re utterly thrilled at the prospect of a visit from her.
You look around your home and lapse into a state of panic, because it’s not exactly what you’d like your friend to see. To be honest, it’s not exactly how you would like it to be, visitor or not! But especially with a visitor coming… oh good grief!
WHAT TO DO!?!
Now, I am an organised and reasonably tidy person by nature, so I really enjoy a tidy space to live in. So whenever I knew a friend was coming to visit, I used to scurry around like a mad woman making sure the washing that I had been folding was off the kitchen table, making sure the shoes were tidy at the front door, the dishes off the bench, the toys off the floor, etc.
It was exhausting and it truly sucked the joy out of an impromptu visit from a friend.
Then one day, I had a visit from a friend who was further along in her parenting journey. She had eight children, and her youngest was nine while my oldest was five. There was some serious life learning to be had!
I knew she was coming, but I had just moved house so there wasn’t much I could do to make it tidy. Still, I found myself apologising to her for the state of my home.
And do you know what she said?
“I didn’t come to see your house, Eva. I came to see you.”
Wow. Complete and total revelation. Most people who come through my front door are not coming to inspect my home. They’re coming to see ME – me and my family – and I had to let go of the pride that gripped me when I found out about an impending visit. I also had to let go of old expectations for my home.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t care less about the state of our home or that we shouldn’t prepare for someone to visit, because I think we should. Preparing ourselves and our home to meet with somebody special is how we make them feel welcome in our lives.
But we have to have the right reasons for doing this.
Are we madly prepping our home out of pride? Or because we genuinely want to make our visitors feel welcome?
If they’re true friends, they honestly won’t care about how our house looks. They’ll care more about spending time with us. And so that’s what we should focus on in the few minutes before they arrive. Not a mad dash furious clean to avoid the embarrassment of whatever they might think of our housekeeping skills.
We should ask ourselves what would make our friends feel welcome, and then do that.
Remember: if you only have a few minutes, you need to choose wisely the little things that you decide to prepare.
HINT: If your dear friends also have small children, a perfectly clean house probably isn’t the best way to make them feel welcome.
Now, if I have one minute’s warning, I boil the kettle. “Hey, I was just driving past and see that you’re home. Can we drop in?” On goes the kettle.
But sometimes, I have a bit more time – 5, 10, 15 minutes – and it gives me the chance for a few other little touches.
Here are 4 more things you could do to prepare for visitors that don’t involve you stressing out instead of anticipating a joyful visit.
Remember, these are all for the visitor’s benefit or so that you can enjoy your time with them.
Tidy the entrance.
This is actually really important if you have older people coming to visit. The last thing you want is an elderly guest to trip on the myriad of gumboots and nature collections!
Change the baby.
It’s Murphy’s Law. Your baby will need a nappy change as soon as the visitors arrive. Pre-empt the inevitable so that you can spend as much time as possible with your dear visitors.
Flush the toilet.
Seriously. I know most people are really understanding of the way kids sometimes forget these little conventions, but as a guest, it is nice to use a toilet that doesn’t smell like little people wee. It will take you half a second and needn’t cause you any stress.
Pick some flowers.
There’s nothing more beautiful and grounding than some homegrown flora and it will help to get you out of the house before your guests arrive.
The important thing is to focus not on the state of your home, but on what will make your visitors feel welcome.
What are your thoughts about all of this? What would you add to this list?
How We Roll
Over the years I’ve come to realise that lower expectations are actually the only way to get through this season of life with small children. Because by nature, children are not all that tidy. Sure, they all have different personalities and some will line the shoes up at the front door as they come inside, but in general… I think it’s fair to say that kids don’t prioritise a tidy home.
The kids have their set daily chores, and I have specific things I do each day (clean and tidy the kitchen, for example). We do a daily family pick up/tidy and a thorough clean once a week, but for the remainder of the time, my house looks lived in – like an old friend itself, really. Warm, comfortable, inviting, messy…
- books on the floor instead of on the bookshelf are a proof of my children’s love of books.
- cushions placed strategically across the lounge room floor are a testament to my children’s incredible imaginations (these are stepping stones through the crocodile-infested swamp, you know?).
- dishes in the sink are evidence of the food we have in our bellies.
- unfolded washing in a basket is confirmation of clothes to wear and a washing machine that works.
One thing I’ve learnt over the years – and trust me, it was a long time coming and still a work in progress – is to stop sweating the stuff that doesn’t matter.
Friends matter. Receive them joyfully.