Thursday, May 6, 2010

Having People Over

Coffee Talk Thursday

I enjoy having people over (once they get here), but the lead-up to their arrival is usually quite stressful for me. Partly, it's because I'm a perfectionist--nothing ever seems quite "ready" enough: there are always more toys to be picked up, more clutter to clear, more spots to wipe, more sweeping to be done, more vacuuming, more tidying, and on and on. If I do succeed at getting things where I want them, then I feel like I should bake something (which creates more stress and mess). The issue really is I care about the "show," the presentation of my house. I don't want guests to be uncomfortable or see the way things usually are around here for fear they will think, "Look at all that clutter. Cheryl's really doing a poor job of keeping up."

This week, as I was talking with an older mom about this issue, she said something that really stuck with me: God is love, and He wants us to love people. A great way we can do this is by opening our homes to friends and acquaintances. I know all of this in my head, but it was helpful to be reminded that the higher priority is showing love; the lesser priority is having a spotless house. Most people, when experiencing the graciousness of hospitality and the sweetness of fellowship that accompanies it, will completely overlook clutter, unmopped floors, dishes in the sink and toys on the floor. They're so grateful to be shown the love that they will forgive (often not even notice) a less-than-perfect house.

For those of us who are perfectionists, it can be helpful to set a limit to our cleaning before company. Set a timer for, say, one hour. When the timer goes off, we're done. Period.

By remembering the real priority, and setting a limit when it comes to cleaning, we keep our spirits (and those of our families!) ready for company.

How do you respond to having people over? Let's have a cup of coffee and talk about it!


  1. You've exactly described my stress at having people over. I've mostly gotten over it, for the same reasons you have. But one time--after I thought I'd done a pretty good job cleaning up--one of our family members told another that I don't clean the house at all. I was shocked when she (the second person) told me, I didn't even know what to say. (This happened at my father-in-law's funeral, too, so we were already dealing with that.) I think I just laughed and changed the subject, but obviously it still haunts me.

  2. I have been married for almost 9 years and when we first got married, my husband always wanted us to have company over. I use to fuss over everything, making sure everything was perfect and in its place. But it was always so stressful. Then I discovered FlyLady. I followed her routines and realized that it wasn't how my house looked but what my response was to having company. About four years ago, we started the "Open door policy" at our home. We tell pretty much everyone that they are welcome to stop by and visit anytime, but please excuse the not-so-perfect house. I would say that now, the house stays picked up most of the time, and isn't always perfectly clean, but people understand when they just stop by and visit. I have been blessed by so many just because they stopped by for a few minutes to visit. As for meals with company...well, serving the "perfect meal" to company is not what is most important. And just opening up your home and your table is such a blessing.

    Thanks for opening up such a great topic!

  3. Hospitality is a "lost art" - my Mum used to cook extra on Sundays in case there were visitors at church that needed to come for lunch... now when we go to church no one ever invites you to come visit -- and if you do happen to get an invitation, it is probably to a restaurant and not to a home for fellowship....

    And I am guilty of not extending hospitality too -- we never have people over... not even my parents. My ex-husband didn't want people to come over, then the place got cluttered and now it seems like a mammoth task to get it cleaned up enough to allow people back in...

  4. I love having people over but get very stressed about the house. I feel so much pressure to "keep up appearances" because I don't want people to criticize me for having 6 children, you know, the "Well, if I had that many children, I wouldn't be able to keep up either." I think I understand my limitations and I know in my heart that loving people and showing hospitality is the most important thing, but I still get stressed out. Perfectionism is a difficult thing to overcome.

  5. AnonymousMay 07, 2010

    Oh my - this is so me! I really appreciate this post. It truly is about loving others. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I appreciate your discussion on this topic and am right with many of you that get stressed about having people over. My stress level is something I am still working through as I truly enjoy having company stop by. I'm kind of like Martha but striving to be more Mary!!

  7. This is hard thing for me, as an introvert. I desperately want intimate relationships with other people and even just to socialize with other couples, but I have the same perfectionistic attitude about my house that keeps me from having people over unless the conditions are just right. I stress over the house and the food and everything else. I want the yard to look nice (and it never does!) and I need the baby to be happy (which she mostly is). People always SAY that they will have us over, but we never get formal invitations. If we do, it's always with another couple - not just us! I do much better if I'm just one couple to another. Does this happen to anyone else?