I don't entertain as often as I would like to. Everyone has a busy life these days; balancing work, school, family, errands, and home projects leaves very little time to have guests over for dinner or to stay for a weekend. And in all honesty, when plans are made and it actually comes down to it, I panic every time I have guests coming over. What if someone notices the dust on the bookshelf? Did I forget to put my shoes away? Is it obvious that I ran around cleaning everything and that I don't actually live this way? At that point it's time to take a deep breath and remind myself that no one is judging me. Guests are friends and family: they're happy to be invited into your home, and they are not judging you.
I was raised by frequent entertainers. There were always guests in our home, either staying with us or just over for a meal and a few hours of conversation. Regardless of whether it was a long planned 80-person holiday brunch reception or neighbors dropping by for a glass of wine and some neighborhood gossip, my parents were always prepared and always gracious. My mother never panicked about there being paperwork on the kitchen table if someone came by unexpectedly, but at the same time never had the paperwork out to begin with if company was expected. For so long I focused on the large gatherings my parents hosted when I was young: every detail was planned in advance, everything was coordinated, and everyone had a good time. Being so focused on those big events made me forget about the many, many times friends would come by on short notice, when things weren't perfect but everyone still had a good time.
I've tried to embrace more of an open door policy of late. Asking people over at the spur of the moment used to be daunting for me, but after the first couple of times you start to realize that people are just over to have fun and to spend time with you. It's so easy to get caught up in excuses of why your home isn't perfect, and why you can't or shouldn't have people over until you take care of x, y, or z. Perhaps you shouldn't have your boss over for the first time with baskets of laundry sitting everywhere and a bed that hasn't been made in weeks, but the friend you ask to stop by for a drink and takeout on a Thursday night does not care about your laundry. In fact, it might reassure her that her habits aren't so unusual after all.
The bottom line, and what I'm trying to embrace in my life, is that the people you ask into your home are the people you care about, and who care about you. Guests are not judging you on your tidiness or decorating abilities — they have the same issues with dishes and laundry that you do and are just happy that you both were able to find the time in your busy lives to get together. So, we all need to stop worrying and just ask our friends over!