For most of us, it's standard practice to clean before guests come over. We want them to feel welcome and comfortable in our house and we honor their presence by creating a general air of order and cleanliness. And on the other hand, we certainly don't want to be judged for our dusty baseboards and the inside-out socks that seem to always be peppered throughout the house.
But there's more. Deeper than not wanting others to think we're slobs, there's often at least a tinge of wanting to make a good impression or maintain a persona. A put-together house shows how put-together we are. That fact is demonstrated in the reality that the more a person knows us, the less we feel we have to clean before they step across the threshold.
But that perfectly composed look we sweat to achieve before the doorbell rings is far from the authentic state of our homes in our daily lives. And, sadly, if we're unwilling to let go of a picture-ready state of affairs before we have people over, we're not going to have people over often.
The Benefit of Letting Guests See You As You Are
Rather than letting a self-imposed standard of perfection prevent us from spending time with people, what if we allowed people in? Our homes really are an extension of ourselves, and letting even guests we don't know that well see our homes as they are is an invitation for them to see us as we really are.
I'm not saying don't clean up before hosting the Christmas party. I'm saying you shouldn't hesitate to invite everyone over for ice cream and hot fudge after kickball just because the curling iron and hairspray are out and the breakfast dishes are not only piled in the sink, but still on the table. I'm talking about having that woman you've chatted with (and want to call a friend) over for a glass of wine after the PTO meeting despite the fact that the house is "a mess."
Let's let go a little and let people in a little bit more. If relationships make us happier than things (and we know they do), let's not let the condition of our stuff rob us from being together and becoming happier.
I think this can be taken even further. Letting others see our homes as they are does more than make us genuine. It makes our guests comfortable in a way that a clean bathroom can't (definitely still clean the bathroom for them, if you get a chance). We're showing them we aren't afraid to appear less than perfect. By being vulnerable and not keeping up appearances, we're stripping the veneer and letting them into our actual, lived-in space. That trust might be reciprocated, and as we let our guards down in relief and accept each other, new relationships could blossom on a faster timeline.
I Want to Spend More Time Truly Together
There's another hurdle when it comes to having people over and our homes. We've got stuff to do! I have mounds of laundry to fold at any given time and if having people over for dinner means I need to plan, shop for, and prepare a fancy meal and table beforehand, forget it.
But picture this: A friend who has a little one at home like I do comes over to share our second cup of coffee. The kids make a mess together and I drag my laundry basket into the living room as we chat and I fold.
Or this: I'm making enough baked ziti for ample leftovers but I see the neighbors across the cul-de-sac pull in after work, and invite them over spur-of-the-moment for dinner. They help chop tomatoes and wash lettuce for a simple side salad as my kids have their kids help them set the table.
Making dinner and folding laundry are practical yet intimate details of our home life. Allowing others to be around as we do the things we do in the house we really live in draws people closer to our inner circle, allowing others to become part of the village we all need.
Sharing our real homes and real lives with others has the opportunity to improve our relationships and our time together. And we can elevate our imperfect homes—instead of being what stops us from pursuing relationships, they can be the very thing that helps them happen.