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We just hosted a weekend-long gathering of family and friends. Between nieces and nephews, siblings, and close friends, the house was pretty packed, but we took it all in stride: coming from a big family, I’ve long had a “the more the merrier” attitude about get-togethers, and love nothing more than hosting the people I love. Hopefully that’s something I’ll pass on to my kids as well, so they can enjoy big, boisterous get-togethers with their siblings, extended families, and friends throughout their lives.
That said, hosting can be a lot of work! Since I like to keep our parties low-fuss and low-stress for me and everyone else, I try not to worry too much about things like table settings or fancy food. Instead, I’ve found that a few simple things make a big difference in keeping everyone comfortable and happy. Here are my three “rules” for hosting a low-stress, fun gathering:
1) Make everyone feel at home.
I love having a house full of people, but I’d rather enjoy their company than “play hostess” the entire time they’re here! So while I make sure to keep an eye on everyone to be sure my family and friends are comfortable, having a good time, and have enough to eat and drink, I am also sure to let them know right away that our house is their house for the duration of their stay, and if they need to dig around in the cupboard or linen closet, they can be my guest! This extends to the kids, too: if there are any special toys or possessions that really need to be protected from younger cousins or boisterous toddlers, they can go on a high shelf or in my bedroom…but for the most part, what’s ours is everyone’s, and generosity and “taking one for the team” is the name of the game.
2) Give guests some space.
With five kids plus a live-in nephew, our fairly normal-sized house doesn’t offer much “extra” space, but I think it’s important to let guests have some breathing room. So while every bedroom in our house is currently in use by a full-time resident, during family parties, we ask those kids who are lucky enough to have their own bedrooms to clear out for a few days and make room for an aunt, uncle or family friend. They can bunk up with a sibling or at a cousin’s house (and have a great time in the process!) while their bedroom becomes temporary guest quarters. Most of the time, my kids are happy to vacate their room for a day or two to make space, and even if they aren’t, they know better than to complain about it: one of our most important family values is that life is all about enjoying time with the people who matter the most to us, and one of the ways we express that is by making room for everyone.
3) Make sure the essentials are always easy to locate.
From bedding and towels to personal care products, a houseful of guests equals a lot of needs. I make sure to start prepping for company at least a day or two in advance by washing bedding and towels and making sure we have enough toiletries on hand: body wash, shampoo and conditioner, and hand soap stocked in every bathroom. I find that travel sized toiletries placed on a folded up towel on each guest’s bed is a nice touch, and manages to “fancy up” my mostly faded bath towels a bit!
We also stock each bathroom with a roll of paper towels and spray cleaner so I – or a guest in need – can do a quick clean-up if necessary (with four boys in the house, I’m never quite sure what kind of state guests are going to find the toilet in!) And of course, it’s essential to make sure there’s enough toilet paper in an easy-to-find place in each bathroom so nobody gets stuck in an uncomfortable position. I recently tried Scott Tube-Free toilet paper for the first time and love how much less waste it creates – which is especially convenient when you’ve got a house full of people using toilet paper at a rapid rate!
How do you make guests feel at home when you host gatherings? Is making space for the people who matter to you an important part of your family’s life?
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