Want to feel better about your house? Invite somebody over.

Last Monday Meagan shared a simple way to plan a better week: Get up 5 minutes earlier. Since many of you are looking for small, specific ways to improve your home lives, we thought we’d make a habit of it, and take turns sharing these types of tips at the start of each week. -Sarah

plan a better week

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last weekend we realized rather late in the game that we had almost no plans. A good thing, in general, because we protect our weekends pretty fiercely from over-scheduling, but this one was particularly empty. So with very little notice we invited some friends to come over Sunday afternoon to let the kids play and have a casual dinner all together.

Hosting these friends is not a “clean the entire house from top to bottom” event. We see them often and they’ve seen our house in various stages of put-togetherness and disarray. And yet, in the 20 minutes before they arrived, I busied myself with the following:

  • wiped down surfaces in the downstairs bathroom, closed the half-open shower curtain that hides the tub where I keep my stash of dirty kitchen linens until I carry them upstairs to the laundry
  • collected a stash of papers that had taken over THE ENTIRE bar counter separating the kitchen and dining room, stacked them and put them in the office, and closed the office door
  • removed the heap of dirty kids’ clothes from the bottom stair and put it in a laundry basket upstairs
  • hung up backpacks, put the throw pillows back on the couch (in the spots where I like them), and turned on the table lamps in our entryway
  • dug through some photos I’d had printed weeks ago, and put pictures into two new frames – frames that had been sitting on a shelf for weeks with the stock photos still in them, and yet in less than five minutes now sported cute photos of my kids

Was it a thorough housecleaning? Oh heck no. There was a fair amount of hasty scooping-up and stashing junk away to spots unseen. But when the doorbell rang the house was picked up, well-lit, and ready to be played in, laughed in, and eaten in by 4 adults and 6 kids. And when our friends left, there were more dishes in the sink and toys on the floor, yes, but some fruits of my quick cleanup labor remained: a paperless counter, a cleaner bathroom, and nary a dirty sock on the stairs.

And the house felt good. It felt imperfect and chaotic and lived in, but it didn’t feel sloppy and uncared for anymore.

If you are starting this week with unfinished chores, piles that are gathering dust, or just a general feeling of blahness about your living space, try this: invite someone over.

invite someone over

It doesn’t have to be a four-course dinner party or a visit from your overly critical great-aunt. Any small way to open your home to people you enjoy can have this effect. Such as:

  • when you run into the elderly neighbor lady who adores your baby, ask her to come over for a cup of tea later
  • when you and the cool-seeming mom from preschool say (for the 27th time) that it would be fun to get the kids together, set a date and invite them over
  • instead of meeting your girlfriends for a glass of wine at a restaurant, plan to have them over after the kids are in bed
  • ask a former work colleague to drop by at lunch or at the end of the day to catch up

Here’s what will happen. You’ll look forward to the visit, you’ll put a little extra attention and care into what your home looks like (even if it’s at the verylastminute), you’ll at the very least look around and see if anyone’s dirty underwear is on the floor, and I promise you: you’ll feel better as a result.

If your kids are small and your house is more often a disappointment than a showcase, take heart. I really believe that welcoming guests is one small way to give yourself a (loving, gentle) kick in the rear end when it comes to basic, good-enough housekeeping. Your house may still need a good scrubbing and the hidden piles will need to be tackled at some point, but in the meantime, isn’t it nice to break bread with friends and enjoy your home in a spiffed-up state?

So tell me: Who can you invite over this week? Do you scurry around hiding piles at the last minute? What’s your 20-minute guest-ready housecleaning routine?

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