Whimsical hospitality

“The focus of entertaining is impressing others;

the focus of true hospitality is serving others.” **

Tim and I don’t invite people over very much. Probably the biggest reason is that the thought of preparing the house for guests is just overwhelming. Because as much as I long for the peaceful feeling of tidy rooms and clean counters, I cannot conquer the little piles of this and that, the un-finished project that needs a home (or needs to get home), the mail that seems to multiply like a herd of rabbits, and those three lonely “hand-wash only” dishes that have glared at me over the rim of the kitchen sink for more days than I care to admit. I would love so much to open the door each time I return home to see nothing but the beautiful furnishings I am so fortunate to enjoy, peppered with the keepsakes I have collected and treasured over years of friendships and family vacations. But, alas, that view is all too rare.

My sweet friend Laurie has known me and my home and families for years. When our daughters were little, she lived next door and some mornings at 9-ish she would drop in and ask what I had planned for the day. My reply was usually variations on “oh, I need to do at least 2 loads of laundry, clean both bathrooms, and at least vacuum the family room.” Followed by an audible “sigh.” To which she would inevitably answer, “Ok, well, I’ve already done that.” When I bemoaned the fact that, unlike me, she always seemed to be “done,” a little smile would light up her already friendly face. And she would remind me, once again, to embrace my mild case of disorganization as whimsical – not fatal.

I’m convinced that I missed Life Class: Organization 101. It seems that no matter how many systems I have, how much stuff and clutter I donate, or how logically I categorize my many priceless and necessary doodads, I can NOT keep it together. I either fail to put things back in a timely fashion, or, in my zeal to find a new home for everything, I have no idea where to find anything.

Rene is very energetic and super savvy. And she has an eye for design. She took a good deal of time on one of her precious family trips to Chicago to help me construct a plan, buy furniture with doors, drawers, baskets and bins, and begin to open the pathway to a new and improved clutter-free world. We discussed what it meant to own what was truly mine to own and ignore things over which I had little control. She reminded me that, yes, it will cost something, both in time and money, to create a sense of order. And, somehow, that nudge gave me permission to invest. We (and by “we” I mean Ana and Andy) assembled the furniture. I found permanent places for countless things that had been forever homeless. And I found true delight in settling into my personal place. It was awesome!

But, there was a small flaw in the plan.


You see, I just can’t seem to develop and maintain the habits required to keep it up. I am not a naturally tidy person and, let’s face it, organization is only as effective as the last thing put away.

However, I refuse to believe that I have missed my opportunity – the opportunity to share the home that I love with the people that I love. Yes, it is true that for a long time Disorganization and Messiness have tipped the scales. I have given into their lies that I should not invite guests into a place that is not pristine. That I have no business opening my home to innocent victims who should be greeted with perfection. And that I must wait until I conquer both of them if I ever hope to open my doors.

No. No, I don’t. I refuse to believe that lie.

Yes, I do feel that caring for my home and the beautiful things with which I have been entrusted is simply the right thing to do. Being casual or careless is both disrespectful and ungrateful.

But waiting until I feel completely “ready” is just as wrong. My home is sturdy and safe. It is roomy and sufficient. It has a nice kitchen, comfortable chairs, good food and plenty of light. And, it is a lovely place to enjoy the blessings of true hospitality.

So, here is my current action plan:

  1. Practice the art of organization the best I can.
  2. Embrace my whimsy.
  3. Find a reasonable balance between an ordered home and a shared home.
  4. Open the front door.

…..coffee, anyone?



** from: A Meal with Jesus, by Tim Chester


  1. Yes, this is me too. I have cleaned my house when people come over to the point that it looks great! I look like I have it altogether. Then I tell my guest to look around the house and take it all in cause they will never see my house looking like this ever again. I tell them that I cleaned it so now they know I can clean and have an organized house but it just won’t stay that way with 3 kids. Or if I just don’t have time. I simply tell people “just so you know, we live here” lol. This was great Nancy! Thanks


  2. Thanks, Nancy. I couldn’t stop reading as I was looking to find some hope for my very bad case of there’s-always-a-real-reason-my-home’s-such-a-mess syndrome. I have a problem inviting people over because I can’t ever seem to have the house looking organized and clean. We are asked to be hospitable, and so I feel guilty… I do love to share a new meal or dessert with someone. It is hard work.
    So, I’ll stop writing and go wash the floors – good place to start… I guess my hope WAS found – I’m not alone! I have fellow strugglers.


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