“Can I stop over in 10 minutes?”
“Sure, you can come over!” I hear myself say with feigned enthusiasm that even impresses me. I didn’t listen to the rest of what she said. I was too busy planning my panic clean-up strategy. Dishes in the oven. Sweep the sand off the floor. Hide the piles of dirty laundry in my bedroom. Flush the toilet because one of my daughters likely forgot.
“She’ll be here any minute!” I announce. My two daughters ask if they can help clean up. One helper is using the broom to spread sand everywhere; the other has dumped a basket of clean laundry on the floor to slowly and meticulously fold. I snap, “This is an emergency!”
“Girls! I need you to play upstairs! Your helping is too slow!” I shout.
Both girls start to cry. I smell that my 1-year-old twin boys both need their diaper changed. Then I hear the dreaded knock on the door. That knock should have been a welcome sound — the arrival of a friend. But I feel embarrassed when I open the door and she sees the state of my house.
Something just had to change. I couldn’t go on dreading having people over to my house.
One day a new friend enthusiastically invited me into her small and messy house. We had a wonderful visit — authentic. So much so that I knew I wanted what she had. So when I got home, I made up my own Messy House Hospitality Plan:
Change your self-talk. When the doorbell rings, I stop feeling the impending dread. I repeat to myself, I am welcoming a friend.
Stop apologizing for the mess. A house with kids is messy. No apologies needed.
Focus on relationship-building. The arrival of an unexpected guest is an opportunity to make someone feel loved. What really matters is listening, laughing and caring. Building relationships with my family and friends is more important than focusing on my less-than-spotless house.
Be intentional with food. I keep a special treat in the freezer. Knowing I have something to offer guests reduces my stress and makes them feel welcome.
Practice, practice, practice. When a friend calls for an unexpected visit, I don’t clean up – much. The more people I invited into my “mess,” the more comfortable I become welcoming them inside my home.
A beautiful thing happens now as I learn to accept my mess and invite others in. I’m learning to accept that I am not perfect. And I’m OK with that. I feel good about inviting others into my world and being real with them.
Melissa Richer is a pastor, writer and mother of four children ages 5, 4 and 2-year-old twins. She attends a MOPS group in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
This originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.