Hospitality is universal, and I’ve found that friends and strangers all over the world have perfected the art of making others feel at home through their own unique culture and customs. This is a huge reason why I included five different places in Wabi-Sabi Welcome (see Part I of this series for an intro), ranging from California to Japan to France, Italy and Denmark—and why I could have included dozens and dozens more locations around the globe. If you think about it, there’s hardly anything simpler than breaking bread together and sharing the spaces we call home. So why does it freak us out so much? Simply put, we’ve placed way too many expectations on ourselves (and others!) when it comes to hospitality and gathering, and it’s time to chill out and get to the real task at hand: just getting together, connecting in real time and forgetting the stress.
Here are some of the ways I’ve seen hosting at its finest—and executed super simply. These are down-to-earth ideas that can be adopted whether you’re a newbie at bringing people together or you’ve been hosting book or beer or Bikram yoga club for years. No matter what the case, we could all use a few reminders as to what actually matters when it comes to playing host.
The best hosts get out of the way and make getting together all about their guests. This simply means putting aside your own idiosyncrasies and neuroses for a little bit and catering to the needs of others. Practically speaking? Listen well and don’t interrupt. Pick up a friend who can’t get to you otherwise. Include someone in your wine and cheese party who doesn’t necessarily float your boat. Do everyone a favor and forget yourself for a minute.
This doesn’t take much, really. Maybe it means throwing on a favorite record, lighting a candle, burning some palo santo, or plucking a fresh sprig of whatever’s growing outside your door. Even the smallest gestures of care can make a mundane cup of coffee together feel like an occasion.
Doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more often you host, the easier it becomes. Get in the habit of inviting someone (or many) over once a month or once a week, if you’re feeling ambitious. It doesn’t always—or ever—have to be for an elaborate meal. Rather, gathering can revolve around sharing a glass of wine, watching a show or doing a task together. You’ll start worrying less about the state of your home and caring more about the quality of your time.
What’s the point of gathering if you’re going to be uptight, close-lipped and crabby the whole time you have people in your home? Tap into your most comfortable, confident and carefree self and you’ll find it’s way more fun to be sincere, friendly and forthcoming.
The kitchen is the perfect place for chumming around and getting comfortable. Although it usually means letting guests see a bit of your mess, it’s worth it for the often intimate-sized space that forces you to let your guard down and gab about the real stuff.
The French are well known for embracing the pleasures the life and it’s not a bad trait to try and emulate. Finding the joy of living in even the simplest things makes getting together a privilege, rather than an intimidating task. So invite some gals over to chow down on take-out Chinese, turn up the tunes and feel the summer breeze.
The Italians really excel at this (picture loud exclamations, multiple cheek kisses and gigantic embraces and you’ll get the idea). In other words, make it obvious to your guests you’re really glad to see them and it will put everyone instantly at ease. Greet people at the door with a drink (seriously though, it can be a glass of water), a welcoming word and a gracious smile.
Buy the full book, Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to embrace the imperfect and entertain with thoughtfulness and ease →