Ever feel overwhelmed by the thought of entertaining, let alone the prospect of having people in your home? You’re so not alone. This low-grade (or perhaps full-blown) fear and anxiety that keeps so many people from inviting friends and family over for meals, parties, or heck, even a cup of coffee was the motivating factor behind writing my recent book, Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to embrace the imperfect and entertain with thoughtfulness and ease—in other words, How To Plan a Dinner Party Without Having A Panic Attack. As I tell readers in the intro of the book, “We’ve forgotten how to have unhurried, uncurated experiences in the company of others, in real time, with real conversation.” The point of gathering in our homes shouldn’t be to impress others with our culinary skills or fancy furnishings, but rather to loosen up with one another and share the real things of life in our most beloved setting.
Below are some simple tips and tricks of the trade for hosting that will help you mellow out rather than stiffen up when it comes to gathering with your gang. Oh, and if you’re wondering what the deal is with wabi-sabi, simply put it’s a Japanese concept that’s all about embracing the beauty of the perfectly imperfect; a.k.a every single one of our homes, our lives and the natural world around us.
Let’s start with the very basics. In order to even think about bringing people together in your home, we need five simple ground rules and here they are...
There’s no way you’re going to magically start hosting people if your life is one big rat race, jumping from one thing to the next at all times. Slow down. Make room for spontaneity and let your jam-packed calendar breathe a little.
No need to go buy a new dishware set, new dining table, or even that expensive quartet of Danish chairs you’ve been eyeing before you invite people over. Just make do and figure it out, even it means asking your guests to bring an extra chair or two with them (or go full-on Middle-Eastern style and just plunk some pillows on the ground).
Don’t invite all your favorite people over and then spend the entire time scrolling through social media, finding the perfect playlist or fretting over the food. The point is to be simply be together, so don’t waste the time that you have on mindless distractions or insignificances.
Contrary to popular belief (and the rules of old), people actually like helping out when you have them over, for the most part. Giving people a task isn’t necessarily a bother or an indication you don’t have your stuff together; in fact, it may help them feel more at home. Dole out some simple contributions, like arranging the cheese plate, helping other guests to drinks or even whipping up a salad dressing.
Your guests are going to pick up on whatever mood you’re putting out, and it’s no fun to show up to a party only to find the host is all hyped up and stressed out. If you tend to go overboard when hosting, start fresh and practice being your most blissed-out, calm self with just a friend or two for brunch. If you find you can get through a simple meal or cup of tea without panicking, slowly grow your gatherings from there.