Have Somebody Over!

They haven’t talked about it here, but I feel the other three SmartyPants  deserve to be bragged on for doing some good in the neighborhood.  In a world where people are increasingly depressed and lonely, our garages and fences are getting bigger and the front porch has gotten smaller and smaller.  Rather than sit around and wonder what happened to “the good old days,” these SmartyPants and their families are working with porchculture.org to bring hospitality, vulnerability, and those kind of “more than surface level” friendships back to our area.

I had to laugh, however, when Stephanie’s husband recently spoke at my church about the project.  “Opening up your home isn’t convenient.  People are going to come over and make your place messy!”  Oh, Stephanie’s husband, as if that were EVER the problem at the Fife residence!

I don’t mean to insult anybody, but if you follow my posts on here, I’m just assuming you have at least some of the same sloppiness issues I do.  I’m going to assume that you, too, have scheduled a dinner two weeks in advance just so you’d have time to deep clean the house.  I’m going to assume you’ve experienced a minor panic attack when your mother-in-law called to say she’d be there in an hour.  And if you’re like me, on your messiest days it’s at least crossed your mind that a neighbor could drop by and be so shocked at your squalor they call Child Protective Services!

My dear FlyLady calls this “C.H.A.O.S.” or “Can’t Have Anybody Over Syndrome”.  She offers all kinds of great tools to help you get your life back and have company.  (A favorite of mine, is her Crisis Cleaning Podcast.  Try it next time you get that unexpected call from your mother-in-law!)

But, honestly, I think the problem runs deeper than that.  Let me ask you this: how clean is clean enough?  Have you ever walked into a tidy house while your host apologized profusely for not cleaning her messes?  Dirty underwear on the couch might be a bit offensive, but what family with young kids DOESN’T have at least a few toys on the floor and a few dishes in the sink?  What telecommuter doesn’t have at least a couple paper piles lingering here and there?  And is there ANY woman without hired help that doesn’t have at least a little visible dust on the furniture?  These things don’t make you slob!  They just make you busy!

I hate to say it, but making apologies for our messes (particularly our non-messes) just makes others feel uncomfortable.  I’ll never forget a few years ago when I used to pedal wares for a well known direct sales company.  One of the greatest thrills was my privileged inside look, not only of a person’s home life, but of the dynamic they had with the friends and family they would invite to a “shopping party”.  Without fail, a stressed hostess made for an uncomfortable, grueling, and downright awkward event.  Her pain staking efforts to provide just the right refreshments and have her home just perfect for all her friends would make her frazzled and her guests quiet and fidgety in their chairs.  (Consequently, I made a much leaner profit on those nights!)

I’ll never forget the time, however, when I vended a party for a woman who did not clean, and did not apologize for it.  She asked everyone to bring a refreshment to share.  We all obliged, clearing counter space in the kitchen to accommodate our offerings.  The main living area was cluttered with half done craft projects, papers waiting to be sorted, DVDs that just never made it back into the entertainment center, picture frames that still held stock photos, and the layer of dust you’d expect in a home with very few clear surfaces.  Guess what?  It was one of my best parties ever!  Everyone invited showed up.  Everyone treated her house like it was their own.  Folks lingered as long as they possibly could with no one hurriedly rushing in and out because they felt the need to “make an appearance.”  Her home looked just like mine… but I’m usually too timid to let folks see.  And although no one who attended was biologically connected, a sense of family permeated her event.

We’re all imperfect, and while I write mainly for those who are organizationally challenged, even our tidy friends have challenges to overcome.  I’m not going to say to just embrace who you are and keep your house a wreck, but, at the same time, it just doesn’t happen overnight.  Please, please, PLEASE, stop putting life on hold while you’re working on getting the house clean.  It’s too short.  As a woman, there’s nothing quite like having the kind of friend that can see your house when it’s a wreck, but YOU have to let people in to find that kind of friendship.

Life’s too short to be lonely.  My challenge this week is to invite somebody over and not clean everything.  Obviously, you’ll want to handle the really gross stuff, but try the baby step of just leaving some dust, or a toy pile, or a project in-process out to junk up your space.  You may be surprised how this eases the pressure with a first time house guest, and lets you both be a little bit more yourselves.

And if your challenge is not tidiness– maybe it’s unwanted weight, or a social quirk, or even an illness–how can you show yourself a little more grace, and let someone else (who might even judge you) a little closer?

Do you have a story of how sharing an imperfection improved one of your own relationships?

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Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Have Somebody Over!

  1. Coretha Fulton

    We bought our first house about 10 years ago when we moved to Berea. I have never been known as a neat freak…ever. 🙂 One night, knowing that we were trying to find trees, bushes, perennials on the cheap, an elder and his wife called to see if they could drop by some of these items by the house. When I asked how soon they would be here, Karen said, “We’re at the end of your drive.” Our house was new enough that we had only sheers in the living room windows (come to think of it, there are STILL only sheers in those windows). Rick and I and the kids all jumped up in a panic and started flinging stuff everywhere to get it out of sight. All the while, our friends were sitting out in the drive laughing their heads off at our frantic silhouettes!
    They came in, we all moved things off the furniture so we could all have a place to sit. We still laugh about it – all of us! Broke the ice (really well). Thanks, Mac, for bringing up the fun memories!

  2. Katie Powell

    I’m a working mom with 2 kids, a husband (’nuff said there…), and the challenges that life-altering chronic illness bring. But I’m also a friend and a servant of Christ, so sometimes there are things more important in my life than cleaning my house. Several weeks ago, we had a knock at the door, and in walked a friend in the midst of crisis. She was at her breaking point, had gotten in the car, and just wound up at my house. She said, “I didn’t know where to go, but I knew I could come here.” I looked at the tears still wet on her cheeks, down at the floor (which seemed to be sprouting its own forest), and back at her…and I was stuck on her eyes. Her eyes showed fear of her pain but hope that I’d have something to offer. I apologized for the house, and she blinked at me like I’d just introduced her to a three-headed alien we’d just adopted for a pet. What did the mess of my carpet matter when her life was in crisis? What mattered was that I was a friend, that she KNEW my house was open, and that we could sit side-by-side on the couch and pray together.

    We talked about this a week or so ago, and she swears she doesn’t even remember the mess. I do. It embarrassed me. But it taught me three things:
    1) Hospitality is about more than having a clean house. It’s having the kind of household people know they are welcome to enter, even without warning or invitation, and knowing they’ll find love there.
    2) I need to be a better steward of my home. My home SHOULD be a place people can drop in to at any time. If I have to, like you said, schedule 2 weeks in advance, I’m dropping the ball somewhere. Sure, live is crazy-busy, but if I work at getting it clean, maintaing really isn’t that difficult, especially if my husband acknowledges my limitations and partners with me to help.
    3) But at the end of the day, the mess mattered only to me. So if I have to choose between loving or cleaning, I’ll choose loving every time. My friend knew she could come here not because I have a tidy house, but because I love her.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It helps wayward women like me! 🙂

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