We have people over to our house two or three times a week. AND I do not like to clean. AND I hate spending a bunch of money. So how is this possible?! I’m going to give you all my tips on how I make it happen without spending my whole day in preparation for the gathering, without yelling at the fam or spending a lot of money. If hosting is easy, you’ll enjoy yourself and do it more often.
I’m not interested in hosting the best party ever known to man. I’m not interested in competing with anyone. My goal in having people in my home is to make them feel welcome and loved.
Here my best tips to make hosting simple and stress-free:
1. Your house does not have to look perfect.
You do not have to quick finish up your latest DIY project. You do not need to hire a cleaning service. You’re house can actually look like you live there!
I try to clean one thing a day during the week and that helps, but I basically have a 4-part strategy when people come over:
- Make sure the guest bathroom isn’t gross.
- Take any toys in the living room to the playroom or kids’ rooms.
- Wash dishes. (If there are a only a few in the sink, I don’t worry about it.)
- Get out some easy snacks. (See below.)
This week my girlfriends in my Monday Bible study wanted a tour of our new house and told me they were happy to see the beds weren’t made. They said visiting a non-perfect home makes them feel better about their own! Then my friend Estee showed me this hilarious skit “Company’s Coming” where the mom screams to the family “I want this place looking like Disney on Ice in one minute!” and “There can be no sign of living in this house!” Haha!
Maybe you have kids or a dog. No one expects it to be perfect. And if they do, you need new friends! Honestly, no one will notice all the things you do in your own home. No one.
2. Keep food simple.
Get-togethers don’t have to involve a full meal. If cooking isn’t your pride and joy, invite people over during non-meal times or brunch. This platter was for a monthly group with nine women. It doesn’t look like much, but over the last year and half of hosting it, I realize that we’re too busy chatting to eat a ton! This worked great and wasn’t even all the way gone. Sometimes I just serve brownies I made from a box with tea and that’s fine too.
We also drink tea at this study. It’s girly and fun. I like to pick up fun, different flavors to try. It’s in the evening, so I usually choose decaf options.
For our weekly Monday morning Bible study everyone brings one breakfast item to the host’s house. Sometimes we will make a whole breakfast casserole, sometimes we forget something all together! My point is don’t let food stop you from having people over.
Some things I keep on hand:
- box of brownie mix
- chips and salsa
- cured meat
- sparkling wine or specialty drink
If you do have a large crowd, keep it as simple as possible. Offer three items and a sweet treat for dessert. For example, this weekend I am hosting another Bible study. (I’m currently in three and don’t usually host all three in one week. But they give me quite the social life!) Sunday we are going to do a taco bar: tacos, rice, chips and salsa and salad. We’ve also done pasta, salad and garlic bread. And I have been known to just stop by Costco and buy trays of food already done!
3. Use the divided tray trick.
My favorite trick when I have someone over last minute or don’t want to run to the store is the divided tray. This works great for kids after school or having a girlfriend over to chat.
When I went to the pantry to make this tray, I found an almost empty bag of popcorn, half a bag of chips and the end of the fruit in the fridge. For some reason when you put all your leftovers in a divided tray it looks more polished. I can’t fool my friends anymore because they’re onto me, but you can fool yours!
(Sometimes they have plastic ones at the Dollar Tree in the summer!)
4. Use water in a pitcher.
I serve filtered water in pitchers instead of bottled water. It saves money and is good for the environment. Also, you don’t have to take up storage space for the bottles.
Sometimes I buy lemons to slice and freeze. I wrap stacks of five or so in plastic wrap, put them in a large Ziplock bag and freeze them. This way you don’t need to have fresh lemons on hand to serve your guests lemon water.
5. Buy all white or clear plates and napkins.
This is my party cabinet. I buy all white or clear disposable plates, napkins and silverware and keep it on hand. This way I can use them for any occasion: random get-together, princess birthday party or Christmas party.
This way you don’t end up with varying amounts of each product in rainbow colors that you keep because you don’t want to waste, but don’t use because they don’t make sense with the type of party.
I buy all these things at Costco. I usually buy the clear, smaller plates from there as well for desserts, but I’m out right now. (The utensils pictured are plastic silver.)
Also, sometimes you don’t need silverware or plates. A lot of times when I set out finger foods, I skip plates and silverware altogether and just put out napkins.
6. Make a party caddy.
I made a caddy with plastic silverware, paper napkins, plastic cups and marker to write names. With this, all I have to do is pull it out and stick it next to the food with some plates! Sometimes when we want to keep things easy with the family, we’ll take this with us and eat outside.
(Those flowers are fake, by the way. I got them on sale for $15 at Joann Fabrics. Fresh flowers are amazing, but these are cheaper and reusable!)
7. Focus on decorating one space.
If you’re hosting a shower or birthday party, don’t worry about decorating your whole house. Just make in impact in one room. I tend to focus all my attention in the dining room, where the food is and people gather. You need less decorations, time and money this way.
This isn’t for everyone, but I purposely made our dining room a blank space for seasonal and party decorations. It’s an easily transformable space. I’m excited to make this pretty in pink in a couple weeks for Clara’s birthday!
In my house if you put up some party banners, blow up a few balloons, crank the music up and bake a box cake it is a party! We have even been known to have a sick party just for us because what else are we going to do when we’ve all got colds? When you find out last minute it’s somebody’s birthday, watch their face light up when they walk back in the room and see party banners up. I even leave pushpins and nails where they go.
8. Create a mood.
People care more about the feeling they had at a party than if your furniture can pass the white glove treatment. Put on some great background music and put a few drops of essential oil in the diffuser. My mom taught me to turn on all your lamps instead of using overhead lighting. It’s more inviting and cozy.
Need some tested playlists? Check out my faves.
Want to know my best party trick? When you truly want someone to feel welcome, ask him or her questions.
Have you ever initiated a conversation with someone and realized quickly that he or she seem beyond intellectual level? I have, and it makes me nervous! I cope by talking less and asking more. People always like to talk about themselves! Every time. You learn more when you’re not doing all the talking too.
9. Do it more often!
The first time I hosted a study, I spent the whole day cleaning my house and going to the grocery and basically stressing out. I didn’t even enjoy the company of these amazing friends I have because I was decompressing.
Now I host on average one group a week. After realizing that my house doesn’t have to be perfect and I don’t have to have a stellar spread of food, I don’t stress anymore. I can connect with my guests and have fun! The more you just do it and let go of perfectionism, the easier it becomes.
I’m not a professional party planner and definitely not etiquette-approved, but I do know how to make throwing a party simple and fun.
Do not stress yourself out! It is not worth it. It’s your party, you need to enjoy it! That’s the whole point of parties! Think realistically how much you can take on. No one wants to be exasperated after a party or even feel resentment that no one appreciated it! No. You want to be saying, that was a great time! I really had some great conversations and laughed a lot.
I believe people are meant to spend time together, to do life together. In this world it is becoming easier and easier to isolate ourselves and become lonely. What we need is more parties! :)
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I have had most of these things for years, but these options are similar. This is the diffuser I have and it really does a good job of projecting the oils across the room. (Affiliate links.)
I thought I’d go ahead and share the story I did yesterday on Instagram too. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, go check it out sometime. I post lots of things there that don’t develop into full posts here.