It isn’t that I don’t strive for perfection. The moments right before my company arrives for a party, when my perfectly clean, perfectly curated, perfectly scented house looks like it could be featured in a magazine are ones I treasure. But perhaps the most important word in the previous sentence is ‘moments’. Guests arrive, the party begins and ends, and a familiar mess replaces perfection.
I read about a hostess named Dana who had finally just thrown in the towel and decided that her brand of entertaining would be marked as Scruffy Hospitality, and I was immediately intrigued, not just by the cool name, but also the idea.
Her theory- that we were so worried about making our home looked unlived in before we had people over, that we were limiting ourselves from actually sharing our lives together- made a splash on social media. To Dana, Scruffy Hospitality meant it was time to stop worrying about what wasn’t in place and hungering more for good conversation and company. Is Dana who I want to be when I grow up?
The description of her house rang true to me. Too many things on the too small kitchen counter tops. A stack of books perched on the stairs that need to be carried to the bedroom. Eight pair of shoes for the three people that live there parked near her front door, casually kicked off and not retrieved. Mismatched deck chairs in use because one broke last season and this season there are no replacements like it available.
However, Dana has something I don’t…and it isn’t ingredients for delicious salsa or homemade bread in her well-stocked pantry. It is the ability to just let go.
I would not call myself a control freak. My family would call me that. Maybe my bosses- past and present- would call me that. But I would not call myself a control freak.
I do like things to be in their place. The eight pair of shoes by Dana’s front door? I would be quizzing my crew about the fastest route to get them put away in a closet or donated.
The mismatched deck chairs? I would be scouring Amazon and Marketplace for a full replacement set.
Dana’s friends sound like perfect fits for her Scruffy Hospitality model as well. They don’t fret when there is no meal plan or theme for the party. They don’t create a Sign-Up Genius with four slots for appetizers, a list of people’s allergies, and beverage pairings.
My friends tend to want a little more direction. Maybe it is because we are primarily educators or coaching wives, and we crave a little order. We would hate it if two people showed up with sour cream and onion chips and no one thought to bring barbecue chips, or if there were no soft tortillas and only hard taco shells for our tacos.
Dana also references the impromptu nature of their gatherings as a part of the need for scruffiness. Somebody harvested lettuce from the garden which ‘requires’ a salad be made, so the friends gather, despite the fact that dishes are still in the sink from lunch. Hard boiled eggs, and fresh tomatoes, and homemade croutons appear, and the party is on. Somebody just happens to have sun tea brewed and enough ice in the freezer for all the cups.
There is little that is impromptu with our group. My friends and I once celebrated a 25th wedding anniversary exactly 7 months to the day after it happened because it was the first time we could coordinate calendars to all be together. And even then we delayed a day because a funeral crept in to interrupt us. I remember being glad—not because someone had passed away—but because I had an extra day to clean and organize before guests arrived.
Perhaps the part of Dana’s Scruffy Hospitality that most intrigues me and yet I most struggle with, is the part where she says we should allow friends to pitch in and help us. If someone offers to run a cloth over the bathroom to make it company ready or swipe the stool, Dana says okay. I would not be okay.
A dear friend—and when I say dear friend, I mean one of over 50 years--- arrived early one night, miscalculating her drive time to the house. I was finishing up in the kitchen, and she offered to wipe down the counter. I struggled to let her. That friend? It was my sister. So, is somebody a little more peripheral wiping down my toilets? Probably not. Reference paragraph five for my supposed control issues.
I am guessing that I have provided unintentional scruffy hospitality on occasion, when my poor vision missed an area that desperately needed dusting, or the toppings for the baked potato bar were not as promised in my invitation, or a windstorm blew leaves and those gross, crunchy locust shells onto the patio where we were set to gather. And I appreciate the forgiveness I have been shown.
I am coining a new phrase; I will now be offering Standard Hospitality. It won’t be five star, and it won’t be scruffy. It likely won’t be impeccable, but I promise it won’t be insufficient. And I am guessing it won’t delightful, but probably not delinquent.
Please stop by…if your schedule allows, and if you were able to access the Sign-Up Genius sheet for what to bring, and you RSVP’d.