Everyone knows that I love to plan events and host friends and family. What you may not know is that I’m not the best at an open door policy. What is an open door policy? It’s when we encourage others to drop by “just because” at any time. With little or no warning. With no planning beforehand. Where friends or strangers or family walk into a space where they can relax and be loved. Where they’re heard. It’s a longterm goal of mine to make my home a place like this. I’m far from it. If I hear a knock at the door and I’m not expecting anyone, my heart stops beating for a few seconds, and then I try to remember if I wiped down the bathroom yet.
An open door policy is difficult for me and for lots of friends I’ve talked to about this idea. You never quite feel ready: the house isn’t perfect, the decor is not where you want it to be, there are toys on the floor and dishes in the sink. You’re probably in your pjs and the kids’ hair is a disaster. The list goes on. You fear that things won’t come together right. You fear being inadequate, whether it’s you, your home, or your food.
Everyone feels these things, to some degree or for some reason or another. I feel this way all the time. It’s a natural feeling when you invite someone into your home. There’s a degree of vulnerability when you invite people over. You’re letting people in, and they see you in your space, or better or for worse.
When I remind myself of my purpose in opening my space, it helps me get past my fears. It helps me get past myself. Why am I doing this? Do I want to impress my guests, or is my purpose a little deeper? Is my purpose to bring people together, to foster community? To provide shelter? If I answer these questions honestly, a lot of times it’s to impress. I’d like this to change.
I love fostering community and opening my door, and I want to do this spontaneously without feeling like I’m “ready.” I want to have the kind of home where people feel like they can drop by, even if it’s not planned. Even if I can’t drop everything I’m doing, they know have a safe haven where they can just come and be themselves. They can tell me about their lives while I slice up zucchini for dinner or teach the kids a handwriting lesson. Or maybe I can even pop on a movie for the kids, and we can chat over coffee on the front porch.
That’s why I’m always asking myself: why am I hosting? Is it about me, or is it about creating a space for them where they can feel at ease where they are blessed and where I can serve them? One of my ongoing goals is to create this open door policy, so anyone can drop by at any moment. Encouraging people to drop by at any time is a little scary, because my home never feels ready. But sometimes all you have to do is extend the invitation and they will come. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Even though it seems daunting, the more you practice it, the more comfortable you’ll become with it. The more you can develop deep relationships and feed each other’s souls.
I’ve learned a few little tricks I like to implement to help me feel more “ready” when those unexpected – but very welcome – visitors stop by. Here are my top three tips.
ONE. As silly as it sounds, I panic if someone stops by and my bathroom is untidy. So, to overcome this hurdle, I wipe down my bathroom every day. That way my guests won’t be disgusted, and I won’t be worried about it when I hear a knock at the door. I want people to come over, and this is one little way that helps me feel prepared.
TWO. I try to keep my pantry and refrigerator well-stocked. I put together A Capsule Kitchen checklist if you’d like to see what I keep on hand. If you have the essentials in your kitchen, you won’t panic when someone comes to the door. You can put together a simple cheese board and pour a glass of wine. Or make a cup of coffee and – depending on the day – maybe even offer freshly baked bread or warm cookies. Or even just water with a slice of lemon or a sprig of mint.
THREE. I like to keep fresh flowers or foliage in every room, and rotate it out every week or so. This doesn’t have to be expensive; I’m usually just foraging whatever’s looking pretty along the side of the road, in our garden, or in the woods. When I have flowers on display, it makes my home look welcoming, and it helps me feel prepared to host guests spontaneously.
A lot of times when it comes to hosting, we need to ask ourselves why we are hosting. Maybe your purpose is to have a flawless six course meal with guests in cocktail attire. And that is fine (invite me, pleeeeaaase). But if you are inviting people over simply to foster community, and you want an open door policy, those purposes are very different and they will guide your actions. The fears that are limiting you from hosting will begin to melt away the more you practice opening your door. Fear and pride can keep us back from welcoming people into our homes. But if you let go of them and remind yourself why you want to have an open-door policy, you can create really wonderful community.
Have you thought about having an open-door policy? What’s your favorite way to keep your house ready for guests and visitors? If you’d like to practice opening your door more often, join my monthly A Daily Gathering Challenge.
Photography by Anna Clair Photo
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