One of the biggest difficulties I’ve had with curbing spending on restaurants has been the fear that I’d lose social connections with friends. The city in which we live is known for its various amazing restaurants catering to the university population. It’s considered a given that, if you want to hang out with a friend, you’ll meet up at a bar, restaurant, or cafe. I tried to change this dynamic by going out and barely eating (still tipping the staff, of course). Hint: Friends find this super weird, and you’re going to get branded as one of “those” sorts of frugal people who do weird things like uncomfortably stare at their friends while they eat and you don’t. Instead, we’re starting to change this dynamic by doing something rather obvious but increasingly rare in our society: inviting people to our home.
When we bought our house a year ago, we had grand plans of all the events we would host in our unfathomably large (to us) 1500 sq. ft. home. There would be regular board game nights! Movie viewing parties! Pot lucks! These plans quickly fell to the wayside, however, once we began, you know, living there. Dishes were dirty, toys were everywhere, and we still have a few unpacked boxes of office supplies. I’m rapidly learning, however, that you just have to let all of that go. Here are a few things I’ve learned, and more that I’m still repeating to myself until they stick:
1. No one cares if your space is messy. When I go to my friend’s homes, I don’t notice clutter. Why? Because, surprise, it just looks like my house, which is also cluttered with kid junk/books/board games. If I do notice, it’s with a sigh of relief, like, “Oh thank goodness, it’s not just me.” I suggest you establish a new, lower baseline for friends being able to come over. For us, that looks a swept floor, a clean toilet/sink, no overtly gross things (smelly trash can or really dirty dishes), and empty places to walk and put bums. This also means absolutely no preemptive apologies. You’ll either call attention to the mess or make the person feel bad if their house looks the same or worse.
2. No one cares what you feed them, just that you do feed them. This is obviously within reason–you can’t ignore allergies or foods that people actively hate. But every reaction I’ve seen to a simple home-cooked meal that I’ve served or eaten has been, “This is wonderful, especially since I didn’t have to make it myself!” Pressure to feed someone a gourmet dinner is self-created. Remember, your guest is getting to eat a meal completely for free. They have literally nothing to complain about. For occasions where a full meal in not necessary, I recommend popcorn. It’s cheap, can be made in enormous quantities, and no one has ever refused it.
3. You have all this stuff going unused, but taking up space. We personally have enough place settings plus serving dishes for twelve in our home, and we have never entertained more than eight people at once. We have board games still in their shrink wrap because of a lack of players. We have amassed libraries of books and movies that we totally want to share, but no one knows what we have to ask to borrow them. This is madness. Once we started inviting people over, we have seen a much greater circulation of goods.
4. New people coming over help you see your space with fresh eyes. Every time we have guests over, particularly overnight guests, I have learned new ways of storing household goods, better arrangements for furniture, and an assortment of other creative solutions to living space problems. Having someone use your space differently helps you to view your space with fresh eyes, too!
5. Inviting people over, especially when your space is crazy, increases intimacy. People rarely invite acquaintances over. The doors of a home are usually open only to friends. Moreover, you’re going to clean up more if someone you don’t know well is coming over versus your best friend. I am flattered when friends feel comfortable enough to invite me into their less-than-ideal spaces, because it shows they are comfortable with me. Letting someone get into your messy space goes hand-in-hand with letting someone into your messy life.
I challenge you this month to replace one occasion of going out with inviting someone in. Then tell me how it goes in the comments! Also, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for making entertaining at home work for you.