On Opening Our Imperfect Homes, Even In The Mess

Having moved into a new home last year, I have have a lot of projects in progress, though let's be honest, some have come to a sharp, stale halt and are dying a slow death in the basement. My project wish list is miles long, touch up paint here, spray paint that ugly yellow thing white, scrub the black scuff marks out of the floor, fix that outlet, fill that blank wall with something! When we moved, we thought we had a handle on what the house needed, but you never really know until you live there and start digging in - and then it started to feel like for every one thing we crossed off our original list, we added five more that we found along the way.

Over the years, I've always had lists like this. Things I want to improve in my home to make it better and more beautiful. And as we've added children to the mix, there is always a mess, always something that needs scrubbed, painted or sanitized. It may have taken me two kids, but I've come to the great realization every mother comes to eventually: You cannot stay ahead of the mess.

And as my own failing efforts are highlighted by being unable to keep up with the projects, improvements, and general wreckage left behind by my children, I find myself wanting to hide it more, to steer clear of having someone see the half-starts, the flaws and my failures. I've found myself wanting to say no to hosting, because the "house is just not there yet." Or wanting to keep certain parts of the house off limits, because of weird, broken tiles in the bathroom, or a mattress on the floor in the bedroom because we don't have a bed frame yet. Which honestly, is just not like me.
The other day when we had a few friends over, I found myself highlighting projects I knew I needed to get done, wanting to say something about them because I wanted them to know, I know, "that area looks bad or this thing needs work or that window needs cleaned," like I feared they'd think I was a delinquent mother and homemaker - and that by saying something right off the bat, it would make it all okay. But instead of highlighting my acute and fascinating powers of understanding areas and needs of home improvement, all I did was highlight my insecurities, and make them feel awkward.

Saying "no" to hosting, or making excuses and pointing out issues in our homes is so revealing of misplaced values in our hearts. It shows that we're finding our worth in our homes and the perfect image we want to give off, rather than who we are and how we can be used. All it serves to do is to make hospitality all about the host. And hosting and opening our homes should never be about us, it should be about our guests. About making them feel comfortable and welcomed, a place to relax and enjoy the people they're with. It's not about the lack of decorating in a room, the holes in the drywall in the stairwell, or the Cheerios scattered on the kitchen floor.

Opening our homes is about trusting the people who are over to not judge us. To trust them with our imperfections and failures, knowing they have them too. It's the double standard we all seem to live by with our homes, we see the mess and needs of our own home, but never notice it when we go to someone else's. And lately, I've been trying to rest easy in that truth. That I can have people over in a room that has nothing but a rug, a few chairs and a train table, and no one will even notice. That my friends can use my bathroom with the cabinet that hangs loose and the shower that drains so slowly you might as well take a bath and be able to laugh it off.

Will I try to clean before they come? Heavens, yes. I'm not a saint. But will it be a big deal when my son rubs raspberry jelly all over my chairs right before people come in? Maybe a little, but I'm pretty sure my guests will be able to relate, and have no problem sitting in jelly-smeared chair.

If I waited for everything in house to be perfect, I'd never have people over. So here's to conversations while projects are "in progress," laughter in the unfinished, and bonding in the mess.

*Progress shots of the house during our renovation, when we were still hosting and entertaining, but I was constantly having to check my heart of pride, embarrassment and making it all about me.

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