The 3 things you need to have people over.

The 3 things you need to have people over.

About six months ago, I heard Shauna Niequist share her three essential items for getting your home company-ready in 15 minutes or less.

Her tips were too good not to share, so I promptly drafted up a post … and have been sitting on it ever since, waiting for the right time. (I’m sorry, and you’re right—I shouldn’t have waited so long!)

Savor by Shauna Niequist (published March 10, 2015)

This is it: Shauna has a new book coming out tomorrow, March 10: Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are. It’s a Christian devotional: aside from a two-page intro and 21 recipes, the book consists entirely of 365 one-page devotions.

I’ve gotta admit: I wasn’t so excited about the “devotional” part: I’ve enjoyed her essays—Bread and Wine was one of my very favorites in 2013—and I was ready for another full-length collection. (I’ll get my wish with her next release, Present Over Perfect, but not till Spring 2016.) But I was pleasantly surprised by Savor.

First of all, the book itself is gorgeous: it’s a thick hardback, covered in linen, with navy-tipped pages. It looks way more expensive than it’s $17 list price (or $13-ish on Amazon right now).

Shauna calls this collection her “attempt at paying attention to this life,” in moments big and small. Especially small. It’s about, to use a phrase that’s tipping into overdone, living in the present, about really being here for the here and now.

I didn’t read Savor cover-to-cover; it’s not meant for that kind of reading. But I did sit down and flip to the important dates in my life: my birthday, my husband’s birthday, my kids’ birthdays. My anniversary, my parents’ anniversary, my dear friends’ anniversaries. At the risk of sounding cheesy, when I flipped to all these pages, I thought yes. This theme is perfect for that day, for me.

If you’ve read her previous works, many of the stories will seem familiar. I’m okay with that, especially since there’s lots of new content mixed in, too. And I actually appreciate the short format, which gives me the opportunity to focus on one theme for a few minutes of every day. I’m not terribly consistent about daily readings, but I’ll put this book on my nightstand (or better yet, by the coffee maker) and see what happens.

A recurring theme running through Shauna’s work is hospitality, which she believes is fundamentally about making space in our lives and our homes for true presence and connection.

The 3 things you need to have people over. When it comes to hospitality, only 3 things are truly essential!

She insists it’s not that complicated. Here’s your cheat sheet for hospitality prep in 15 minutes or less:

1. Pop some bacon in the oven or soften an onion on the stove so your house smells good and homey.

2. Grab an empty laundry basket to pick up all the stuff lying around. (At minimum, this means anything your guest could trip on and break a leg.)

3. Use a baby wipe to clean off anything icky or sticky.

If your house isn’t perfect, don’t sweat it: the point is for people to leave your home feeling better about themselves, not better about you. (Which is a good thing, because my house is never, ever perfect. Or remotely close.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on last-minute hospitality, Shauna Niequist’s work, and everything in between in comments. 

Books mentioned in this post: 

The 3 things you need to have people over

60 comments | Comment

60 comments

  1. Hospitality is something that I have been so so bad at in my life. I keep vowing to do better but the habit never sticks. Surprisingly I’m finding that being a mom of teenagers is changing that for me. My son has weekly band practice here, which means a gaggle of interesting young folks hanging around every weekend, and you can’t not feed teenagers (or broke, single, early twenty some things!). Rather roundabout method but hey, whatever

  2. Christine says:

    I love her books. I recently heard a talk she gave, and my favorite quotes was something like…. “Hospitality means having people leave feeling better about themselves not about you.” So important to remember when we all want everything to look perfect…it’s not about us!

  3. Kayris says:

    I must be the world’s only person that doesn’t like the smell of bacon. It doesn’t smell homey to me, it makes me think, “ewww…grease!” The smell of baking, or cooked apples and cinnamon, is MUCH more my speed.

    I would also add “vacuum the floor” to a quick house prep. A clean floor makes a messy room look much better,

    • Sheila says:

      You’re definitely not the only person who doesn’t like the smell of bacon – I’m not crazy about it either, and it would never have occurred to me to intentionally make my house smell like it. An apple pie though, yes, that smells inviting to me. 🙂

      And yes to the clean floors too.

    • Anne says:

      According to these comments you’re in good company on the bacon thing! And I’m always surprised at what a difference vacuuming makes. It doesn’t seem to me like it should be such a big deal … but I’m always pleasantly surprised at what a big difference sucking up all the tiny bits of paper and dog hair and loose threads makes.

  4. Ashley says:

    I try to keep homemade dessert in the freezer. Cookie dough balls or mini Apple turnovers that just needs baked. And never underestimate the hot beverage, after dinner with that dessert or in the middle of the day!

  5. Sara K. says:

    I love Shauna Niequist’s books and need to go ahead and order a copy of Savor!

    I rarely have people over to my home (due to a cat allergy, my family always gathers at homes other than mine), but I do want to create a home that feels open and inviting to others. It will be welcoming to me at the end of a long day even if I don’t have company coming over!

    I like the smell of baked goods so baking cookies or cinnamon bread is a good way to make my home ready for company!

  6. Jennifer says:

    I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I should buy Savor. Like you, I’m not too thrilled about the devotional format. What I really want to know is, have you cooked any of the recipes yet?

  7. I always think that my friends have a kettle on the stove ready for tea or french press coffee is a sign that they are really glad that I’m there, and I’m more likely to say yes to tea or coffee if the water is already hot (it seems less of an inconvenience). This isn’t really a last minute hospitality thing, but whenever someone remembers what I can’t eat (grains, dairy, nightshades, legumes) I feel so special and welcomed. (Although I don’t mind at all if there are snacks I can’t eat, I totally understand about that as well.) Also putting on some music and lighting a candle (out of reach of a little kid 🙂 are small things that really go a long way to set aside the time as special.

  8. Vanessa says:

    An onion? Really?! Ick. I can’t stand the smell of cooking onions. If I walked into someone’s home that reeked of onions, I’d walk right back out lol Flowers smell so much nicer – why wouldn’t you just buy a fresh bouquet if you know someone’s coming over?

    • Ana says:

      I somewhat agree with you about the onions…I don’t mind them and cook them regularly, but wouldn’t deliberately TRY to make my house smell like them! But I’m also allergic to any flower that you can smell, so…. For me the smell of something baking or maybe coffee brewing seem more enticing than onions or bacon!

  9. Susan says:

    I’ve always tried to practice what I call “Messy House Ministry”: I keep the house basically picked up, bathrooms respectable, but that’s it. Anyone who comes by will feel GREAT about their housekeeping skills after being at my house! Plus, if I go to the effort of vacuuming and doing the floors, I’ll be grumpy if anyone spills on them.

    For years, we had an open house every Monday of the summer. People would bring something to BBQ for their own family and something to share with the group. Oh, and we would make homemade ice cream for everyone 🙂 We could have 20 adults and and equal number or more kids on a given week. I definitely didn’t want to mop floors before that horde came over!

    • Shannon says:

      I love the idea of Messy House Ministry!!!!! I used to spend so much time & energy freaking out if my house wasn’t spotless when people came over – to the point that people wouldn’t come over (they can smell the stress I think!) I’m learning, time & time again, that hospitality doesn’t mean making people uncomfortable in a spotless house so I’ll intentionally leave some minor things undone (some toys out if the kids are here & actually playing with them, books scattered where they are being read, etc.) It just puts people more at ease I think.

  10. Sarah R says:

    I also fall into the trap of feeling like everything needs to be perfect! I like my house to smell fresh, so I try to open a window if possible. I also use a swiffer for a quick dusting. I also read somewhere to focus on the bathroom if time is limited. That is where guests spend time alone, so they are more apt to notice things!

    • Anne says:

      Opening a window is a great idea! I always light a candle in the bathroom because the guest bathroom is the kids’ bathroom and a little extra ambience/pleasant aroma can’t hurt.

  11. Caroline says:

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who flips ahead in devotional books to look up birthdays. It feels wrong somehow, but maybe it’s just human.

  12. Katia says:

    I can’t remember the last time I had someone other than our family over at our house. I miss the company, but as working parents, we spend every ‘free minute’ in the evenings and on weekends with our children. However, I do love to have my home be clean and welcoming, not for others but for myself. I love to relax fully on Saturday evenings, just reading on the sofa after the kids have gone to bed, and mess around me doesn’t allow me to full relax (although I have also learned to ignore the mess when necessary, such as when I’m feeling too tired to get up and clean). This post has reminded me of how much I miss having company over at my home.

  13. Mal says:

    This reminds me of Clueless, when she puts the whole roll of cookie dough in the oven to make her house smell good! I’d much rather smell baked goods than bacon or onions.

  14. Tim says:

    There was a realtor in our town who always placed fresh baked cookies on the counter when showing an open house. Even if people didn’t want a cookie, the smell hit them with that sense of making the house their home.

    I would add just one thing to Shauna’s tips, and this is one that is really implied in the three you lay out, Anne: Even more important than clearing the clutter and wiping up the sticky places is a willing heart that tells the person how pleased you are that they have entered your home.

    • Anne says:

      That’s pretty common around here, too. I think they must teach that tip at realtor school. 🙂 And YES to the heart behind the actions, whatever they are.

  15. Hannah says:

    I love these tips, except I’d fill the house with the smell of cookies instead of onions. We’ve had so many people in our home in the last six months (I’m not really sure why, but it’s worked out that way), and it’s true that you need very little except cleared space, a wiped down bathroom, and maybe some scented candles, to make it a comfortable and inviting place to be! If people leave feeling better than before they came, it’s a win.

    • Anne says:

      I love the smell of onions when dinner is cooking but HATE the smell later. The smell of cookies is wonderful anytime. 🙂

  16. Karlyne says:

    I know that cleaning the toilet and sink are seen as Big Jobs, but, seriously, it only takes 30 seconds to swish some cleaner in the toilet and wipe down the boil (use toilet paper-it’s flushable!), and then use the towel to wipe down the sink and counter. Your bathroom will smell better, without the onions and bacon, and everyone likes a spiffy bathroom!

  17. Julie says:

    I love Shauna, but the bacon/onion tip is just weird.
    Work to do it, work to clean it up later, plus – what? You have to get up from chatting with a friend to flip bacon? Unless I’m actually SERVING bacon, I’m not going to cause a mess for myself just to have bacon smell in the house.
    I’m all for picking up the junk on the floor and wiping up anything gross. Then, light a candle and be done with it!

    • Leah says:

      My thoughts EXACTLY. And why on earth would anyone want their house to smell like onion? Maybe I’m weird, but yuck! Lol!

      Lighting a candle or simmering a orange or apple slices with a little cinnamon and cloves would smell much better and be much simpler!

  18. Amy M says:

    I think I need less Pinterest and magazine reading, and more hospitality tips like Niequist’s! I’d probably just brew some coffee rather than make bacon, but smell is such an evocative sense that I can see having an appetizing aroma in the air would go a long way toward making my home hospitable. So would picking up the legos, I suppose. 😉

  19. Jules says:

    I always have the kettle full and the coffee maker ready to go, at all times. I love to bake so always have some home made cake or cookies in the cupboard. That way if anyone drops in I can flick a switch and have a hot beverage and a snack in moments. We live in the country so tend to have people come stay overnight as often, or more often, than dropping in. We involve guests on what we are doing, feeding animals, pottering in the garden. We find its a good way to talk. I read many years ago that a good way to broach awkward subjects with teenagers was to wash dishes or walk with them, being side by side rather than opposite makes it easier to talk without feeling confronted. We find that here, walking and talking helps people share what’s on their minds. I find if someone is relaxed about their home I relax too. If it’s messy and they are ok, so am I. If they seem anxious about it I feel i have interrupted them. I try to take that into my own home. Stop stressing about anything that isn’t right and focus on the guests.

  20. Jamie says:

    Yeah, not a fan of the bacon over here. But that’s because I personally don’t like smelling like bacon when I fix it, so I would assume others don’t want to smell like it when they leave my house. Kind of like smelling like bread when you leave Subway. We do coffee or tea. It’s never already ready, but can make it quickly. I like what someone said above: involve guests in what you’re doing. I often ask people to chop veggies or set the table. Great conduit for conversation. If it’s summer, my hubs often takes the guest hubs or kids or all outside to grill with him. I think if I don’t freak out, guests don’t either. Asking genuine, loving questions is usually the best way I’ve found for someone to leave your home feeling better about themselves.

  21. Sloan says:

    I’m also in the camp where I’d light a candle over cooking something. But I do love the “messy house ministry.” It’s so freeing!

  22. Jennifer says:

    I love Shauna’s way of thinking and hospitality is big for me too. Bread & Wine also really opened me up to the ease of fancy/simple appetizers. I am pretty frugal and usually wouldn’t keep crackers, fancy cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, etc on hand but they are so nice and easy to keep for guests as a snack or appetizer as the real food is cooking. I love to cook and bake but fancy appetizers with lots of steps aren’t for me either so her idea of having easy but delicious classics on hand has really stuck with me.

  23. Courtney says:

    coffee brewing, a place to put their purse/coat/diaper bag/shoes, maybe some chocolate if it’s been “a week” (or even “a morning”) for both of you.

  24. Meg says:

    I always trust your judgement, Anne…..however, I don’t do the religion thing so it’s hard for me to put that aside while reading a lovely book such as Savor. Could anyone recommend similar style books that fo not have a Christian tone to them? Years ago, I read books by Alexandra Stoddard about making the home a gracious place. I would love to find a new day version of her books. Thank you!

  25. Meg says:

    I loved Evening Class! I have pretty much liked all of the Maeve Binchy books I have read…why do you not like it? I love to read “fluff” and it seems you like what I call “more intelligent books”, so maybe it’s too fluffy for you?

  26. Wendy Gunn says:

    Hospitality is a passion of mine. Cooking isn’t, haha. Thankfully, great cooking isn’t a prerequisite to hospitality. (I do know how to find good recipes that are easy, though.) Guests need to feel welcomed, loved and brought into Christ’s presence for healing (that’s the hospital part of hospitality). It’s His work, not mine. He just needs my availability. My quote is, “You don’t need a palace. You just need a heart.” Thanks for this encouragement!

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