Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Inner Hostess is Smushed

I imagine a time when I can hostess amazing get togethers.  I enjoy coming up with a menu and preparing food for parties.   I enjoy using my creative skills to decorate and make a lovely party atmosphere.  I love the idea of people talking, relaxing, laughing, enjoying themselves at our home.

There are only 2 things that stand in my way.

One is my children.  Now, that sounds terrible.  But, here's the truth of the matter.  We are in a season of life where the kinds of soirees I imagine in my head are time intensive in regard to preparation.  And, if there's one thing I lack while having very small children, it's a lot of extra time.  The few occassions where I've tried to implement my ideas in a backyard barbeque or family get together I end up getting completely stressed out and I can't truly enjoy myself.

The second thing that stands in my way is space...or lack of space.  I was reminded again at Charlie's birthday party on Monday night exactly how small our house is.  This isn't about being discontent (although that's definitely an issue I've struggled with).  This is about mathematics.  How many people can comfortably fit into x amount of square footage?

Usually if we have a group of people to our house we try to do it over the warmer months when we can all spill out to the back yard.  But, in this instance, Charlie has a birthday during the colder months.  Outside is not an option.  

We don't go crazy with birthdays.  For one we really can't.  Usually it's a family affair with possibly a friend or two.  On Monday night it was my husband and I plus our boys (6 people), plus my parents, John's parents, my grandmother, one of my sisters, John's sister and a friend of hers & her friend's son (9 people).  That's a total of 15 people.  And, boy was it a tight fit.
picture found here

Our downstairs space is really limited to our kitchen/dining room area and a super tiny living room.  We also have our computer room which isn't really set up for entertaining & our sunroom (ahem - junkroom) area....which is also unheated.

It's taken me some time to accept my house for what it is - a tiny fixer upper....and also our first home, the place where we are raising our small boys (John refers to it as our brooding house - a place for us while they are young).  But, when we try to have family over and we are all tripping over each other, that's when I really wish we had more space to spread out.

Here are a few things I've learned over the years about entertaining in small spaces....

1.  Know what you can and what you can't do.  I can't have 20 or 30 people over to my house.  Even 5-10 is a stretch.  But, inviting a friend or two over here and there can still help fulfill my desire to hostess.

2.  Utilize the space you have to the fullest.  Make sure there is seating in the areas where people are able to congregate.  This bench that I painted over the summer is along one of the walls in the dining area.  It adds seating for 2 more people.  I try (but don't always succeed) to clear out as much clutter or unecessary stuff from the areas that we'll be.  Less stuff makes it feel bigger.

3.  Take a deep breath and remember that it's about being together with loved ones.  I can get really uptight if I feel like people might not be completely comfortable.  Or, I can relax which will actually do a lot to help others feel more at ease...even if they are smushed.

Do you have any tips for entertaining in limited space?


  1. Wow. This summer we squeezed over 40 people here. YIKES! Over half ended up outside. That helped. For the rest we asked some family to bring folding chairs. I have benches in the kitchen (we put the table in the shed) that store food. We pushed kids beds against the walls so there was more play space (read: get the kids into bedrooms). And put the piano (it's small and digital) into our bedroom (folded up the crib). It worked!
    Whenever we have birthdays and family wants to visit I stagger the times I tell them to come. Part of that is also because not all of them like each other so it kills two birds with one stone. I feel your pain though!!!
    One of these years we want to stick a yurt in the backyard and make it the "gathering space".

  2. I know what you mean. We do not have a very large house either. But I love to have family over. We will have a total of 18 (I think) for Thanksgiving. We can not sit all together because we don't have the room. I usually set up a kid table in the family room and that helps a lot and then the adults at the table. But I really try to over look the space thing and think about how fun it is to have everyone together. We are so blessed to have houses to live in. I just could not ask for more. Hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving. Try that soup it is so so good.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Karen. It is encouraging to me to know I am not alone. I feel so bad that we don't entertain more or show hospitatlity ... but I try to remind myself there is a season for everything. I am in the season of raising small children (it's been a long season - ha!!) Also, there are other ways to serve others with hospitality w/out bringing them in your home. Making meals for others is one ... also, hosting a dinner out with another couple if you can get sitter is another nice compromise, I think. Sitters are hard for us to come by but we try once in a while!

  4. I think during the colder's nice to host smaller groups of people...and then save larger get togethers for the backyard.

    My best advice as far as the kids is something my husband started when our son was little. An hour and a half or two hrs. before people would start showing up, he would take Brady somewhere and give me that last bit of time alone. I'm sure he did this to help me, but also to get the heck out of my way! This way I was able to get that last minute stuff done and keep the house tidy (at least until people arrived!). They would go for a walk or to the park or walk around Walmart. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part...I always have a smirnoff ice while I'm finishing up the last minute stuff! :)
    On a side note...does anyone really care when going to someone else's place if everything is perfect and there's lots of room? It's always just nice to be invited somewhere!!

  5. I agree with Kerri- I'm always just so thrilled to be OUT and fed by someone other than myself that it wouldn't matter to me how crowded your house felt or how picked up it was. I'd just be happy to be with you :-).

  6. Hi Karen - your last point about remembering what it's really all about is right on - sometimes it's so hard not to stress out about the small stuff, but at the end of the day, it really is just about being together!

  7. Karen, Thanks for sharing how you gracefully deal with a smaller space. So often I look at the material stuff and lose sight of the big and real important -- people.

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


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