We make no secret of the fact that we live with our tent flaps open, and it happens to be about the busiest time of year – with lots of plans and good intentions added to the mix. This is the time of year we we hopefully swing in to preparation for christmas, we are busy enough with all the wonderful things that summer brings and it is the time of year that folks visit Cape Town, and our seaside town and after a morning on the beach they want to stop by… we like that, we see friends who have moved away, we catch up with folk that live further afield and we are thrilled to know that we have so many friends. The question folks ask… again and again is how do we get anything done and keep our house visitor ready…
- Just say Yes:
- Don’t Expect the World:
- Stick to Your Routine:
- Clean as You Go:
- We have Zones:
- Leave it till the Last Minute and Enlist Help: Cleaning takes as much time as you give it – it is one of this things that fills the time you have available. While our house is really quick to clean, we definitely don’t clean it from top to bottom before guests arrive. Once a week we clean the whole house… and honestly it takes not much more than five minutes to sweep a room, so if you really set your mind to it, then you can clean the whole house in half an hour… but usually for impending visitors we do about ten or fifteen minutes preparation at the most. Mostly, the kitchen is cleaned after meals and things are pretty tidy except where folk are busy – so we really only have to clean the bathroom before visitors arrive. We have five boys – need I say more… I do not spend all day every day cleaning the bathroom – every morning and evening our bathroom gets a wipe down and a mop… but if visitors are on the way, I have a runner, who can wipe down and mop the bathroom as visitors get from the gate to the front door – I kid you not, he is trained for that purpose. I have other runners too – like one who is trained to spot things left out that could be dangerous to a little visitor… and so on.
- When do you Spring Clean:
I do not have a natural flare for hospitality, trust me on this. And my gut instinct when someone calls to say they are round the corner… or just over the road… is to say: “We are taking a break,” “We are going out in ten minutes…” dozens of excuses come to mind, but really just say yes… and keep saying yes. It does get easier to say, “yes,” and mean it. And very often we have the best fun catching up with friends or meeting friends of friends… I think we say no for all sorts of reasons: we need some space, we need a break, our house is a mess… so I try and remove the excuses and leap into things by saying “Pop round,” or “When are you free when we bump into folk,” try it once or twice, it really does get easier.
Our home isn’t beautifully decorated, with every surface clutter free… and gleaming chandeliers. Believe it or not, folks don’t seem to mind and we live here after all. In our house you will most likely have to move a pile of books to sit on the couch, that’s where we read. You might discover I am hanging laundry – in fact a very likely possibility at any time of the day… I can chat and hang laundry. Most visitors you can actually keep doing what you are doing, pop dinner in the oven or hang laundry and still be chatting and have a cup of coffee. Naturally there are the odd visitors that you have to stop every thing to lay tea on a tray… but those are few and far between and they most likely have earned that very important status!!! Be the best you can be, but you needn’t go mad either. We share what we have, if someone drops in for dinner they join us, if someone stops by and we are having a snack and that snack happens to be carrot sticks… then we share them too. The good thing about this time of year is that you just have to keep a watermelon handy and you have a snack good and ready to go – anytime!!!
We have a set routine and rhythm to our day, that doesn’t mean we do the same thing every single day of the year, but it helps us all to stay on track. A steady rhythm enables us to be more flexible if we move away from our routine for a night or two, because of interesting dinner guests then we know what to aim for to get back on track. Along with our routine of mealtimes we have a routine for chores – first person up sweeps the kitchen floor and packs the dishes away from the night before. In the morning we might do a project, this week we have been gardening… then visitors are a good reason to take a well-earned break. After lunch we all like to have a quiet time to read or nap, if we have visitors then, they tend to join us with our pile of books. Naturally for some visitors you have to adapt and that is fine, I have found it is easier for our kids to become more adaptable if they know that they will be returning to their usual rhythm the next day.
There are better welcoming statements than: “Excuse the mess…” And since we do most of our living in the kitchen we try not let the mess mount up. After a meal we clear the table, wash the dishes and sweep – almost every time. If we have visitors that still happens. We have certain times of day that we tidy up… I have found lots of little clean ups works a lot better for us than one big frantic frenzy. My kids make their beds before breakfast… otherwise it won’t happen. We tidy up from all projects at lunch time – that doesn’t mean they get packed away at all… we just tidy up. That way the tools we need find their way home, paints get cleaned up… there is a pause in what folks are doing as they tidy up. And at dinner time we tidy up again… this means that we are never too far from a tidy home. Not spotless mind you, just a little tidier than having exploding projects everywhere and new projects beginning before the old ones are put somewhere safe.
We have places to play and places to read, places to picnic and places to store things. We do not keep every toy packed away in case of visitors and we do not keep every paint pot out of reach just for when friends stop by. My kids have toys, just like other kids and they play with them every single day… but they are not everywhere at all… Our lounge is for reading, the boys’ room is for lego, most of the playing and creating of worlds happens in the kitchen. I love that my kids play with their toys, I am thrilled when the whole yard is filled with an elaborate world of trains and duplo… but we keep it sane by having zones for reading and zones for play, and even zones for mud… it just helps. We also have a rule, no eating around the house… only in the kitchen or outdoors, this really keeps the mess down and there is no hunting around the house for platters filled with ancient unrecognizables… When folks visit, they don’t trip over stuff as they wander about because our kids don’t play throughout the house.
And the se7en + 1th thing:
I really like to spring clean our house before Christmas… it is just my thing, so how do you do that when you have a playdate in the morning, family friends coming over for lunch, teens visiting in the afternoon and folk you don’t know coming round for dinner… yes many days look like that. Decluttering is easy enough, I sort as I go… the kids are responsible for their own things, but about once a week I will put their laundry away and when I am there tidy up their shelves and put anything outgrown and so on into the donate bag. Once a week, the night before the recycling comes, I walk around the house gathering discarded art projects… so it is pretty much maintenance. Break your big projects down… a room is hard to sort and clean out, but one drawer or shelf shouldn’t take more than about five minutes. First thing after breakfast I very often tackle a drawer that has been annoying us… and so little by little things get sorted… at bedtime while I wait for folk to settle for a story, I will tidy up one book shelf – not the whole bookcase (!) just a shelf. This sort of minor maintenance goes a long way to keeping this easy to survive. No one likes to take a week off life to clean out everything but a small amount of time goes a long way to keeping your home on track.
I have to say that when we don’t have visitors I tend to work and work and work, I don’t take a break but lurch from one chore to the next, always thinking of the next thing to do. Turns out visitors are the best antidote to that, they force me to sit down and rest and I am grateful for that. Learn to see your visitors as a friendly opportunity to rest and enjoy the home you work so hard in. Often I think we are so busy tidying and “doing” that we don’t appreciate what we have…
That being said, we do need breaks, and I will notice my kids getting more and more tired… we all get “peopled out,” when we have had folk over for dinner night after night after night, and it is okay to give ourselves a break and mark the calendar busy – busy having egg on toast for supper and sloping about in jamies. Now when we are really really busy before Christmas with visitors descending continuously, I have marked “busy” times on the calendar… we will be out of action then, doing something with just our kids… on an outing or on our beds reading books – it doesn’t matter what really… just taking a break!!!