Saturday, July 25, 2009

Defining hospitality

On the brink of redoing our family room, I've been thinking more lately about what makes for a comfy home--mine and others'. What exactly is it that makes some homes more welcoming while others are off-putting or tense?

Here's what makes me comfortable in other people's homes:
-when I feel like they really want me there
- if I "drop in" (which I was taught not to do), there's just enough clutter in the room to tell me there's life in the house (books on end tables, laundry stack in the making, ingredients on the counter near a measuring cup or knife)
-a little bit of noise (I feel awkward in long silences.)
-clean smells
-a dog , cat, or horse (if the dog is calm, the cat doesn't get in my face--I'm allergic--and the horse stays outside:)
-being offered something to drink within the first 15 minutes
-helping in the kitchen before a meal
-people who get along
-sunny rooms
-playing board games
-being able to find an extra roll of toilet paper easily in their bathroom
-art of any kind on display
-a musical instrument
-candles that are contained (open wicks are pretty but make me afraid of something catching fire, like clothes, hair, accessories)
-fresh flowers on the table
-conversation that goes deeper sooner rather than later or not at all
-a view that includes birds or a birdhouse (I only like wild birds, not domestic ones. They freak me out.)
-carpet underfoot
-when children greet me by name and title if they're old enough to talk (It speaks highly of their parents' training in hospitality--everyone loves the sound of their own name, right?)
-knowing in advance what time people need to leave the house or go to bed or bathe their children or whatever (It gives me the chance to be a thoughtful guest and leave then.)
-when the host or their children are waiting eagerly at the door or window (says "We are so glad you're here) and when they walk me to the car or stand on the porch waving goodbye.

Here's what makes me uncomfortable:

-complete mess (makes me feel claustrophobic, and I can't think, and I have to work extra hard at not judging)
-perfect order (Will they be mad at me if I accidentally spill something? Do they want to impress me or bless me?) Given the choice, though, I'll take perfect order and hope I'm not a klutz in their company.
-no sign of books anywhere (to me it says "dull minds")
-white walls except in a bathroom
-lack of natural light
-dead flowers on the table
-loved ones' urn of ashes on display
-tons of family photos hung everywhere (kind of says "Our Family Shrine"). I like one or two groupings of them. That's it.
-loud noise, children constantly interrupting, any repetitious noise
-people telling me to please take off my shoes at the door. To me it says "notice my housekeeping; it's more important than your comfort" --because, frankly, taking off my shoes is not always socially comfortable for me. Please tell me that I'm not the only one.
-ppl arguing in the house
-smell of smoke, cat pee, dirty dog, urine
-medicine bottles in the open
-not being offered anything to drink (it says "I don't want you to stay long" which may be true, which of course hurts my feelings, or if it's not true, I perceive it that way.)
-yappy dogs or schizo cats, or any rodent, reptile, caged bird
-feeling obligated to help clean up every last thing after a meal (that's taking "make yourself at home" too far--it takes some of the joy out of being a guest)
-when people leave the TV on
-being too hot (I do better being slightly chilly at my age)
-barrage of small talk (which bothers me mostly if I realize it's been coming from me...again says "dull minds")

How about you? I'd love to hear what says "comfy" and "uncomfy" to you in other people's homes. It's always a mix of tangibles and intangibles, huh?


itsboopchile said...

Zoanna, you did it again!!
You listed things I had forgotten so I printed it for myself.
I have become such a hermit, except for the children. We have so many now that time just isn't there anymore.
So, thank you for giving me something for a guide. I am grateful.
At my age I tend to be forgetful about too many things!!!
Betty G

Laurie said...

Your list is thorough!
Have you ever noticed that if someone does drop in, it’s on that day (that so out of the ordinary day) when your house is “out of balance”, you stayed in pajamas and you’re not feeling hospitable? What a day for/test for really practicing gracious hospitality in spite of the disarray!

Uncomfy: Yes, put the yappy dog(s) away.
Also, don’t answer the phone unless absolutely necessary!

Comfy: Warm or cold drinks, a quiet seating area to talk heart to heart.

Jessi said...

Very interesting. Made me really think about how my home is and how it makes people feel!