The challenge of hospitality

We’ve all been there. The phone call from a friend or a family member who happens to be in the local area and thinks oh wouldn’t it be nice to just pop in and say hello.

The challenge of hospitality - Little Hearts, Big Love
And yes, of course, that would be absolutely lovely. Except that you’re looking around at the state of your house. The toys all over the floor, the dishes on the kitchen counter, the pile of laundry left by the washing machine ready to go in, the paperwork on the table – all the day-to-day clutter of a busy house.

The challenge of hospitality - Little Hearts, Big LoveIt’s moments like this that I wish I had the cleaning ability of Rapunzel in Tangled. After all, if her opening song is to be believed, she achieves a phenomenal amount in just fifteen minutes:

“7AM, the usual morning line-up
Start on the chores and sweep ’til the floor’s all clean,
Polish and wax, do laundry, and mop and shine up
Sweep again and by then it’s like 7:15.”

(from ‘When Will My Life Begin’ by Alan Menkin & Glenn Slater)


However, whilst I’m not quite blessed with Rapunzel’s speedy scrubbing skills, there are a few tricks that I use to make my home look a lot tidier in the few minutes I have before the doorbell rings:


  • Grab a big cardboard box and sweep all the paperwork into it before shutting it out of sight in the study (usually joining the other cardboard boxes from the last few times I did this!)
  • Failing that, cupboards are great for hiding things in (unless they’re full from all the things I hid last time – are we spotting a pattern here?!)
  • Dishes into the dishwasher (or hide in the oven if the dishwasher’s full!) and wipe the kitchen sides down with an antibacterial wipe.
  • Hide laundry in the spare room
  • Bleach down the loo, quick clean of loo and sink with antibacterial wipe and make sure there’s a clean towel.
  • If the children are awake, I don’t worry too much about the toys other than to try and make sure there is at least some path from the living room door to the sofa. If they’re asleep and the living room looks like the Hamleys bomb has gone off, it’s a sign that I needed wine more than I needed to tidy. Time to find a storage box (preferably with a lid) and just sweep it all in and put in the corner.

The challenge of hospitality - Little Hearts, Big LoveBack in my pre-children days when my home was a lot tidier, I used to get very stressed about people popping in unexpectedly and my house not living up to my own self-imposed standards. Having children has been incredibly liberating in that sense – I feel like I’m “allowed” to have a messy home because I have small children who generally seem to make a mess faster than I can tidy it up!


Of course it is nice to have a tidy home when people come to visit and given enough notice, I usually managed to achieve that. But whilst I used to put myself under a lot of pressure to ensure my home was pristine, I now remind myself that my friends are coming round to see me, not to inspect my home or judge me on my levels of tidiness. Because quite frankly, if they were coming around to judge me on the state of my house, then they’re not exactly friends are they? And so I have learned to relax (and ignore the fingerprint marks on the TV that I spotted as soon as my guests sat down) and to just focus on spending time together.


The most important thing is that I make them feel welcome. What I don’t manage to achieve in tidiness, I’ll just make up for in friendliness, tea and biscuits instead.

And then the fun began...
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27 thoughts on “The challenge of hospitality

  1. I’ve been known to…. Sssh! (Looks both ways) put dirty dishes in the oven for the duration only to discover them again later that evening when it’s time to cook tea! We all do don’t we???! #thetruthabout

  2. hehe, great post, and so true, I am lucky that I can just shut the kitchen door and hide the mess, though I have been known to throw things into the spare room when they get too bad!
    I love the photo of Jesscia helping you clean up, get them started young!! Boo took a muslin cloth the other day and started to ‘dust’ I am wondering if she is trying to tell me that I don’t clean enough!
    I know what you mean about having a reason for a messy house, I love the toys mess that Boo makes, it make the living room look lived in and when I see toys everywhere I can’t help but think of all the fun and joy she has had making the mess =)

    1. Definitely – I’d rather have the mess and know that the girls have had a great time playing with their toys 🙂

  3. Haha I wish O had Rapunzel’s time and energy to clean that quickly too! 🙂 also loving the image of dirty dishes in the oven 🙂 I am constantly apologising for the state of the house when people come over as it is just impossible to keep it clean with little people around!! Xx

    1. Oh wouldn’t it be nice to be able to clean that quickly? It is so hard to keep it tidy with little ones – I’ve given up apologising for it though! 🙂

  4. Loving the tips Louise! 🙂 Fortunately hardly anyone ever just pops round here but if they did it would inevitably on a Monday (I do all my cleaning and tidying on Tuesdays!!). Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout X

  5. As always, really enjoyed reading this post! Additionally, hope I wasn’t the only one who sang the Tangled song …(brush and brush and brush and bruuuuuush my hair!!) anyway like you I have two children and also use the baby wipe (I mean antibacterial wipe 😉 ) trick but hiding dishes in the oven is pure genius!! Glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t live in a show home – I think it’s us who are the normal ones! Xx

    1. I was singing it along too! Baby wipes do sometimes get substituted for antibacterial wipes here too! 🙂

  6. This sounds so familiar! I saw a card once that said ‘I get more tidying done in the ten minutes leading up to a guest arriving than in the week before it’. This is so totally me!!! x

  7. I want to have a Rapunzel!! 15 minutes doesn’t touch our house – and I can promise you my house is never tidy – how ever much notice I’ve had 😀
    And yeah, I’ve also hidden the dishes and forgotten about then until I find them at teatime 😀

  8. I know exactly what you mean – it can be quite liberating to have an ‘excuse’ for the house to not be spotless. Although it’s funny how often kids quite enjoy tidying up and cleaning – two of our three are always very keen to run around with a duster!

  9. I hear you Louise. You have to really find peace with the idea that guests, announced or otherwise, are going to have to witness the pit of hades that are homes that house little children. I get really funny about sorting the toys into appropriate groups – animals, cars, trains, crafts, lego, duplo, musical, puzzles… Nothing ever stays sorted for more than 10 minutes, and everything just seems to be in one scattered, muddled mess of everything. It drives me potty. I fail to tidy the toys because unless I can sort it into appropriate groups, there is no point in attempting a tidy. Bonkers, huh?

    Tea and biscuits, lovely conversation and laughs is the best, and least challenging aspect of hospitality, and I’m certain you’ve got it nailed! XX

    1. I’m glad it’s not just me that refers to in those kinds of terms ‘pit of hades’ is fairly close to my usual description! I like to try to sort the toys and then it drives me mad when they get mixed up – hard to try and let it go sometimes! 🙂

  10. This made me laugh. SO exactly the same as my wife. When someone asks to pop over the state of the house doesn’t cross my mind! To me it always looks great! She goes crazy running round stuffing things all over the place! Meaning that most months we need to get replacement bank cards because she can’t find purses or handbags!!! AAAH I agree – a good cuppa and a biscuit and no one will notice the laundry pile 🙂

    1. Thank you – my husband never seems to notice the mess and tries to stop me getting stressed about it too! 🙂

  11. We use the kitchen door to go in and out of the house, plus live right out in the countryside, and even though I have an area for wellies right by the door, my kitchen floor is usually covered in muddy tracks and footprints. The floor is inevitably covered in mud 10 minutes after it’s cleaned too. At first I was rather embarrassed at it’s state but quite frankly if I wanted to keep it shiny I would have to clean it four times a day. And that ain’t ever going to happen!

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