26 Nov 2014

When the Size of Your House is Cramping the Size of Your Hospitality

I am a reluctant renter.

Have been for years.

Our last rental house was small, it had faux bricks that constantly fell off the kitchen walls and carpets that, well, let’s just say back then we had three kids under the age of six and leave the rest up to your imagination.

For years my small house stunted my hospitality.

I’d always loved to have friends over. I’m not awesome with a glue gun and I do not have any real furniture arranging mojo. But I’m generally comfortable in my own skin. And I love lingering over the last of the hot chocolate with friends and leaving the dishes for later.

Give me girlfriends, church friends, grand parents, aunts, uncles or cousins – I love to have them in my space.

But since my space had shrunk the last few years it turns out my hospitality had shrunk right along with it. I didn’t realize quite how much until our South African cousins surprised us with the news they were going to be coming through the DC area and were so excited to come and visit – and hopefully stay – with us.

I was elated for 5 minutes before the wave of embarrassed disappointment hit.

The teeny living room, three bedrooms and one bathroom all flashed through my mind. Then there was the not-so-small matter that we only have 4 dining room chairs and no guest bedroom. An inflatable mattress and sofa pillows were the best we had to offer over night guests.

Five of them and five of us in our house seemed like a recipe for hostess hyperventilation. Insert entertaining in a small house nightmares here. So I was relieved when they said they’d be happy to stay at a hotel. And astonished when my husband emailed them back and insisted they stay with us.

I was incredulous. I pointed out the obvious. Our. House. Is. Small.

Turned out, however, Peter wasn’t limited by the size of our house. Because he had big hospitality in mind.

He said we should give them our master bedroom and we’d take the inflatable mattress in the playroom, even if it was only for a night. The kids could camp out on mattresses and sofa cushions in the living room. He was determined that our homesick boys would get a full dose of family. And that meant sleepovers included.

We made dinner a taco fiesta buffet and everyone ate anywhere they were comfy. We put our best sheets on the bed and fluffed up our favorite pillows for them. The boys rolled out their blankets and stuffed toys and plotted games and snacks and stories.

In the five years we lived in that tiny, quirky, run-down house it never felt as big as it did the week that the Vercueils visited us.

I learned that big hospitality has nothing to do with the size of your house.

Big hospitality is a matter of the heart and not the architecture.

Once I let go of my obsession with smallness, I was able to embrace the fun of squeezing as much big hospitality as we could manage into a week instead of worrying how it would fit into our four walls.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe this holiday season has you hyperventilating at the thought of your house being exposed for all to see how small or cramped or imperfect it is.

May I suggest a mental shift this Thanksgiving and Christmas season? If you see your house as big and welcoming as you feel about the people you’re having over, so will everyone who walks through its doors.

The size of your house, my friends, is entirely in your own hands.


{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    My 2 boys and I live in a very tiny bsmt suite. We often have company, expected and not expected, come for coffee, a meal, a night or a week! Our motto is ‘There is always room for one more, or two, or ten lol
    I hash tag

    We have a ‘guest’ right now who found themselves homeless due to unfortunate circumstances. I gave up the bedroom and am on the futon in the livingroom.

    Earlier this year I had an old friend and her 2 daughters and her granddaughter say over for a night on their way home from travelling, they ended up staying a week! It was great fun!

  2. 2
    Luisa Marin says:

    What a beautiful post!! It make me realised I need to invite more people to our house, because although is exactly like your house ( small for a family of five) my heart want to invite the whole neighbourhood over Christmas specially when I am like you living in another country and your extended family is all far away. My heart is always want more people, more hangouts, more sharing…goodness me never is enough when you are homesick eh?? My love, Lisa.

  3. 3

    I always need to hear this. Thank you.

  4. 4

    thank you Lisa-Jo. I have struggled feeling embarrassed by our small apartment here in the land of the huge houses in the south. So much so I haven’t reciprocated playdates for my children. Ouch. Thank you for encouraging me to get over myself.

  5. 5

    Love this! Couldn’t agree more. We have lived in several states and in everything from a one bedroom apt to a beautiful 1800 sq ft house.
    Between family experiences and my own homes I’ve realized it is certainly not the size of the house that matters. In fact for some strange reason I’m a better host in a small shabby apt. I think thats mostly because in a big house I let the house do the hosting per say but in a small apt ots all about the hosting and making your guests feel comfy. I always am sure to pull out the good buffett glass bowls and if we have a table its set. Right now we don’t have a table so its a free for all for dinner seats. My favorite dinners are when everyone is in the living room sitring on chairs and floors eating and enjoying each others company. I love a well set table as much as anyone else and my Grandma would cringe at the fact I’m even mentioing people sitting on the floor but we always have the best time!

  6. 6

    Love this post so much! Thank you for sharing! :)

  7. 7

    thank-you for this post. I was feeling just the way you expressed. When my house fills up this day I will feel more expansive inside.

  8. 8
    Kim Ballantine says:

    Lisa-Jo I loved this post. I ached inside at the pictures (I wish i’d also been there) and just knew that the Vercueil’s would have loved you all so well, cramped space and all. I know your house burst with cousin-love for that week and that their hugs and laughter was imprinted on all your hearts. I hope they played the licking game and if not I will teach those gorgeous nephews and niece of mine just how great the licking game can be. We get so caught up in being presentable, don’t we, that we lose the essence of hospitality – simply opening our hearts and our space to those around us. Well done Cuz. One day I hope we get to invade your space and play hard too.

  9. 9

    I love this! I need to be reminded of this daily! We live in a small house and we planned to do an addition. In the meantime, we took a trip back to Korea to visit my husbands family. We came home feeling like we live in a mansion! But the longer we are back home in North America where everyone else’s house is huge, the more the feeling of a little house weighs on me. So, to prove that our house big enough for hosting, I have been making a point of inviting families for dinner. Big families with lots of kids to add to our lots of kids! And you know what, it is wonderful and the house is full of love and laughter! Thanks again for this post!

  10. 10

    Practically all ladies really likke to perform cooking.


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