There will never be a time when the Queen of England, Beyonce, and The New York Times food critic converge on your doorstep for a formal dinner party, so stop the bullshit excuses about not having company over "until you've got your shit together."
By not allowing friends and family into your personal spaces you are diminishing your opportunities for intimacy and friendship and deep fried appetizers - you know, the important things in life. I'm all for well-organized common areas and tidy surroundings, but to put off enjoyment for sake of a cluttered set of bookshelves is just plain stupid. By waiting until the perfect conditions for company are met, you are punishing yourself. You are punishing your family. You are missing out on the joy that delivery pizza, beer, and friends can offer when gathered in a toy-filled family room.
I've been an independent adult with the ability to entertain others for over 20 years. In that time, I have done so only a handful of times — up until the last five years. Before that, I issued invitations two weeks in advance, allowing myself that time to plan menus, steam clean carpets, paint baseboard trim, and purchase matching creamer and sugar sets. I was a new-bride, then a new-mom, then a newly-single woman and there was always something in my environment completely beyond my control, with me standing behind it, proverbial whip in hand, trying to organize chaos.
It took me until my late 30s to see reality: This chaos? This uncontrollable environment? This is life.
I've often thought about who I was cleaning for. I didn't clean so much for family; I mean, they love me no matter the mess. Rather I cleaned for those I wished to impress, or those with whom I felt a degree of (self-imposed) competition. Then this week, I read "Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship" and wished I had read it a decade ago:
"Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are."
The universe has a funny way of imposing balance: When your house is clean a kid will wake up barfing, when the kids are all healthy the screen door will be ripped, when the windows are all clean the fridge will be empty. If you wait for the perfect circumstances to have friends and family over to share food and conversation, you will be waiting forever, and before you know it, 20 years will have passed and all your friends have made new friends who let them see the inside of their houses, stained carpets and all.
I can absolutely guarantee that no one will judge you by the amount of dust on your bathroom shelves, and should they choose to do so they are not worthy of your time or your hospitality. It is more likely that the presence of dust will reinforce their affection for you, because they too have dust in their homes and will feel a kinship.
There are a few things you should do before company comes, but the list is easy:
Your home need only be as clean as you and your family prefer — and this is different for every family but only your family gets a say so, stop worrying.
Getting your shit together means having more good days than bad, and includes enjoyable social engagement with other human beings whose views you can tolerate/laugh at when they leave. Challenge yourself to issue an impromptu invite this week, because even super-introverts with less-than-showroom-perfect homes need human interaction more than once a decade, so have some friends over for a goddamn pizza.