Sunday, August 17, 2008

Simplicity in Hospitality

Have you ever noticed how the more simplified your life is, the more willing you are to show hospitality to others? It isn't that you were unwilling to show hospitality before but now that your life is finding a calmer rhythm, you feel more relaxed at the idea of showing hospitality.

I have often struggled with the concept of hospitality. Even though my parents always had an "open door" policy with neighbors and others who stopped by, when I became an adult, I struggled with it. I am very shy & reserved by nature. While I do well in forums such as the yahoo groups or homesteading forums I participate in, when it comes to actually meeting someone face to face, I struggle greatly with my own feelings of shyness. Luckily, I am blessed with a husband who is quite the social butterfly to my wallflower. Being with him, I have been learning to step out of my comfort zone and be more open to others. Inviting people to our home has always been hard. I could probably find more excuses not to have a guest in our home that anyone you have met.

As we have been simplifying our lives, I have begun to notice a change in myself. When the idea of inviting someone to our home comes to mind, I don't have the usual sick feeling in the pit of my stomach reaction. It is as though the calmer our lives become, the more peace I feel about inviting people to our home.

Our home is small. When you start adding all of the "stuff", both the necessary and the frivolous, the house quickly gets that cluttered appearance that makes me feel uncomfortable. I have been around people in the past who judge you greatly on appearances. If you don't dress a certain way, or your home is not of a certain value, they judge you as not worthy of their time. Then there are those who would look at a home with clutter caused by a lack of storage and see a house that is unkempt, even though the house is clean. One family I grew up with actually has the attitude that if children's toys are out on the floor during the day then the mother is lazy in her housekeeping. They take no consideration for the fact that the children are awake and playing with the toys. Growing up and living as an adult among people who are openly judging you in nearly every aspect of your life has left it's mark on me. For years, I saw each new person that I met as a potential new "judge" who would look at my life and condemn me for anything they thought was beneath their standards or ideals. It has only been in the past few years, during my time with Joe, that I have begun to feel like everyone isn't out to judge me.

Back to the simplicity part of the topic, I am finding that the less cluttered my home is, the less cluttered I feel that my life is. I have time to take a breath and enjoy the moments. I have a more structured life and find that I thrive on that. I take joy in doing things the old way. So much of the things that we have in our lives, whether it be possessions or activities, are cluttering to our life. While some of these are essential and make our lives easier, others bog us down and cause stress.

When we feel the stress of the various types of clutter in our life, we are less likely to feel hospitable to others. Inviting someone into our home can become a burden instead of a blessing. Instead of looking forward to the visit and enjoying it, we worry about all the preparations and other details that normally wouldn't have bothered us. I find that for me, I need the simplicity to be able to feel the joy and peace in being hospitable. Scaling back on the possessions so that I have less clutter to make the home appear unkempt to others, makes it easier for me to maintain the home.

Joe and I have set up a 6 month rule in our home. With the exception of tools and seasonal clothing or items, anything in our home that is not needed within 6 months will be given away or recycled in some way. This is making a huge difference in our home. We have sold, given away to families, and donated to charities several trailer loads of things that had been stored in our home and out buildings. So far, there is not one thing that we have given away that we have regretted. Our lives are becoming more simple and plain, yet through the scaling back on possessions, we are finding more time to do things as a family.

This fall, I am taking a huge leap in my hospitality fears. I am planning a get-together with other families in our state who share similar interests with our family. I think is shocked Joe when I asked his opinion of the idea. He loved it though.

Maybe there is hope for me yet in this area of my life.