‘Tis the season for the picture-perfect home, the picture-perfect meals and the enviable holiday party where again, everything is just perfect.

What’s up with our need to make everything so PERFECT? I know, I know. I am not the first person to ask this and I won’t be the last. But, during the holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, this need for detailed perfection is at its annual peak. Maybe that is why so many people hibernate in January. It’s not the cold weather. It’s recuperation from all that perfection that we tried so hard to maintain for the previous six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who excel and are energized by all of this planning and doing. But it excludes the rest of us who feel that if we can’t compete, why even try?

A scruffy Thanksgiving.

My own Thanksgiving meal this year took place in a kitchen missing upper cabinets, with drywall showing and food was served straight out of aluminum baking pans … there was no centerpiece on the table, but I found two candles. The feedback? The best, least stressful Thanksgiving ever.

And I’m not even going to pretend that StyleBlueprint doesn’t add to the frenzy. We’ve curated beautiful tablescapes, recipes, cocktail ideas, holiday homes and ideas for great gifts. But, let’s all remember that those tablescapes were made for a photo shoot. Those recipes? They were captured in perfect lighting and were likely the only thing being cooked at the time. Those cocktails? Well, let’s be real … if you want to make a gathering easier, just serve beer and wine, as hard as it is for this cocktail lover to admit. Those holiday homes? They have been fretted over for days to get them ready to shoot. Many had designers involved. The photos are likely edited to make them even more … perfect. Just like a runway model, where you see something to inspire your look, take those same cues from these homes … get ideas, but don’t think your house has to live up to them … unless that is your thing, and then go for it! And the gifts? If you are losing your mind, just get a food/beverage gift for everyone … they’ll use it or be happy to have it to pass on to someone else. Buy a case of wine or some coffee, or order brownies or oranges for everyone. We can take this down a few notches. Let’s remember that.

Which brings me to the topic of “scruffy hospitality.” I’m not talking about planning a nice party and having people over to your home that you haven’t cleaned up at all because you’re trying to “be real.” If you plan a party, clean up your house and prep, sure. Show people you care and wanted to make them feel special. But, what about the Friday night where you get home and think I’d really like to see some friends, and you text a few people and they are free too. Let’s leave time and space in our calendars and hearts for these impromptu gatherings. And, by all means, straighten up a tiny bit … wipe down your counters and maybe empty your sink. Make sure there is toilet paper and soap in the powder room … but otherwise? Order a pizza and have everyone else bring wine or whatever. Leave the backpacks by the back door and the mail on the counter. All those giveaway clothes you’ve had in bags to get to your car? It’s okay if your friends see them. Maybe those bags will encourage them to purge some items as well.

If you haven’t heard the term “scruffy hospitality” before, it was coined by a Knoxville, TN, Anglican priest, Jack King, in a sermon that he wrote a blog post about here. Here is an excerpt:

“Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list to 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.’” — Jack King

You know that political statement we hear, “It’s the economy, stupid?” I feel like we need to say “It’s the relationships, stupid!” to ourselves every now and then as a reminder. Don’t let your own need for perfection outweigh your soul’s need to be real and connect with your friends and family. Invite people over. Tell them, “My wrapping paper is piled in the corner, and I’m wearing yoga pants. My plant is dead, but it’s too heavy to carry outside. All that said, I’d love to see you and share a pizza and catch up during this crazy time.” It’s probably exactly what they wanted and the permission slip they needed to be real, as well. Can you imagine receiving that text? You’d probably know you were in for the best night of the whole season.

Have you been waiting for your new furniture to arrive to invite people over? Don’t wait. That hole in the wall to be repaired? Put a frame around the hole and make a joke out of it … you’re friends will love you all the more for it. If I’ve learned only one thing in the past few years it’s that we really don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and who cares if your plates don’t match because you’ve broken too many? Who cares that having a perfectly tidy and organized house is just not your talent? You can run to the olive bar at the grocery store, add some cheese, grab some sparkling cider and wine and say “Welcome.”

And that goes both ways … be the guest with a gracious and nonjudgmental heart. If your friend invites you over and everything is not “just so,” be grateful for the invite even if you are the type who CAN do it all. Got it?!

Cheers to great parties and Christmas trees that are over-the-top beautiful. Cheers to the families who can pull off the gorgeous holiday cards, hand addressed in beautiful calligraphy. But cheers as well to deep breaths, messy desks, car trunks that still have summer’s goggles in them and a few piles of papers that you just can’t seem to file away. It’s okay. Deep down, we care far more about everything else. Let’s talk about it. Tonight. My house, or yours?



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