The term “Scruffy hospitality” could emancipate more housewives from repetitive household chores than Frigidaire refrigerators freed from the tedium of ice boxes in the 1940s.
The term applies to relaxed housekeeping that hovers between Ma Kettle shooing chickens from her kitchen table before setting it for supper and the sterile perfection of a TV ad showing a designer living room tastefully furnished in unused Lazyboy recliners.
All my life I’ve dreaded anticipating visitors regardless of their family association or length of planned visit.
The thought of polishing my home to an acceptable standard weighed upon me day and night before, during, and after their departure.
A two-day visit from an aunt? Excruciating. A weekend visit by a grown daughter? Equally unsettling until she walks in the door.
Then I chanced upon a “Mother Nature Network” article lauding the charms of scruffy hospitality where the focus is on friends, family and connection, embracing your home with its imperfections, realities, and all.
And whose home doesn’t present at least a few imperfections.
Mention pending visitors and in 10 seconds I can list a dozen tasks that await doing – moving out recycling, repotting plants that have outgrown their receptacles, batting down spider webs …
One paragraph in the article is especially noteworthy: “One day, a woman I very much admired said something so simple. She said whenever someone was coming to her home — a home with five children in it — and she started to worry about how her home looked, she would stop and think: ‘Are they coming to see me, or are they coming to see my home?’ It occurred to her that someone who would have a problem with her home looking like a family of seven lived in it wasn’t really someone’s opinion she cared about.”
Among the benefits of this laissez faire approach to entertaining visitors is your home doesn’t need to be picture-perfect to invite people over.
Dirty dishes in the sink? Not a problem so long as you have more in the cupboard.
Kitchen table weighed down with magazines and newspapers? Stack them on a spare chair without apology.
Without knowing a name for it, I’ve hewed to scruffy hospitality since the October my prairie sister and brother conspired to pull off an impromptu visit.
My first inkling of anything afoot came about 10 a.m. when my brother phoned to ask if I still had some of his prescription skin cleanser.
If I did, it would save him hauling his industrial supply. Without intention, he let the cat out of the bag; they would arrive at the airport in seven hours.
I had no time to fret.
I made up two beds, jotted a short list of groceries to pick up on my way to the airport, and in no time, they were here, sitting down to supper in my kitchen.
That unexpected visit stands out in my memory as exceptionally enjoyable, free of all apprehensions.
For three days we relaxed together, chatted late into the evenings and sometimes from one meal to the next; walked my dogs in the afternoon; took turns playing piano.
No one pointed out dust on the piano, windows in need of a five-year cleaning, or a burned out 40 watt bulb in the ceiling globe.
If they had, I would have got them busy improving the situation.
I doubt anyone ever died from a little dust or disarray.
So long as pathways from one room to another are clear of impediments that could contribute to a fall I no longer stress about my scruffy housekeeping.