A set table, with an empty white plate

I stumbled upon the idea of “scruffy hospitality” via a social media post, and immediately latched on to it.

Like many other people, I have found 2021 hard. Really hard. Between a late night immediate lockdown of schools back in January, ill health (mine), deteriorating health (a family member’s), selling my childhood home, and trying to balance the needs of my young family, our home and work, it has been exhausting. I try so hard to find the positive in every year, and I have had delightful pockets of fun throughout 2021, but I would even go as far as saying that overall this one has been my worst.

I hope that 2022 will be a much better, brighter year. To try to set it off on the right footing, Jacob and I are clearing diary dates to make way for spending more time with family and friends. At the back of my mind I know that next year we also have big plans for the house though, which will throw us into a state of turmoil that we haven’t had since we renovated our old home around 10 years ago. How do those two conflicting interests work? The answer has to be scruffy hospitality.

What is scruffy hospitality?

Put simply, scruffy hospitality is the idea that “hospitality is not a house inspection, it’s friendship” (Rev. Jack King, 2014). It is inviting people into our everyday home, rather than a special occasion version. It is allowing for the edges to be lived in, and focuses on social interactions rather than perfect presentations.

Our house is going to be a mess next year. I can absolutely guarantee that. For financial reasons, we will be trying our best to live in it whilst the work is being done (even if we have to camp in the garden for a while!). That shouldn’t, perhaps mustn’t, deter us from seeing the people we love to spend time with though.

Ordinarily when we invite people round to our home, there has been a to-do list as long as my arm to complete over the week or two beforehand. Tip runs, charity shop runs, meal planning, shopping and preparation. Whatever the weather I tend to tidy up the garden. I wipe down windows, dust, vacuum and scrub. The downstairs toilet needs to shine and is reserved for guests only, with the rest of the family using the upstairs facilities. Additional coats that cause clutter are temporarily thrown onto our bed. The shoe rack is cleaned. Cushions are plumped up. There are so many things on that list that really don’t need to be there because, honestly, who is even looking?

If a guest were to bring mud in on their feet or spill a drink, I genuinely would not mind. Even slightly. I likely wouldn’t even notice until I was clearing up afterwards. So why would our guests mind visiting a home that looks as though it is lived in by 5 people, 2 dogs, a cat and a hamster?! They wouldn’t. If they did, they wouldn’t come.

Changing priorities

In years gone by when I have hosted a group of people for Christmas or a birthday gathering, I have not only gone to great lengths to ensure that the house is thoroughly cleaned and tidied, but my focus has settled on the food too. Whatever is served must suit everyone’s preferences, but going beyond that I have tried to lay out the spread in an aesthetically pleasing manner as well. This has led to me being slightly ashamed of my mismatched serving bowls and platters, and plates marked with over a decade’s worth of cutlery scrapes from previous social events. It makes no sense. None. It doesn’t change the taste of the food, the quality or quantity. It doesn’t stop people from serving themselves with what they would like to eat. Most importantly though, it doesn’t stop the conversation.

This is where the switch in my brain has to come from. I have a lovely family and a great group of friends and I value spending time with each and every one of them. Would I rather see them more often in a less than pristine house with a muddle of crockery, or see them once or twice a year with everything looking perfect (if anyone knows what perfect even looks like!)? The answer is clear. I want to see people and spend time with them. I want to have that free flow of authentic conversation that comes when everyone, hosts included, are feeling relaxed.

That leaves just one thing to do, throw open the doors and let people in. To our perfectly lived in home, with its bumps and blemishes and oodles of love.

Table laid out with food, with hands seen reaching for it.
What matters is who is around your table, not what it looks like

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to take a look at my social media break.