Celebrations mark the pinnacles of joy in our lives. ~ Ingrid Fetell Lee, Joyful
I’ve experienced the truth of hospitality. I have never, ever regretted inviting anyone over. Once it’s done, I have never regretted hosting. Welcoming people into our home has never been a waste of energy, time, or resources.
In the same way that God says His Word will not return to Him void, I’m convinced, through my own highly scientific research, that hosting will not return void to you and me, no matter how much we might dread it before it happens.
When your home is ready for the season, it’s automatically ready for the celebrations within each season.
For those of us in North America, fall has two major events when we might be hosting people, Halloween and Thanksgiving. I know there are differences of opinion about whether to celebrate Halloween, and I am certainly not going to try to talk you into or out of something Halloweeny. But the truth is, if you have kids, they’re going to notice Halloween and they’re going to want in on the fun. And I, for one, am all about welcoming our neighbors with a bowlful of candy on October 31. Plus, conversation is so much easier when you’re wearing an Elvis wig and your neighbor is wearing a cape. My experience with Halloween is that it has been the single most meaningful night of real connection for our neighborhood. This is why we are Team Porchlights On!
A scant three to four weeks later, it’s Thanksgiving already. How can we move from late summer into fall, be ready for Halloween, and then welcome Thanksgiving, only to transition into Christmas the very next day? By approaching celebrations as a Cozy Minimalist.
THE HOSTING TRINITY FOR FALL GATHERINGS
Fall has a big job taking us from summer to pre-Christmas, so as Cozy Minimalists, we want to keep things extra simple. With every seasonal gathering, we’ll focus on what I call the hosting trinity — creating a mood, serving food, and, of course, the entire reason we are doing this, which is welcoming people. The mood, the food, and the people are all we need to focus on no matter what kind of gathering we are hosting. If we narrow our focus by paying special attention to these three things, everything else will take care of itself.
Narrowing our focus is important because it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed when we think about hosting, especially for a high-profile holiday like Thanksgiving. Based on what I saw in all the shelter magazines I loved, I used to think legit adult hosting always had to involve real dishes, ironed cloth napkins, breakable glassware, homemade everything, a perfectly styled house and table, and impressive outfits for the whole family. The idea of connecting with others in my home was something I was drawn to, but I didn’t have it in me to put on a great show.
But when I thought about times I felt most at home at other gatherings, I realized they didn’t look or feel like my image of legit adult hosting. Instead, they were always casual, simple, and informal. The food was approachable, the setting didn’t distract from the conversation, and most important of all, I came away from those gatherings feeling more myself, more known, and more connected to others. And so that became my goal for any kind of gathering we hosted, including the high-profile holidays. That’s when hosting shifted from feeling overwhelming to feeling more natural, doable, and enjoyable.
Mood, food, and people. That’s it! Here’s how it works.
The Mood: A Goreless Halloween and an Inviting Thanksgiving
A GORELESS HALLOWEEN. Before we moved out to the country, we lived in a close-knit suburban neighborhood where, in the front yards, at least, people decorated for Halloween way more than for Christmas. My three boys were delighted by the inflatable pumpkins, giant light-up spiders, cobweb-covered shrubs, and general creepiness that filled our neighborhood. They wanted to get in on the Halloween fun, and I understood that, but I wanted to find a way to add some fall spookiness without adding a bunch of gore — headstones, skeletons, and fake blood — and also keep things cozy and minimal. Of course, if gore is your thing, go for it; you can apply the following principles whatever your gore level may be.
In decorating, there is a thing called the rule of three, which simply means that things typically look better in groupings of three. And also it reminds me that three things can have an impact. So, naturally, when it comes to adding some Halloween decor to help create the mood, my advice is to add three Halloweenish items to your home. After reading the last chapter, you already know how to autumnize your home with seasonal elements that cater to the senses. Your home already feels like fall, so you shouldn’t feel the need to go over the top. All you need is a little hat tip to October 31st by adding a few low cost Halloween touches your kids are begging for.
I have a wooden candlestick collection I display year round, but it reads differently depending on what I place near it and the candles I use. Come October, I add some drippy black candles and a few black crows from the dollar store. If I really want to up the creepy factor without adding anything that’s actually creepy, while I’m at the dollar store I’ll grab a few bags of black gauze and or white gauze fabric (sometimes called creepy cloth).
Adding white gauze on dark things, like a dark piece of furniture or the shrubs by the front door, or dark gauze on light things, like the white fireplace, conveys a spooky feel without resorting to blood and guts. So the three things that I use in and around the house are candles, crows, and gauze. Three purposeful items can take a home with your fall color story and a statement pumpkin from a general autumn mood to a Halloween mood without going overboard.
Adding some black gauze to my mantel makes a big spiderwebby statement with a couple of dollars’ worth of fabric. The drippy candles and crows satisfy the need for feeling Halloweeny without having to buy fake coffins, severed hands, or other gory props. Use whatever you want to decorate for Halloween, but trust me and see what happens when you choose to simply focus on three places.
To move from Halloween into Thanksgiving, start by removing anything that is blatantly Halloween. For me, that means removing the black crows and gauze. Depending on how I feel, the black candles might stay or go. You know what the Cozy Minimalist in me loves about this transition? I love that my black crows and gauze can be packed away in something smaller than a shoebox. Be gone plastic jack-o’-lanterns and orange-and-black storage bins! Packing up my Halloween decor takes just two minutes and a gallon Ziplock bag.
With Halloween packed away, it’s time to set the atmosphere and decorate for your Thanksgiving gathering. First, take a moment to appreciate the fact that your house already feels and looks like fall with its textured pillows, foraged finds from nature, and your statement pumpkins. Your fall playlist has been filling the house with music for weeks, and of course, the fall foods you’re already serving smell and taste delicious. Your house is already well on its way to being prepped for Thanksgiving. You hardly need anything else!
AN INVITING THANKSGIVING. Since you’ve already seasonalized your home for fall, it’s fitting right in with the season. For some of us, that’s all we need for Thanksgiving decor. But maybe you want to make your gathering a little more special and decorate your home with some additional Thanksgiving touches. No problem!
Once again, we’ll use the rule of three. Begin by choosing three places to focus your decorating magic. It could be your front door, your mantel, and your buffet, or your entryway, a windowsill, and your dining table, or any other combination that works for you. Don’t go overboard, just pick three places and that’s it. You have other things to do besides decorate.
Once you choose three places to add some festive Thanksgiving decor, focus on something large you can add to each space to pretty it up. It’s always better to have one large statement item than lots of tiny things spread around. One mistake I often see on Pinterest is focusing too much attention on too many tiny details that just get lost in the room.
Instead of using twelve tiny vases with single stems of flowers, consider a large statement piece such as a basket of mums, a big fall wreath, or an oversized branch with dried leaves tucked into a corner. Focusing all your creative attention into one big, beautiful item makes a bigger impact than gluing one-inch pumpkins onto napkin rings or putting pilgrim stickers on water bottles. Let’s commit together never to apply stickers to water bottles again.
The entire point of having people over is to connect. That’s why you care about having cozy places to sit, providing yummy food and drink, and being fully present; they are tools in your connection tool belt. The goal is to have a deeper, more meaningful connection with anyone you invite into your home.
If you follow the hosting trinity formula by focusing on the mood, the food, and the people, your gatherings will be simple, memorable experiences of connection for your guests. This is the kind of hosting that even the host can enjoy. There’s no need to turn into a crazy person cleaning every real cobweb only to put up fake ones, feeling like you have to buy a new sideboard before you have guests over, or getting a personal makeover. When I find myself focusing on me, my house, my outfit, or my stuff, it’s a red flag.
Hosting is never about the host, and hospitality is never about the house.
If we really believe in the power of imperfections, that they put people at ease and allow us truly to connect, then we won’t have to erase all signs of imperfection and real life before we invite people over. We’ll realize that sharing some of our everyday imperfection is an essential part of connecting with people. We don’t have to finish every project, redecorate every room, overthink or overspend. People remember being loved, welcomed, invited, and thought of. They don’t remember whether the coat closet was organized.
This fall, let go of the crazy. Welcome people into your home with love, in the midst of the mess, and be human together. Your guests will love you for it.
When we approach decorating, hosting, and life in general as a Cozy Minimalist and imperfectionist, we choose what to focus on and what to let go of. We can’t do it all, but we can choose what we can do. So let’s create beauty, connection, and meaning with more style and less stuff, with more heart and less hustle. From now, on let’s do fall as Cozy Minimalists.
Excerpted with permission from Welcome Home by Myquillyn Smith, copyright Myquillyn Smith.
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Raise your hand if you’re ready for fewer items to box and store? Who’s ready to do fall as a Cozy Minimalism? Come share your ideas to do holidays in a more imperfect, easier, more enjoyable way! We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full