Summer is the time of house guests. I’ll leave it to Martha Stewart to give you ideas on tricking out your guest room and entertaining your company. These tips are designed for your sanity as a hostess. Whether you are hosting a barbecue for one night, or family friends for the weekend, you need a few tricks up your sleeve to keep your home in some semblance of order without falling into the trap of obsessive cleaning. Once I was in a home where the hostess had fallen down this rabbit hole and she actually took the glass from my hand and washed it. You don’t want this to happen to you. Your guest may remember it and write about it in a blog post. And yet, you also don’t want to be the sole cleaner upper of Fresh Kills Landfill when the party is over either.
These are little nesting plastic baskets you can get three for a dollar at the dollar store. I have a couple dozen and they are helpful for cookouts, sleepovers, and weekends with lots of kids. You line them with a small square of waxed paper, which is moisture repellent and biodegradable, and toss the whole thing into your composting if you do that sort of thing. The baskets are just quickly rinsed under water and dry instantly. This cuts down on hot water, electricity, trash (waxed paper takes up much less space than paper plates), and expense. The baskets are stable and don’t go flying off breezy picnic tables. They are light weight, stackable, unbreakable, and easily transported. I’ve had the same 2 dozen for ten years and haven’t lost a single one.
Sometimes you just can’t keep up with all the glasses. But when you have a houseful of people, disposable cups and bottled drinks aren’t so great either. Half filled cans and bottles quickly litter all surfaces and paper cups fill your trash. A better plan is to train your guests to label their plastic cups with a Sharpie. This also works for bottles, which can then be capped and replaced in the fridge. For kids, rather than trying to train them, just label the cup or bottle yourself before you hand it to them. Adults tend to be a little more considerate and mindful of their drinks, perhaps because their drinks actually contain something worth minding. This plan theoretically limits people to one cup per day, and allows kids to re-access their bottled drinks from the cooler when they are thirsty again. This system isn’t perfect, of course, but it does cut down on some of the litter. As for cans, just say no, when you’re dealing with big groups. You can’t reseal them, and they hold too much liquid but aren’t easily divided.
That’s right. Set out a big jigsaw puzzle in some quiet corner by a window, or out on the screened porch. You’d be surprised how often people will settle down there for a few minutes, and how staring at the puzzle pieces can help a conversation to flow. Put it on a card table or someplace where you can leave it high enough so that the dog’s tail doesn’t sweep it off.
One area I haven’t figured out yet is towels. If you have a pool, lake, beach or hot tub, you will be overwhelmed by towels. So if any of you have a good idea about how to handle that, send me a comment, please! I’m all ears.