Why You’ve Got to Have Guests When Your House isn’t Perfect

wood door

I learned the hard way that it’s better to invite a friend in than tell them no because you are embarrassed.

I said NO once, years ago. And I still regret it. Telling my friend she can’t come in to use the bathroom went way deeper than my shame over a falling apart weird bathroom in a 100 year old house that we rented. It wasn’t because I was afraid there was underwear on the floor, I could have run in and made a joke about straightening up really quick…

Me not allowing her to come in was me telling her that I couldn’t really trust her.

I was telling her she can’t be trusted with the imperfections of my life so I have to go to great lengths to hide them. I was telling her that I believed she would judge me.

The truth is, there are some people in the world who can’t be trusted with the imperfections of my life, but usually, I’m not friends with them. Usually those aren’t the people dropping me off at my house who ask if they can come in and use my bathroom. Those are the people I can trust with my mess. If not them, then who?

Inviting someone into your home is a high form of trust.

It says here are my powerlines, here are my unfinished things. I trust you can handle that. It’s okay. Life goes on. People are more important than how I rate my stuff. And I trust you feel the same way.


Inviting someone into your mess says: I trust you.

Hospitality isn’t about impressing your friends. Who wants to go to that house?

free from judgingdon’t you love it when you are writing a post and your sister happens to tweet the perfect quote?

Hospitality isn’t about me. It’s about you who come into my home. It’s about listening and connecting and encouraging. It’s about rest and peace and fun. And hopefully eating something delicious and drinking iced coffees.

Guess what? I can do all of that with half stripped wallpaper, carpet pad for flooring in our upstairs hall and a pink toilet.

If you are lucky, that friend will hold your hand and point out the beauty that you might not see.

If I wait until my house is acceptable before I invite people in we are both losing. Because I know me, and I’ll never deem it acceptable. It’s worth it to start now.


friends Maria, Logan & Jeremy, Reeve, Caroline, Jen, Asheley & Jamin, Karrie & Josh’s party, & Angela, Darlene & Shannon (my design mentors!) have all been to our fixer-upper unfinished home in the past six months. I’m so glad I did it anyway. I’m so glad I said yes.

This weekend Tsh and Kyle and the kids are coming. She has a book signing & reader meetup here in Charlotte (Chad & Reeve & I will be there, we hope to see you there!) and our husbands have gotten to know each other enough that this seems like a really fun idea. So basically, the Simple Guru of the Internet is coming to my unfinished, fixer-upper, chaotic house. She actually came a few months ago, when our house was in even more chaos. So that helps me remember the words I write in this post. Because I too, have to remember that THIS is so worth it and that Tsh can be trusted with my imperfections. I know she can.

Will I clean my house? Of course. Will I fret and worry and apologize? Nope.

We’re happy to welcome the Oxenreider family into our world where things aren’t perfect because we trust they can relate.


things aren't perfect


Because your house might not be perfect but your home & hospitality are exactly what we need.

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  1. I love the connection you make between trusting people and letting them into our homes. Such an important link that I often forget. A texted a friend the other day to see if I could drop by and was so thankful when she replied, “The house is a MESS, but please come over anyways.” That’s authentic friendship.

  2. This post is why I love your blog and look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thank you.

  3. I appreciate your post – I too have struggled with feeling my house must be perfect before people visit. I’m working in it!

  4. Oh, darling girl. You really do have a way of hitting the nail very squarely on the head.

    At heart, I wonder how many of the things I do and the decisions I make on a daily basis all come down to the question of trust. Hmmmm. I think there may be quite a few. And then, ultimately, there’s the question of whom I DO trust. Is there anyone?? This bears thinking about.

    Maybe you should have a sign made for your door, just letting people know what you do. . . I’m imagining an old-fashioned store sign . . . something like “Cans of Worms Opened Here.”

    Love the way you do it, though!

  5. This post blessed me tremendously! I’m now FREE! I shared it to a couple of my dearest friends and my daughter. Thank you for writing this. God bless you.

  6. I read this post and then experienced it first hand. I was coming to town for business and asked to stay with friends and told them the wrong day- so when I showed up a day early the house wasn’t “ready.” There were dirty dishes and stuff out of place and they gave me the sweetest most genuine “come in, sit down and talk.” They didn’t bustle around trying to clean up and make it perfect, they were clearly just happy to have me. It hit me how much more that is worth! Thank you for your words.

  7. Okay, here I am getting ready to fall on my knees and empty out my untrusting heart. Trust. That’s it. That’s why I am the obsessing hostess that I am. I don’t trust. Others’ messes don’t faze me at all, but I can’t have a mess in my own world. Oh no. Oh my. What a humbling revelation. As ugly as it makes me feel right now, I am still overwhelmingly thankful to have it revealed. I have been wondering what was off. Now, I know. Thank You.

  8. Years ago while living in a foreign country, we were invited to dinner at someone’s home. We were newly married, knew no one and didn’t know the local language so we were especially thankful to be invited to their American home. After we ate, I offered to help clear the dishes and clean up the kitchen. My hostess stunned my heart when she said, “No, let’s leave them. You are only here for a while. The dishes will still be here when you are gone. I would rather just enjoy our time together.” I felt so valued and loved by someone who barely knew me. I try to do this for my own guests that try to offer to help clean up. Yes, I have a mess at the end of the night but I can remember the fun we had while I do it. (I now recognize the Biblical source for her action.)

  9. Anonymous says

    Thanks for sharing this post. A house lived in is most definitely a home. My ex did a pop in my day…in the middle of my chaos. I had all kind of stuff going on right in the middle of the living room and dining room. Our daughter went outside upon her own doing trying to cut him off. My ex is somewhat of perfectionist. Well, apparently he insisted on coming him. And it started… I can guarantee you it will happen again.

  10. Brittany says

    Amen, and thank you ma’am. Seriously, thank you!

  11. I just invited my family over to my house if they didn’t mind the dog hair on the sofa.
    Sorry folks…I really enjoy cuddling with my Louisiana Porch Dog and you’ll just have to deal with it. :D

    • This is the way that I feel. My husband and I consider our dogs as part of our family, but I am embarrassed when people come to my house and there is dog hair everywhere. I feel that they think that my house is dirty and don’t want to come back.

  12. I invited someone into my house and got burned when they walked in and said “wow! Looks like you’ve been robbed”. I have three children under seven, yes, my house is a mess. Since then I haven’t opened my home up to anyone. Something I am struggling with.

    • Those are the kinds of people you don’t need to have true friendships with. I’m so sorry that someone was that rude and hurtful to you. Please don’t let it prevent you from opening up!

  13. Thank you for this post. I was referred to you by Kitchen Fellowship and I’m so glad to find your wisdom. I was in this ridiculous cycle of wanting to be friends with someone so much and yet I was afraid to have them over to see my fixer-upper house. I was afraid of their rejection. Sigh.
    I have had two new friends come over to visit and remark that my husband owes me big time for agreeing to buy our house. Which kinda hurt! But I suppose I don’t want friends I need to impress with my house, right?

    • Barbara Bussey says

      Move on, darling! Hopefully these two came at once, to minimize the effort, as you showed them the door!

  14. EXCELLENT post. Perfect timing!

  15. The struggle for illusion and perfection extends to other parts of my life as well. It is a lie that I will have something to offer when I have reached some type of perfection. I am realizing that the mess of my life is what I have to offer others. I am drawn to those who freely share their imperfection yet I want to offer up an illusion instead. My prayer is to be authentic and I must repeatedly confess the lie and ask God to replace it with his best instead.

  16. I totally understand the trust thing. I am not the world’s best housekeeper. I would rather spend precious time with my kids than keep a spotless house. Now that’s not to say I live in squalor. I just don’t mind if my house is messy! If my kids build a fort out of blankets and pillows, they can keep it up all week for all I care!

    I quit inviting people in if my house wasn’t perfect when my mom stopped for a visit one day. She called me later that night and pointed out every imperfection she saw in my home and with my housekeeping. You see, she kept a perfect home. We were never allowed to make a mess. We didn’t dare take out toys out of our bedrooms, and God forbid we ever leave a mess overnight…no matter how many hours it took to build that Barbie house out of kleenex boxes and scraps of fabric! That gene skipped right on over me, and when she pointed it out, I was ashamed. I started taking it out on my kids when they left a mess. I started being angry because my house was never THAT clean. I was miserable. I never allowed anyone to come over to my house ever again unless it was totally spotless. Well, guess what? My parents have been to my house in 10 years. My best friend has been invited once or twice. I have been a captive in my own home because I was afraid of the judgement that would ensue when everything was less than perfect. I still don’t know if I could trust my friends to come into my imperfect home. I’m glad you are able to do so.

    • My parents were like this also. It put a definite kink in our relationship. I had quadruple by pass surgery and the wife of my husbands friend came in. I cheerfully said ” I have so much garden to weed, and so much house to clean that I can’t decide what to do first!! She started exiting the house and said, “Well for God sake do something!” I was so hurt. I have helped friends clean their houses in prep for visitors a million times, and I got this! Whatever happened to what goes around comes around?”

      We women can be cruel to our sisters and the ones from church seem to be the worst!
      Mary Ann

  17. I was referred by Clean Mama on Facebook today.

    A couple of years ago, I invited a woman over who I thought was a close friend. Like most other people, I only ever invited people over when the house was picked up and tidy enough in my opinion. Inviting her over was no exception. About six months into our friendship, something just *happened* I’m not sure what, and she decided to call my husband’s command and insist that they get involved to call CPS on me. Thankfully, I had another good friend who could vouch that my home was not a threat to my children’s health, safety, or wellbeing, so they didn’t take this awful woman’s word for it. However, since that episode (and it’s been three years now) I get extreme anxiety before people come over, so that I’m yelling at my kids to straighten up and cleaning feverishly up to the moment they arrive. There is no joy or anticipation for me, so I very rarely invite anyone over. I have no idea what to do about this. If my best is not good enough, how am I supposed to trust anyone? Oh, and I have to say that threatening to call CPS is so much worse than actually having it done (I assume) because I feel like if they had come over, they could have “certified” me and I’d have a piece of paper to remind me, and anyone that would try to attack me again, that my home is good enough.

    • Although that particular situation has not happened to me (You can read my comment just above yours!) I totally understand your fear! I mean for me, if I couldn’t trust my own mother, who can I trust?? I don’t know how to get over it either. I did start to notice that I was beginning to make friends with people whose houses were at messier than mine so I didn’t feel so bad about them coming to my house!! Not sure that’s exactly where I want to be either!

  18. I don’t host guests or friends at my house because I don’t trust them. They will gossip and smear me behind my back. Them is the facts.

  19. Wonderful post and such a good point. This reminds of growing up and my mother could be such a perfectionist when it came to the the house :) She wanted the house to look so immaculate before anyone walk in the door. Not even a plumber or a handyman who needed to come into work! House needed to be cleaned first! One time we had a lot of guests coming over and we went to so much work and trouble to fix up. Afterwards, when they left, the house was a mess, mud tracks all over, etc and I asked my mom a ? which came a regular one. “Why do we work so hard to clean the house up, only to have to do it all over again the next day when they leave. She bursts out laughing:))) I so agree too. If people are going to come in your home, being so judgamental and with their ‘noses in the air’, looking for dust particles or whatever, then you don’t need them for friends.

  20. I’m so glad you pointed out the connection between trusting your friends and inviting them into your home. I’ve been dealing with insecurities in these areas and this perspective is not only helpful but also accurate.

  21. Mackenzie says

    I sat down tonight after an awful fight with my husband, to look for an article about how to biblically handle the worry when guests come over. My in-laws are traveling to our new house that we moved into 11 months ago and I want it to look just right-perfect. My mom cleaned houses and always fretted about our house when it came to entertaining. I am the same way! I think that making it clean and like a bed-and-breakfast coming straight out of a magazine will enable their visit more enjoyable. All it does is stress me out and lingers into me yelling at my kids and arguments with my husband. I am the same way with meals and cooking because that is my true passion. I get mad though when I feel that people don’t appreciate all my hard work. Tears ran down my face as I read this post because I never thought it was a trust issue. I am a mess inside but I always want to act like I have it all together. Lord help me!

  22. Just be yourself… I think we don’t owe them an explanation why our house is a mdess. It’s our territory and they can do what’s the perfect or ideal house set up for them. My house kind of mess but I see to it that our bathroom is clean all the time. As when we have unexpected visitor, someone would always use the comfort room. Our toilets, simply reflect our personalities, and as saying goes, “first impression lasts”:-), but who cares about what they say about me? I’m not to impress but just expressing who am really am. What matters most is the memory of keeping one’s visitor welcome to my house and not to judge me based from what they see physically.

  23. Thank you so much for including our painted stone fireplace. As I read your blog I realize it is a pretty good example of “It doesn’t have to be perfect…” When we first bought our house I was sure we would demo it before even moving in, but then after realizing the cost and time it would take, we decided to paint it white and have never looked back. You are so right, “Embrace the imperfect” Thank you!

  24. So full the screen to the you the plan.

  25. I love it when true friends point out the flip side that can make you appreciate “until” you get to making it what you want. Case in point… my BFF first time in our new home (still very much unpacking & rearranging trying to figure out the new place) said “I love that yellow glass sliver of a cabinet in your kitchen” and “J your paneled bedroom is like a ship’s room” Her favorite color is yellow and the cabinet was custom built to a weird angle that makes for really nonfunctional storage that I detested and that dated dark paneling that I love the durability of but neither I not DD liked the color of, she could see differently & appreciate.

  26. Cheryl Logan says

    Great post.

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  28. Sandra Spencer says

    My longtime friend came for a two night stay last spring. Of course, I dusted, scrubbed, vacuumed prior to the visit to make everything g picture perfect. We had a really nice time while she was here. Guess what I found out after she left…….Iin my zeal to make everything perfect, I hadn’t put any sheets on her bed! We had a good laugh! That is the kind of friend to have.

  29. I had a friend who asked to use our spare bathroom one Saturday afternoon our home was under total renovation in our living room even though I was embarrassed I said yes come in she was excited for us and our renovation and not the least bit critical I’m glad my home is not always perfect but I have friends that are a true blessing

  30. Kristen Mosher says

    “Inviting someone into your house is a high form of trust”, Bingo, so true.
    This comment goes so deep into my psyche. I’ve had a small 1939 cute home for 25 yrs. I also started to dislike Ikea, needed furniture to rent out bedrooms, & casually went shopping at various resale/ thrift stores the last 3-4 yrs. I realized old furniture is made so much better, & even just new paint made it quickly very nice/cute. I have several pieces, a cool funky Asian style mirror that is oddly similar to one you have pictured,$25!

  31. I love your attitude! I was brought up in a not just messy, but actually somewhat DIRTY home. When I got married I vowed my home would never make me that embarrassed (we almost never had company and I was never really taught the basic chores of cooking and cleaning). So it was all NEW to me and ALL HARD. Over the years I learned the rhythm of chores and the tricks to make cleaning easier. But my desire to have a different home than I grew up in led me into the path of perfectionism. Everybody else SEEMED to have all the chores and organizing come easily to them. It wasn’t true, but I mercilessly judged myself for not being a “good enough” homemaker. We DID have company, and after the company left I realized that I had enjoyed myself. But I killed myself preparing the house and the food. My family was always good about things—I could count on my kids to help and also my husband, who constantly assured me that things would be good. He never chided me for the many repetitions of my stressing out. My husband passed away and my kids are grown and gone. But THANKFULLY they gladly come back to visit. My new husband is gracious and has no problem having me hire a woman to deep clean our home every 6 months-1 year. It helps me focus on my job of decluttering. I like your idea of cozy minimalism—that is my new goal. I am great at decorating, but sometimes go overboard. Over the years I have learned to streamline that, but I can tell that it would be good to do more. But what you said about hospitality and trusting struck a cord with me. It is not always easy for me to trust people—especially after having traveled thousands of miles to a new home with potential new friends.

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