I shoo the dog from the cramped kitchen, greet new arrivals, and point to the bottle opener’s location — “The next drawer over. No, other side. There, in the front” — sticky sauce splatters the stovetop. Breathe.
“What can I do to help?” she asks.
I feign casual confidence: “I’ve got it under control” — and change the subject to her family’s most recent adventure.
The truth is, I don’t know what needs to be done. Or how to articulate it. So I might as well do it myself.
Avoid the stress of hosting?
Does this happen to you? Last-minute details keep you from enjoying time with your guests. And when someone offers to help, you’re so busy doing that you can’t think if there’s anything someone else could do.
Summer’s around the corner and, with it, the opportunity to host year-end celebrations, picnics, and potlucks. But can you host a meal, and truly enjoy your friends, without all the stress?
Is There a Better Way?
It began unintentionally.
My head throbs. But I’m unwilling to cancel tonight’s social event.
I can always excuse myself early; there’s no reason others can’t have fun!
Knowing my middle-aged brain is more compromised than usual, I list all the menu items and tasks to perform on our kitchen whiteboard.
I work my way down the list, erasing items as I complete them. When guests arrive, I hear the familiar question: “What can I do to help?”
“I’ve got it under control …”
I stop, look at the whiteboard, and say, “Could you finish the deviled eggs?”
Ahhh … My headache begins to fade.
Other guests offer to help. I ask one to cut strawberries. Another wipes down the picnic table.
Peals of laughter and conversation fill the air as we prepare the meal together.
Reduce the Stress in Your Celebrations
We’ve since perfected this dinnertime ritual:
- Line the countertop with the necessary serving dishes
- On a sticky note in each dish, provide simple instructions (e.g., fruit salad — strawberries, blueberries, banana, grapes).
- Hang a list of non-food instructions on the fridge (e.g., bring chairs from the garage)
Now you can enjoy your guests from the moment they arrive rather than ushering them into the living room with drinks.
Or tripping over them as you attempt to balance food prep and conversation.
You’ll create a welcoming atmosphere and your guests will feel at home — nothing says “you’re family” like being asked to set the table!
You may even avoid scrubbing sticky sauce from your stovetop.
Need more ideas for focusing on fun and fellowship instead of stressing out about shindigs? Stop by my blog to grab your free copy of Helpful Hospitality Hints: How to Host a Meal Without Losing Your Mind.
Kendra Burrows delights in encouraging others to see God’s grace in the everyday — when she isn’t chasing the animals (and boys!) out of her kitchen. She’s still learning hospitality requires we share it all, not do it all. Connect with her at www.kendraburrows.com.
Kathi and co-host Erin MacPherson discuss Clutter Free Kitchens. When your kitchen is clutter free you can cook more and find everything. They also share the tools they use that they can’t live without. From the instant pot to the ninja coffee maker they each share their favorite kitchen tools.
This post isn’t about things you should run out and buy. You don’t need more stuff, but this about you having things that make you happy and your life more enjoyable. Kathi talks about purchasing tools, not trinkets to make your home a better place to be.
Share with us your kitchen tool that you can’t live without in the comments.
The List of Kitchen Tools:
Below is a list of the kitchen items Kathi and Erin can’t live without.
Victorinox Swiss Classic 3 1/4″ Paring Knife, Spear Tip, Serrated, Red
Instant Pot $99
Aerolatte Original Electric Hand Held Milk Frother, Satin 19.99
Ninja Coffee Maker $138
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2017: Every Recipe from the Hit TV Show with Product Ratings and a Look Behind the Scenes Hardcover – October 4, 2016
Spicy shelf stack Organizer
It’s a Thursday night and you just invited a friend over for dinner later this weekend.
You’re excited to reconnect and share a meal — until you get a text from this friend: “Hey, just wanted to let you know that I am now a vegan. Hope this won’t be a problem!”
Your heart sinks and anxiety kicks in. What will I make? None of my dishes fit this diet.
Accommodating dietary needs
Does accommodating a dinner guest with dietary restrictions overwhelm you?
Is there a friend whom you’ve avoided inviting over for dinner out of fear that you won’t have a meal that will be both enjoyable and fit his or her diet?
As a gluten intolerant person, I get it. When I first cut gluten out of my diet it really frustrated my friends, family, and me.
(In case you haven’t heard … some gluten free items taste a little like chewing on cardboard. Here’s a list of my favorite go-to gluten free products that I always have in stock.)
At first I created a Pinterest board and started cooking new meals from scratch using special gluten recipes.
Over time however, after adding a few staples to my cooking supplies, I discovered a loophole that made cooking for my diet a breeze!
One Small Win: Rather than making an entirely new dish from scratch, create dishes you already love and modify only the ingredients that don’t fit the diet.
Let’s pretend your signature meal is some kind of pasta dish with meat sauce, but your guest is a vegetarian.
You can make the dish as usual, but leave the meat sauce on the side. You can also make an additional, meat-free sauce and have it on the side, giving your guest options.
Maybe your guest eats meat, but is gluten intolerant? Use certified gluten free pasta instead, and research your other ingredients to see if any of those need replacing.
Here is a worksheet to make this process easier if you are a visual planner like me!
Remember, if all else fails, ask your guest if he or she has any meal recommendations or if specific ingredients will be a problem.
Asking doesn’t make you look dumb; on the contrary, it shows that you care!
Your dinner guest will feel loved and cared for with your efforts and consideration.
Kelsee Keitel is a graduate student, writer and speaker, living in Indianapolis, IN, with her newlywed husband. She is passionate about cultivating sisterhood through vulnerability and introducing young women to the freedom and abundance of life in following Christ. When Kelsee is not snuggled up with a book and sipping tea, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or chatting with her mom.
You can read more about Kelsee’s ministry, Detangled & Free, over at kelseekeitel.com or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
“I didn’t make this mess. So why do I have to clean it up?”
For years, I heard these words of protest from my kids when it was their turn to clean up the kitchen.
Sometimes, I responded with a snarky comeback about all my years of selfless diaper-changing. Other times, I cleaned up the kitchen myself.
Honestly, whenever I took care of the kitchen on my own, I caught myself thinking the exact same thing:
I didn’t make this mess. So why do I have to clean it up?
The problem with cleaning the kitchen
Our protests reveal our belief that whoever makes the kitchen mess should be the one to clean it up.
As with so many time-honored cliches, this seems so logical.
Like, “You break it; you fix it.”
And, “You make your bed; you lie in it.”
“You mess it, you clean it.”
It just felt right.
But it caused all sorts of overwhelmingly negative feelings, such as annoyance, frustration, irritation, and resentment. (Just for starters.)
A different way of thinking
A few years ago, I realized there are valid exceptions to the “you mess it, you clean it” rule.
1. Sometimes, the person who makes the kitchen mess has done so to bless the family, or perhaps a houseful of guests, with a delicious meal. Since they’ve done all the work of fixing the food, it’s only fair for others to pitch in and help with the clean-up.
2. Other times, the kitchen stays messy while a cleaning-related process is happening, such as running the dishwasher or waiting for pots and pans in the drainer to air dry.
3. Often, it’s impossible to figure out “who made this mess.” When we try, we end up in petty arguments:
– “No, that’s not my knife. I put my knife in the dishwasher already!”
– “Those aren’t my crumbs. I know how to use a sponge!”
– “The stain in the sink is green. I never fix green food.”
Our solution to cut the complaining
Instead of wasting our time and energy fretting about “who made this mess?” we started asking ourselves one simple question when entering the kitchen:
“How can I move the kitchen to its next stage?”
Together, we came up with a list of kitchen stages and necessary actions:
The sink is full of dishes. Put them in the dishwasher.
The dishwasher is full. Run it.
The dishwasher is clean. Empty it.
The dishes in the drainer are dry. Put them away.
The counters are crumby. Wipe them down.
This one simple change in focus produced surprising results.
1. We’ve quit worrying about “Who made the mess?” and accepted the fact kitchens get messy.
2. We’ve all taken ownership of the kitchen. And its messes and clean-up.
3. We’ve become more considerate. We realize when we each do our small part, the “next stage” requires far less work.
Making it work for you
Your kitchen stages may well be different than ours. And if you have younger children, you’ll want to break the various stages and actions into micro-steps. Perhaps even make a stages flow chart and wipe-off checklist to put on the fridge.
Consider printing and posting 1 Corinthians 12:14-27 as a reminder that while we are unique individuals, God calls us to work together as one.
One Small Win: However you choose to do it, intentionally change the protest “I didn’t make this mess!” to the question “How can I move the kitchen to its next stage?”
You’ll say, “Good-bye” to overwhelming negativity.
And “Hello” to cooperation in the kitchen.
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.”
Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (24), also opposite personalities.
Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? Take the self-quiz and discover the surprising strengths of a tender heart.