In my book “Hosting With Style: Beretta Fleur’s Guide to Parties and Homemaking,” I wrote a chapter called “Gracious Hospitality,” and I’ve been living it for the past month.
Here in West Palm, Florida, my sister’s family and my husband and I have been co-habitating under one roof. My husband and I help out with cleaning, organizing, grocery shopping, and childcare while they give us a roof over our heads while we’re looking for long-term jobs and a home. It’s working out really great!
Here’s how I’ve been helping to make our Family Compound feel like a functional space….
1. ABC: Always Be Cleaning
Except for when I’m working or relaxing with the family for a few hours, I’m doing spot cleaning. A 3 bedroom/2 bath pool home shared by four adults, two kids, and three pets doesn’t keep itself even mildly organized. So I circulate from room to room every few hours, doing little tasks that make everyone’s life easier. This can mean, while en route to the shower, picking up a fresh stack of towels from the laundry room, or unloading the dishwasher (a task I loathe, by the way) so that my coffee mug doesn’t start a cavalcade of dirty dishes into the sink.
If you work during the week and don’t have the luxury of being your hosts’ live-in maid, do your hosts a favor and either set aside a half day or a couple evenings to play cleaning catch up.
2. Keep Busy With OPB: Other People’s Busywork
Time stands still for one man or woman only, and that is the man or woman who is sitting on the couch waiting for a second interview phone call. If that’s you, then Gracious Hospitality can work in your favor. Your job, besides looking for a job, is now Errand Boy. Take the car (or your own) and go to the grocery store. Wash the car. Pick up the dry cleaning. Return stuff to the store. Get the mail. Do some hand mending, drop off junk at Goodwill, take the cat to get spayed, take the pool water to get tested. Do the things for your hosts that you never had time to do for yourself when you had a job.
3. Watch The Kids
In France or Manhattan, you’d be an expensive Au Pair instead of Intrusive Relative Kicking the Youngest Child to the Couch. So cheer up and know your worth as a provider of free child or pet care.
Help them do homework or clean their rooms. Teach them to swim or ride a bike. Sit for them to give your hosts a night off. Shuttle them to and/or from school, make lunches, make them snacks, and play with them. If your hosts have pets, pack the pups off to the dog park, groomer, or vet. Trust me, you’re useful, because it takes a village to raise a child or pet.
4. Feed The Masses
Grocery shopping for several people can climb into the hundreds per week. I like to save money by buying in bulk, so every week or so my husband and I pop off to Costco for a bunch of ground turkey, chicken, and veggies. Then I spend a few days a week cooking some simple meals that please everyone and make yummy leftovers. A household favorite here is Turkey Meatballs, various pastas, cheese, and steamed veggies. We set it up like a buffet and everyone makes it how he or she likes it. I prefer meatballs over veggies with red sauce, while my niece only eats plain spaghetti with butter and cheese.
Another thing we like to do is grilling out. Just buy some bulk foods of choice, marinate for an hour, and grill. It feels like a party, even on a weekday.
If you can’t cook, spring for a pizza once a week for the family, or buy groceries that are ready to eat and easy to prepare. Mac N’ Cheese is a general crowd pleaser, and it’s a couple bucks. (If you wanna get fancy, mix it with a can of albacore tuna fish and steamed sweet peas.)
There are millions of great recipes online for everyone from the carnivore to the gluten and free vegan. Recipe.com and Supercook.com have recipes you can generate from what’s on hand in the pantry or fridge.
So how do YOU make sure to be an awesome crash pad guest?