Those of us who live in small spaces know that it can be terribly difficult simply to fit ourselves and our stuff into our home. Since my husband and I moved into our 500-square-foot apartment, we have driven to the Container Store a handful of times already. Finding a place to store everything is in itself a challenge; how then are we to be generous with our space? How can we share it with others? Here are a few steps to take:

De-clutter your space. A smaller place simply demands a clutter-free lifestyle. Go through your possessions and be ruthless about downsizing. Reevaluate your less-used items and give away or sell the ones that you can. Need some encouragement or advice? Check out Becoming Minimalist, a blog all about purposeful, clutter-free living.

Designate a sitting area. Whether it’s a couch, a small table with chairs, or a few floor pillows, make it a priority to allow people to sit and stay a while. If you have a coffee table, select a few books, photographs or mementos that tell a story about you– then tell that story to your guests. This will become the corner where you entertain anyone who comes by. And when it’s empty, use that space to relax.

Do your chores. Once you see your space through someone else’s eyes, it becomes much easier to do those nagging chores that are not so exciting when you’re alone. Vacuuming, dusting, and actually washing those dishes can do wonders to your space; I’m always amazed at how regular cleaning can make a home smell better!

Offer refreshment. You don’t have to purchase a fancy espresso machine or build a liquor collection to offer a drink to your guests. Cool water with lemon is a staple that we offer in the summer; in the winter, try mulled apple cider or a small tea selection.

Start small. It can feel intimidating to host a large gathering right off the bat. So start with one or two friends and get used to serving, entertaining, and allowing them to be in your space. Once you’re accustomed to this, it’s amazing how much larger and more versatile your space will feel to you.

On our kitchen counter: coasters from Guatemala and a photo from our wedding.

On our kitchen counter: coasters from Guatemala and a photo from our wedding.

Why we love to host:

  • We get to work together. There is no better way to experience our different strengths and complementary roles than to open up our space to others. Whether we’re serving a new dish for dinner or making our guests laugh with friendly banter, hosting requires humble, happy teamwork.
  • It builds community. We love inviting people who do not know each other that well, and watching their interactions develop. Friendships do not always grow on their own automatically; sometimes they need a little nourishment to get off the ground. And this is what we all need– Robert Putnam, a researcher of social capital, makes this point more than clear in Bowling Alone. Let’s not bowl alone.
  • It doesn’t take much. More than half the battle is simply extending the invitation. The rest– pouring drinks, setting the table, telling stories and serving others is easy once they’ve come in.
  • It makes us grateful for what we have. We enjoy our possessions and skills more when we see others enjoying it. Sometimes people think it’s the other way around– that you cannot give until you already experience an overflow of resources. We say, start giving, and you will experience an overflow greater than you imagined.

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