Last week on a misty morning, a friend stopped by the tiny house unannounced (well, he called as he was pulling up the drive, anyway), and as Big flipped the eggs and I scrambled out of my sweatpants and into jeggings (because that’s apparently my go-to for company), we sang out together, “Hooray! A guest!”
Luckily, we were up and going that morning, the kids were dressed and playing nicely, fiddle music was playing spiritedly overhead on the speaker, the wood stove was burning cheerily, and the house smelled invitingly of bacon. For us and our house, this is utterly as good as it gets.
Sorry for the Mess
Have you ever been visiting a friend’s house, a house that is meticulously, sparklingly clean, with no hint of either clutter or dirt? And yet they apologize for the mess when you first walk in! You mean the invisible mess? I always wonder. I don’t see anything out of place. What does this person think when visiting me?
And we all have been in homes where you can barely pick your way around all the life wreckage cluttering walls, floors, counters, and cabinets, and yet there is no apology, explanation, or even whiff of recognition that this place is a dump!
Truthfully, I don’t even know where our tiny house fits into this spectrum of aesthetics and atmosphere.
Simple but messy. Homespun. Toys stacked colorfully on the plywood wheel well. Sandals and boots piled just inside or just outside the door, depending on the weather. Ingredients for the next meal spread over every available space on the counter. Hand me down golden flower couch . . . need I say more?
But when a visitor comes calling, I’m torn as to whether or not to apologize for the disarray, the incompletion. Moreover, what do I say exactly to make them feel comfortable?
Somehow I need them to know that I know things in the tiny house are obviously unfinished. I mean, we don’t even have a bathroom door or a proper countertop yet! I need them to know that I know it’s not the most functional or easiest place to be. Hey, the best compliment we’ve gotten on the house was from a homeless man!
But I also feel a proud, even defiant, feeling tugging me that’s difficult to express.
Yes, we built this tiny house, it’s not yet finished, but here it is! We own it outright, and we pay no rent for staying here on the farm. Which is awesome . . . and hard. This is our one-room schoolhouse. We get to be students of life in a new way while we’re here, learning lessons of simplicity, resourcefulness, striving, loving each other sacrificially. We’re on a special assignment of sorts. For now, it’s home.”
This is what I want to say, although, of course, conversations with drop-in guests don’t always meander this deep. That’s alright. It’s enough simply to reflect, to know, tucked in our hearts, why we’re here and what this house means to us.
And through reflecting on this, I discovered a big reason we apologize for our homes: we want people to know that whatever they’re seeing and experiencing when they walk in the door could and should be a notch better. In fact, we ourselves expect better, so in essence we preemptively let others know this. Interesting.
The Ideal Friend’s House
What’s important to you about a friend’s home when you come over for a visit? I know, for me, it’s about being comfortable enough in my surroundings to step out of the bustle, relax, and enjoy the company I’m with.
Pleasant smells, most likely coming from the kitchen. Chicken broth with herbs, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, baking bread, coffee.
Warmth. Being able to shed my jacket, scarf, and boots indoors without being distracted by how drafty the house is! And who doesn’t love sinking into a cushy couch?
A place to comfortably chat with the host, often by the kitchen. Windows to gaze out, and preferably a seat positioned so my back isn’t toward the door.
Minimal clutter. Engaging conversation, interesting, new ideas. Yummy snacks and libations.
If I’m staying overnight, a hot shower and a comfortable bed! It’s amazing to me how many people spend money liberally on everything in their house but a comfortable guest bed, yet declare that they love entertaining and hosting visitors.
I talked about this with my mother-in-law during her last visit as she debated whether to upgrade the futon she uses for frequent family get-togethers. She reminisced about the holidays as a child in Minnesota, with twenty people or more sleeping everywhere all over Grandma’s house.
The thing is, kids can sleep anywhere. And our memories as kids probably don’t include mom and dad’s neckaches the next day, or uncle so-and-so not being able to stretch out his legs on the couch.
We’re guilty of this, too, of course – the guest bed in our old rental was an odd, bulky, free-to-us posteurpedic bed. And in the tiny house, it’s simply too tiny with all of us to have stay-over guests, despite our pullout couch. And so, the local Airbnbs have been getting plenty of business lately from our extended family.
But there’s always time to improve. And I look forward someday to having an excellently appointed guest room, complete with dreamy mattress, empty dresser ready to be filled, wooden hangers in the closet, and a stack of fluffy towels. It doesn’t take much.
And, oh yes, something hot and fragrant on the stove… probably bacon.