Here was my situation last week: my six-year-old's school had parent-teacher conferences for the week and as a result, he only went to school half-days for the week. And in many places, this might be fine. But in ever-rainy Seattle, I knew that after all the "quality time" we were going to be spending together inside during the week, we would be crawling the walls. Unless, that is, we called in some support. Aha! Play dates! Another child! Another grown up! Yes! In my living room! No! Wait, what?
I just want to put it out there that even I, who decorate people's homes for a living, have a twinge of panic when I invite people over. What will they think? Will they notice how lovingly our cat has left his marks of approval on our sofa? Will they somehow sense that we sometimes pull our clothes straight out of the dryer skipping the "folding/putting away" phase altogether? Do I have to "adult"?
And the answer is, well....complicated. But I've got some no-brainer tips to help you navigate your emotions straight through to an enjoyable visit for everyone.
Prep your living room for playdates tip #1: get ahead of the game
This one takes a little bit of work ahead of time, but once you get in a groove with it you won't have to think about it too much. The secret is kiddo-friendly storage. Storage that kids can get into themselves. That they can put away themselves. I've written more about easy storage solutions here if you want to read more. The point is, they own their share of keeping the living room tidy. Put 'em to work! It's good for them AND you.
Prep your living room for playdates tip #2: secret storage
This has to be one of my favorite tips. I love containers. And by that I mean boxes, baskets, ring dishes; I love to have a place for my treasures. So take that thought and blow it up. Get stylish containers (big ones) and put them in your living room. This can look like trunks, or lidded baskets or coffee tables with storage, OTTOMANS! The list goes on. But here's the KEY: keep them empty. I know, I know, it's tempting to fill them up with everyday stuff and there is PLENTY of it. But it will feel SO amazing when you need to use them and you can just stow stuff completely out of eyesight without a second thought.
Bonus organization tip: all that stuff you just swept out of sight? Try keeping it there for a week or two. Anything you didn't need and look for.....do you really need to keep it? Just a thought.
Prep your living room for playdates tip #3: special occasion accessories
Remember when we were talking about linens saved especially for guests so that they are pristine when you need them? This is similar to that. I want you to go out and choose a few throw pillows, a throw maybe, but something that you can add to your sofa/living area that will cheer you up. That are beautiful to look at or touch or both. Got them? Great! Now keep them as far away from the living room as possible until you want to use them. Keep them somewhere where they will stay clean and bring them out when you're expecting guests. Are these completely necessary? Probably not, but it will give you a little confidence boost. You've still got style and being a mama hasn't changed it.
Prep your living room for playdates tip #4: show your stuff
This tip isn't specifically for playdates, but it applies then too. The tip is to be yourself. Your family. And show what's important to you. What you love. Because friends WILL see these things and will feel closer to you (even maybe have a "Me too!" moment) when you share. Hang photos on the wall. Have collections of favorite board games handy. The bread and butter, nitty-gritty stuff that makes you you? That's what you celebrate. Because in the end, if they are at your house enjoying your hospitality and are more focused on the dishes that may or may not be stacked in your sink? They may not be for you in the first place.
So there are some of my best tips for making your living room a place to enjoy playdates. And I hope that you find them useful. But my last tip, and one that I hope you take regardless of the ones above, is to give yourself grace. You have a lot going on. You're spreading your love and energy over many places. You're doing the best you can and that is more than enough. Relax and have a cup of hot cocoa with a friend while the kiddos spread the Lego here there and everywhere. There are all those kid-sized containers for them to use later ;)
A special thank you goes out to my friend, Jamie, with whom I shared a "me too!" moment with about the clothes being worn out of the dryer moment.