Bringing the Block Party Indoors

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 was to get to know my neighbors better. I had intended to check this off the list pretty promptly by having a New Year’s brunch sometime in January, but I never got around to it. Once that first page of the calender flipped, I revised my plan and decided to host a Spring luncheon one Sunday afternoon, but Spring came and went, and I didn’t so much as wave to any of my neighbors while checking the mail.

This week inspiration hit. The weather was nice, we had Monday off, and most everyone was in town. Block party. Labor Day. Cookout. The neighbors were eager to come.

I drifted off to sleep last night in smug satisfaction after making three batches of homemade hamburger buns and two gallons of tea (one sweet, one unsweetened), and I woke this morning at 8:30 in a panic. It was pouring. The rain would be driving my guests indoors, and I had just over three hours to pattie-out five pounds of ground chuck, clean my house, and shower.

I have a four-step routine for getting my house ready for emergency guests. It is as follows:

1) Make all the beds.
The bed takes up half the room. Ergo, to make your bed is to clean half your room. It only takes about two minutes per bed, and it makes a huge difference.

2) Spray Lemon Pledge on something. Anything.
The scent of Lemon Pledge is the scent of a clean home. Go into every room, choose one piece of furniture, and rub a Pledge-soaked rag on it. This will make your home smell clean, and it will mess with your guests’ heads. They will doubt themselves and their initial assessment of you as a slob.

3) Stack everything up.
If your kitchen counter tops are littered with mail, cookbooks, school papers and newspapers, put them all together in a stack. It will not be organized, and you’re opening yourself up to lose an important piece of paper, but who cares? You have company coming! You can sort through the stack after they leave. (But you won’t. You’ll watch HGTV or nap.)

4) Blame the dog and kids.
If you are anything like me, you will still have some clutter lying around when your guests start to arrive, even after all the stacking, Pledging and pillow fluffing. Any mess that remains is the dog’s fault. Or the kids’. Bras line-drying from the shower curtain rod? Stupid dog. But she is part of the family. Stacks of professional speech therapy journals and Southern Living magazines taking up a third of the couch? Kids! Am I right?! Ah, but they make a house a home.

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(grown folks’ table)

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(kids’ table)

These are my neighbors. They are “old house people” like us. They are kindergarten teachers and kindergarteners. They are white-collared businessmen, stay-at-home mothers and hippies. They are shopping for a new van and winning the fight against cancer. They play piano and grow heirloom tomatoes. They know everything there is to know about birds, wine and football, and they are welcome in my cluttered, lemon-scented home anytime. Happy New Year!

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