You Don’t Need to Have Your Shit Together to Host House Guests (you just need to know how to fake it)

Shit together 1

Everything I need to know about how lead a successful life in our modern, millennial age I can find out on Buzzfeed.

One may not agree with this statement, least of all as pertains to me.  But I recently read an article on the popular social news and entertainment site that had all the answers I presently seek.

This an article is helpfully titled 15 Tips That Will Trick Your House Guests Into Thinking You Have Your Shit Together.

In my previous post, I wrote about how I’ll be spending my summer, the 2016 “three R’s” edition.

But there is actually a fourth “R” I failed to mention: receiving.  This past Friday, my mom and stepdad arrived in Vancouver for a visit.  And in what may or may not prove the worst suggestion I’ve ever made, they are staying with me in my one bedroom apartment.

This post isn’t about the questionable wisdom and sanity of that decision.  Rather, it’s about my general uneasiness at how the way I live appears to outside parties, especially parental parties.

I’ll be the first person to admit I don’t have all my shit together.  This isn’t through some deficiency of resources or skill on my part, but rather the fact that in many ways, I really just don’t give a crap.

Don’t get me wrong: my place it very clean and tidy – my dishes are done, my floors are vacuumed, my fridge has nothing in it that I’m worried is instead going to try to eat me.

I collect my mail regularly, do my laundry every week, and recycle.  I like my home and do what I can to maintain its décor and comfort.  To my standards.

But I’m not obsessed with the way my home looks or doesn’t look. I see all these interior design and renovation shows on the home improvement channel and I think to myself, who the hell can be bothered with all that?

The thing I am obsessed with – the thing to which I devote the majority of my not nearly enough spare time – is my writing.  I will choose writing over almost every other possible activity.

Certainly more so than ensuring I have the perfect window treatment to compliment the generic beige walls I’ve not once considered enlivening with a more vibrant colour of paint.

Or acquiring four matching dining room chairs, and a table to go with them with a surface that isn’t ringed, scratched, or bearing the remnants of spilled paint and numerous other craft projects that never washed off.

Especially given that I live alone, I really have no one I’m trying to impress.

Parents however, especially mothers, care about these outward signs of stability that manifest in one’s home.

And so, with no interest in being either nagged for not caring enough or dragged into conformity by a well-meaning parental unit, I’ve thus resorted to the time-honoured custom of prevaricating children everywhere: lying and trickery.

I needed to counteract those aspects of my home that suggest I don’t have my shit together with others whose very nature conveys a sense that I do.

Hence Buzzfeed.

Some of Buzzfeed’s 15 tips, it turns out, I already knew were useful and have been doing all along.  For example, they recommend one do the following:

Put a bunch of shit in jars

Check.  My love of Classico pasta sauce, which comes in real Mason jars, is paying dividends.

Shit together 2

Put some big bottles of mineral water in the fridge

Although I absolutely despise fizzy water, that empty Perrier bottle I still have from my brief stint at fearing plastic bottles makes a great receptacle for normal ice water.

Clean your bathroom

This just goes without saying.  And the fact that I do the majority of my showering at the gym helps cut my bathroom cleaning time in half.

Put some leafy herbs in jars of water

I’ve done one better: I’m growing my own leafy herbs (showing your green thumb is yet another Buzzfeed tip).

Shit together 3

Cover your couch with throw pillows

A consequence of the fact that I do most of my writing in bed (sleep hygiene be damned) is a surfeit of throw pillows to bolster myself.

Shit together 4

Put a hardcover book on your bedside table with a bookmark in it

I’ve got books on almost every surface all up in here.  And I’ve even read (or am currently reading) most of them.

Dim the lights

I’m like some kind of cockroach when the sun goes down anyway.  I can’t stand bright lights at night.


Of course, I don’t score a perfect 15 on Buzzfeed’s list.

I didn’t hide away my toothbrush because I prefer to keep things I use frequently as conveniently at hand as possible.

I didn’t fill a giant bowl with lemons because I don’t even know what lemon curd is. (I usually keep two lemons at a time tops for brewing pots of herbal tea, and use each lemon twice.)

I didn’t get decent paper napkins – not when all the coarse, takeout ones I’ve collected from Subway and the Thai place down the street serve just as well (and, of course, are free).

I’m too much of a teetotaler to stock wine in my house at all, let alone to act like I’ve got a selection of wines to choose from.

And being a vegetarian, I’m definitely not going to cook a roast (although I did make two separate batches of pasta sauce, one of which included lean ground beef.  No one can tell me that I’m not a good daughter.)

However, to compensate for these lost marks, I’ve devised a few tricksy tips of my own:

1) Make sure all your drinking glasses match

Which mine have proudly done for a week and a half now.

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2) Buy tissues with a box that matches the décor of the room

This kind of deliberateness of thought in such an insignificant purchase surely applies to every decision you make, or so this will cause people to think.

But if the only box pattern you can find has electric blue flowers and your decor is in muted earth tones, find a piece of scrapbook paper and make like it’s Christmas.

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3) Get an egg timer

Because the chime on a lot of older ovens is often too quiet to hear once you leave the kitchen.  A second, separate timer proves that you’re serious about not burning the shit that you cook. (It’s also handy for preparing the perfect, one-minute egg.)

4) Hang a guest hand towel

To prove that you often have other guests (even if you don’t).

5) Having matching towel sets

Even if the individual sets don’t happen to match each other.  And even if said towels happen to be the very same that you impending guest handed down to you.

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And most importantly, never ever breath of word of the fact that all the extra bedding in your household actually belongs to a younger friend who really does have her shit together.  Some facts are just better left unshared.

Do you have your shit together?  If not, what tricks do you have for hiding that fact?  Do you even care what others think?  Tell me about it in the comments.

A/N: There will be no new posts for the next 3-4 weeks while I spend time with my visiting folks and dive into the other three “R’s” I have planned for the summer.

(Images: J.G. Noelle)

10 thoughts on “You Don’t Need to Have Your Shit Together to Host House Guests (you just need to know how to fake it)

  1. The only way I cope is to cheat – at everything. ‘Cope’ is relative.

    You’ve got me chuckling – your home is clean and tidy, and yet you worry! If I were your mother, I’d simply buy you a pretty tissue-box cover as a house present, and let the rest go. I still remember MY mother buying me a philodendron for my student apartment – because I had no plants and they don’t need much light or care. That was in the 1970s.

    She’s 93 and can’t do much of anything any more, but I have placemats she made for me, and an apron. Her standards are there, underlying my attempts to keep a home, but she had servants and no illnesses (just 5 daughters) to deal with. In contrast, my four sisters’ homes in Mexico City could be photographed for House Beautiful at a moment’s notice.

    I do vacuum up the chinchilla droppings before people come. And I don’t let the bathrooms go, because ick. For everything else, as little as possible because I have your same obsession: writing takes my good time.


    • I worry because I know how my mother can be, and I was right: she totally remarked upon the fact that my dining room chairs don’t match. But I don’t have guests that often. Usually, I sit on one particular chair, put my feet up on another particular one, and that is my writing setup. I’d take being photographed in Book Beautiful over House Beautiful any day.

      Glad to hear you vacuum the chinchilla droppings. Otherwise, if I visited your house, I’d probably mistake them for mouse droppings and then freak right out because I’m terrified of mice. Although chinchillas are fairly mousey-looking as well, so I’d probably not visit your house at all unless you promised to put it somewhere where it can’t get underfoot.


  2. I couldn’t WAIT to live alone, so when I did I went overboard with the Martha Stewartness in terms of decor. So I have everything that looks like I have my shit together, but in actual fact I’ll cook something in a pan then eat right out of the pan. I’ll drink from the bottle/carton because I am avoiding making a glass dirty. Etc.

    But when people come over I can pull off the “got my shit together” guise lol


  3. I’ve gotta get on that shit in jars thing. (That’s not meant literally, right? lol)
    Your herbs look great. We have a ton of cacti and succulents around the house and they are super easy to care for and really decorative. Plus, the cats don’t try to eat them!


    • Buy some Classico pasta sauce (do they sell that in the US?). Not only will it give you a good excuse to go hog-wild on pasta, you’ll then get all the jars you want for free.

      I love the look of xeriscape gardens. You can really create a lot of visual interest with them since there are so many different types and colours of cacti and succulents (plus, as you say, they are cat-proof, lol). Having an herb garden has been a great new experience for me – something I’ve only been able to do in the year since I moved to my new apartment since this place is south-facing and thus gets sun (my old place was north-facing). The only problem is that I often spend all the time cooking a nice meal only to realize when it’s done that I forgot to add the herbs (d’oh!)


  4. I’m reading your post and laughing throughout, while I make a note (buy a bunch of lemons and put them in a bowl). I do have my shit together, because I love the coziness of my home, matching towels be damned, and I have gotten comfortable in not caring how others view my space.
    Of course, that’s a fib, but it sure sounds good, doesn’t it? Now, I’m off to the store to buy tissue boxes that fit in with the pattern in my bedspread…


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