At breakfast a few days ago my friend Paige and I were having a mighty deep conversation over scrambled eggs and these little sausage stick thingies that were ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, and somehow we got on the subject of our friend Angela’s house.

Because here’s the thing about Angela’s house, and I am not exaggerating: it is a SANCTUARY. As soon as you walk through the front door, you want to take off your shoes and curl up in a chair and drink something warm and pour out your heart. There’s always music playing. There’s always something good to eat. There’s always honest, wide open conversation. And there’s always a very big God at the center of it all.

Seriously. There is so much Light in that house that darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few days (listen. I don’t know what it is, but “reflective” doesn’t even begin to do justice to my current state of mind, and that is a problem because quite frankly IT IS INTERFERING WITH MY TV-WATCHING SCHEDULE) about how much I treasure the peace in our home. Granted, I know better than anyone that I am a solid gold goofball who can be a smidge difficult to live with what with all my overcommitting and procrastinating and not-folding-the-laundrying. But even still, when I’m at home I am so grateful for the freedom to be myself, for the blessing of laughing and singing whenever I please, for the fact that I am never more at ease than when I’m with my people. And lately I’ve been thinking about some inexpensive, personal touches I want to add here and there so that our house feels like home to whoever happens to visit.

And by the way, is anyone wondering if an alien has abducted the person who normally posts on this blog and replaced her someone who doesn’t know that she’s supposed to be writing about fried chicken, reality television and SEC football? I won’t blame you if you think that. Really.

Because do y’all know what I did this afternoon? I WENT TO HOBBY LOBBY. AND BOUGHT CRAFT SUPPLIES.


So all that to say: I’m curious. What are some specific things you do to make your home a haven for the people who live and/or visit there?

I can’t wait to read your ideas!

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  1. I can’t wait to hear what other people have to say about this, because right now, my house looks like a bomb went off and I am so overwhelmed that I don’t even know where to start. But I desire a sanctuary, I really do!

  2. First thing is put the two 90 pound dogs outside.

    We live in a big old house in ‘the hood’. No need to take off shoes before entering. I think if I act relaxed and at ease, most people who come over do as well. I love having candles lit. I love not having an agenda. Once I read a book by Karen Mains called ‘Open Heart, Open Home.’ It helped a lot in putting me at ease.

  3. I treat everyone as a guest the first time they visit, and after that, they are family. Let them dig through the fridge to find a snack, help themselves to tea, etc. I do wish I had more drop in guests; I guess I live in a town where that is just not done! I desire my home to be a sanctuary, too. I can’t wait to see your responses….

  4. I like candles and generally have one burning…nothing sweet or floral, generally cinnamon. I (and this is a big one) do not leave any paperwork on my kitchen island (this is the central hangout spot and seeing papers around stresses me). I make a great pot of hot tea. I (and this might be really hard) do not leave the tv on much. I used to always have the tv on because I liked the ‘noise’…now I play music or have quiet. My house is neat but comfortable. I have some nice furniture but I also have a couch that everyone feels comfortable plopping themselves down on.

    For overnight guests we bought the nicer pillows and high count sheets and pretty bedding. I used to put whatever pillows were hanging around the house on the guest room bed but we invested in nice bedding for this house. Also, my husband and I slept in the guest room for a week when we first moved in (we were waiting on our bedroom furniture) and that was good because we know how it feels for the guests.
    I put a basket under their bathroom sink with extras-just like a hotel : )

    Mostly though I think what makes people feel welcome is your willingness to drop everything when they come to your house, to sit and have that cup of tea with them, to listen and talk…I suspect you already excel at that.

  5. Ann Marie says:

    People like to say when they walk in that our house is cozy, warm and inviting! Our entranceway has a fake ficus tree that has white lights and it is always lit – we try to keep the paperwork out of the general living space so that the kitchen/family room is uncluttered! Also, when my son returns home for a weekend from college I try to always bake a little something and have it ready – it smells great and is comforting! We are not big TV people so we don’t have that blaring but prefer the quiet or soft music – it relaxes everyone! Last but not least – dogs outside until the guests have been here at least 20 minutes so they (the dogs!) can calm down!!!!!!!!!

  6. I don’t worry about it. I don’t apologize for this mess or that mess (as our kitchen floor is in disarray right now). I try to focus on them.
    And candles. Lots of really good smelling candles! Honey, you can turn down the lights and get some candles going and hide a lot of “mess”:o)

  7. 1. Music — classical, instrumental, worship, Christmas. (I totally agree w/ Joyce re: turn OFF the TV and turn on the music.)
    2. De-clutter — IMHO, more important than clean.
    3. Candles and matches — to rid the home of unpleasant odors, which are not uncommon when there are 3 males in the house.
    4. Simplify — Twenty years ago, I read a book titled Smart Women Keep It Simple. I apply it to every situation and area of my life.
    5. “Be still and know that I Am God.” This is where it begins and ends. Spending quiet time alone with God — daily — will transform your life, and everyone around you will benefit. You can’t fake peace; and if you have the peace-that-passes-all-understanding, it will spill over into your home and your family and your work and every area of your life. You will be inspired, just like your friend Angela!

  8. I shopped auctions, estate sales and garage sales to try to make home ‘home’ and just this past weekend I had friends over for our 20th anniversary “cooking party” and they said it just feels so warm and inviting, like ‘home’ once again. I hope they know how ‘warm’ this makes me feel since that was a goal of mine, to once again have a place where anyone who entered feel like they were ‘welcome’!
    It is what I refer to as a lot of ‘junk’ but I do love the junk I’ve been able to gather!
    Blessings today and always,
    Matthew 21:22

  9. Hmm… I’d like to say my home is a sanctuary. Unfortunately, I don’t see it that way because I concentrate on all the mess that comes with raising a family. If you came to my house, you’d see lots of family stuff… an old door hung on the wall, a couple old windows from my grandmother’s house, a cracked pickle crock, odd pieces of pottery, etc. Basically small pieces of “junk” that I’ve gathered and collected. Little things that make me smile because of the history/stories behind them.

  10. NO (okay, minimal) clutter, comfy furniture, nothing breakable in open spaces (kids)… warm, soft, throws on every chair. I always have something sweet to offer. Prayer. You can tell a house that is has been doused in prayer…mine has had a double portion of that over the last few years!

  11. I just love this post because I strive for that “haven” feeling here too. In fact, I just love it when people come in and say, “Your house is just so warm” (and they aren’t talking about the heat being on!).

    First, let me say, that creating a haven has nothing to do with crafts–I don’t care what the Nester says. :) I don’t craft. It makes me break out in hives. But more power to you if that’s your thing.

    I think it has something to do with creating a peaceful atmosphere. Keeping things clean and picked up is a huge thing for me. When things get a little out of control, my life feels out of control too. I also think good food has something to do with it. My kids love it when they come home to delicious smells. And even though I’m not great about this, I think music does play a part. Yesterday I put on the holiday music on our cable t.v. and had such a happy day.

    I can’t wait to read every one else’s ideas!

  12. I always have a couple of blankets strewn on the sofa, ready to be curled up with. I like to have a sweet candle flickering, and lamps on for good light. Sometimes a kettle of water boiling for tea, and some Alison Krauss or Wailin’ Jenny’s playing. And ALWAYS have a couple of stacks of unopened mail lying around the dining room. It makes guests feel at home. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

  13. I try to keep the clutter stuffed in drawers (just so long as no one needs to actually, you know, open a drawer) and provide lots of comfy seating. Candles and lots of warm lighting are a must, too. I have one corner behind a couch that lacks a light, and I find that people avoid that couch, even though it’s just as comfortable as any other seating in the room. I also have lots of house plants–they add a soft touch to any room. As far as crafting goes, I’m forever making big, gaudy garlands. It’s a weakness.

    Can’t wait to see your ideas!

  14. It’s mostly atmosphere of course. If you’re comfortable they will be comfortable. If you’re fretting about what the house looks like then they are guaranteed to notice that mess/peeling paint/sagging sofa/etc.

    Now, I am apparently very different from everyone else because I HATE music playing and candles burning!! THAT is not peaceful to me. The music interferes, no matter how low (and truly I find it rude….not everyone has the same taste and why would you want to listen to music and not me??) and the smell of even unscented candles bothers me. I’m also not into food. I’d much rather come over and talk, without having to chew and swallow and without having to smell the wax or hear the music.

    Someone said no pets….I totally agree with that. Pets should never make an appearance, and their telltale smells should be even more hidden. Ozone air purifiers will take care of any odors far better than any candle!

  15. I agree with everything that’s been written here…”homey” candlelight, soft background music, and decluttering being some of my personal favorites.

    I had a friend that told me once, “if you’re coming to see my house, call first; if you’re coming to see me, drop by any time.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. If you are at ease in your own home and keep it for your own sanctuary, you’ll be ready to receive guests anytime – and it will show.

  16. Our place is cozy…that’s for sure. Afterall, a 2 bedroom, 1 bath town home will do that to a couple. : )

    We try to create an environment that is open–clutter to a minimum, open space, etc. Nothing is worse than feeling like you’re on top of one another due to all the stuff in the room.

    But I think what it really comes down to is this: the love that comes from those that you’re visiting. I think of my aunt and uncle who have a small, simple home. While there is always a good treat on the counter, everytime I walk into their house, I feel LOVE.

    That speaks volumes to me!

  17. I don’t think it is the house…it is the person who answers the door! :o)

  18. Home is where the heart is.

    If you’re stressed out and frazzled…..your guests will know.


    Make home….home to you!

    Stuff that makes home for my family?

    Something yummy to eat. Cinnamon candles. Lamp lighting. Fuzzy throws. Pillows in family room. TIDYNESS!
    Fun people. Lovingkindness.

  19. I have plush sheets and towels in our guestroom and bathroom. I keep the closet clean and a drawer empty in the dresser. I also keep the TV, have some wine waiting, and music play ing.

  20. That should have said I keep the TV off. Sorry! (Still drinking my morning cup of coffee!)

  21. I’m loving the consistent commentary about paperwork stressing the environment. Oh for a paperless kitchen!

    But yes, I love hearing that my home is a haven. I think the most important thing is establishing that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be a sanctuary. That I’m not welcoming folks in my home to ENTERTAIN them, but to share my life with them. That has really freed me. There’s a fine line btw prepping the house for perfection and prepping it for relationship.

    When my kids and I are bustling around the house prepping for company, I frequently remind them that preparing our home is a way of preparing our hearts. That the cleaning up is a way of showing honor and love to the coming guests.

    But I am grateful to be able to say that I am no longer a slave to the perfectly set table or the perfectly prepared meal with garnishes of beauty. That was a heavy burden to carry for too long!

  22. When my husband and I have people over to eat, we try to have as much prepared ahead of time as possible. People don’t feel very welcome when we act all frazzled about dinner, so we try to create as calm an atmosphere as possible.

  23. J. Johnson says:

    Right now, we try to make our house feel like a haven for our children’s friends. I have one in high school and one in middle school; it is important to us that our children’s friends feel comfortable and welcome at our house so that they like to hang out here (and I always know where my children are!).

    To that end, we have made our basement a hangout area for the teens – TV, Playstation with multiple games, DVD player with tons of movies, and a boom box with an Ipod docking station – lots of comfy blankets and pillows. We also try to have their favorite sodas and snacks, and are willing to listen to any and all of what they are talking about. As a result, there are usually 3-4 extra children in our house on any given day, I’ve learned about what they are going through at school, and one of my daughter’s friends has even started to come to church with us and joined the youth group.

  24. I find that keeping plenty of extra towels and blankets handy for houseguests, as well as a stash of hotel-sized toiletries, helps considerably on the hospitality front. Beyond that, I think it’s actually more about getting rid of stuff than filling up a space. Nothing ruins calm like clutter, especially, as others have noted, of the paper variety.

  25. You really inspired me today, and I responded with a Sanctuary post of my own…thanks! You can find it here:

  26. I think if the people who LIVE in a house are comfortable and at peace there, then that will convey to visitors.

    We also bought a fancy espresso maker off craig’s list a few years ago. Andrew learned how to make a slap-yo-granny good latte and I think when you give people something warm and comfy to drink, they relax. It’s a great tool for hospitality, and it keeps people coming back for more!

  27. Chelsea Price says:

    Hmmm…. there’s seven of us in this 1300 sf house, and the oldest of the kids is 5. Maybe my problem is home is too much ‘haven’ and not enough ‘peace’. We have an open door policy and have people stop by almost daily, which I love. I stopped apologizing about the mess because honestly, this is the way we live. I have given away tons of stuff and we live minimally, but even bare necessities for so many in this size place leaves the house a bit cluttered. And with all the little ones, there is always a mess to be cleaned up. I do music and candles for my own sanity- a sound or a view that gives a little peace when I need it. And always Christian music for encouragement. But maybe a sanctuary isn’t realistic for us right now.

  28. A candle, a fire and imperfect, pretty china teacups for whatever we’re drinking. And people seem to be most comfortable with a little real life scattered around….a perfectly clean house is very nice, but I think it’s also nice to see shoes and your current craft project strewn about – most of us don’t really live perfect, and it feels the very best to be real with your friends.

  29. Sophie, this made me cry.

    Probably because I’m tired, and well, hormonal due to my monthly visit. But mostly because this is exactly how I feel. How I WANT everyone to feel in my home.

    Yet, it’s not at all how I have felt lately. I’m sure much of that can be contributed to the fact that we have a new addition–my new grandson–and that his father and my daughter’s new husband has not made it home from basic training just yet.

    Lately I’ve been looking for those still waters and have even had a blog post in the works for a while regarding this.

    The thing is, while I’ve always worked hard to keep a clean house and make sure everyone had clean underwear and dishes, I’ve come to realize it’s just not always possible. Sometimes I need to let those things go and focus on the little ones. I’ve been so overwhelmed by my life’s demands that it seems the enemy is trying to choke the joy right out of me.

    I want my home to be a haven. I want others to feel as those they can come in let their cares fall at the door. I want the Spirit of the Lord to have preeminence. Right now, however, I need to drop my cares.

    OH HEAVY SIGH. I think I’ve done the exact opposite of what you’ve asked.

  30. Every weekend we have someone or several someones stop by it seems. Our house is still less than a year old so we haven’t painted, haven’t yet hung any curtains downstairs or done any real decorating. So it must be that folks don’t mind our company. I try to keep things tidy (most of the time) and I seriously can’t wait to tackle the decor. We do typically have the tv on – usually a game of some sort. And we typically have 2 little ones making noise but again most people don’t seem to mind and they keep coming back. So it might not be a “sanctuary” in the truest sense of the word, but it’s family living for sure.

  31. Have the TV off or even in another room. Have some good magazines around and warm lighting. I love being able to curl up with something good to read. Tea and cookies help too!

  32. De clutter. Clutter gives a feeling of chaos, so stash, dash and get rid of junk.

    Certain times of the year- fall and spring in our area- the outside is peaceful.

  33. I agree with the person who said it is who answers the door – a person genuinely glad to see a guest, not frantically apologizing for unfolded laundry or dog toys on the floor(our house) or a stack of hardwood flooring “curing” behind the formal dining table! (again our house) – we have a casual, farm house and most people know they are welcome because God is first in this house – and He made me cook all that stuff and force feed everyone who enters in! Sweet posting – I’m sure your home is very welcoming –

  34. I love what Ginger Plowman says about this subject in her book – that we have to see it as hospitality not entertainment. Romans 12 says nothing about having as much expensive decorating up as possible to impress our guests :) It talks about serving others and practicing hospitality. So I guess that’s my answer – I try to make my dear family and guests feel welcome w/o me being harried and stressed about every detail. When I’m relaxed like this (and we have a family of 9 so there has to be a pretty high degree of relaxation!) it shows one important thing – it’s about my guests – not me!

  35. Comfy places to sit. Blankets because I’m always cold and hate it when I go to someone’s house who doesn’t have them. A general sense of order – I’m far from clean and organized at all times, but I don’t want my house to look like a pig pen. Pretty baskets, boxes, etc to keep the clutter at bay. Personal decorative pieces, but not an overwhelming set of tchotchkes.

  36. Weeeelllll… with a four year old bouncing off the walls, I can’t exactly say my home is a “sactuary.” But I hope it is welcoming to anyone who comes in. People always feel like they can kick their shoes off and put their feet up.

    I agree with the wise ladies that say less clutter and paperwork is more important then perfectly cleaned!

  37. I’m writing this as I lie in bed. Mess around me…shower needs to be cleaned and clutter lurks behind most closet doors.

    My house can be a sanctuary, it really can be. We are one of those families who don’t have a TV. It didn’t happen on purpose, but it has been great. When my fifteen year old son, told me he liked things around here without it, I was SHOCKED.

    We get our TV fix by hulu, when hubs and I go to bed at night. The kids watch movies via DVD’s. And, I couldn’t believe the change when the hum of white noise, my TV constantly on, changed the atmosphere of our home.

    I purchased a few cd’s of piano music which has made our house sound just lovely.

    Now, if I could just get the ants in my family room and kitchen to relocate, all would be just fine.

  38. loved reading this. i have a friend whose home always felt welcoming, even in the midst of kids, life & a dog. partly it was her personality, but partly it was her style. you knew when you walked in, who lived in her house, if you had spent more than 5 minutes with her, because she fit there. i’m not being clear, but i think you have all those things going for you, with your love of color, etc.
    but to answer your “crafty” question, have you used vinyl letters? i love the way they’re like my mom’s plaques and my grandmother’s stencils were, a way to personalize their homes. many companies have them; from scripture to art to christmas, they’re great and easy.

  39. Yankee candles (can’t beat them for the scent.)
    Small lamps for nice lighting.
    Framed pictures of family all over.
    So many pictures on the refrigerator I’m afraid it will tip over.
    Lots of afghans in the den.
    Christmas lights in the trees in the backyard all year.
    Candles lit in the fireplace when I can’t have a fire.
    Great mattresses and pillows in the guest rooms.
    I love my home.

  40. I’m feeling you today, friend. I’ve been overly reflective too. Last night, I took some cute little black glassless frames, put some light turquoise polka-dotted paper inside, and spelled some comforting, happy phrases with Scrabble letters.

    And I am so not crafty.

    And I want happy, warm, welcoming words (and candles and pillows) all over my house.

  41. My house is covered in things that are *me.* Things that I’ve made, things that I love, things that make me smile, things that my kids drew or built or gifted to me, things that were gifts from my family or family heirlooms … and I think when you walk into my house, it just reaks of me.

    This is important because I have been described as a warm and welcoming person. So my personal opinion is that if my house feels like me and people like me, they like my house. Pretty simple.

    I would say you are probably the same.

    Also, I rarely *serve* my guests. Its very *make yourself at home* at my house and I don’t even have to say that … I think its just a personality thing. People just know that they can make themselves at home and that I want them there. I think.

    I do love to craft. I have a ton of things I’ve made on the walls or sitting around and photos I’ve taken everywhere.

  42. *sob*

    Odd you should post about this, after I have spent the last 2 morning yelling at my kids for the mess, no, disaster! they make of my house.

    I want a sanctuary too, but honestly I’d settle for minimally tidy at this point.

    My point in posting this (and the *sob* at the top) was to say that reading your post, and all the lovely comments below, made me realize that no matter how clean I manage to get my house, or how many candles I light, I haven’t made a sanctuary of anything if I yell at my kids and send them to school feeling like their mom resents them. Gosh did I blow it.

    I have not made time for Jesus lately (I’m a mom back in school taking nursing), and I’m pretty sure my family would tell you they can certainly notice.

    Today, I’m going to work on the sanctuary that is my heart.

  43. We just started buying good smelly candles, and we are USING them!

  44. We have lots of family treasures and friends always commment on how interesting they are…and it conveys our love of family.

    I agree with the candles and such but one thing I haven’t seen: We have a radio in our semi-attached carport and keep it on all the time, usually to a station with upbeat oldies. When people arrive at our back door, they hear it and it sets the mood for a good time!

  45. you know, the homes that have truely been a sanctuary to me have been less about the *things* in them and more about the *people*

    My grandma’s house was always a sanctuary to me. I think of sunlight streaming in the windows, warm soup, a pan of peas to snap or green beans to shell and the window air conditioning unit humming when I remember it…not anything anyone would mention as “homey” but it was sanctuary to me b/c of her love and hugs that were there.

    Sanctuary now is my good friends home down the street where our kids play together (and her 2 year old is frequently screaming!) while we swap “war stories” about raising girls…or another friends house where I walk past her pile of stuff that she needs to take to Goodwill to get to her comfy sofa, where “just 5 minutes” when I pick up my daughter from playing with her daughter turns into an hour long conversation…

    So don’t worry if you aren’t crafty. Just from reading you, I have a feeling you are welcoming and warm….and that, in my opinion, is the first step in a sanctuary..

  46. I pray this over our home: “pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11 The Message

  47. Candles, music, my girl’s art projects ….more music… :)

    And the t.v. stays off most of the time. That makes the biggest difference around here. When we decided to cut the cable out, I went through major Bravo withdrawel. :) However, the attitudes and atmosphere around here (mainly mine) has been so much better.

  48. I think the main thing is your attitude. If you’re welcoming and want people to be there, it will show.
    Other than that? GOOD coffee, munchies, comfortable furniture, and quiet. That last isn’t always possible. ;)

  49. The first time you’re at my house, you’re a guest. After that, you’re family – feel free to get a drink or snack from the fridge.

    I try to keep things neat, but there’s usually a bit of something that reminds people of their own homes. :) And there are always 2-3 blankets draped over the couches since our house is usually a bit cool. I also try to keep some cookie dough in the freezer, ready to pop into the oven.

    For overnight guests, I move all my son’s bath stuff to our bathroom. That way they have their “own” bathroom and don’t have to worry about a toddler’s potty or bathtub toys. Also make sure there’s plenty of towels, shampoo, etc.

    My MIL loves magazines, so I keep my old issues and put them on the night table in the guest room for her when she comes.

  50. Oh, I forgot to say that we allow shoe-wearing (or not), foot-propping, and all sorts of comfortableness to go on. No need to worry if you’ll break something, either. If my 2 yr old or dog haven’t broken it yet, you won’t either.

  51. I’ve enjoyed reading these comments!

    I live in a third world country and have often felt frustrated by my lack of resource as far as home/sanctuary making goes.
    Sometimes, it (sanctuary making) has felt impossible.

    But, there is always this. Prayer. So many times, in the prep for dinner or overnight guests, praying in and over our home has had the most dramatic effects. Our homes need His Spirit. His presence makes all our other efforts (which are great and God honoring too!) flourish into something more than even we can imagine. Blessings to all of you. Won’t it be so wonderful to finally meet up someday in the Home He has prepared for us!

  52. Goodness…loved this post as I do so many of yours, BooMama.

    I have always had a deep, deep need to make the places I’ve lived in ‘cozy’, which is the word most people use after spending five minutes in my house. Always wanted my place to welcome anyone that bothered to stop by and help them ‘take a load off’ while here. And I always wanted it to be an oasis for myself and my family. Folks seem to enjoy coming over, and as I was thinking about stuff I do over and over, here’s what I came up with:

    -warm toned, coordinating paints in all rooms that are viewable to each other; right now my kitchen is an olive green, LR has a brick red accent wall, and then all other walls/rooms on the main floor are a toasted wheat color, except the bathroom, which is a deep blue. BTW, Behr paint from Home Depot completely rocks my world
    -pillows…have gone wildly overboard here at times and had to scale back…I have however pledged my unwavering devotion to them for eternity
    -candles, mostly Glade apple cinnamon or vanilla in cooler months and then Glade ‘angel whispers’ in warmer months…I burn them endlessly, so they have to be cheap!
    -‘smooth’ music on, usually Over the Rhine, jazz, Norah Jones or the like
    -soft, yummy blankets on couches/chairs
    -lots of baskets for everything from the cubs’ toys (wicker trunk that doubles as a coffee table in the LR), to library books to towels to guest toiletries in the second bathroom
    -comfortable, multi-use, cozy furniture
    -don’t like clutter, but also don’t have many big bare spaces on walls or surfaces
    -always keep an eye out for the stuff Target knocks off of Pottery Barn since a) Mama doesn’t have a PB budget and b) PB stuff is always on a luxury villa scale and we have a small, old cottagey house…Target stuff always fits way better and looks just as good
    -hot tea, chocolate and coffee are always on the ready for playdates or a good, long girl talk
    -coordination and symmetry are my crutches. Have to remind myself frequently to not be too matchy matchy, but I’m in MAD, PASSIONATE LOVE with coordinating decor
    -totally not crafty, though I will always desperately wish to be, but I’ve got tons of little details that I suppose are my way to pretend I’m crafty…ornaments on doorknobs & pulls, quotey plaques in a few places, pictures of loved ones in pretty frames in lots of places
    -lots of favorite, old books in window sills, in small bookcases and above the fireplace
    -oh yeah, everyone thinks I’m a great maid, but truth is, I just clean the stuff they’ll obviously notice. No aliens living in the toilets, vacuum the rugs, dishes in the dishwasher and a quick dust of extremely obvious surfaces in 5 minutes or less if I know someone is coming. Martha Stewart would faint if she had any idea of the atrocities that exist that I so totally don’t care about. My motto: You can draw pictures in the dust – just don’t date ’em.
    -used to fix these elaborate, ridiculous Bon Appetit meals for guests when we were first married and I discovered I actually liked to cook, but with 2 kids, who can do that and not be bitter by the time guests arrive? Now, I fix simple, savory roasts in crockpots (or Hubs will grill the meat in the summer), roast veggies with herbs, fresh garlic, salt and EVOO in the oven, throw together a simple baby spinach salad and have guests bring their favorite dessert or wine.
    -it all boils down to: candles + conversation + coffee = bliss to me!

    Cara @ 11:21am – I am so right there with you though! I’m not even in school and I still could have posted the same comments. I think many times I de-stress by way of decorating. So, when my kids are normal kids (all the time unless I’ve been hollering at them too much) it throws me into dark places too, too often, I’m sorry to say. Hubs is pretty good about sometimes reminding me to relax when I get too close to the OCD edge. It’s a hard season trying to balance appreciating your small children and a desperate need for quiet, serenity, and tidyness. I try to get up 30 minutes before the cubs usually get up and have my coffee while I read and pray, but so many mornings it’s hard to even gather my thoughts together. God is patient with us though!

    Wow…lotsa words. Thanks again…I’m so enjoying reading the other comments. Wish I could have everyone over tomorrow!

  53. I love that you said there was so much light in that house that darkness couldn’t stand a chance. I want that house. And, I’m afraid its lacking right now. Bleh.

    Ok,going to read through these fabulous answers.


  54. Before we built our house 12 years ago I was gathering ideas for decorating. In one of the magazines I was looking at it said to decorate your house with what you LOVE not what is in style or trendy at the time. If you love how your house feels I think other people feel that too.

    I have a dear friend who loves to come to my house and her house is exquisitely professionally decorated. It helps, of course, that I have a fireplace and she does not.

    I heard my teenage daughter tell someone that she only loved the scents of candles that I use at home. I think it was more about the “home” than the “scent”.

    I love reading all of these ideas!!!

  55. Years ago, when I first married and we moved into our first home, I had a neighbor named Susan. Susan had 3 small kids and a busy house. Her house was always a wreck, kids were always screaming and you would have thought no peace could be found there. But, Susan had the gift of hospitality. I was drawn to her house at least 3-4 times a week. I never had to call first, she always loved when I dropped by, and she always had a smile on her face. She never made excuses for her messy house. She would always invite me in and she would take me pass the clutter to her “sanctuary”, the kitchen. You could tell that woman did some worshipping in that kitchen. She always had a Bible and a recipe book open on the counter. She had a comfortable stool pulled right up to the counter so I could chat while she cooked some of the best, most heart warming food I had ever had. She always had a pot of coffee on, or she would fix me a cup of hot tea or a cool glass of some kind of fancy flavored tea. Her kids would be running in and out, but she always made time for me. She made me feel welcomed and loved. It was just what this new bride needed. She was a mentor and a friend. We’ve long since moved away from each other, but her gift of hospitality and warmth has always stuck with me.

    So I live by this motto – “If you’ve come to see me, you’ll get my house how you find it. But, if you’ve come to see my house, call first and I’ll pick up.” I think it’s important to make every guest feel important and special, no matter the condition of your home. It’s the sweet aroma of Christ that will turn your home into a sanctuary.

    Thanks BooMama! I enjoyed remembering my dear friend Susan this morning. Now, I need to go light some candles and get my Christmas music on.


  56. Man, I’m still learning. Right now I’m right in the middle of a HUGE, VAST, OVERWHELMING decluttering project. Because one reason I enjoy traveling and staying in hotel rooms is because there’s not a lot of stuff lying around. You know? So I’m trying to pare it all down to the bare minimum. (I’m trying.) I’m looking for a little peace in having a little less…

  57. Crocheted afghans! …it’s all I can do. But I love to snuggle in them, and anyone coming over knows that they can grab one for warming up in our terribly drafty house.

  58. Plants, but only if you’ll take care of them (or at least get nice-looking artificial ones)

    Aromas (usually accomplished with candles, but can also be oils, potpourri, etc.) that you like, and which are subtle… but no more than one aroma in the house at a time, if possible

    Some sense of fung shui… when you stand at an open door, your left, right, and forward areas should be unimpeded by furniture allowing for easy access. If one of those areas has a wall, put up a mirror or picture whose image pulls you in. These give the appearance of more depth on the wall.

    Don’t turn the TV on for at least five minutes after you walk in the door. If you want it on after that, go for it. If not, enjoy some music, conversation, or silence.

    I suspect you’re pretty good at the hospitality, which is the most important part of all, especially if you do more listening than talking. :)

  59. All those who keep paperwork out of sight…WHERE does it go? My options outside the “public” areas are my bedroom, my kids’ bedrooms (NO), or a guest room we never, ever enter and where I will forget it’s all there. Ideas? Anyone?

  60. We live in Alaska so it’s all about light and warmth in the wintertime.

    I like to have uncluttered and snow-free access to the front door and I turn on the outdoor lights if it’s dark and I know someone is coming.

    Clear out space in the coat closet and have extra hangers right there so it’s easier and faster to hang their outside gear.

    Call people by their first name within the first 10 seconds of their arrival.

    Cut down on clutter. Stock up on hugs, good coffee, conversation and prayer. Give kids their own place to play.

    Good post! Thanks.

  61. Karen Mains has said that we get our idea of what hospitality is from the slick pages of women’s magazines rather than from Scripture. So, I guess that at least part of the issue is found in focusing on biblical hospitality. It isn’t really about stuff and atmosphere and the things that may help us welcome others and make them comfortable. We could have and do all of that and still not build a sanctuary. Isn’t it, rather, about the heart? And it is expressed differently from one home to another – and especially from one people and culture to another. It isn’t about showing who I am, but caring about who you are. It’s about living out the welcome of the gospel – the whosoever will, come-as-you-are kind of welcome. It’s about letting others see us as we really are without the need to make a good impression. There’s freedom in biblical hospitality, both for ourselves and for others, giving them a place to be who they really are. It’s humility and honesty and making home a safe place, first for our families, then for others. That’s what sanctuary represents, isn’t it? – a safe place, a refuge? Isn’t it just a place where people feel loved and accepted?

  62. And I loved the comment about “the sanctuary that is my heart.” It IS about our hearts, isn’t it? And it isn’t always easy.

  63. I’m so glad you wrote this.

    We are soon (Lord willing) going to buy our first home and I can’t wait to turn it into a sanctuary. And then invite others in and bless them and hope that they eat and melt and eat and talk and eat some more…

  64. No TV is a definite welcome feeling. Quite a few of my loved ones have the TV blaring as a form of entertainment when guests visit. This is miserable for me, especially when the news comes on. :) I’ve thought of things that made me feel comfortable on vacations and tried to re-create them in the types of furniture and fabrics and whavever felt so good about the object. I do agree-the most important thing is to truly make the person feel welcome by being at ease, making eye contact, enjoying whatever your guest enjoys. If she likes quiet, take a lull to quietly sip tea with soft music playing. If she likes noise, get out a laughter-inducing game and play or just listen to her latest antics. Take time to enjoy what you love about that person and be yourself in the way that is most comfortable for your guest.

  65. Someone asked where to put paper messes. If you can, designate a drawer for the papers that need to be put away later. You could also keep a binder with folders right on a bookshelf, and stick papers in there by category. File folders are great if you have them. A very simple organized idea is having a big manilla envelope for categories such as Bills, Paid, Misc. You can tuck them into a drawer, a box, slip them into a spot on a shelf.