How to Be Hospitable When You Live in a Small Space

How to Be Hospitable When You Live in a Small Space

by: Emily Thomas

"It is better to have a home too small one day a year, than a home too big all the rest." So said a wise person, who probably lived in a small house but loved to entertain :)

While hosting loved ones in a small space can feel intimidating or stressful, it doesn't have to be! We've rounded up advice for small-space hosting from the Cultivate community and are happy to share it today. If you live in a small space, this post is for you!

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First, a general tip:

Name what matters. This surely comes as no surprise, since naming what matters is usually the first step in cultivating what mattersbut it shouldn't be skipped! Since hosting in a small space means you're working with less-than-ideal conditions, it's helpful to hone in on what's a priority and worth fighting forand what you can happily set aside or find a creative solution for.

Maybe hosting often matters, but each time doesn't need to be fancy.

Maybe you love going all-out with fun details once a year, but hosting often doesn't matter.

Maybe you're passionate about gathering friends, but it doesn't actually need to be in your home.

Or maybe you're determined to host family overnight in your home, even if it's a tight squeeze in your space.

What matters to other people doesn't have to matter to you. So—what is it for you? Spend a few minutes thinking it over and jot down a few thoughts.

Hosting guests in a small space

Hosting friends and family for a meal in a small space might mean getting creative, but creative solutions can lead to sweet (and sometimes hilarious) memories! Here are a few tips.

Keep things casual 

This might seem obvious, but having people over for dinner doesn't mean you need a place setting for each guest. You don't even need a chair! Gung-ho guests can balance plates on their knees, perch on a couch, head to the porch or back steps, or pull up a square of floor. (If you're seating people in untraditional spots, and especially if you have tiny guests, don't be afraid to throw a sheet over your couch! Everyone will breathe easier.)

And speaking of dinner, hosting a less-traditional meal might work even better. Consider inviting friends over for brunch, happy hour snacks, or post-dinner popsicles.

A final tiny tip: to keep your space as clear as possible, consider laying coats and bags on a bed so they're out of the traffic flow.

Try a low-key menu

No matter which meal you choose, keep your menu as low-key as possible (especially if you have minimal counter space!). A savory pie or quiche that can be made in advance, a one-pot pasta, a big salad, or anything that can be served at room temp will allow you to prep and clean-up before a single guest gets added to your space.

Borrow what you need

One benefit of a smaller space: you have the opportunity to experience the beauty of community more often! Instead of buying and storing everything you need for the occasional party, reach out to friends to see what you can borrow. My neighbors recently did this for their daughter's graduation party, reaching out to our cul-de-sac in advance of the celebration. The celebration was all the sweeter knowing we had contributed a pop-up tent, folding table, chairs, and clipped hydrangea blooms! 

People are usually happy to help, and it feels good to know you can rely on others. Don't hesitate to ask!

Pro tip: Use the Refresh | Brain Dump Journal as you prep for your next gathering! The flexible pages will be so helpful for capturing alllll the details as you prepare to welcome friends and family.

Unconventional tips for hosting in a small space

When hosting in a small space, thinking outside the box is key—especially when your "box" (home!) feels small! :)

Co-host with a friend

I've done this many times—it might be my favorite small-space hosting hack! While I love hosting themed parties (a book swap, a chocolate chip cookie tasting party, and a baby shower in the last few years, just to name a few), my home is not set up for hosting larger groups.

So, in the past, I've reached out to friends with larger homes to ask whether they might be open to co-hosting alongside me. In exchange for using their space, I'm happy to do more of the logistical legwork and planning prep. Sometimes, the guests are a circle we share, and sometimes we choose to invite friends from both of our groups—and expand our social circles as an added bonus!

Use public spaces

Parks, beaches, and playgrounds can make beautiful backdrops for gatherings. Some pavilions might require a small rental fee, but other spots are free and available as a first-come-first-served basis. 

My family has used this strategy many times for kid birthday parties. Hosting in a park pavilion next to a favorite playground means making a more careful packing list (don't forget supplies like scissors, tape, and command hooks!), but it's far easier than prepping our home for hosting a class of preschoolers.

Rent space for larger parties

How about the grown-ups?

Maybe you're hoping to host a fancier gathering for a milestone birthday or event. While renting the back patio of a restaurant, an event space, or even a full home might feel expensive (and certainly will cost more than hosting at home), a few hundred dollars once a year is far less than the larger rent or mortgage payment you'd make on a home large enough to host big celebrations. This was freeing for me to realize!

Be an enthusiastic guest

Maybe, for whatever reason, hosting in your small space simply feels out of the question right now. If you've been lucky enough to be the guest of others, this might feel particularly hard, since traditional etiquette calls for an invitation to be returned in kind.

But—good news! There's a wonderful way to return your hosts' kindness without actually hosting them in your own home, and that is to be an enthusiastic guest:

Show up with a positive spirit.
Ask generous questions of the other guests.
Go out of your way to include everyone.
Try all the dishes with gusto (and compliment the chef!).
Help where you can, whether by filling glasses, loading the dishwasher, or pointing guests to the restroom.
Send a grateful note—by text or snail mail—to the host the next day, telling her how much you enjoyed being a part of the gathering.

An enthusiastic guest is a beautiful gift to a host, and more than enough to get you invited back :)

Approach your situation with joy.

Yes, there are some limitations to hosting in a small space. But as you surely know, there are wonderful things about living, and hosting, in a small space, too! Remind yourself of those things often. Write them on a notecard and post them where you can see them. Don't apologize for what you have or the choices you've made. Approach gatherings with joy and gratitude, and others will feel grateful to be welcomed into your space, too—even if they have to bring their own chair :)

What would you add, friends? We'd love to hear from you!

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Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is Cultivate What Matters' Content Strategist and Writer. With over a decade at Cultivate, Emily loves helping women uncover what matters, set good goals, and live them out with joy. Her free time is spent with her high-school-sweetheart husband and three young kiddos.

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