Monthly review – tips to make entertaining easier for recovering perfectionists

April was a great month to focus on having catch ups with family and friends at home. We had school holidays and two birthdays which of course encouraged my habit naturally.

I do think that having people over is a habit and one I had got out of. I would think about having people over and then would mentally start planning it in my head, then become overwhelmed by how much work it would be and would put it off. I would want everything to be just right – great food, sparkling house, fresh flowers etc etc.

In April I realised that my perfectionism was really sucking the joy out of having people over, so I took a very different approach and it meant that I entertained at home on a number of occasions but undertook it in a way that I could actually enjoy myself in the process. Here are some tips I found which made entertaining at home easier for a recovering perfectionist.

Keep it simple

I do love making food and special occasion meals, but the problem is that sometimes I over complicate things when it comes to having people over for a shared meal.

Recently I have reminded myself that the aim is a shared meal we can all enjoy together. It isn’t possible to enjoy a meal if you are exhausted from staying up the night before or running yourself ragged all day in the lead up cooking the food.

Some simple and easy to cook in advance food I have served recently:

  • Mexican – using this slow cooker recipe I had the taco chicken cooked in the lead up to dinner time. I cut up lettuce, tomato etc in advance, then about an hour before we were due to eat I then cooked some Mexican rice in the rice cooker. To go with it and make it a little bit tastier I put out bowls of my fresh salsa and garlic aioli. This is a super simple meal to prepare but has plenty of fresh flavours and caters well for both kids and adults.
  • Self serve mini pavlova – I bought pre cooked mini pavlova cases from the supermarket and then bought a large selection of fresh berries. I also whipped up cream and grated some chocolate. When dessert time came, I placed in the middle of the table, plates of empty mini pavlova shells, the berries, cream and chocolate and let everyone (mainly kids on this occasion) serve themselves. The kids loved them and loved being able to choose exactly what they wanted on their mini pavlova.
  • Meat and veggies – I have teamed up this slow cooker shredded beef with scalloped potatoes and sweet potato gratin and salad. The potatoes and salad dishes can be made the night before and the potatoes popped in the oven about two hours before you want to eat. The shredded beef is tasty and super easy to make.
  • Ice cream cake – I have a number of different ice cream cakes I like to make and you can find the recipes on the blog here. None of them require me to actually make the ice cream but add items to it and refreeze. So it can be made well in advance which is super handy.

Short notice

This one is to help me stick to the above idea of keeping it simple. If I invite people over at short notice for some reason this makes me think that I can “get away” with a simpler version of things. I know very well that my friends and family would be happy with simple any time and it is the perfectionist in me that has the issue with trying to make it super fancy.

Short notice often works better too as I know exactly what my week looks like. Sometimes when I book things weeks out when the calendar is pretty clear, by the time the date comes around, the calendar has become considerably fuller with kids activities etc and the timing to have people over may not be great.

Don’t re-stump the house

Our house is always reasonably tidy and clean, but there is always work to be done. I always want everything to be just right when we have people over. The title above “don’t re-stump the house” comes from the jibe my husband will throw at me.

When preparing for people to come over I can get into a whirlwind of cleaning and tidying. Part of this might mean delegating jobs to other members of the family. My husband has often joked “do you want me re-stump the house as well” indicating that perhaps I am going to far. And of course he is frustratingly right.

This month while I have endeavoured to have the house clean and tidy before people arrive, I have not run myself ragged to do so and you know what? It has all been okay! This will be something I will have to keep working on, but I don’t want to not have people over because I have a pile of washing needing to be folded or the shelves need dusting.

It can be okay to do preparation when the guests have arrived

I have had a mindset that all food and preparation should be fully completed before family and friends arrive. This can lead to a fairly stressful lead up to guests arriving. There will always be things that take my time away from my preparation and things will take longer than expected. To really enjoy my time with family and friends, it isn’t really great to start it off being stressed and rushed.

Close friends and family don’t mind chatting to me in the kitchen as I put the finishing touches on things. Again this all comes back to my perfectionist mindset of having it all done. Recently I have left tasks that I wouldn’t mind doing with family and friends around until last, that way if I happen to run out of time, I don’t start feeling stressed – I know I can just finish it off after they arrive.

Say yes to offers of help

My family in particular, will always offer to help me with things and I am generally not that great at taking it up. This month though, I did. If they offered to wash up some dishes for me so I could have clear bench space, I said “yes thanks!” and even asked my sisters to do some tasks for me.

While this may seem pretty simple, it was something that I have found hard to do and it has been to the detriment of my own enjoyment. When my family helped out recently, with my dad even grabbing the tea towel, it meant I could enjoy everyone’s company more and we even had a good chat while doing the dishes!

HabitConnection to goalApril progress
To make three phone calls a week to family and friendsI am terrible at making phone calls. For friends and family that are not near me, this is a great way to stay connected and I have to change my attitude towards making calls.

The best way to change my attitude is to act, so I am going to set a target of three phone calls to make each week.

I also think there will be a natural flow on effect from making phone calls to seeing people in person more too.
I have started reminding myself of why I want to make this a habit before every call I make.

I do feel joy and connected when talking with friends and family on the phone, but it is a push to get myself there.

It has made me think if there could have been a habit I have chosen to receive the same outcome?
To be an active participant in a parent body at each of the three schoolsOver the last couple of years, my focus has been more inward and I haven't been as heavily involved in the kids' schools as I used to be.

This has left me feeling less connected, so by stepping up my involvement I hope to increase my feeling of connection.
I have established this habit now and each week am dedicating time to school involvement.
To volunteer my time (min 3 hours a month) to a local organisationI find great joy in giving to others. My life is full and we have everything we need, many others are not so lucky.

I want to find a local organisation where I can give my time to help others in need.
This is something very important to me, however I have struggled to make time for it.

This does make me question how important is it to me or have I just added too much to my plate?

I am looking to try something small next month and will see how it goes.
Host a family or friend catch up once a month at our homeI find welcoming friend and family into our home a great way to connect. I did more of it in the last quarter of the year and enjoyed it.

Once a month does not sound that much, but combined with the other habits I am trying to establish, I am wary of overloading myself.

Hopefully I can do more, but I don't want to undo my last couple of years work on slowing down by establishing a habit that I end up finding causes too much work.
April was my best month yet for entertaining at home, having friends and family over multiple times and I took steps to make sure that I wouldn't over think it, do too much work and make sure I enjoyed myself.

What are your tips for making entertaining easier?