There are a few basic facts nearly everyone knows about me. I love what I do. I firmly believe“y’all” is a word. I’m certain Harry Potter is the greatest story ever told. And I love entertaining.
Seriously. If entertaining were a sport, I’d be on the Olympic podium. And because cooking isn’t exactly my specialty, I do it up when it comes to the décor, ambiance, and atmosphere. Bringing people together, creating a space that feels festive and fun…it’s just something I love.
But I’ll also acknowledge that entertaining is a huge trigger for me. A trigger to buy. A trigger to spend. A trigger to get a million new and cute things to make the perfect get together.
A tailgate party? Clearly I need those football shaped serving dishes from Homegoods. We’re hosting a BBQ? I really want one of the sauce caddies for the table. A baby shower? I want the color scheme to be perfect, so I’m going to a new banner, with balloons and tiny zoo animals. Oh and new pillows, because, why not?
You’re seeing how my brain works, right?
Unfortunately, these things don’t really fit with my recent desire to cut back and practice minimalism. (PS: If you haven’t read the story of how I became a beginner minimalist, I’d recommend reading that here.) I no longer want to make impulse decisions at Target. I don’t want 20 bins of holiday décor in our basement. And I don’t want to spend a chunk of change on color-coordinated decorations that will just collect dust for another three months.
So when Easter rolled around this year, Matt and I offered to host. A holiday, a chance to be festive and fun? Count me in! And true to my family’s motto of “the “more the merrier,” I invited more people than we could really fit. I wasn’t really thinking about the numbers and our available space, and I didn’t really think everyone would say yes. But they did, and before I knew it, I was hosting brunch for 14 people.
And like clockwork, my desire to consume and acquire all new entertaining stuff kicked in. I could feel it, creeping up, trying to get my attention. “Must buy cute things! Need all the Easter décor immediately!”
But I’m more rooted in my commitment to conscious consumption than I was years ago. I’ve gotten better at saying no, sticking to the principles of minimalism. I don’t want to repeat old patterns, buying a bunch of Easter themed stuff I’ll only use one day out of the year.
So I did what I always do when I want to shape my thoughts and guide my actions. I created a mantra. “Use what you have.”
This was a reminder to see what I had and make it work. This was a reminder that I didn’t need all new things; what I had was enough. Use what you have. I said it out loud to myself. I repeated it to Matt. And I made a commitment. I would not buy anything new or unnecessary.
When I wanted to buy new matching tablecloths for the long tables we set up in our living room, I reminded myself, “Use what you have.” I challenged myself to embrace the mismatched, shabby chic look, mixing linens we already owned. When I saw the cute, white porcelain rabbits at Homegoods, imagining how adorable they’d look on our table, I reminded myself, “Use what you have.” And I left those little cuties at the store.
When I realized we didn’t have enough of our regular dishes or our china to have a consistent table setting, I decided to forgo the idea I had in my head, instead doing a little mix and match with both dish sets. “Use what you have, Allison.”And when I saw an image of a large floral centerpiece on Pinterest and realized I didn’t have a vase that could replicate that, I leaned on my mantra. “Use what you have.” That meant a variety of mason jars and smaller vases would have to do.
This phrase, used over and over, reminds me of how I want to live. How I want to practice being. Because even though the temptation to buy, spend, and consume is elevated when I entertain, I realize I can choose something different.
And when Easter brunch was all said and done, do you know what I realized? It was wonderful and lovely. Our friends stayed for hours. We lingered over the mismatched lies and dishes and ate seconds (and thirds). The day wouldn’t have been better with new, matching china or porcelain bunnies on the table. A new vase wouldn’t have made the conversation richer, and no one cared about my mismatched tablecloths. (They actually ended up looking pretty cute together.)
Entertaining is about laugher, connection, and joy. And no new thing, decoration, or silly tablecloth can create that.
Focus on what matters when you entertain. Resist the urge to buy what you don’t need. Be present with the people around your table, and use what you have. Your wallet, your home, your guests, and your sanity will thank you.
Do you struggle with wanting new and shiny things when you entertain?
PS: If you enjoyed this piece, check out this post, A Simple Phrase to Help You Stop Buying Stuff You Don’t Need. It’s a good one.