Andi Garbarino
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Messy Hospitality and You Can too

Messy Hospitality Blog Cover.png

Last week, I came clean about my issues with perfectionism. This morning I come to you in my bumpy, messy bun ready to talk about a gift that self imposed high standards almost robbed me of: Hospitality.

I did not come by perfectionism in hospitality honestly. My Mom and Dad always did a fantastic job of gathering all of us to pitch in to make our home reasonably clean before company came over, and yes—that did mean sometimes shoving things in closets. (Sorry, Mom, that secret’s out.) Somewhere along the way of growing up, I lost sight of the joy of pizza roll filled post-football game movie nights, dorm room Cuban food, and cat hair covered community group. In order for a dinner party, I needed the perfect menu, perfect table setting, dusted and mopped home—and quite frankly, this was often near impossible. So, hospitality flew out the door along with my ability to connect with people unless we were somewhere else.

Which was a bummer, because, as introverted as I am…I love people.

I wish I could remember where along the way this happened, but I am so thankful to have come across a blog post of one such a Hostess. She said she missed out on so much because her house was messy, her kids were loud and her family was very busy. She began hosting a weekly dinner where anyone and everyone was invited, old friends, new neighbors, their old friends—and the menu was always the same: Spaghetti. Guests could bring something if they wanted to, but the only expectation was to connect with each other and enjoy good old meatballs and noodles. Were the kids gonna cry in the corner sometimes? Probably. Would the dog bark loud each time someone came in? You bet. However weekly spaghetti dinner would come, crumpled clean laundry on the couch and all. The author said it changed her life.

The Traveling Table  Andi Garbarino, April 2019

The Traveling Table

Andi Garbarino, April 2019

There is part of me that read that a few years back and cried. I knew that I wanted to let go of my tight grip on control and just enjoy myself with people that I love.

Not long after, my husband and I moved from our tiny apartment into what soon became a messy house. Though we didn’t have any screaming babies, there was plenty of art supplies, laundry and dog hair to discourage any sort of dining room gathering. However, I remembered the aforementioned hostess’ plight and was completely inspired. It was time for my adventure into messy hospitality.

We would call it family dinner night, and though there would be no spaghetti, everyone was invited, and everyone in attendance became family. We’d pick a theme and tell everyone what the main dish would be. Sometimes, it was pizza, other times also pizza, and my most favorite family dinner dish was make your own grilled cheese.

Not Pictured: harmonica playing toddlers, crazy nicknames that didn’t stick and messy kitchen counters.

Not Pictured: harmonica playing toddlers, crazy nicknames that didn’t stick and messy kitchen counters.

But, the beauty of family dinner wasn’t in the cuisine, it was in the people. These nights were beautiful gatherings of our folk, and their folk. New neighbors or co workers’ kids who were in town for the summer. That friend we’d run into at the supermarket who we hadn’t seen in years. There was magic that happened at family dinner—the kind of magic that I believe will be found in heaven. All the people from all of our circles gathered into one. Conversations of love, encouragement, reminiscence, dreams of the future, guitar singing and side room huddled prayer all came to be the expectation of family dinner. These nights we were all in this thing of life together.


And that is something that no amount of dust bunnies or dirty dishes could ever steal away.

So call it spaghetti night, or family dinner, or just dinner, but shove all your mess in a closet (or don’t) and see what a weekly gathering in your home will do to change your life. Then tell me all about it, because we all need a reminder of what’s really important from time to time.