This is the last post I ever imagined I would write. Yet, here I am talking about it today.

Why? Because it just goes to show how far one can come if only you take small steps in the right direction.

I first got serious about decluttering in May 2014. I got rid of half my stuff by June 2014. Then I started becoming more organized with whatever I had left. By September, I had definitely figured out how to organize like a pro through many experiments, and learning from it.

In the last quarter of the 2014, when I was finally convinced that I had gotten rid of all the stuff that does not belong, I started bringing in some selective new things after patiently looking, and looking, and looking for those. I thought this is it! That’s as good as it gets! Until…

Until last week when my cousins visited us, and… ready for this? They complimented us on the way they felt after entering our house. They felt welcome, comfortable, and peaceful. They noticed almost all our well-thought out possessions that used to go unnoticed in the earlier clutter. The best compliment was when he asked my advice on decorating a space. Now this was totally unexpected, and flattering. (FYI: I still don’t think I am good at it at all. It’s all the miracle of decluttering and some more tips that I am sharing today. 🙂 )

After this incident, I was motivated to share the “secrets” that I have learned on how to create a peaceful, comfortable, and welcoming experience for you and your guests in a house. Obviously the same principles can also apply to a work space.

Notice how I used the word “experience”? That word is carefully chosen. I always looked at a space as just a space – nothing more.

That was my problem.

I looked at decorating as a way to make a space look better. While that is one aspect of it, it is not the whole deal. When I understood the holistic perspective around it, I became much better at decorating.

Last November, I had a party for Diwali at our home. When I was discussing the arrangements with my dear friend who has a great eye for all things beautiful, she told me something that made a world of difference in my perspective.

She advised,

“Manasi, it’s all about experience. Pay attention to creating the experience of Diwali for the time your friends will be visiting you. The rest will not matter.”

She was spot on. The party was a blast!

But moreover, her advice became the go-to principle of my design. Every time I buy a piece of furniture or a decorative trinket, I always ask myself, “Does this create the type of experience I want in the room where it will be?”

The first answer that comes to my mind is usually a good indicator of whether I want to keep or buy it.

So remember this foundation – “It’s all in the experience”. 

Now the next point is how do you create a pleasant experience?

This is where my logical mind was a great help. While my friend is a natural at doing it, I am not. I could not go to her every time I had to create an experience. I had to come up with my own “formula” so to say, which I am going to share with you today.

I am sure it’s nothing revolutionary or out of this world. But for a novice like me who neither desires nor has time for housekeeping, this is THE easiest path to creating pleasant experiences.

So here we go:

Focus on one of the 5 senses at a time, and do whatever you can to create a treat for that sense. 

Here is how to do that.

1. Sight

What people see around them makes a big impact on how they feel. Reduce the amount of stuff lying around. Tidy up. Whatever does not need to remain in the eyesight, should be taken away. Clarity in a space provides a feeling of order and peace.

Then clean the space. Another major advantage of having less stuff is that it takes much, much less time to clean it up, and maintain it. But if you have time to do only one task, go for vacuuming. Vacuuming is the quickest way to get the “look” of being clean.

In decoration, opt in for symmetry. I love irregular, odd lines. But unless you are a kick-ass designer, it is hard to make irregularity look orderly. Until then, symmetry is your best friend! It gives the perception of order, not chaos.

The entrance is where you make first impressions. Place a beautiful decorative piece or fresh, colorful flowers where people enter. They will be pleased instantly.

I can list numerous details. But you get the point, right? Visual appeal is critical.

Therefore first decide how you want to feel – energized / calm / romantic. Then try different ways to achieve that feeling, and see which one works the best for you.

PRO TIP: Sink in the kitchen, and mirror in the bathroom should be spic and span. Unless that’s done, everything else looks messy. 

2. Smell

This is another sense that jogs memories. It’s up to you whether you want to make those memories good or bad. 😉

Candles and incense sticks are instant mood-lifter. Light these an hour before your guests arrive. Just make sure that they are not allergic to the smoke of incense sticks. I personally do it every evening, sometimes during the day when I am writing or need focus. It just feels great so I use it generously.

A word of caution for those chemical sprays. I hate those! They can be good as a quick touch up but they do not last long, and smell chemical-y. (What a surprise!)

Aroma of homemade food can be very enticing. But if you have guests from a different culture, they may not find it as enticing as you do. Again, same memory science behind it. Memories make the smells special, and smells help make memories. People from different cultures are not going to have the same attachment to smells that you grew up on. So just be mindful of this fact. Your goal is to create a pleasant experience through smell. Whatever it takes, do it.

PRO TIP: Do not forget bathrooms. A lit candle is the best in bathroom for your eyes and nose. 🙂 

3. Sounds

There are some sounds such as traffic, babies, neighbors that you may not have any control over. Forget about those. Instead, use other “better” sounds to distract from those.

Music. Play appropriate music for the occasion.

Here are my favorites:

Smooth jazz for dinner, Indian classical – instrumental or vocal – when my Indian friends come over, and Spanish guitar (look up an artist named Armik) type of music for weekend brunches. I feel like you cannot go wrong with these choices.

But you create what you and your friends like. The point is that you should enjoy the background music without being much aware of it.

Chitchatting is usually the goal of entertaining. Make sure that the volume of the music is not too loud to interfere with that. Everybody should be able to be heard without effort.

4. Touch

This was the hardest for me to understand. After all, you do not want to be a creepy host, right? 😛
(I sure hope you agree with me here. If you do not, now will be the time to say goodbye because you cannot convince me otherwise, no matter how much you tried! 😉 )

Assuming that you are one of the good ones, and still reading here is what you do.

Use soft fabrics. Any material that is soft to touch instantly makes you feel cozy.

I know what you are thinking right now: “There is no way, she came up with this on her own”.

…and you are right. I didn’t. But when I first put my bare feet on a soft rug, and not so soft carpet side by side, I knew it makes a difference. When I researched on it, I found the above mentioned principle.

There you go! Now just stop thinking, and take my word for it.

Generously decorate using soft rugs, comfy pillows, warm throws to make your guests feel at home. That does the trick.

In our living room, we actually got rid of a bulky, leather recliner (it was beautiful, but just too big for the space) and brought in some sitting pillows. People sit on those, sleep on those, relax on those while playing games – whatever they want. They just make those their own, and I love that!

5. Taste

This is where food comes in, which is usually a major part of any party.

But you know a mistake most hosts do? They take on doing so much in the food department, that they forget everything else. You must have gathered by now that food is only one fifth of the experience.

(I am sure this part is a no-brainer for many of you good cooks out there. So I apologize in advance if I am going to the basics.)

Make sure to choose your food recipes carefully. Be mindful of any food restrictions people may have. Do your best to prepare based on what may be appealing to your guests than to yourself.

Taste is such a personal preference, that you cannot guarantee what your guests may or may not like. But you do not want your guests to leave without being able to enjoy at least something that they consumed. (Special warning for inter-cultural friends. Make sure you have at least one dish that you know for sure they can eat. 🙂 )

When in doubt, go for less number of dishes. Quality of the time spent is what makes the visit memorable, not the quantity of served food.  You do not want to be cooking all day, and even after guests arrive. In this case, less can be more. A few well-prepared items, along with time well spent with guests is more important than feeding them a feast but leaving no time to talk.

Temperature of the food is also a key. Hence plan in advance what you will serve and when. Include dishes in the mix that can be savored at room temperature, warm, hot, and cool. That way you will not be waiting for that oven to free up all the time.

As much as possible, try not to cook anything after the guests arrive. That way you can devote your undivided attention to them.

That’s about it! This is the 5 senses formula for creating memorable experiences for yourself and your guests.

Focus on each one of those, and you are bound to make your guests feel welcome and happy. Once that is done, all it takes to be a gracious host is to thoroughly enjoy the fruits of your hard work. Or should I say – smart work?

 

Question:
What is your tip for entertaining with ease and confidence?

I would love to know in comments which by the way now you can do right here, with your Facebook, without any special log in. 🙂