After 13 months with exactly zero people coming into my house, I’m about to have (vaccinated) Shabbat dinner guests for the first time this coming week. I have two questions. 1) How can I get my house ready when no outsiders have seen it in so long? And 2) What can I do to minimize how strange it is to have other people here?
Easing Back In
There was a point somewhere in the past year where I was part of a discussion (virtual? online? who can remember) about how people would feel and react when things started to open up again. I remember there was one particular comment about the fact that there wouldn’t be one day when suddenly we would go around maskless, hugging our friends in crowded places. And that has stuck with me as some people go back to “normal” sooner than others for all kinds of reasons, including risk level, where they live and, of course, vaccine eligibility and availability.
The return to normal will look and feel different for everyone, and happen in different ways and at different times for all of us.
As for getting your house ready, you will benefit from trying to see things with fresh eyes. Go outside for a moment, and come back in as if you haven’t been looking at the same walls every minute of every day for the past year. When you first come in, what little piles of stuff catch your eye? Can you identify any messes that you’d rather not keep looking at yourself, let alone sharing with your guests? Start at the front door. Pick things up along your way in. Put them where they belong, and work your way through the house to the dining room. Think about the kitchen and bathroom as well, including fresh towels. Wipe surfaces, sweep floors and clear chairs.
So as not to get overwhelmed, if you need to put things into bedrooms or closets where they’ll be out of sight, go ahead. You don’t need to embark on a full house upgrade for this one dinner. However, you don’t want to create a lot of new messes either, so whatever you can put in the right place will be a benefit to you later on. Then, when you clean up after dinner, you’ll have another opportunity for some organizing and resetting, so the next time you have guests (hopefully sooner than a year from now) the process will be easier.
All of that is a whole lot easier than the weirdness factor. It’s probably going to feel strange. Having people in your house might feel like a violation of your personal space, or uncomfortably private or even like you’re doing something wrong or dangerous. Feel free to make light of it when your guests arrive. Consider having an ice breaker at dinner that’s something like, “What did you expect the weirdest part of being inside someone’s house was going to be?”
Your dinner conversation might only center around the complicated feelings surrounding this first reentry point, but hopefully it will set the stage for other future dinners to be more comfortable, natural and, soon, normal.