Blankets spread out with bowls and plates of food on them, people sitting to the side.

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Party Anxiety? Make Entertaining Easy with the Art of Wabi Sabi (Part 3)

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Party Anxiety? Make Entertaining Easy with the Art of

“I’m too much of a perfectionist,” author Julie Pointer Adams says. “I worried about how my table was set, or what I should serve to eat, or whether my small studio apartment was big enough for guests.”


Some people have a natural flair for entertaining. Adams, author of Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to Embrace the Imperfect and Entertain with Thoughtfulness and Ease, admits she’s not one of them.


When it comes to entertaining, many of us feel the same way. For some, the inability to make the dining room look like a Martha Stewart spread may keep them from inviting others for dinner. For others, dust bunnies under the couch may feel like enough of a reason to keep guests at bay.


If such thoughts prevent you from inviting friends over, or cause mild panic attacks when people do come over, consider embracing the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi.


First popularized in the West by architect Leonard Koren in his books, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers and Wabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts, the philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which can roughly be translated as “rustic,” can be traced to the 15th and 16th centuries, when Japanese monks performed ritual tea ceremonies using simple, locally crafted utensils as a counterpoint to the more ornate Chinese aesthetic that prevailed at that time.


Adams’ own philosophy of entertaining began to drift away from perfection when she worked for Kinfolk magazine, developing and directing a series of dinners and workshops that were held around the world.


“I saw in my travels that hospitality is simply about bringing people together,” Adams shares. “It’s not about being perfect.”


Indeed, learning to embrace the imperfect is the essence of Wabi Sabi. “It’s about simplicity, appreciating beauty found in unusual, unfashionable places or objects, and in moments usually overlooked or unappreciated,” explains Adams.


There are no do’s and don’ts when it comes to applying the principles of Wabi Sabi to entertaining. You don’t have to have matching place settings. You don’t have to serve a made-from-scratch meal. You don’t even have to clean your house. As one woman Adams spoke to for her book said, “I just light candles instead.”


“Hosting is about showing up, not showing off,” states Adams. “It’s about providing real comfort and deep connection, rather than adhering to conventional ideas of what entertaining should be.”


Adams’ Suggestions for Simplifying Your Entertaining:


  • Forgo fussy table decor, such as expensive flower arrangements. Bowls of lemons or a vase filled with lavender stalks are just as lovely.
  • Spread a blanket on the floor (or outdoors, if weather permits) and have a picnic.
  • Entertain on a smaller scale. Invite a friend over for tea and cookies. Buy cookies if baking’s not your thing.
  • Meals don’t need to be fancy. Simple offerings such as dried fruit, sliced salami, crackers and cheese, grapes, and almonds are easy to prepare and serve. You can even use disposable tableware.
  • Be spontaneous. If you see your neighbor while getting your mail, invite her in for a coffee break.
  • If you enjoy cooking, have an arsenal of recipes that you’re confident preparing and that you know will please your guests.
  • Don’t catastrophize. The soup may boil over or the cookies burn. Laugh it off. If you don’t feel bad about it, neither will your guests.


“Give yourself permission to not obsess over what you don’t enjoy,” suggests Adams, “and don’t be intimidated by how polished everyone else’s life looks in magazines or online. Your guests will enjoy any kind of offering as long as you’re together.”


And, if they don’t, they’re probably not friends worth inviting back.


Read the rest of the series:




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