Update: An excerpt of this post was featured on Offbeat Home & Life. Thanks to Megan and Ariel!
I’m a fortunate woman.
As many of you may know, looking for work is a pain in the ass. It’s expensive. It’s frustrating. It’s a lot of waiting around while someone else judges your skill set and value. Fun, right? Well, I find that it can be a happier time with friends and family around.
In “Hosting With Style – Beretta Fleur’s Guide to Parties and Homemaking”, I wrote a chapter called Gracious Hospitality, and I’ve been living it for the past month. Here in West Palm, Florida, my sister’s family and my husband and I have been co-habitating under one roof. Husband and I help out with cleaning, organizing, grocery shopping, and childcare while they give us a roof over our heads while we’re looking for ideal jobs and a home in the area. It’s working out really great! Here’s how I’ve been helping to make our Family Compound feel like a functional home for the past month.
1) ABC: Always Be Cleaning. Except for when I’m working or relaxing with the family for a few hours, I’m doing what I call Spot Cleaning. A 3 bedroom/ 2 bath pool home shared by 4 adults, 2 kids, and 3 pets doesn’t keep itself even mildly organized, so I circulate from room to room every few hours, doing little tasks that make everyone’s life easier. This can mean, while en route to the shower, picking up a fresh stack of towels from the laundry room, or unloading the dishwasher (a task I loathe, by the way) so that my coffee mug doesn’t start a cavalcade of dirty dishes into the sink.
If you work during the week and don’t have the luxury of being your hosts’ Faithful Houseboy, do your hosts a favor and either set aside a half day or a couple evenings to play Cleaning Catch Up.
2) Keep Busy With OPB: Other People’s Busywork. Time stands still for one man or woman only, and that is the man or woman who is sitting on the couch waiting for a second interview phone call. If that’s you, then Gracious Hospitality can work in your favor. Your job, besides looking for a job, is now Errand Boy. Take the car (or your own) and go to the grocery store. Wash the car. Pick up the dry cleaning. Return stuff to Target. Get the mail. Do some hand mending, drop off junk at Goodwill, take the cat to get spayed, take the pool water to get tested. Do the things for your hosts that you never had time to do for yourself when you had a job.
3) To My Piglet, Love Aunty Alby. In France or Manhattan, you’d be an expensive Au Pair instead of Intrusive Relative Kicking the Youngest Child to the Couch. So cheer up and know your worth as a provider of free child care. Shuttle them to and/or from school, make lunches, make them snacks, and play with them. Help them do homework or clean their rooms. Teach them to swim or ride a bike. Sit for them to give your hosts a night off. Trust me, you’re useful, because it takes a village to raise a child.
Just make sure you wear a bathrobe and remember to lock doors, so you don’t traumatize them with your Creepy Adult Nudity.
4) You CAN Cook, Right? Grocery shopping for several people can climb into the hundreds per week. I like to save money by buying in bulk, so every week or so Husband and I pop off to Costco for a bunch of ground turkey, chicken, and veggies. Then I spend a few days a week cooking some simple meals that please everyone and make yummy leftovers. A household favorite here is Turkey Meatballs, various pastas, cheese, and steamed veggies. We set it up like a buffet and everyone makes it how he or she likes it. I prefer meatballs over veggies with red sauce, while my niece only eats plain spaghetti with butter and cheese.
Another thing we like to do is grilling out. Just buy some bulk foods of choice, marinate for an hour, and grill. It feels like a party, even on a weekday. I’m badgering my brother in law for his killer London Broil technique.
If you can’t cook, spring for a pizza once a week for the family, or buy groceries that are ready to eat and easy to prepare. Mac N’ Cheese is a general crowd pleaser, and it’s a couple bucks. (If you wanna get fancy, mix it with a can of albacore tuna fish and steamed sweet peas.)
But you should really learn to cook a few things. Browse my recipes for everything from gluten-free vegan to steak. More Family Compound recipes are on their way in the coming days!