Family Hospitality

Some people grow up in a family; I grew up in a clan. Both of my parents came from families with ten children, born during the Great Depression or WWII. That makes for a big pack of aunts and uncles who beget 72 first cousins. Now that my generation has children, we can no longer find a place big enough to hold family reunions.

Growing up in a big family is part of the reason I was initially drawn to the organizing profession. Our family get togethers were large events requiring major logistics. I remember when we rented a summer cottage with two of Mom's sisters.  I have two sisters, one aunt had 7 children and the other had 5. In one single cottage that summer 6 grown ups and 15 elementary school aged children shared accommodations and ate three meals a day together.  It was a very hectic, but full of healthy, happy fun.

Growing up in a clan I learned the art of hospitality and event planning.  Family wasn't the only clan; there was a neighbourhood clan of families who lived on our street in Scarborough for over 43 years. Every year we celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and best of all Canada Day and New Year's Eve. My best friend's family came from England and our extended families quickly became one big happy family.

The main thing I remember growing up is that everything wasn't perfect, but it was perfectly pleasant. We were sometimes squished around the dining room table sitting on phone books so we could reach the table. But we had family and we had traditions and most of all we shared memories of wonderful times.

The members of my clan had some weird and wonderful contingency plans to overcome every conceivable obstacle when entertaining large crowds. In a pinch, a laundry tub full of ice makes a great beer station! A couple of bags of ice in the bottom of the washing machine will keep bagged lettuce crisp until dinner time so there will be room for other meal contributions in the fridge. Once the main dish is ready it can be kept warm on the BBQ until the side dishes are cycled through the oven or microwave. Finally a Rubbermaid container in the garage in the winter will keep baked goods fresh or slightly frozen until party time.

I married into another clan; a bustling Italian extended family who came to Canada as refugees after the war. Until very recently, the nucleus of this family shared two halves of a semi-detached house in Weston. There were three kids in one house and four next door; add in the parents, Nona and Nonno and the grand total came to 13 wandering back and forth between the two homes. The sense of family felt very familiar, with food at the centre of most events, so I felt comfortable right from the start.

Not all of the clients in my organizing practice are lucky enough to have grown up in a clan. Too often I meet families who suffer from what organizers refer to as C.H.A.O.S. (Can't Have Anybody Over Syndrome) which originated with books from The Sidetracked Home Executives. These families are ashamed of the way their home is decorated or their poor housekeeping methods or their inability to whip up a meal made from scratch. What a shame! These families and their children are missing out on so much spontaneous fun.

I believe that organizing is an essential life skill and it is never too late to learn. With summer vacation time right around the corner, let go of expectations of perfection and open your home and your hearth to family. The recipe is simple: eat, drink and be merry all summer long.

Dedicated with love to Brenda, Babe, Trea, Marg, Jean, Renee, Anne, Flo and in memory of Helen and Jeannette; I learned from the best.



Tree and Decorating Tips

Tree and Decorating Tips

Click here for a tree decorating demonstration and some quick holiday tips.

Or watch the fast forward 
9 second version!

Photography and video courtesy of Alan Sencich




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Tackle it Now Tip

Hints for Handling Your Gift List

How do you handle your holiday wish lists? Sometimes the simplest hints are the best. For years I have been using the same easy to implement method.

  • I purchase the tiniest address book I can find and assign one page for each person on my guest list.
  • I record their sizes, colour and style preferences.
  • I include family members, friends, hairdresser and all service providers.
  • I keep the list inside my wallet so it can quickly and easily be updated.
  • Information for stocking gifts is also recorded.
  • I can frequently review what I have purchased to keep my budget on track.
  • As I wrap gifts I check them off!
  • If certain gifts need to be hidden I record where they were put.
  • I also list ideas and purchases of hostess gifts to keep on hand.

There are many benefits to this system. It is lightweight and portable, but most importantly since I keep the lists year after year, it helps me to prevent repeating gift ideas. Who wants to get a sweater or tie year after year?


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