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The art of reopening your home

Now that pandemic restrictions are easing, there is a gentle art to opening your home again to guests who (like hosts) are out of practice and grappling with a somewhat changed social terrain.

Because the pandemic isn’t over and comfort levels vary, etiquette and homes experts agree that communication, flexibility and compassion are key to making sure things go smoothly.

n Communicate: “While some people have jumped right back to hugs and handshakes, others aren’t quite there yet so it’s very important to ask people about things first, and respect differing comfort levels,” says Lizzie Post, co-president of The Emily Post Institute.

“Ask ‘Is a hug OK?’ If it’s not, express that friendliness and enthusiasm with words,” she says.

Touch base with guests before the gathering. Amy Panos, home editor for Better Homes and Gardens, adds: “Don’t hesitate to get specific, like ‘everyone who’s invited is vaccinated so no need for masks,’ or, ‘we have unvaccinated kids, so let’s mask up when possible.'”

n Less is more: Where guest lists are concerned, the pros agree it’s a good idea to start small as you figure things out.

“Consider a smaller guest list to begin with, in the first few forays to test the waters, then tweak your approach as you go along,” Panos suggests.

n Make space: “For overnight guests, think of making space for a comfortable chair or a little desk in the guest room. Make it into a kind of mini hotel room so they have a place to rest and recharge. Many of us are taking longer trips, and will be needing to get some work done while we’re there,” says Panos.

As Martha Stewart Living style director Tanya Graff says, “We have become pros at doing everything outside. If you can entertain as much as possible outside, I would continue to do that.”

n Tidy up: While it’s not necessary to dismantle pandemic-configured home offices, you’ll want to tidy things up, especially in areas where you’ll be entertaining.

“Any time you’ll be inviting people over, make sure you have a nice, clean, available space. If your living room is also an office, office things should be cleared away. Get the space ready for guests,” says Post.

n Remember the kids: “Remember that those under 12 still haven’t been able to get vaccinated,” Graff says.

She suggests setting up a separate kids’ table, and being outdoors as much

as possible.

n Skip the dip: “Make sure everything has serving utensils and no one has to use their hands with things,” Graff says. “Individual desserts like ice cream sandwiches or individual fruit cobblers are great.”

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