How to Make Entertaining as Easy and Fun as Possible

©. K Martinko -- Brunch with babies, the best combination

Inviting someone over should not be a stressful ordeal. Here are some tips for keeping it simple.

I grew up in a house that was always full of guests. My dad jokingly referred to our home as 'the hotel' for the number of people who came to spend the weekend at our house by a lake, especially in the summer months. On any given weeknight, there was an extra person at the dinner table -- an old family friend who was passing through, a backpacker my mom had met in town, or a prospective client of my father's.

When I started my own family, I knew that entertaining was something I wanted to do on a regular basis. I wanted my kids to grow up in a home full of interesting people, vibrant conversation, live music, and laughter. What I didn't realize was how hard it can be! Entertaining takes a lot of work, time, and money when you're buying extra food. I realized that what my parents do so naturally actually requires a remarkable amount of skill.

Over the past decade of adult independence, I have learned a lot about entertaining. I've learned I should never strive to make it as complicated or fancy as design and food magazines would like it to be. I've realized, too, that most people don't care about the details; they're just so happy to be invited into someone's home for dinner.

I loved this list of "5 simple hacks to take the stress out of hospitality," written by Nina at The Art of Simple. Nina said she started hosting more often after decluttering her home, because it was no longer so stressful to have additional people in her space. Her tips are sensible and timeless, and I've shared a few below.

#1: Keep the food & drink simple. Don't go overboard with cooking a feast or mixing fancy cocktails. Crack beers, mix a pitcher of lemonade, and make the basic meals that you'd make for your own family. At my house that might be a baked pasta with salad, bean burgers on great bread, a lentil shepherd's pie, burritos with all the fixings, or a vegetable curry with rice. Check out 10 recipes that let your oven do most of the work. If you're having brunch, it's probably fruit, scones, and eggs.

#2: Tell guests what to bring. Everyone wants to bring something to a dinner party or brunch, but there's nothing wrong with providing some direction. Tell guests exactly what you need, especially if it spares you running out to pick it up. Whether it's a specific type of wine, bread, ice, a salad, or dessert, just say it.

#3: Clean only what matters most. The toilets and bathroom are most important. Tidying wherever you're going to hang out with the guests is also nice, like the living room. Other than that, anything goes.

#4: Have a plan for the kids. If there's a pile of kids attending dinner, give some thought to what you'll do with them. Are there games set up somewhere for them? Can they watch a movie later on? It's important for kids to participate in these sorts of events, though, so don't relegate them to a kids' table, followed by the basement, for the whole night.

What's your approach to entertaining? Is it something you do often or rarely?