In your own home, it’s enough to just be yourself.

There’s no denying that with the amount of screen time most of us consume these days, we’re losing out on the benefits of true face time with people in our families and communities. Consider how many people you text in a day versus how many people you sit down to engage with in a true face-to-face conversation. While digital communication is efficient, it doesn’t offer the same subtleties and opportunities for building trust and friendship as being in the same room with someone.

So many of us crave more one-on-one time with friends, but too often we feel like we lack the time or energy to make it happen. The house is too messy, you don’t have any Pinterest-worthy food at the ready, your kids are home running in circles, or the baby needs a nap. You could meet up at a coffee shop, but then everyone’s paying $4 for a drink, and sometimes you can’t be sure you’ll find a seat.

Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have always sought to make our home an open, hospitable environment where people can feel welcomed and at ease. As much as we desire this, it can be hard to put it into practice. We’ve had to accept that at different stages of our family’s life we are able to offer different kinds of hospitality. Sometimes that’s meant a carefully arranged appetizer platter displayed on the counter when our guests arrive. Other times, it’s meant tossing the laundry into our room and shutting the door before welcoming folks in.

The reality we sometimes forget is that a worthwhile guest isn't coming by for your décor or culinary offerings, but because she wants to spend time with you. You don’t have to pretend that your life is something it’s not. Your house doesn’t need to look like something out of a glossy magazine. Store-bought cookies are nothing to be ashamed of. Inviting a friend, new or old, into your home means inviting them to see you just as you are, without excuses. And that vulnerability and honesty can go a long way in building a relationship.

Undertaking a little bit of preparation ahead of time means you can feel ready to invite someone over for a cup of coffee at the drop of a hat. That one-on-one conversation could make your week—and hers. Try these ideas to get guest-ready.

01. Stock three to four types of tea.

Offering a cup of tea to a guest is really an invitation to press “pause” on life and indulge in a relationship for a little while. You don’t need to have every type of tea under the sun available, but next time you’re at the store, look to broaden your collection to include black, white, green, and herbal teas. Pick up a cute box at a home goods store to make the selection feel special.

02. Show off your mug.

Take a hint from a little girl’s tea party—it’s all about the china. But really, all you need are a couple of fun mugs to share. Consider oversized mugs to warm your hands and your soul or dainty smaller cups for an elegant take. Perhaps you’re inclined toward literary heroines or have a beloved pet. There’s a mug for every flight of fancy out there these days.

03. Spark the conversation.

If small talk isn’t your thing, seek out a coffee table book that interests you and set it out as a conversation starter. It could be on gardening, craft beers, art, or music—or maybe it’s a photo book of your own artwork, family, or travels. Opening up a bit of yourself will encourage your guest to do the same.

04. Keep it small.

Locate one area of your home that you can keep relatively neat, so that there's somewhere to sit and feel at peace. Invest in accessible storage solutions so you can tidy things in a few moments. Keeping multi-functional cleaning supplies in the bathroom cabinet means you can quickly spruce up the sink, mirror, and toilet before the doorbell rings. And go easy on yourself—“tidy” need not mean “perfect.”

05. Be yourself (and let your kids do the same).

When we stop worrying so much about the cleanliness of our home, something miraculous happens: we relax. And it’s much easier to have a quality conversation when your eyes aren’t darting to the dust collecting on your bookshelf. Remember: your guest wants to see you—so be yourself, not a stressed-out-hostess version of yourself.

Furthermore, the reality of your family, no matter what it looks like, is something to celebrate! If a baby needs to nap, excuse yourself for a few minutes to put her down (good thing you have that coffee table book, right?). If little ones are getting rowdy, invite them into the conversation. Sharing your family means sharing yourself, and this small gesture can be a generous step toward building a lasting friendship.

Ultimately, whatever makes you feel at home can do the same for your guest. When you allow the focus to be on conversation rather than presentation, you set an open and accessible tone that our world as a whole is hungry for. My husband and I believe that filling this need is more satisfying than filling a belly, so we invite away!