Your home is generally your castle, a private retreat from the world. Participate in a home tour, though, and you temporarily give up your privacy, revealing your inner sanctum to the world.

My wife, LeAnn, and I entered our home as one of six in the 15th annual Layton City Christmas Home Tour, sponsored by the Layton Arts Council. On Dec. 9 and 10, approximately 250 people with tickets toured our house - not counting relatives or neighbors who stopped by.Few Utah cities sponsor such in-home tours; the closest relative may be the new-home shows held throughout the state each summer. This tour, however, features existing homes and centers on Christmas decorations. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Layton Arts Council.

My wife initially felt insecure about participating, because in prior years most of the homes we'd visited in this show were above average size. Ours is a modest home. I argued that most of those huge homes didn't really have any more holiday decorations than we would have and that ours would be a home many tourgoers could relate to.

After my wife took time out from being hostess at our house to visit the other five homes, she came back thinking we measured up pretty well.

We also soon discovered we were a rarity in the tour, since we had opened up to visitors most of our rooms - from the two bathrooms, family room, living room and kitchen to all four bedrooms. Only the laundry room and storage areas were off limits. This openness was something tourgoers seemed to appreciate, judging by their comments.

Visitors also seemed to like our home's cozy, down-to-earth size, and that it actually looked like people lived in it.

It really wasn't frightening or nerve-wracking to let strangers tour the house. After all, advance preparations had made it as picture-perfect as it could be. The only insecurity came when a tourgoer was someone we knew - such as a son's kindergarten teacher or a City Council member.

The tour also proved great at boosting self-esteem. Since we had finished our basement, it's appearance was on the line. Visitors were kind and had nothing but good to say. They asked plenty of questions, but they were usually ones we could answer.

This kind of tour probably represents a nightmare for those in real estate: After all the compliments, we'll be untouchable by realtors for at least the near future. The tour made us truly appreciate the strong points of our home.

Preparations started more than two months before the tour, back in September. I started by cleaning the blinds . . . and was continually amazed at how many cleaning projects my wife would come up with. I even had to clean behind the fridge and stove! Cleaning duties made this a major project, and putting up numerous decorations was a long, grueling task in itself.

I handled the outdoor lighting OK, except for a few adjustments by my wife - a florist by trade, who has that special, crafty talent with flowers, decorations and the like.

We pawned off our three kids for one night and two days with their grandparents during the tour. In fact, with young children around we never could have participated in the home show. Kids and this type of event - either as residents or visitors - don't go together well.

The aftermath was a relief but also a kind of letdown - we'll likely never get as many nice comments in so short a time again. However, our house remains reasonably clean, all those wall chips are still fixed and we can enjoy our own decorations through the hol-i-days.

Would we do another home tour? Maybe. It was fun, despite the effort. But since this tour probably attracts the same core group every year, we'd have to come up with a lot of new decorations. Hopefully, other Layton homeowners will give it a try.

Five other homes were also in the tour this year. They were the residences of Kevin and Tena Thompson, Jim and Lyndia Graham, Brent and Nancy Haacke, Howard and Sally Adams and Jim and Beverly Kemp.