It's Time to Reclaim Your Dining Room Now
The dining room is the one place of American homes that seems to vacillate between two extremes. Either it's a catch all for the mail, school work, keys, and cell phones, or it's virtually a museum; there only to be dusted but never touched.
To further complicate matters, more individuals find themselves working from home. For small space dwellers that inevitably means that the dining room will be used also as an office. Even if one already has a dedicated office, working from home often spirals into boredom. That results in carrying all the work-related paraphernalia to different parts of the home in an effort to change the scenery.
This week, we’ll address some of the other items that make their way to this area of the home and how to deal with them. Welcome to Week 3 of the Whole House Organization Challenge.
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The Process of Taking Back Your Dining Room
Before we can devise strategies for dealing with the clutter that collects on our dining room tables, first we must clear the scene.
Trust and Follow the Decluttering Process
1. EMPTY all sideboards and china cabinets.
2. SCRUB the empty area clean
3. TOSS any items (straws, paper/plastic bags, old chargers that no longer work, etc)
4. SORT the remaining items. You may need a few boxes for this. Here are the piles to make
Sentimental items that are not used
Important papers & receipts
Office supplies: pens, pencils, notepads, paper clips, chargers
5. MEASURE the areas around your dining room table and look for practical storage solutions. Be sure to include wall space in your measurments.
6. RETURN items to the dining room ONLY if they belong there.
7. RELOCATE all the items left over to their proper places.
Implementing Organization Strategies for Success: Where Should Everything Go?
As you reclaim your dining room you may find that you need to make a few small purchases in order to keep it in order. The questions and strategies listed below will help you to determine the best solutions for your space.
I’ve used a number of these strategies over the years, and I’m happy to say that my dining room table is free of clutter at least 90% of the time. Let the reader be warned though, it takes persistent effort to make new strategies stick - especially if you share your home with someone else. Remember to be patient.
Strategy #1 - Set the Table
A table that is already set is very difficult to clutter. Don’t want to set a formal table? Simply stack the plates cups and bowls, along with eating utensils in the center of the table. This reminds everyone of the real reason the table is there in the first place.
Strategy #2 - Use Baskets to Automatically Sort Items.
It’s a challenge to keep his work related items from taking over the house - even if you have a dedicated office. My husband would talk on the phone while floating from room to room, leaving traces of his work everywhere. A designated “work basket” or tote was the solution. He could place everything he needed inside of it. If he got bored sitting in one room, he’d just grab the basket and float on to the next. Problem solved!
The beauty of the “floating work basket” is that all the junk is contained. Additionally, if you need to use your dining room as the formal office, the work basket can be hidden in plain sight, as seen in the photos below. Notice how it blends in effortlessly with everything else in the room.
Often the dining room table is the place where children do their homework, play with puzzles or coloring books. Assign each child a basket for his/her things, and help them understand that they are not allowed to go beyond the limits of the basket. When it’s time to clean up, each child can be trained to return things to their own basket.
NOTE: I do not recommend creating a basket for mail. We tried this method once and the basket became filled to the brim with unsorted mail. It took longer to clean the basket out then it would have taken for us to simply sort the mail as it comes in.
Strategy #3 - Be Committed to Sorting the Mail on a Daily Basis
Easier said than done, I know. But you will save yourself a lot of headaches if you just dig deep and do it. Place a shredder near the incoming mail slot so that there is no need to take junk mail further into the house.
Strategy #4 - Organize the Sideboards and Buffets to Meet the Needs of the Space
This is a sensitive topic for many but… Ask yourself, does it really make sense to display serving pieces that you will never use? This is an especially important question if you’re struggling for space to put items you use daily. Here are a few more questions:
Can the dishes on display be packed away to another area of the kitchen, or given to family members as an heirloom gift?
Can the sideboard or buffet be used to hold a mail system complete with a shredder, or even for the basket system mentioned in Strategy #2?
Could your buffet be used to hold a printer or cellphone charging station?
Is there room inside the buffet or sideboard for a small trash can?
Strategy #5 - Use the Wall Space
Yes, floating shelves and bookcases can also work in a dining room space. These can be styled casually with dictionaries, children’s books, etc. Or the shelf can be styled in a more formal way using a mixture of decorative items and fancy baskets or chic storage containers.
Wall hooks are also a great way to keep book bags and purses off the floor and dining room chairs. If you don’t have an entryway, the dining room wall might be the best place to install a few hooks.
These are all tips that I’ve used at different stages of my home. If you find that your dining room is constantly being hijacked by unnecessary clutter, I encourage you to give it a try. As always, I’d love to get your thoughts on these strategies in the comments below. Happy organizing!