This article is about organizing a dining room. It is a well known fact that eating meals together as a family is important. There are a lot of studies and research out there that show children who regularly eat with their families get good grades, have good table manners and better social skills and are less likely to be obese, smoke or have substance abuse problems. This makes dining room the most important room in your house. So organizing it makes a lot of sense. It is for the health and well being of your family.
All you need in a dining room is a dining table and some chairs. You might also have a side board, a buffet or a china cabinet. So organizing the dining room is to take all the rest of the “stuff” out.
If you haven’t read my article on tips yet, I strongly suggest you read it before you begin organizing any of the rooms. That article will help you get through these tasks a whole lot easier and keep your results once you are done.
As with any other room, have realistic goals while organizing. Always split tasks into small chunks, so you can complete them in a reasonable amount of time and make progress. One way to do this is to set time limits. Do what you can in 1 or 2 hour maximum. Set this as your goal. You might be tempted to do the next task but proceed only if you have time left in your 1 or 2 hour time limit. If not, wait for the next day or weekend, otherwise you will be exhausted. Also look at what you have accomplished and enjoy it. That will inspire and motivate you.
Your first task when organizing should be clearing items in open areas as explained in article Home Organization Tips (when you begin). Separate them into five categories as explained. Take everything out of the sideboard/buffet/china cabinet and divide them into the same five categories. You may categorize items in “Keep Here” further, into groups of like items. This way you won’t have to sort them again later. You can start organizing the dining room once you have a “clean slate”.
If your dining room is open to the kitchen, you could use the dining table as a temporary arts or homework station just to keep your little ones engaged or help older kids with their home work while you fix dinner. But don’t consider this as a full fledged craft room and bring in all the related supplies. Just have a few (like one per child) coloring, activity or work books according to your child’s age, and some supplies like crayons, markers, pens/pencils and eraser which the children can share. Group these items together in quart size plastic food storage bags and put it in a plastic box. Stack the books and the box in a kitchen base cabinet. Use a table cloth to protect the dining table top. You can leave it on the table for everyday use and remove when entertaining.
If you have a sideboard/buffet/china cabinet, you can put the activity book(s) and supplies on a lower shelf . This makes for easy access for the children. They can take it when they want and put it back when it is time to eat. Older children can bring the homework book(s) from their rooms and take it back when done.
Use the shallow drawers of the sideboard/buffet/china cabinet for silverware (in a silverware tray), place mats, napkin holders etc. Use deeper drawers or bottom shelves for heavier items like dinnerware (plates and bowls), drinkware, serving dishes etc. You can also use part of a bottom shelf or drawer to keep the statement binder and receipt magazine (explained in the home office article). If you have a hutch or upper cabinets, use those for displaying antique or family heirlooms or decorative plates, cups/saucers, crystal pieces etc.
We tend to pile stuff on to surfaces that are empty. So one trick to prevent your dining table from collecting clutter is to always keep the table set. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Use your every day dishes. Make sure you use real dishes and not paper, plastic or other disposable kind, for an elegant look. If your dining table have seating for 6, set the table for 6 even if there are only 2 people in the household. The idea is not to leave empty spaces for junk to collect. For each seat, use a place mat. Put a plate on the center of it, and then a cereal bowl on the center of the plate. The cereal bowl provides height and dimension. Place a glass or mug on the top right or left corner of the place mat. You don’t have to place the silverware out especially if you have little kids. You don’t want them to grab a fork or knife to play with and hurt themselves. You can place them when you are ready to eat. Place a bowl of fruits in the center of the table. Evenly space a napkin holder with napkins and an empty pitcher on either side of the bowl.
When you put the dirty dishes in the sink after a meal, wipe any food residue off the place mats and immediately set the table again, at least until you develop the habit of keeping things in their appropriate places and not wherever there is space. Don’t wait for the dishes you just used to be cleaned. This might take 2 or 3 hours. Then it is probably bed time. If using a dishwasher, you may not be unloading it until the next morning. You may not have time to set the table in the morning. By that time, “stuff” might collect on the table. If you only have one place setting per chair (like 6 plates, bowls, glasses and mugs) you could get more so that you have spare ones to set the table with while one is in wash. Also if you want to use the table for breakfast, the table is already set. The minimal expense to get spare dishes will save you a lot of time in the long run.
When using the table for doing home work or activities for small children, combine and stack their plates and bowls with mom's or dad’s and move the glass or mug towards the center of the table. Leave the place mat in its place. When it is time to eat, return the books and supplies to their appropriate storage location. Move the plates, bowls and glass back on to the place mat.
If you have both casual and formal dining areas, keep the formal dining table also set. This will help you keep the formal table free of clutter. You can use a table runner and replace the fruit bowl, napkin holder and empty pitcher with decorative accessories like candelabra(s), collection of flameless candles, small potted orchids, small topiaries etc.
Like I said in the beginning, organizing the dining room is important. It will help you spend time with your children while you cook and eat. Enjoy your new space. Congratulations. Don't forget to maintain it.
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