I used to look at my dining room and think “why?”
There it was — a formal dining room with a big, beautiful table where absolutely no actual dining takes place.
As a business owner and busy mother to five small children, formal dining does not take priority in my life. If I am called upon to entertain, I will strategically plan the event so that it does not hover around a traditional mealtime. If entertaining during mealtime can not be avoided, it happens in the summer — outside, with my husband at the helm of the barbeque. Not only are there time constraints to prevent me from creating fabulous meals, I’m not actually interested in cooking. Perhaps there will be a day that I gleefully throw on an apron and relish in filling satisfied bellies. But for now I remain the anti-Martha Stewart.
So what was happening in my dining room? Mostly piles. You know the kind of piles I’m talking about — those collections of paper you are going to deal with later. Storage of sports equipment also happens in the dining room. And the corners provide a great home for the outgrown kid clothes that had not found their way into boxes or been handed down.
It became apparent that besides the appalling mess, I had another problem. Walking past the living room one evening, I saw my six-year-old daughter kneeling on the floor doing her homework on a make-shift desk — our coffee table! Taking up space beside her carefully organized school supplies was a collection of mislaid items. Among them: a toy car garage, several trains and cars, a family of toy animals and a pile of puzzles.
Trying to understand why she had chose this odd and impractical location to do her homework, I did a quick survey of the house. First stop was the kitchen table. This table doubles as a place for feasting and doing crafts. Evidence of both activities were strewn across its surface — clearly a location to avoid. Next, I meandered into the dining room. Oh yes, the piles — not exactly conducive to homework, even if it is of the grade one variety. The dining room was officially a wasted space in a hectic home that doesn’t have any space to waste.
It was time to take action. Currently two of the children attend school full-time. Before long it will be five children kneeling around coffee tables squabbling for precious space to tackle their homework. This vision left me wondering if we should cancel the monthly payments into the education funds — no one is heading off to university if those are the study conditions I’m providing.
Husband was immediately ordered to pack up the dining room table and chairs and store them away in the basement. He spent the following day assembling three desks and adjustable office chairs. Presto! My dining room was transformed into a children’s study, complete with a kid-friendly computer station. Each child was provided with a hanging file for any homework or permission slips that need to find their way back to school the next day. Being the off-spring of a Mabel’s Labels momma means my kids are label-crazy and took this opportunity to publicly claim their desks, chairs, hanging files and other assorted office supplies. Everything is labeled to ensure they have their own stuff in their own spaces. In a family of this size, stuff and space is cherished and protected.
And my piles? Now that I’ve lost my dumping ground, I deal with them when I should instead of dealing with them “later”.
When it comes to our homes, we have to be flexible and make adjustments to suit the specific needs of our family. Once I made some changes in my home, the monthly payments into the education funds were made with a little more confidence.