Rethinking our Dining Room

Our dining room is the default staging area for nearly all activities that take place in our home. When we pick up our CSA basket each week, it goes on the table to be sorted. When we’re canning or freezing, the table becomes an extra work space. Going camping? The table and floor get filled with supplies to be loaded into the car. Taking out recycling? Yes, the dining room is our sorting facility.

Our apartment is 758 square feet, obviously designed by someone who never actually lived in one of these units. It’s arranged in a very awkward way, with no open floor space in the galley kitchen whatsoever and an abundance of extra space in the dining room. In other words, while our 1-bedroom apartment will only sleep 2 (maybe 3) people, the dining room could easily accommodate a table for 8. Because the space is so large and happens to be the first place you come to when opening the front door, it becomes the catch-all area. Sometimes I look around this room and think we’re not really minimalists at all. So much clutter in one room, how on Earth can we call ourselves such??

That’s when I have to remind myself that evidence of an active life is not the same as clutter. If our closets were so full that the camping gear had to stay in the dining room permanently or if we never sorted the mail or other miscellaneous items that enter our home on a daily basis, then I might relinquish our claim to minimalism. But that’s not the case. Our dining room just happens to be the “production hub” for this business we call life.

Behold the production hub:

The camping gear bag sits by the freezer waiting for the tent to dry outside and the sleeping bags to get washed. Our new modem (inside the giant box from Comcast) awaits installation.
Tomatoes in various stages of ripening sit on the table along with a fan and utensils that go back in the camping gear bag.
Our empty CSA baskets, a box for recycling, a flower pot that needs to go back to my mom, and 2 new oil funnels that need to go out to the lawnmower shed…all patiently awaiting their time to leave.

I once read a blog post (though I forget where) about alternative uses for the rooms in your home. Using your living room for a bedroom because it has a cozier feel or setting up an office in the laundry room were some of the examples given. At the time, I remember thinking about our dining room and how I might be able to use it as my office. But this is pretty much what my office consists of:

And it fits perfectly in the bedroom, near the window so I at least have a view.

My sister once used her dining room as an extra bedroom when her mother-in-law moved in. I’m not willing to go there (as I know of several folks who’d immediately take up residence in the new room) but there has to be a way we can maximize usage of this space without it always being in such disarray.

A few of the ideas for this room that have crossed my mind include:

  • Adding a shelf or another set of coat hooks above the freezer to store our CSA baskets between pickups.
  • Putting an empty laundry basket in the hall closet to serve as a temporary home for things that need to be put away but are “in waiting” (for example, the bivy sack that’s sitting on the table waiting for the sleeping bag to come out of the dryer).
  • Creating a permanent recycling station along the wall near the door. This would have the added benefit of freeing up space in the laundry room for storing CSA baskets.

The one thing I don’t want to do is create more clutter catchers. Every improvement needs to be just that…an improvement. And we do have meals in this space (when we’re not able to eat outside on the patio) so it still needs to function as a dining area. Do you have any suggestions? What are some of the creative ways you use space in your home?

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2 thoughts on “Rethinking our Dining Room

  1. I think it looks like an efficient and very useful space. My favorite spaces all include a living thing so that’s my only suggestion. An herb garden or a flowering plant… maybe sprouts. But only if you have adequate light and like indoor growing things.

    Liked by 1 person

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