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In the past few weeks several people have asked me for organizational advice. My super-organized mother instilled it in my upbringing, making it almost second nature to me. But one of my friends complained that she hadn’t been trained as I had, and needed to know how I did it, step by step. Over the next few weeks (or possibly longer), I will lay out how I organize various areas in my house to be effective and efficient.
This week we will tackle the dining room. If you have a formal dining room that doesn’t get used every day, clutter can pile up at alarming rates.
Step 1: Clean Out the Stuff That Doesn’t Belong
Rarely-used rooms with big tables just beg to get filled up with projects-in-progress. Start by putting away all those projects, and leaving only things in the room that you actually use for dining.
Step 2: Know What You Have
Go through all your dishes, glasses, table linens and silverware to determine what you have. You should not the purpose of items, as well as sizes of things like tablecloths.
Step 3: Purge
This is an important step in any organizing effort. Go through everything and look at it. Ask yourself the following questions.
- Is it whole? If the dishes and glasses are cracked, remove it from eating service. If you don’t want to discard something because it will ruin a “set” remember that a set of broken dishes is no more useful than a pile of broken eggshells.
- Is it presentable? Table linens attract stains. If you have something stained beyond salvage, get rid of it.
- Does it work functionally? Some things are really pretty and may be gifts, but if you don’t use them, pass them on. My sister-in-law has a great set of egg cups. Which would be wonderful if anyone in her house ever ate soft-boiled eggs. But they don’t, and the egg cups take up almost a full shelf in her dining room, collecting dust.
- Does it work in your life? Formal dishes and silver may be heirloom items, but if they don’t work in your life, pass them on. A friend of mine inherited a beautiful set of silver. She loved it, but never had the cause to use it, and never had time to polish it regularly to keep the tarnish away. She passed it on to another relative who can use it, and doesn’t mind the smell of silver polish.
- Does it fit? I found a tablecloth in my drawer for a round table. None of my tables are round. ‘Nuff said.
- Do I use it? There may be items you never use within your collection. I found a beautiful table cloth in my drawer. However, it is red, and the dining room is solidly green. I no longer use the tablecloth, even during the holidays. It needs to go.
- Do I have more than I need? Thanks to multiple gifts, we have four gravy boats. None of which match the set of china given to us by my mother-in-law. I decided to get rid of three of them, keeping my grandmother’s.
Once you are done with this purge, go through your give away pile. If anything in this pile has anything wrong with it, put it in the toss pile. Thrift stores spend a lot of money getting rid of things that are unusable. Do them a favor and purge it yourself.
If you have pieces you would like to try and sell, look into china replacers, many of whom buy odd pieces.
Step 4: If Necessary, Buy Replacements
If you are really concerned about breaking up a set, buy replacement articles from a china replacer. Many companies have odd pieces of china patterns.
Step 5: Put It Back and Organize
Once you have gone through everything, put it back in an organized fashion. Like items should be stored together.
Step 6: Keep The Dining Room Clear
Make a decision you will not let your dining room be overrun with projects again. Make it a family rule that all projects will be picked up immediately after usage.
By following these steps, you should be able to organize your dining room. The best part: once organized, it is much easier to use.
Photo by Gaetan Lee