The obvious function of the dining room is a gathering place to enjoy a meal. In recent decades with the advent of fast food, the busy schedules people keep, and a shift toward more casual living, dining rooms are less and less often used solely for the purpose of dining. Now dining in that room may only happen on special occasions like birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. The rest of the time the room often sits in wait for the occasional special meal, or becomes an annex of the home office or kitchen desk, or a study spot for children. And, those new functions often bring paper with them!
Why does the dining room seem to attract the paper that belongs in a home office or the study materials of children? Because the dining room table is a large flat surface in the proximity of the kitchen. Many kitchens have a postage stamp sized desk, if they have one at all. And, paper lands in the kitchen from all directions–mail, school papers, action items for the woman of the house, shopping lists, coupons, menus, etc. It’s quite understandable that papers would gravitate to one of the nearest flat surfaces if the kitchen desk is already overwhelmed or non-existent.
Some children are not comfortable doing homework in their bedrooms all by themselves. They are wired such that having people nearby actually helps them focus. So, the dining room is a perfect place to park to do homework assignments–close enough to the activity of others, but at enough distance to be able to concentrate on homework tasks.
So, when you think about clearing clutter from your dining room, first get real about its current functions. What activities actually happen there? What activities do you want to have happen in that space? Knowing the answers to those questions will be your guide for what to keep and what to clear out of the space.
By the way, it’s good feng shui to have something happening in every room on a regular basis. Your dining room holds energies that affect your life. It’s always optimal to have some type of activity in a space–active energy–as opposed to stagnant–dead energy. Giving your dining room a few additional functions besides being a dining area could be an energetic asset for your home.
I recommend that if you still want to use your dining room as a dining area, even only occasionally, that you do your best to maintain the look and feel of the dining room. The risk of combining other functions with the dining function is that the room could become a clutter haven if it houses messy functions that involve paperwork or creative projects.
If other functions are added, like study area, bill pay area, tax prep area, wrapping area, art creation area, fabric cutting area, etc., either contain the items associated with those functions out of sight in a piece of furniture or bring in the items necessary to do the activity and clean up once you’re done. Developing the discipline to maintain the dining room as a place where you could enjoy a meal at a moment’s notice is an important skill for every family member. And, it makes it much more likely that the room will be used for its original function — dining.
So, what’s the function of your dining room? Dining rooms can be beautiful, inviting spaces if they are treated with the respect they deserve.