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Janice Wells: One tidy space

We don't dine much anymore. Those days are gone. We eat. We eat in front of the TV. The dining room table has morphed into my work area.
We don't dine much anymore. Those days are gone. We eat. We eat in front of the TV. The dining room table has morphed into my work area. - 123RF Stock Photo

A while ago I wrote about tiny houses. I just realized that I am slowly, in my own way, turning our house into a tiny house.

I’m sitting at the dining room table writing this. The original plan, when Newman needed his own work area for post-retirement work, (and man cave) was that I would set up a space for me in the spare bedroom upstairs. I moved to the dining room table temporarily while I got things set up upstairs. I didn’t get things set up upstairs.

I am staying here. I don’t want to be upstairs. On the few times a year that we want to use the dining room table, I can move my computer screen and keyboard to the table I have tucked into the corner on my right for the hard drive and printer.

The dining room table is at one end of a large living/dining area. We don’t dine much anymore. Those days are gone. We eat. We eat in front of the TV. I still believe strongly in parents and children sitting down to together; done that. I have earned a soft chair and a tray.

This table is six feet long without the two leaves. There is an antique washstand, a plant stand that used to be a baptismal font, dragged home from P.E.I., a corner china cabinet and a big Newfoundland-made sideboard (which is the only thing I would never part with).

So why are we taking up almost half of our living space with dining room furniture that we don’t actually use for our day to day living? We do it because that’s the way it always was.

If you didn’t grow up with a dining room, finally having one was a wonderful thing. If you did grow up with a dining room, you knew it was supposed to have a certain look even when your children were doing their homework on it.

I am permanently doing my homework on the dining room table. Because I want to be able to see the birds out the front window and sometimes see the TV, I sit with my back to the doors into the unheated sunroom. There are no drafts, but my body knows what’s behind me and feels it.

I have now pushed the table, chairs and side table about three feet further into the room. Its better, but I’m sizing up the buffet and thinking if I move it to the corner I can move the tables a few feet more, and how much space do you really need between the table and the back of the couch anyway?

I like to paint. It’s just a hobby. I have set up my painting stuff in the sun porch (no good in the winter unless the sun is shining or in the summer if the sun is shining); in the Cave (before it was a cave); and in the spare room upstairs (before I finally realized I don’t want to be upstairs).

So, very cleverly I might say, I have stashed my painting stuff around in convenient furniture around ‘my’ chair. I can’t really describe it, except to say that it is unobstrusive and I have the paints and brushes and stuff that would excite little fingers in a cart on wheels which can be wheeled into the Cave when I want it out of sight.

Now when I feel like playing with colours it takes me a minute to get set up a small canvas and I can enjoy myself without leaving my chair or the birds, or the TV for that fact.

Living rooms are for living in. Remember when rec rooms in the basement were all the rage? You’d be led past an immaculate living room into the basement, so the living room wouldn’t get messed up, i.e. lived in.

In spite of all those years of “Definitely Not Martha Stewart” it has taken me a long time to overcome a boomer’s picture of “shoulds” for the way a home “should” be.

If I feel like playing with a big canvas, am I so liberated that I’d set everything up on the dining room table? Can I be happy using the room without being unhappy about how it looks?

We would have called that a bohemian lifestyle. I know I can’t do it, never could. Having one tidy space soothes my spirit. The dining room table has always been the last bastion.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at

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