February was the Month of the Dining Room in my home. I completely remade what was an unusably clutter-full room into a cheerful space where my family can sit and enjoy meals, play games, and be together. The 28 Day Challenge was just the nudge I needed to really get it done, and I love love LOVE the results!
The color palette inspiration came from this stained glass, which we’ve for years but had but never hung:
and these napkins, which I made in sewing class last semester:
I love the aqua, red, black and white together, so I planned the room around it. Here it is:
The Picture Wall
The Bookshelf Wall
The price tag? Just $162.31, and four kid-free days, thanks to my husband and mother-in-law. Where the money went:
- $75.00 – Six chairs to match the table, bought second-hand from Craigslist
- $17.02 – paint primer (paint was free from a mystery shop)
- $34.32 – Two silk shantung curtains from St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and a hanging rod (I negotiated down from $50, which is a steal for silk curtains!)
- $26 – lighting fixture to replace the broken overhead light/fan (in transit; UPS shows it in the Mid-West still)
- $7.88 – printing photos to put in frames that I already owned; photos are from Flickr’s Creative Commons, and I took them to Target to print out
- $2.09 – hooks to hang stained glass that I already owned
What I already had or got free:
- Bookshelf moved in from my another room.
- Stained glass art piece (and WHY didn’t I hang it sooner? Gorgeous, right?)
- Black frames, which have been sitting new in their box for more than a year at the back corner of the dining room!
- Table cloth, from our wedding
- Pampered Chef large bowl, freebie from when I was a consultant
- Paint, free from a mystery shop
- Plant, free from a mystery shop
Let me remind you what it looked like before.
Ridiculous!! Garbage on the floor, Christmas tree at the back of the table at the beginning of February, piles and piles and PILES of stuff. I am not proud of this, but we all start somewhere, some of us farther than down others. It was a hovel, to be sure. I’ve done a lot of introspection this month, trying to figure out not just where to put things away to make it a usable, pleasant space, but why and how I let it get to its truly horrendous state in the first place.
You can follow my progress by visiting the following links:
Improvement in the Dining Room! (February 10)
Even More Improvement in the Dining Room! (February 14)
Guess What I Did Today? (February 20)
Org Junkie, the host of the 28 Day Challenge, has posed the following questions for people participating in the challenge:
1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?
The hardest part for sure was just starting. Tackling the room as a whole was so overwhelming! The fear of how hard it would be to let go of the stuff held me back from even starting, but once I got started, it was not nearly as hard as I’d imagined. In fact, I was excited at the end of the day – and it only took one day to sort almost all of the stuff! – I felt really good about how much garbage I’d pulled out. There were a few things that were tough to let go of, but I had the idea in my mind that I wanted the clear space more than I wanted things just in case. If I needed something I had been keeping just in case, I wouldn’t have been able to find it anyway!
I spent many, many hours sorting and purging, shredding and filing, though there were distractions. Having the kids out of the house for four whole days (!!) made all the difference in actually getting it done.
2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?
I pulled everything out of the room that didn’t belong, and now there is so little stuff that it’s easy to maintain. After every meal (now eaten at the table!) I clear the dishes and wipe off crumbs. I sweep every day. Nothing stays on the table or floor overnight, and I have kept it up for more than 2 weeks.
3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?
I was ruthless! I had SO MUCH STUFF, and almost none of it belonged in a dining room! Most of it ended up being recycled or tossed, or boxed up to sell. I didn’t keep much in this room except for the books, and even then I took three full boxes to the used book store to sell. The other three boxes of stuff to sell are boxed up and ready; some have been listed on Craigslist already. The bulk of it was garbage and recycling, with a few boxes of stuff that I donated.
Of the stuff in the original picture, I would estimate that less than 10% ended up staying in our home – the table, the lamp, Christmas ornaments (finally put away!) and books you can’t even see in the original picture are just about it. I have no regrets for any of the stuff that is gone now.
4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?
The bookshelf on the wall is the single storage solution in the room. Having a place for the books, and having them organized by category – cookbooks with cookbooks, novels with novels, etc. – makes it easy to find the book I want. I went two deep with a few categories.
Two of the bottom squares hold my sewing supplies. One has a basket with my iron, foot pedal and cords, and a pull-out container for all the small pieces I need, like bobbins, thread, scissors, etc. My sewing machine and a plastic bin that contains just my current project are in the other square, with a reversible ironing mat/self healing cutting pad slid in next to it. When I’m ready to quilt, I can now pull out the one basket, one plastic bin, and my sewing machine, and I’ve got everything ready to go. When I’m done, it’s easy to put away.
I also particularly like this square, with my clock CD player/radio, CD binder (goodbye, bulky cases!), and pretty cloth napkins. I had the shelf divider, bought for but never used in the kitchen, and it’s just the right size to divide the shelf and leave space for the CD binder. The cards on the side are conversation starters to inspire family dialog during our meals.
And perhaps most surprising is the fact that I still have an empty square! I’m leaving it empty on purpose; I’ve had a really hard time with leaving empty spaces, feeling like every space needs a thing, and I’m trying to reroute that thought process. Empty space is a good thing.And that one square holds all of the magazines I kept. If it didn’t fit in that square, off it went to the donate pile. You would not believe the amount of magazines in that room on February 1!
5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?
Let me show you the before and after pics again and let them speak 1,000 words:
And then I’ll petition on my behalf. I worked really darn hard on this! It’s not just the drastic before and after photos, from a could-be-on-TV’s -Hoarders room to a pretty, functional space. I got down to the hard business of unlayering the crap, sorting through not just boxes but feelings. I posted in the comments on February 11:
I’m sorting through more boxes and really questioning why I kept most of this stuff. What am I getting out of having it? I am being pretty ruthless and tossing most of it. It isn’t bringing me joy; in fact, most of it is keeping me from fully enjoying my home.
I’m angry at myself for letting it get so bad. This is not how I want to live in my home, and not how I want my kids to grow up.
Walking in and having a clear table, and clear space under the table, is like a weight off my shoulders. I did a puzzle with my son yesterday, and we ate dinner at the table. Today, we did a cutting and pasting project, and after we cleaned it up, I wiped down the table, swept the floor, and cried, literally cried, because that’s NORMAL stuff families do, and my inability to let go of garbage, really, has held us back from doing that.
Last year, I did a serious purge of the kids’ room, and it has stayed organized and clean since then. They pull out toys, of course, but everything has a place to be put away and it’s easy for them to help keep it tidy. Why haven’t I done that in the rest of the house?
I hope that I’m making the mental shifts that I need to be able to keep it cleared out once I finish.
In the weeks since posting this, I’ve swept every single day. I’ve kept the table clean. I’ve washed the windows, hung art, organized the books on the shelves and my sewing things to make it a functional, beautiful space that I love to be in. The transformation is not just with the room, which is the most organized, pulled-together room I’ve ever lived in, but in myself.
If you’re new to my blog, poke around a bit and consider subscribing through RSS feed (top right corner of the blog) or e-mail (on the right bar under the search button) so you can see my March declutter challenge – the closets.
Like my transformation? Check out others at the 28 Day Organizing Challenge over at orgjunkie.com.
And I’m linking this post up all over the place, because I’m proud of my accomplishments and want to share with everyone! 🙂
Shop the House Sunday
Room A Month
Before and After Party
Make It Monday
Make Your Monday
Just Something I Whipped Up
Motivate Me Monday
Made It Monday
Making The World Cuter
It’s So Very Creative
Made By You Monday
Toot Your Horn Tuesday
Trash to Treasure Tuesday
2nd Time Around Tuesday
Today’s Creative Blog
Tackle it Tuesday
Works for Me Wednesday
Power of Paint
Penny Pinching Party
Make It Yours Day
Show and Tell
Room To Inspire
Thrift Store Thursday
Show Off Your Stuff Party
Strut Your Stuff Thursday
Victory of the Week
Feature Yourself Friday
I’m a creative cat
Show and Tell Friday
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