No matter how we set out to live our lives, it’s easy to get distracted and unintentionally deviate from the plan. Our homes are our sanctuary, so it’s important to take the time to reestablish the structure or routine that makes you happy there. One place you may want to start is meals at the table. Ironically, because it can serve so many purposes, the dining room table is often the last place your family sits down to eat! But having an intentional space for people to be present, actively listen, and recharge their bodies is important.
Is Your Dining Room a Multi-purpose Room?
As a professional organizer, and human (ha-ha!), I know that the dining room and/or kitchen can end up being a repository for everything from puzzles and bills to experiments in paper mâché. After all, it may be the only place with a large flat surface you can utilize for those purposes.
A dining room table is good for:
An Office Extension
Projects and Crafts
Setting Up an Herb Garden
An Ironing Board
Puzzles or Games
All of the Above…and More!
Where Does Your Family Eat?
According to an article published by Harvard University titled The Benefit of Family Mealtime, only about 30% of families regularly eat dinner together. So, chances are, you’ve had a few meals shared with Netflix, TikTok, or Amazon yourself!
There are plenty of reasons why people tend to scatter to their own personal hideaways at mealtime. Maybe you can relate?
A desire to decompress alone
To avoid conflict
To eat what they want without judgement
Special dietary restrictions
A cluttered dining room table
Why Bring Back Meals at the Table?
The reason why meals at the table are important, especially for kids, is because they teach us mindfulness, relaxation, and important social skills. They create a space to talk and share ideas without the distractions of the day. They remind us how to connect with each other. It’s designated time when you have each other’s attention that’s good for both mental and physical health.
Having a meal together is the ultimate pause button in a very fast-past world. We are inundated with an overwhelming amount of input to process. It’s hard to disconnect from work, news, entertainment, friends, and life’s drama. But we need to. We need to leave that realm and shift our focus to what is right in front of us. It could be our spouse, our children, or even just the plate of food, but it’s what puts priorities "back on the table."
How to Make Room for What’s Important
Even if you’re fully on board with the idea of bringing back meals at the table, your first obstacle may be a physical one. If your table is cluttered, you’ll have to tackle that first. In order to NOT make it a repository, you’ll have to determine where those accumulated items belong and put them away. We can always help, if needed!
Meals aren't the only thing the table can be used for. Of course, you’ll want a place to spread out projects or play games. Go ahead and borrow that space! Just make it a habit to put things away when you’re finished so that meals at the table are the priority.
Don’t Give Up
If having meals together is important to you, I encourage you to make it happen. But I understand that there will be challenges, especially if you are trying to change the habits of an entire household. Expect grumbling and failures, but don’t give up! Even if you can’t make it happen every night, try it once a week. Or find a different meal to share, like breakfast.
If no one is jumping up and down about mealtime together, try making it more of a joint activity. Get others involved in deciding what to eat, cooking (the main meal or dessert), or beautifying the table. You may have to get creative. In fact, it could be fun to make a competition out of creating the best plate or table presentation! But the meal doesn’t have to be elaborate or even homemade. It just has to be together.
Sharing a meal, or any distraction-free time together, isn’t about customs or culture as much as it’s about showing the people you care about that they are valued. One day, you may find that the smirks, laughter, and kicks under the table you shared were the best of times!