by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Decide if you want to use a space for storage or display, or if you want to keep it open for activities - anything from paying bills, working on a crossword puzzle, or setting down cups of coffee for you and your guest.
A “funny” story about how my husband and I have different views on stuff.
He’d invited over a couple that hadn’t been to our home. The day before they arrived, I was cleaning as well as tidying items that could get put away.
I returned to the living room at one point to realize that Mac had decorated (“decorated”) the coffee table and a table set between two chairs with multiple books. While I’d interpreted visitors as incentive for clearing surfaces, my husband saw it as an opportunity to highlight the topics he was interested in by decorating (“decorating”) with books.
Of course, the four of us ended up sitting around the dining table and I don’t know if our guests even noticed the books that had been set out.
Why Bother Clearing Your Coffee Table?
Because couch(es) and chairs circle a coffee table, it can be a focal point for the room and establish your expectation for the space.
Many minimalists admit that they don’t have a coffee table (and/or end tables) because they don’t entertain much, and they don’t feel the need to own a piece of furniture that could accumulate clutter. If you do have a coffee table, how do you want it to get used?
Is it a place to set down a plate of cookies for guests? A spot to assemble the family jigsaw puzzle? A place to set down a book or your knitting when you get up from your seat? A place for your kids or grandkids to play? A space to display your favorite coffee table books that highlight an interest?
Keeping this Flat Surface Clear
Envisioning how you want the coffee table to get used will tell you what belongs in this space and what can be removed. When you remove items from the coffee table (including the surface, shelf, and underneath the table), you’ll need to decide where they belong. If you don’t know where those items belong that may explain why they were left on the coffee table.
Deciding where items belong is a key to becoming organized. Realizing that the coffee table was the unintentional home for an object is frustrating because now you need to take time to decide where you want to store or display something. However, taking the time to give an item a proper place helps you get – and, more important, stay organized.
It could take a few weeks for you and your family to get used to a clear coffee table and get in the habit of putting things away instead of leaving them on the table. If the space is too clear, you could place a plant, unlit candle, or a small cluster of (1-to-3) decorative items to hold the space.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, pursues learning, practicing, and sharing information about the everyday habits that can lead to living a better life.