Is your kitchen or dining room table a repository for everything that people can not be bothered to put away? In between meals does it get piled up with the post, books, school bags, hats and shopping just because people are too idle to put things away?
A gorgeous looking table is a delightful sight, whether you prefer a highly polished surface or whether you like to see a tablecloth or a runner. Books, a hat, gloves and keys are certainly not the same.
This kind of mess is a bad practice because at some time or another, someone has to tidy it away and that someone is normally Mum and that sometime is usually just before she wants to set the dining table for a meal, precisely when she does not have the time to do it. Even when the clutter is tidied from the dining table, it usually only ends up somewhere else where it should not be.
If you can not bring to an end this bad practice by instilling some discipline into the members of your family, maybe you could try another line of attack. Screw two or three hooks per person into a board on the wall of your hall so that people can hang things up as soon as they come in and fix containers to the wall with the names of the family members on them so that they can deposit small things in them that they need every day like keys.
People can get into the routine of putting their stuff in their own container and hanging up larger things. Furthermore, if you find something lying around where it should not be, you can drop it in the right person's container. This should clear up clutter on the dining table practically over night.
The dining table probably also doubles as a desk for homework and work brought home from the office. This is not a problem so long as people clear their things away after them, which they all too often do not do. You can make it easier for people to tidy their work things from the dining table by having a cupboard close by just for these things.
Attempt to establish good habits early on in a child's life by encouraging it to eat off plates at all times because it catches crumbs and by always placing drinks on mats because it does not leave rings on varnished table tops which only have to be rubbed out later.
Another means to discourage family members from leaving items lying around on the table is to place a beautiful runner or tablecloth on it. Then put a centre piece on the table too. This could be a bowl of fruit or a few photographs. If you use the table for dining, you could do what they do in hotels and lay the table with the cutlery for the next meal as soon as one meal is over. It saves you a chore later on as well.
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