The house updates continue! I’m not quite ready to reveal our whole dining room update to you (even though it’s becoming my favorite room of the house!) but I wanted to share one of the biggest changes we made.
When we originally installed our dining nook, we added two inexpensive shelves from IKEA to one of the benches so we could keep our books there. It was a fun way to have our books be out for a while and sitting in the dining room did occasionally encourage us to pull a book down from the shelf and flip through it.
Over time, however, the bookcases got pretty chaotic. Books are visually crazymaking most of the time if you really think about it because they’re all different sizes and colors. What started as fun chaos slipped into jammed-in-chaos and shoved sideways chaos and game-boxes-on-top-for-good-measure chaos. I didn’t even realize it had gotten so busy in there until we switched out the old white dining room table for our vintage yellow formica and the books with the yellow table and the yellow cushions were like being trapped on a Where’s Waldo page. Sensory overload!
To start calming down the shelves, I knew we needed to get rid of some books. I Marie Kondo’ed them as well, which was much harder than the DVD cases but ultimately more stress-relieving. I’m a lifelong book hoarder and the thought of giving away a book…particularly a book that had been loved and enjoyed (!)…was a little painful. However, once I stepped back and asked myself if I really planned on re-reading that book, if I really needed that book to do that craft, or if I was really only keeping that book because of who it came from or where I bought it, the process wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be.
It’s amazing how many books I had kept because they represented different times in my life or different aspects of my ideal personhood. I had multiple copies of the same Shakespeare plays, tons of books on fashion and costuming even though I haven’t worked in that industry in years, and huge photo books that I never looked at but kept because it made me feel creative just to have them in the house. Gone. Also gone were books I loved reading but would probably never read again, my “reading” copies of great novels (stored next to my “nice” copies of great novels), and any cookbooks I had never once made a recipe from. I didn’t touch Kyle’s books or any kid books, but in the end I still filled up 14 grocery bags worth and consolidated enough to move the rest of our books into the playroom.
Once the shelves were cleared of books, we considered what we wanted to do with the space. There were a million things that could have used shelf space, of course, since we live in a tiny house. Homeschooling materials got some serious consideration because it would be handy to have them right there by the table. The same went for art supplies and the collectibles that have been sitting in storage. Ultimately, however, I wanted to calm the dining room down and keep it food-related, instead of the room with the junk and the table.
So, we created a baker’s pantry in the dining nook:
I was pleased with how easy this project was to finish. Once the books were off the shelves, it was obvious how cheap the shelves are because you could see the lines in the cardboard backing and the holes in the prefab boards. So, the first step was adding a coat of paint to the back and spackling the holes on the side. Annoyingly, I forgot to do one of the bottom shelves and haven’t gotten myself together to fix it, but at least you can see the difference between that shelf and the shelves where the holes are filled in.
Note: I have to admit that this paint was a mistake and I might have to go back in and do a new coat in the spring. I painted it to match this new rug we picked up and it wasn’t until it all dried that I realized I had picked the exact color of chalkboard paint. I’m thinking it needs to be a lighter grey, but maybe I’ll get used to it…
Even though the shelves are semi-decorative, we don’t have the luxury of being able to store things that aren’t functional, so I had to make sure each shelf was holding things that truly needed to be accessible. The bottom shelf has the cookbooks that made it through the culling, along with baskets of apples and onions since we go through them the fastest. The next two shelves have dry goods (flour, rice, couscous, etc.) in glass containers that I picked up at Walmart, along with our drink dispenser. Originally I was thinking I’d fill up the dispenser so we’d have handy water for the table, but I’m pretty sure Calvin would have just soaked the benches at any given opportunity.
The next shelf up has all of the white dishes I use when I stage shots for food posts. I’m not crazy about how flat they are on the shelf, but I didn’t have taller pieces that fit and I wasn’t going to buy new pieces just to display. The top shelf has our disposable tableware and our wine rack (slightly lonely because we’ve been trying to be good about our diets). I was worried that it was silly to have things like napkins all the way up there because we obviously use them all the time, but the advantage of being really tall people is that Kyle and I can easily grab them and pull them down for every meal.
I love the result and it feels like the room is breathing better. Now that we’ve made the switch, I don’t at all regret any of those books that we bagged up and I’m inspired to keep sifting through our stuff so we can keep moving toward freeing our house from the clutter.
I’m telling you, that tidying lady is a little nuts but she’s on to something!