Thursday, August 4, 2011

The House Dilemma - Part 2

Previously on A Cup of Rosie Leigh, I described how I’ve always pictured our family eventually upgrading to a larger home and settling there “forever,” but how that ideal has shifted over the past year or so. I also explained that while I’m completely on board with whittling away our possessions and quelling the acquisition of more, somehow “house” found itself in a separate category for me. That dream has stubbornly refused to fade like I feel it should in light of my new outlook on life.

A primary reason I’ve dreamed of bigger home is that one of our core values (ideals, maybe at this point) is hospitality, despite the fact that it doesn’t come very naturally to me. I wanted that permanent guest room, so friends and family could enjoy comfort and privacy when they visit. I wanted that large (not necessarily formal) dining room and proportionally sized dining table that accommodates my immediate family plus a gaggle of guests. It just doesn’t feel as warm, hospitable, and embodying the “togetherness” of my mental picture with everyone spread over couches, bar stools, and the floor, engaged in their own isolated conversations.

Yeah, poor me. None of these things are actual “needs” and I am fortunate to have what I have. Still, I am always amazed how when you choose to look at life from a simple or minimal or even just low cost point of view, your creativity blossoms. You discover solutions to problems that now seem so obvious, but that you were blinded to in the past. You take the status quo and simply make it work somehow, instead of wasting mental energy wishing for something else. And the solutions you find subsequently open up more doors to even more possibilities. It’s not always that you’re thinking outside of the box, but that the box itself disappears. You begin to realize that the so-called box often involves the perceived expectations of others, or how your situation compares to theirs or to “most people’s” – what is common, typical, expected based on who and where you are. The new and absolutely liberating response is: “Who cares? We play by our own rules.”

Enter the folding table. Or should I say tables. Not as a temporary solution until we get a bigger/different house ASAP: a long-term solution. Once I accepted the fact that we are “stuck with” this house until we pay it off (aggressively) or relocate based on an exciting new opportunity, I started seeing it with fresh eyes. I looked at our house (think detached townhome) with its 1690 square feet (only 660ish of which are downstairs and not the greatest use of that space to begin with) and began to think, what can we do with it to meet our desires? It is most certainly “enough,” even more than enough, so what can we do with it to maximize its potential to actually be enough so that we are content? (Okay, Pete’s always been content. It’s all me.) How can our dining room (okay it’s really just a nook, not even a room) best fulfill our desire to “entertain,” such as it were? (Sorry, I REALLY like parentheses and quotation marks!)

Our current dining table seats 6 rather snuggly (we bring out 2 folding chairs implement the table leaf for this).

Adding one long (20” x 48”) folding table right alongside our current table for $26.99, plus 2 more folding chairs means seating for 8 at what is functionally one table. Adding 2 tables and 2 more folding chairs equals seating for 10. This “new table” extends into our kitchen a bit, but there is still room to get around. Any more than 10 people at one table and it becomes difficult to have one big conversation anyway*. But this would be perfect for, say, my book club, or a gathering of Pete’s relatives or mine who live nearby.

However, what if we DID want to have more at the table? We could actually put our main dining table at an angle, and begin to line up folding tables next to it pointing out into the living room. We could add way more than we’d ever need! Each new table would provide 2 more seats. By golly, I think we could fit 20 people at “one table!” When we’re done eating, we’d just fold everything up and we have our living room back again. Hooray for multifunction, a staple of simple, minimalist living.

The “old me” probably wouldn’t have come up with this solution to begin with. It’s not that I’m a stranger to card tables or inexpensive, make-do solutions. Yet, I would never have seen it as a long term fix or reasonable alternative to a bigger dining room – just a somewhat tacky stop-gap. Now, I have no choice but to admit this is a 100% practical perfect-fit solution to the problem, and what more could I ask for than that? As for the “new me,” does it mean acquiring some more stuff? Of course. But you have to compare that to a bigger mortgage and a bigger house to inevitably fill with way more stuff than just some light-weight, flat-folding, easily-stored tables and chairs. We’d have to purchase hundreds, maybe thousands of tables before those two options came out equal.

Besides, then you’d just have thousands of tables. See what I mean?

But back to the tackiness issue for a moment. Will my “dining table” be tacky? Ah, but the response: “Who cares? We play by our own rules.” The great thing about friends is that by definition, they don’t (or at least shouldn’t!) care. The point is togetherness! Will we be knocking each other’s knees? Oh yeah. But that’s just cozy. :)

In a related story, I came across this article recently, just as I was going through a particularly low period of lamenting my smallish house and how I’d never REALLY be able to entertain like I envisioned (boo hoo!). I recommend reading it if you are in a similar situation – some great “disappearing box” entertaining ideas that I can’t wait to try!

Oh, yeah, and the guest room thing. I do have a few ideas up my sleeve…but that’s for another post!

Meanwhile, I’m excited to make a pretty table cloth for my gigantic table.

*I have also found that unless it is completely expected that you’re having a sit-down dinner situation, you might as well not bother putting up the extra tables – they just get in the way. People ignore them and gather at couches, on the floor, at the kitchen counter, etc – which is totally fine by me. I had 11 adults, 2 teens, 5 kids, and 2 infants here the other day for dinner and this is exactly what happened.

1 comment:

  1. I think your set-up is great, and we have some folding tables/chairs in our garage for the same purpose (Thanksgiving, church small-group dinners, outdoor dining). We're grappling with the idea of my mom and/or dad living with us within 5-10 years, so we're probably going to remodel our house. The thought excites and terrifies me at the same time.