When the Rest of My Home is Chaos, a Clear Kitchen Table Helps Me Feel Calm—Here’s Why

published May 21, 2020
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Credit: Lana Kenney

My house—filled with my husband and me, our five children ten and under, and our dog and two cats—brims with noise and activity. Although everyone is doing their best to keep everything under control, chaos is frequently an apt descriptor for the state of our house.

Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I’m the type of person who’s drastically affected by her surroundings. I need some amount of peace and calm in my physical environment or Mama ain’t happy, and you know how the rest of that saying goes.

I’m a stickler for the order of many, many things around our home and I’m trying to learn to let go of a lot—but there’s one small area of our house that I always make sure is perfectly clear: the kitchen table.

Our kitchen table—my octagon of stability.

This isn’t to say that the kitchen table doesn’t get used. It does, and often. We sit around it for every meal and snack, for cutting up cereal boxes to make robots, for painting, cookie decorating, homework, and game night. But after the table gets used, it gets cleaned up. That’s not the case for every spot at home, but when it comes to the kitchen table, it’s important to me.

Keeping a cleared-off kitchen table makes setting the table for meals much easier. If the kids clean up right when they’re done with a project, they don’t have to clean it up before they can bring out the dinnerware. This feels like so much less work (and translates to fewer frenzied reminders from me to “Clear off the table! Dinner’s almost ready!”).

The kitchen table is the first area to get completely clean after we eat. Everything gets cleared off and then it gets a good wipe-down (“Follow the lines so you make sure to get every part.”) We all know—and this was passed down to me from my own mother—that keeping the kitchen table clean ensures that anything we set down on top of it won’t get food stains.

Looking at a clear and clean kitchen table is an oasis for my sight. Fresh flowers in the center help (a lot) too. It’s the one spot, even if it’s the only spot, where order reigns, and, psychologically, it’s the starting point of getting everything else under control. It’s my little octagon of stability.