Now it’s getting darker in the evenings, we are all home a lot more, so it’s time to make your living room as cosy as possible, Think very carefully about the different uses of this room. Is it a playroom during the day, and an adult TV room by night? If so, you will need a big basket or hamper to throw all the toys into at the end of the day, so the adults are not crowded out. Think about how you spend your evenings. Is it really essential to have a huge TV dominating the space, that is permanently on, or could you group the chairs around a coffee table or fireplace to encourage conversation, games, listening to music, and reading as well? Is there always somewhere for an unexpected guest to sit down and put their cup of tea, or do they have to pick their way through building bricks and piles of washing to find a seat? Are the people competing with the possessions in your house? (You can probably sense some Feng Shui coming in here).
You might also want to give some thought to eating. Everything we know about good nutrition centres around eating carefully planned meals at a table, preferably with other people. In my ‘Week’s Dinners for the home’ series with its linked weekly shopping list posts, I am giving you a meal and shopping structure that fits well in a busy household with multiple children or working parents. However for it to work properly, you need somewhere special set aside to eat them. It might be tempting after a hard day’s work to flop down with a TV dinner and watch a soap opera, but you might have a better quality of life in the medium term if you adopted more old-fashioned attitudes towards the evening meal. If you have a weight problem, it will help this as well as you slow down and become more conscious of everything you are putting in your mouth.
If you don’t have a separate dining room, this will mean making sure there is a dining table in the living room (or kitchen), with a chair per person. If space is limited, an extending gate leg table is probably the most useful, as you can put the sides down when you are not using it for meals. Make sure you protect an old wood table by using mats under hot things, or if you would rather use tablecloths, buy some special table protector by the metre, and cut it to shape so it can sit underneath. Set it nicely for every meal, with everything on there that you will possibly need – this discourages people from getting up and down all the time, and interrupting the flow of conversation (something children are particularly skilled at, especially if they want to avoid eating something). If you can fit a sideboard into the dining area, so much the better, as you can lay out the things you need on the top, close to hand.
All this will also hopefully encourage you to entertain, and share meals with non family members, bringing social benefits to you as well as your local community. In times of austerity, nothing is more important than the quality of the human relationships around us.
Image: Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net