Today's underused (or misused) dining room holds enormous potential. Could yours double as a library, kids' craft room or home- organizing centre? If you clear out clutter and pick the right storage pieces, your dining room could function as any of those as well as a special place for meals.
Define your dining room
List all the activities you do or would like to do here, such as entertain, do kids' homework, pay bills, read. Then list the supplies and furnishings you need for those activities. Keep supplies close to where they're used, so there's a better chance they'll be put away. What kind and how much storage space do you need? Can you use furniture that serves more than one purpose to accommodate a function other than dining?
Clear out clutter
What kind of stuff ends up on your table? Set up an organizing system for each item so that when it comes into the house there's a place to put it.
If you only use your good china once a year, don't store it in prime real estate. Keep a few pieces on display by hanging plates on the wall or placing serving pieces on a side table; pack up the remainder in padded china containers (available at organizing and department stores) to keep it chip- and dust-free and store it in the basement. That will make room for the arts and crafts supplies or papers.
Move special-occasion or infrequently used linens to the linen closet. In her book Organizing Plain & Simple (Storey Books, 2002) Donna Smallin suggests hanging tablecloths on a towel rack suspended on the inside of the closet door.
Remove extra chairs; hang them on pegs in the basement (rotate chairs in use with those in storage to maintain optimum conditions for fine wood furniture and to ensure that pieces wear evenly).