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The Messy Table

My kitchen table was given to me by my parents. It’s the same kitchen table that I ate dinner at every night when I grew up. My parents, brother and I each had our own spot at the table.

I have many memories of the meals we ate, the stories we shared, and things we did at that table. I remember sitting around that table making Christmas cookies each year. I remember the year my cousins came over, and we all made gingerbread houses together at that table. I remember getting sick at that table, laughing at that table, and crying at that table.

And today, it’s that same table where my kids are making memories—sharing meals with us, telling stories about their days, laughing, crying, getting sick, making cookies, doing craft projects.

After all these years, the table is not as pretty as it used to be. There are specks of glitter crusted to it that will only come out the day we decide to sand it down and refinish it. There’s glue stuck to it. There’s stray paint from craft projects and home renovations.

These days, it’s usually covered with a tablecloth because I’m embarrassed for anyone to see the state of my table. But the other day, when I took off the tablecloth to put it in the wash, I sat at the table—bare, dinged, glittered, glued, messy—and remembered each of the stories behind the messes.

I saw the green paint that strayed from my son’s first painting project. I saw the glitter and sparkles from the first Christmas craft my daughter and I did a few years ago. I saw the lines in the wood where the pencil was pushed too hard during homework time.

How could I cover up these things, as though they’re things to be ashamed of?

My table is not perfect, but it has done the job it was meant to do very well. Life has been lived at it. Lessons have been learned at it. Memories have been made for decades, right there at that table.

It tells the story of lives being lived, not life missed out on in the name of perfection. The same way that marks on the walls, scuffs on the floor, toys on the table, and dishes in the sink prove that the places we live are for just that—living. Not perfection.

Our messy table reminds me of all we have, especially during a time that could be too busy or full of consumerism to notice. The messy table reminds me to slow down and keep making memories with my family. To keep making messes as part of our living.

The Messy Table is this home’s silent reminder that it is well-loved and well-lived.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. kristin

    i loved this post. and i needed it today.

    thank you.

  2. Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm

    Thanks for this reminder! We don’t have a literal ‘messy table’ — but lately I’ve been stressing about my toddler’s toys being everywhere. A friend of my husband’s dropped by unexpectedly the other day when her toys and shoes were strewn across the living room.

    I got really upset that his friend saw our house ‘like that’ – but this post helps me remember that what he saw was evidence of a little girl having lots of fun, and parents that were busy having fun with her, instead of cleaning up!

  3. Jackie

    Your post is wonderful; a kind of stop and smell the roses moment for me. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Jackie, a blogwriting mom at Quaint Scribbles who loves teaching her daughter how to combine blogging withcreative writing.

  4. Rachel N

    Love this post! Thank you! I have an heirloom table as well that I feel the same attachment too. 🙂

  5. melinda b

    Our table is so messy! So much so that I recently considered painting it white and giving it a fresh start. But for the reasons you mentioned I decided to leave it as-is. I’m so glad. We never use a tablecloth, even when guests are over. Maybe we should, but we don’t. =-)

  6. Nadene

    A beautiful testimony! I’m so glad that I have changed. My hubby brought his dinged and battered 2nd 3rd-hand kitchen table into our home when we got married. I HATED it at first. I now love it. It wasn’t new or modern to fit into our new, modern little home. I covered it with tablecloths.
    Now, 18 years later, it has pride of place in my country kitchen in our old farm house. It fits perfectly in our imperfect lives.

  7. Amber

    We have a messy table, too! It’s not from my childhood, but it is my aunt’s that she gave to us when we married. The top reflects our priorities: crafts over anything else! In fact, our 5 year old recently commented that she thought it was funny we ate our meals at the craft table. There’s super glue spots, fingernail polish, permanent marker, and today some glitter, too. And we look forward to the day when it will be a dedicated crafting table because it’s hard to put away all the fun just to eat.

  8. Nicki at Domestic Cents

    YES! My table was also given to us by my parents and was from my childhood. Like yours, it has stray marker lines and pencil indentations, etc. What a wonderful perspective to appreciate the “love” in my table rather than be ashamed of it!

  9. Angie (TheActorsWife)

    I love our messy kitchen table. It’s the center of our home where we gather, eat and play. And yes, it’s a lovely reminder of what we most need and value in our day to day life.

  10. Emily

    After years of infertility I find such joy in messy fingerprints on the side window door and toys scattered throughout the living room. For without the little one making the messes my heart would still be longing to be a mommy.

    • Christy

      That is my story, too! I always try to be thankful for the messes, fingerprints and whatever else, even when it is driving me crazy!

    • Rita

      And my story, too. Now that my kids are teens, the “messes” are more emotional than physical, and I appreciate the reminder of how much I longed for these children.

  11. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    A friend gifted us a dining room table when our firstborn was small. It was a nice table, with a few scuffs and scratches.

    I can’t tell you how grateful I’ve been for those original scuffs and scratches! Now, 6 or 7 years later, our table has all the original dings, plus a whole host of new ones, and paint marks, and glue and glitter that just won’t come off.

    I’m so glad I don’t remember the first time my child scratched our table–because my child didn’t scratch it the first time! So we’ve enjoyed using it as craft-project central, with no worries and no guilt. Love it!

  12. jenlarson

    We also have a similar kitchen table – my husband and I bought it new just after we were married, 10 years ago. Our new puppy broke it in within a month, by chewing on one of the legs (and several of the chair legs). Our two kids have made all kinds of little marks and dents – there’s even a hammer dent on it from one of my husband’s projects that made it to the kitchen table. Luckily, we like the ‘old farm table’ look 🙂

  13. Lisa @Granola Catholic

    Our messy tables, yes we have more than one live in the Kitchen the Dinning Room and Living Room. Truth be told there is still evidence of kids making Chocolate dipped pretzels for their teachers on the kitchen table. I just cleaned off the coffee table (which never see coffee). The coffee table had remains of painting, crocheting and Legos. It is amazing how much can fit on the coffee table sometimes. The dining room is the landing spot for all the Christmas decorations before they get put up. We have inherited all of the tables. One from each side of the family. One even made by my husband and his grandfather. Talk about family history. I realize that my tables only get cleaned off to eat at, but they also tell the story of our lives.

  14. Angie

    I have my grandma’s table which is also very lived on. Glitter is crusted into the folding leaves. I am storing it in the garage upon moving into our new house bc the table is such a focal point. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in. Reading your post made me so glad I did not sell it!!!

  15. Sandra L.

    Funny..I too have an heirloom table, from my grandparents home. It is the only thing I wanted from them. Your post today is such a good reminder for intentionally making memories out of our blessings not our possessions. I worry so much this time of year when family comes. Being not as well off or as fancy as they. But the table, though now it is worn, sticky scratched and wobbly has made us laugh time and again of memories. I recently ran into an old playmate I used to see when visiting my grandparents. The whole country road used to play beside my Grandparents home. She expressed her sadness that we couldn’t all play in those cherry trees or in the dirt pile and then wash up for milk and cookies at my Grandma’s table. The funny thing was always how many table cloths it had layered on it. Grandma would never discard the old oil cloth one, just blanket a new one on top for the season. We laughed remembering the day we counted up to 21 cloths. When I told her that table is now in my kitchen but with only one cloth on it, she told me to go get more! A great post as usual, thanks for the smile!

  16. RaisingZ

    What a beautiful post and a wonderful reminder to cherish all that we have and appreciate all of the wonderful memories and time that is spent together.

  17. melissa

    Our kitchen table was my great great grandfathers, a little Italian man. My mom can remember going to his house in the French Quarter and he would be sitting at it all grumpy. It’s a black and white porcelain table with pretty carved legs, and a drawer to keep the silverware in, and has its original chairs. We had it in our house growing up and my mom also kept the silverware in the drawer. I can remember sitting at it with my brother, who is no longer with us, eating breakfast before school each morning and then later sitting around it with family and friends eating boiled crabs and having my first beer. Now it is in my home and my husband and I and our 2 year old sit have breakfast there every morning and dinner there every night.

  18. Lisa

    Messy Table = Happy Family = Good Memories
    Messy Table Article = Good Reminder

  19. Kristi Goldsberry

    Thanks for this, being raised by two perfectionists I have had a hard time feeling okay about all my ‘normal’ messiness and trying to have my house presentable with four kids!

  20. MissMOE

    Great post! We do have a messy table. Our mess is above the tablecloth. I am learning to tell myself that the mess is a sign of lots of lives being lived to the fullest. So for now I’ve gotten past having a beautiful center piece and perfect tablecloth and learned to love the crumbs, workbooks, and art projects that adorn my table.

  21. Kara

    This article made me cry. Once upon a time I was embarassed by my messy table — the one at which I ate with my parents and brother as a child, the one my dad made. My dad passed almost exactly 4 years ago today and I still sit at this table nightly with my small children and my husband. Today I wouldn’t trade this table for anything in the world! It may not be fancy or new (or even big enough sometimes), but the rich history is priceless. 🙂

  22. Rita

    We’ve got so much mess we need two tables 🙂 We keep the kitchen table fairly clear, and that’s where we eat (but it’s got scratches and scuffs). We don’t even pretend to eat in our dining room. There’s a table, but it’s not a dining table. (Got it from a Borders when they were closing, so it’s more like a library table.) It’s our game playing/homework doing/crafting/sitting and talking table. We love it–and it came with some dings, so we don’t need to be careful with it.

  23. Successful Woman's Resource Center

    We bought our table about the time we started homeschooling 13 years ago. Now the kids are all grown and gone from home. Your post and the comments make me teary-eyed as I long for the noisy times we had around that table. Now I look forward to the visits from my grandchildren several times a year!

  24. Kathryn

    I love this post! Yes, we have a “messy table,” too! I bought it from one of my husband’s old grade-school teachers just before we married. Her grandfather had made it as a wedding present for his wife, so it was already “messy” by the time it reached our home. We’ve added our own dents and water spots and scratches over the years. I did start covering it a couple years ago, but to protect it–there are spots where further wear would just destroy it. I’ve promised myself I’ll give it a good restoration when my daughter’s older–I want it to last at least one more lifetime!

  25. Kirsten

    There have been many days that I’ve wanted to replace our messy table. It’s an oak pedestal that we salvaged from the side of the road. It’s wobbly, sharpie-stained (because my kids think Sharpies are the best and markers are dumb), and we’ve got the glitter too. Thank you for reminding me to appreciate our very-used-condition table. I’ve been comparing my stuff to things I see on Pinterest–a slippery slope, for sure.

  26. Kayla Lyman

    The table I have is the one I grew up with, and my dad grew up with, and his dad grew up with…it was made in the early 1900’s and was brought over on a ship with my great grandparents from Germany. It has a metal top that cleans up easily. My 2 year old gets paint on it almost every day, but it’s been good for me to learn that’s just life with little ones. It’s an ‘everything’ table, constantly messy, but wonderful to have all the same.

  27. James Hayward

    We just said goodbye to gorgeous old wooden table, but we now have a new family table which has already made such a difference to our lives as we can now all sit around and engage as family unit again. I’m a big fan of good family table, if only they could talk back as well.

  28. Jenn

    I, too, have my childhood table that I grew up with, so it was really neat to read your post. If I look hard, I can still see some of my writing from when I pressed too hard on my homework. I love it that my boys are sitting at the same table doing all the things I used to do when I was there age. What a great reminder you share, especially during this time of holiday busy-ness when I feel like my home is never very straightened up, but we’re doing a lot of LIVING!

    • Erin

      good for you Jenn.. keep doing the LIVING

  29. Lee

    We bought our dining room (only room) table about 4 years ago while we were in Germany. It is made of reclaimed teak fitted together in a slab about 2 inches thick. When we bought it, our kids were 2 and 7. The gentleman who sold it to us said that it was a great table for kids because we could let it get marked up and colored on, then when the kids were grown we could sand it down, re-stain, and have it fresh. Then he said, “But you will probably want to keep the memories then.” I always think of that when the newest marker/pen/ding gets added, and wonder if I will even want to re-do the top!

  30. Sara

    Thank you for sharing, so true, I needed to read those words tonight, reminds me to slow down, even though I know I should sometimes we need those reminders!

  31. Katherine

    We have a messy table. And messy floors (playdough that I never swept up, bits of dinner last night- ick). Some days I need to have it all looking clean and presentable, some days I embrace the mess and the ding and scratches on everything.

    I remember before my first was born, I loved all of our brand new toys and books that we had waiting for her to use. I didn’t like the occasional secondhand book that had been beaten up a bit around the corners. Now, with two and one more on the way, I like to see the dinged up toys, the slightly-chewed books. It shows use and enjoyment! And it makes those new, pristine toys or books even more special.

  32. Karly

    This story almost brought tears to my eyes. My mom has a table exactly like this. My sisters had a special spot where we sat every night for dinner. We did our homework at this table, we did art projects at this table. It’s all scuffed up but it has such a beautiful history:-)

  33. Erin

    Our table first belonged to my husband’s grandmother. Yes make memories by using the things in your home…not just show casing them. The most sought after thing when my own grandmother died was the bunny cookie cutter we all used with her. We all wanted to use it to make our bunny cookies with red hot candy eyes and miniature marshmallow tails. Not her tea cup collection…or fine china.

  34. Nathan Stark

    My table was also given to us by my parents and was from my childhood. Like yours, it has stray marker lines and pencil indentations, etc. What a wonderful perspective to appreciate the “love” in my table rather than be ashamed of it!

  35. Jessica

    Dreaming ahead of all of the memories that would be made at our table, I started to cry the day we bought it a few years back. There I was, holding our first born baby, standing with my young handsome husband, staring at a table with eight empty chairs in the furniture store. Since then, we’ve shared most dinners at that table, hosted holidays and birthday parties, made crafts, taught lessons, and shared our lives. I can’t imagine ever giving that table up and I look forward to continuing to indent our lives into it as our family grows up.

  36. Dana @ Cooking At Cafe D

    We do have a messy table!

    Our table was a donation from another family.
    They “broke it in” for our family – green and red lines and dots.
    This table was loved. Someone’s arts and crafts table, I suppose.

    To us, it’s our dinner table. It’s where we make Pez Christmas trees. It’s where we do life. We are blessed to have our messy table.

  37. Pam aka Momma

    This could not have come at a better time. With 50 pounds of garland on the floor and some kind of sock war must have happened between the boys last night. I need an its okay not to be perfect day. And I do try, everyday.

  38. Kelli

    Oh my goodness! How much do I love this entry? It’s such a fantastic reminder of what’s important in life. It reminds me of this past spring when we just had our house professionally painted. Two days later I walked into my living room to find my two year old son, pen in hand, exclaiming, “Look Mama! I drew a circle!” And he HAD! His first circle displayed prominently on our newly painted walls. He was so proud of himself that I couldn’t be upset. I just said, “Honey! What a great circle! I’m so proud of you!” The ink is gone but the groove is still in the wall. Every time I see it I smile. Thank you for this entry.

  39. David | Hubby's Home

    Emily, this is exactly how our kitchen table is!

    The table came into the house about 4 years ago around the time I took a break form my career to stay at home and look after the children. It was sanded and polished and perfect. Four years on… it’s been dented, scratched , drawn on, it has stains and paint streaks, and guess what? It’s STILL perfect! And for exactly the reasons you gave.

    The table and I have a shared history, we’ve both been marked by the joyful lives of small children and I think we’re better for it!

    Thanks for writing this post!

  40. Jenae

    As I dashed in from work for lunch, pushing little legos aside and making room to plop my laptop down on our table, I so mush appreciate this post. Our table, only two years old, is already scared with a “glow bracelet” that leaked, wear spots from wiping up messes, pen & permanent marker scrolls, divots from excited little boys crashing their favorite toys, and crumbles stuck in the decorative edging. I love my table. I love my boys. I love your post.

  41. Sushi-Mon

    Enjoy making memories with your little ones! The time goes too fast.

  42. Christa@thecookingblock

    I love this post! I also find it ironic. Recently we were over at our friends home. I found myself noticing their table. It was rather “beat up”. I loved it.

    Mainly I loved it because I remember coming over to their house years prior and was envious of this same table.

    The first time I saw it, the table was new, sleek, elegant. Now…it’s love, life and memories.

    I loved seeing the “loved” table in a house that is full. It’s full of love, chaos, and memories. That’s what I saw in every scratch and scuff.

    Our personal table is already like this, burn marks from who knows when. Scratches from some event. We inherited it from my husbands mother, so I’ve never understood the look of a new table. Now I do. It’s beautiful.

  43. Ticee

    Tis is an amazing post for me!!! I JUST got a new (first) dining room table last night. As I was reveling in its beauty the thought came, “what about the kids, what if they ruin my beautiful table?” with a 12, 9, and 4 year old and new baby twins that’s likely to happen.
    I committed right then and there to love every mar, scratch and “mess” made on that table!
    I also considered my father-in-laws advice to cover it with a tablecloth (but don’t you do that on holidays anyway then no one would see the ‘Imperfections’ anyway. And my husband is thinking about buying a piece of glass that covers it ( like most restaurants do to save the tablecloth)…
    We’ll see about those ideas but for now I’m going to go serve those blessings their first breakfast on our new family table!

  44. kendra@

    My worn kitchen table belonged to my in laws and has my husband’s teeth marks on it from when he was teething! My MIL asks me at least twice a year when I want to get a new table and honestly I don’t. This table may not have the modern touch and but instead it has stories to tell…and even more stories since we’ve had our own child.

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