Plastic Tablecloths

The other day I was saying to Tudor that I thought I’d have everything all figured out by now, and yet still, I am constantly struggling with seemingly simple household dilemmas. For example, we are having our basement finished starting on Monday, and I’m all in a tizzy about What People Do when they are having work done. Like, are you required to be here all the time that they are here? Or is it okay if I go shopping or to a business meeting? Should I give them a key, or should I be here to greet them each day? Should I offer them coffee/snacks/lunch? What if I’m not here to feed them?

Most importantly: do I need to actually get dressed each day? Or are my standard couture – pyjamas – acceptable?

It’s all just so awkward.

In other news, I am having a serious issue with our kitchen table, and what to cover it with. The entire time we have been in this house, it has been covered with a series of cheap, ugly, eye-searingly bright plastic tablecloths. They’re smelly and unattractive, but can’t be beat for table protection. Our kitchen table is the only table surface in the house – my office desk is perma-buried under a foot of stacked magazines and bills, our dining room is actually a big toy closet, and we don’t have a coffee table. So that means the kitchen table, on any given day, hosts three separate meals, does all the homework, is the site of many colouring and gluing type crafts, is a LEGO and Playmobil centre, and is our games table.

The plastic tablecloth is the only thing I have found that works in that a) I don’t care if it gets coated in glitter glue, b) it’s hard and flat enough for people to write on, but protects the table from pen impressions, c) doesn’t shift around, and d) wipes clean quickly and easily between events.

And yet, I hate the plastic tablecloth. I have earned the right, I feel, for a more grown-up table.

So this past week I threw out the tablecloth, but I just cannot get the hang of how to work the table without it. We’ve tried cloth coverings and placemats, but both don’t work well with the crafts or homework, and plus the table took a ton of damage in just a handful of days. I love the table so much – it’s a cheapy IKEA table, hence the quick damage and terrible, terrible lack of actual finish on the thing – but it’s the perfect size and shape for the space, plus has two leaves that store inside it so it can handle big events with ease.

So today I broke down and spent over an hour picking out a crappy plastic tablecloth at Bed Bath and Beyond. Now it is over there being crappy and smelly on my table and I hate it, and yet I can’t think of anything else to do.

Plastic tablecloths, oh how I wish I could quit you!

What do you keep on your main table surface, and how does that work?

23 thoughts on “Plastic Tablecloths

  1. Laurie

    I am lucky enough to have a large kitchen island on which to serve our 3 meals/day, and with great countertops it can handle messes, crafts, meals, and homework with ease. That said, I often don’t want the crafts taking place there because its always in the way so a few years ago I purchased one of those little IKEA kids tables that I keep in our kitchen and its the dedicated craft area. They can glue the heck out of it for all I care. I give it a wipe down weekly, but, largely it can stay craft-cluttered and is not in my way. That might solve the problem by moving the craft area. Its a very durable hard plastic table that was not at all expensive and its been hanging tough through two kids daily use now for 3 years….

      1. We’ve had the Mammut table since the Little Man was 2 (five years now) and it’s seen a lot of abuse and is still going strong. I would say, however, that it’s best for kids 6 and under as at 7 years of age, he’s getting big for it.

      2. Laurie

        YES that’s the one! I agree it does not look sturdy, but it has been. Got it when kids were 2 and 5, they are now 5 and 8 and still using it, well….more so the 5 year old these days to be honest, but she uses it daily.

  2. Laurie

    oh, and about the workmen in your home we’ve dealt with that also, I’d get rid of the pjs since sometimes they need to come in and talk to you or use your bathroom….but I never feed them. They usually leave for lunch and come back. : ) hope that helps

      1. You don’t have to feed them at all – they tend to have HUGE appetites (one guy who worked on our basement would go to Loblaws and buy one of those pre-cooked chickens for lunch). However, I often offer coffee and / or tea in the morning, and also make sure they know they can help themselves to water whenever they need it. They’ll usually say yes, or no, to hot drinks on the first day and then you’ll know how to proceed.

        I think it’s worth offering water, bathrooms, etc. because in the past workers have told me certain people won’t let them use their bathrooms, or kitchens, etc., so being clear up-front is probably good for everyone.

  3. I have a similar sounding table. It got damaged a few years ago (water damage right on a seam that can’t be fixed) so I know we’ll need a new table eventually. This has freed me – we don’t use a tablecloth or placemats or anything. The table is getting character.

    1. See, the idea of water damage keeps me up at night. I have this weird thing where once I have something that I like that works, like the table, I feel like we will NEVER EVER be able to find anything else that is as good, and thus, we must carefully preserve it FOREVER. Sigh. Do you find now that you have gone full on placemat free that the table top is showing more wear, or were you surprised at how well it is holding out? If it’s actually performing better than you thought then maybe I will just suck it up and go commando.

  4. What about a new table for crafts and homework and games installed in the “dining room”, saving the kitchen one for meals only? Or a newer version Ikea table for the kitchen and the existing one moves? Re: workmen, we’ve done lots of renos, as you know and I never leave the house They may have questions or they may not be trustworthy. I do offer coffee, but that’s all. And I do occasionally wander into the construction zone to ask how it’s going – my polite method of making sure all is well. Good contractors don’t mind that at all, and are happy to show you what they’re doing at that moment. How long is the basement project expected to take?

    1. I think it is scheduled for 5-6 weeks. That’s a long time for me to be trapped in the house, although I think there will be days when they are waiting for stuff to dry or waiting for supplies, so they won’t be here every single day. At the least I have to go and pick up the kids each afternoon…I guess I’ll figure it out!

      1. We had workmen in our house for 3 months (weekdays mostly) doing a basement reno and we were never here. We went to work and had a normal life. We trusted the general contractor guy, and this was a team he worked with a lot. We didn’t have an issue about it. Oh – and we hid a key for them so none of them ever had a key personally.

  5. mdavis94538

    Coincidentally, we’ve had a crew in our house all day every day this week doing HVAC work. We both work, so staying home wasn’t really an option. We’re here when they arrive in the morning, and they lock the door before they leave in the evening (most days before we arrive home). And although we break fast in our PJs, I make sure I’m dressed before they arrive 🙂

    The company is very highly-recommended though, and the owner assured us that his crew are full-time employees and can be trusted completely, and I believe him. In other cases, particularly if it’s a single-day job, I’ll just WFH or take a day off and hang out at home.

    Re: the table – yeah, like others, we have more surface space than you from the sounds of it. In addition to the kitchen table we have a big counter surface that’s available; also the kids each have a table in the “activity room” (nee dining room) for all their junk, homework, etc. The kitchen table is pretty much exclusively reserved for eating. I will say, though, like Life of K, we realized early on that preserving the kitchen table as a family heirloom was infeasible (same with other furniture around the house) – we just shrug off the damage, and maybe when the kids are much older we’ll get something nice, but definitely not now.

    1. There seems to be such a range – some people just hand their workmen a key, others want to be here all the time. I guess I’ll get a feel for it – we had a meeting with the main guy today and it seems like 90% of the time, it’ll just be him here, which makes me feel…okay…I guess…about going out. OH WHO AM I KIDDING. 🙂

      I love what you said about not being able to preserve the table. It’s IKEA, for heaven’s sake. I need to let go.

      (Now have tune from Frozen running on repeat in my head. The cold never bothered me anyway.)

  6. For the table: I would recommend keeping a plastic table cloth handy for crafts. And, I have hardboard placemats that would be wonderful for homework and mealtime. Regardless of the wood the table is made out of, chances are high if you write with a single piece of paper on top of it, it will show indentations. That’s why blotters are ubiquitous on genuine wood desks. I got my hardboard placemats at the RCSS but you could probably find them elsewhere.

    1. I saw some of those cork-backed kind at Bed Bath and Beyond, but they all had big patterns of either fruit or flowers on them, not our style. Those black ones you pointed out look much better, will check into them.

      I thought Etsy would be a gold mine for placemats but all the hard/cork backed ones I could find were “vintage,” meaning featuring giant fruits. I am kind of liking these:

      And also these:

      Those last ones aren’t hard, though – they are oilcloth, so not sure about using them for writing on. Still – there is HOPE.

  7. I had a lot of work done on our house in 2012, and since I’m at home all the time I WAS home all the time and it was 360 degrees of hell. The workers swore and yelled at each other all day long. I became so tense my skin started to break out, no joke. Also a guy used the toilet in the basement where my office is, and took a giant shit and then did not wash his hands. Awkward.

    But to answer your questions: I offered them coffee but they didn’t always accept, they always went out and got their own lunch, and I dressed in normal clothes every day. Sometimes nicer than normal because – and this is a stereotype but a real one – they were really nice to me and I think it was because I played up my femininity. *feminism dies a little*

  8. Our current kitchen table was my Mom’s so it’s been through a lot. I don’t bother with a table cloth or anything. They just annoy me. Our table is one with a lot of character, but it’s holding up not too bad.

  9. I haven’t read the other comments, so maybe someone already suggested this. My MIL always has a very nice fabric tablecloth with a clear plastic cover over it. All the glam of fabric with the durability and functionality of plastic. Just an idea! (As I gaze upon our plastic-tablecloth-covered dining room table – and I don’t like our hand-me-down table or chairs… Another part of grown-up furniture that I have yet to fully own…)

  10. Oh, and one more idea re: durable table covering. A while ago we got a bunch of the kids’ drawings laminated to use as placemats – Staples will do it, and offers different thicknesses of lamination, so you can make is as sturdy as you like. The result is very flat, a wipeable, and cute. You could check with Staples what their biggest lamination size is, and get your kids to draw something that size and then you’d have a few big mats you could use.

  11. starting a bathroom reno tomorrow….. so going through the same thing. the contractor is a client of mine so I trust him with a key so that’s not an issue. but life is going to be weird around here for a while.

    as for the table, I would let them “trash it” respectively and then you won’t feel bad when they are older when you want to get a new one. I have an IKEA pine dining table and I never cover it! one day,I wil want a “grownup table” 🙂 it will be easier to let it go if it’s been well used 🙂

Comments are closed.