Be Entertaining, Be Minimalist (Prepared For What?)

I’ve gotten a few questions about various “preparedness” items related to entertaining. These involve dishes, extra seating, and other things that are very tempting to over-purchase “just in case”. I’m going to talk about chairs in this post, and I’m going to begin with a story.

My First Office

I know all about not having seating. Over a decade ago, I rented an 8′x10′ office. If that sounds small, it’s because it was! I had two six-foot folding tables, and one office chair. Basically I had just enough space to work, in a commercial area where I could get a particular type of phone line that I needed.

I was meeting with two people at 9:00 AM one day, and at 8:30 AM it hit me – I didn’t have any extra chairs. Not only didn’t I have any extra chairs, I didn’t have anything that I could use for a chair. I had room for chairs, but no chairs – and half an hour until my meeting.

There was a small office store three blocks away. I ran over there, hoping like heck that they were open. I walked in, plunked down $40 for two cheap chairs without hardly looking at them, hoisted them over my head and carried them upside-down back to my office. I got back just in time for my meeting, and the day was saved – but a little planning on my part would’ve eliminated the emergency!

Sensible Seating

Let’s begin by asking a simple question – do you already have the chairs? If you have an extra loveseat in the living room, half a dozen folding chairs in the basement, or even a couple extra dining room chairs, I wouldn’t arbitrarily pitch them with the plan of “I’ll replace them later, if necessary” – that is, unless there’s some other compelling reason to get rid of them.

Chairs are expensive enough (even the cheap ones, in quantity) that it just doesn’t make sense to me to chuck them if there’s a reasonable possibility that you’ll need them.

On the flip side, chairs are expensive enough that if you don’t have extra chairs I wouldn’t rush out to buy them unless you know, for a fact, that you’re going to need them in the very near future. And even then there are some viable alternatives.

Some Alternatives To Owning Extra Chairs

If you’re shy on living room furniture and you don’t have outdoor chairs or folding chairs, you have a number of options:

  • Children can sit on the floor or on pillows.
  • Some guests may be willing and able to bring a chair or two of their own.
  • Chairs can be brought out of offices, computer rooms, and other places in the house.
  • Freestanding ottomans can frequently be used for seating.
  • If this is an infrequent and/or large gathering, you could rent some chairs…
  • …or maybe borrow them from your office or church.
  • Outdoor chairs can be brought inside, assuming they’re clean, not waterlogged, etc.
  • If you’re outdoors, people can sit on steps, lean against cars, sit on a tailgate, etc.
  • Sometimes you don’t need seating for all guests simultaneously.
  • Sometimes you don’t need seating for all guests at all!

The last two points warrant some explanation. I’ve been at family events where there were outdoor games being played and other things going on, and over a dozen people functionally shared less than a dozen chairs since they weren’t all trying to sit at once.

I’ve also been at family gatherings where we were a bit short on chairs, and the older cousins just stood against the wall or wandered around. We really didn’t think anything of it.

Don’t just assume that you need one chair per person – consider other options and alternative seating (or non-seating!) arrangements!

The Bottom Line

There isn’t a right or a wrong answer to questions like this, because your space is your space. Don’t let people tell you what you are and aren’t allowed to do in your own home!

When we had our small apartment, my wife and I each had a chair – plus one extra. Our space wasn’t designed for entertaining guests, and we didn’t pretend that it was.

But if you like entertaining a half-dozen friends on Saturday afternoons, there’s nothing wrong with stashing a few folding chairs in your basement to make that a realistic possibility. Keep in mind that minimalism is about removing the things we don’t love to make room for the things that we do. And who doesn’t love spending time with family and friends?

What about you? How do you handle seating for guests? Any creative tips to share?

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10 Responses - Add Your Input!

Posted May 21, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

We have plenty of seating when we include the sofa and love seat, our 8 dining chairs plus our 2 wooden folding chairs, our office chair, the 2 bar stools we store in the garage and we are fortunate enough to have a raised hearth that serves as seating. If we ever needed a larger quantity of seating, we would borrow folding chairs from our church. But to keep things simple we usually don’t entertain. It’s not something I enjoy.
Heidi @Adventures of a Thrifty Mom recently posted..Weekend Project: Redneck Air Conditioner

    Posted May 22, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    That last line is a really good point – extra seating is pretty much something you have for the purpose of entertaining guests. If you don’t enjoy that, then you don’t have to do it – and you don’t need the seating!

    Thanks for commenting Heidi!

Posted May 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

In the RV community, where we all live in tiny spaces, gatherings involving more than one or two guests are almost always outdoor affairs, and seating is always BYO. Same thing with eating – guests bring their own place setting to the meal, and take them back home to wash afterwards. While this is primariy in consideration of storage space and limited resources, it works out nicely for all involved. The host isn’t left with a sink full of dishes after the affair, and the guests still have an easier time of it as they have only their individual utensils to wash, having enjoyed someone else’s cooking, and company.
Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted..The Crescent Sun – Annular Solar Eclipse Photos

    Posted May 22, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    That definitely sounds like it would work well. I remember when I was a kid, we had a set of four folding chairs. Two adult size, two kid size. Anytime we were invited to anything that was even remotely outdoors, we brought them with. It made all the sense in the world. It was us that were going to have to sit, so we brought the chairs. :)

    Out of curiosity, at these RV gatherings is the cooking also generally minimal-cleanup type stuff (like one-pan meals, or maybe something in a crock pot)? Or maybe something cooked on a grill?

      Posted May 24, 2012 at 1:15 am | Permalink

      All of the above :) Also pot luck is popular, or entree is provided, but guests bring their own beverages and sides. For just a few people, sometimes the host makes the entree and then each guest brings something different (vegetable, salad, bread, dessert) to complete the meal.
      Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted..The Crescent Sun – Annular Solar Eclipse Photos

Posted May 21, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

In our living room we have two Poang chairs from IKEA with footstools and one office chair. We also have four dining chairs and one bar stool. Add to that three lawn chairs and one folding stool. We can seat 14 people. Assuming we don’t use either of my Sport Seats which are canes that open to provide a small seat. Yet all the empty space we have makes it feel like we couldn’t possible accommodate that many people. In fact, I was surprised when I counted them all up just now.

In the van I am buying to be converted to an RV, I will have seating inside for six not counting the bar stool, Sport Seat, or lawn chairs which won’t all fit when opened. That’s because the bed is a daybed which can seat three (with seat belts, lol), I will have a desk chair, and the driver/passenger seats will swivel to face the lounge area. But, as Mike already said, most RV gatherings happen outside.
Linda Sand recently posted..Minimalism is…

    Posted May 22, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I think a lot of people would have the same realization you did – it really is amazing how much seating we usually have just laying around the house somewhere. :)

    That must be a pretty big van if you’re converting it into an RV – what kind is it?

Posted May 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

Thinking more about this I remembered back to when we were young marrieds who hadn’t yet accumulated a lot of stuff. My SIL and I unintentionally bought the same dishes and silverware. The result was we could have extended family gatherings with plenty of stuff that matched without either of us having to own too much. Later, I had my mother’s party plates which matched a friend’s set so we could borrow each other’s set for larger gatherings. Sharing brings closeness in unanticipated ways.
Linda Sand recently posted..Minimalism is…

    Posted May 22, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    It’s cool when things like that happen, isn’t it?

    Thanks for commenting Linda!

Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:40 am | Permalink


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