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Table For One: Making Creative Time for Yourself

by Caitlin Kelch


Long ago, I was 18 years old and living in New York City. I knew no one and tended to hide in the apartments of friends of my mom, who were kind enough to lend me their homes rent-free while they were traveling on business or on longterm vacations. I was waitressing and saving up for a deposit on a shared space that I hoped to have one day. I’ll never forget those days and nights that were filled with cold take-home food from my shifts and long soaks for my aching feet.


After a particularly challenging shift, I was walking home wondering if it was all worth it. I decided to take an outdoor seat at the cafe below the building I was staying in. I didn’t really think about it, I just sat down and was startled when the hostess appeared and asked “Table for one?” in a less than enthusiastic way.

“Yes.” I replied in a voice with such strength and pride that I was completely taken by surprise. It was one of those moments when your growth pops out before you even knew it sprouted. I dug into my backpack and arranged my things on the table. My scarf served as a soft throw and I doodled on my coaster to make it my own. I was fully aware that the server was concerned I might “dine and dash,” but I settled in regardless. I needed this and I was taking it. Today, we’re partnering with Shutterfly on their Home Décor line to share the lasting benefits of making the decision to take a seat at a table for one.


My current “table for one” set-up includes my favorite thrift store chaise, fresh flowers, plus a soft blanket and pillow I designed on Shutterfly. The day before “my reservation,” I whip up a few batches of homemade soda and store them in growlers I designed. My Tangerine Basil batch is waiting for me in the black growler on my table for one.


Scheduling private time and giving yourself the opportunity to sit with all your favorite things during that time is a necessity. Period. I learned that lesson on that day many years ago, but I still struggle to make it a weekly affair. Committing it to paper (and on your calendar) like the list above serves as a visual reminder that you deserve this.

One of the most important elements of private time is connecting with your creative self and creating beautiful examples of that connection throughout your home. Shutterfly helps make that possible with their custom home decor line. —Caitlin

Click through and let’s go through the menu to create your table.


Pick out your books a few days before. Chances are you aren’t going to getting a lot of reading done, but that’s okay. It’s more about sitting with your favorite things and reminding yourself what you’re passionate about.


I actually created some ceramic tiles over at Shutterfly that I use for various things, like printed coasters, spoon rests and as a hot plate when I’m serving a family-style dinner. I did this to subliminally connect with passions and habits that I want to encourage in my life.

I’m re-reading Designing Your Life and ended up creating a tile with my personal “mind map” on it that I’m using as an oversized coaster at my desk and at my table for one. Living with a visual representation of the things I enjoy and want to spend more time in my life doing has been a really helpful way to integrate them into my life. They aren’t fleeting desires any longer! They’re sitting with me every single day, so going outdoors on my lunchtime break feels way less out of the ordinary.

Every time I pick up my drink I’m reminded of the importance of time for myself so I can experience everything I’ve outlined on my map-meets-coaster.


The bright pink flower tile you see in the mix is a nice reminder that spring is on its way and my photography class is paying off! I’m imagining a collection of my photos on different sized tiles and using them for a custom table top. Instead of this being a major project that falls into the procrastination pit, Shutterfly turns the process into a quick and easy endeavor. In today’s busy world, it’s more important than ever to focus on you and to take advantage of digital tools like Shutterfly’s that make it possible for you to update your home with little reminders of your individuality.

I’ve actually created multiple pillows using different parts of the same image. When that orange Shutterfly box arrives on my doorstep, I get that giddy feeling because I know that not only do I have a high-quality, affordable piece of home décor, but I DESIGNED IT in 15 minutes! Major victory.

Soft Things to Snuggle With

I’ve always been a bit of a blanket snob (wool always and forever), but when it started to get cold earlier this year, I noticed how darn soft my daughter’s fleece throws were. So I decided to make one for myself, with my own images instead of unicorns and anime characters. Who wouldn’t want a cozy blanket at their table for one? So I turned to Shutterfly’s blanket section, where you can create warm, comfy blankets with your own design or images. If you don’t dabble in photography, The Met museum has an archive of amazing art that is copyright free! I chose my art, uploaded it to Shutterfly and was snuggling with this blanket in four days.


Other notable organizations with archives filled with free images available for non-commercial use are Getty Open Content Images and the Rijksmuseum’s Rijkstudio. Imagine the garland from the 18th century print below covering a piece of home décor that you designed!

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 5.14.09 PM

Shutterfly also has a fun and free Art Library you can peruse for more inspiration or whimsical images and designs.

A Colorful Project (or two)

I’m getting ready to re-do my bathroom so I’ve been poring over paint chips and making notes. Whether or not these notes becomes actionable, it matters not. The importance of having a colorful project is that color quickly connects you to you. Once that act of connecting becomes a habit and you find yourself needing to make a reservation for your table of one, you’re golden!


A Refreshing Beverage

For some it’s wine, for me, it’s “so sparkly it burns” soda. And I like to make it myself. Whether it’s my own kombucha or straight-up simple syrup with sparking water, I like to make and store it in bulk — so these growlers were the find. They hold 64 ounces so having six of them filled and ready to go in my fridge makes me a very happy camper. I love that I could have them engraved so my ginger doesn’t mix with other flavors. Shutterfly carries them in stainless, black and copper.


Aromatic Skin Care 

I always opt for working my aromatics or aromatherapy into my skin care during my “me” time. Doing some dry brushing at my table reminds me that there are many still ways I can care for my body and senses without having to spend money or leave the house. My Shutterfly catch-all tray works well to gather all the little things I like to have at my table for one.


Family Photos (optional)

When I sat at my first table for one in NYC, I must confess I looked at my wallet photos of my family more than once. I knew my rite of passage had to be traveled alone, but it was so nice to know they were with me in spirit. Know that it’s the same when you take time for some self-care like this. As soon as I sit down at the table now, I miss my daughter who I’ve sent off to Grandma’s for the day. I have to remind myself this is the time when I can think of her and be proud of her, so I made two canvases with some favorite memories of her — the day she discovered photography with my big-girl camera and the day she decided ballet wasn’t for her. I love to look at these images during my time and reflect on her growth. Without her yelling for her iPod.


Quiet & More Quiet

Since music has the power to transport you to other times and other places, practicing some silence is a good way to stay in the moment and focus on you.

Author’s Note: I hope you soon find yourself sitting at your table for one! Until then, breathe deep and know you have a standing reservation.

Featured Products:




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Ceramic Tiles


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  • I want to begin my comment with a few disclaimers.
    1) I love this website and I consider it one of the few lifestyle blogs that values human connection over commerce.
    2) I do all these things. I sit at least once a week with a blanket, coffee, books, and kitty. I’m not knocking it, it is how I care for myself.
    3) I really appreciate this post because it caused me to reflect on the problems with the “self-care movement.”
    4) I really hope my criticism is taken as a launching point for dialogue. Let’s figure out together, how to do this better.

    All that said, this post being sponsored really made me feel squirmy. I felt deeply uncomfortable with the privilege implied.
    Here is an excellent recent New Yorker article on the subject: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-politics-of-selfcare

    • Lucia

      I hear you, and always welcome discussion. Could you let me know what aspects of this post in particular you felt were problematic?

      I’ve done a lot of reading online about “self care” and agree that aspects of it, and particular takes on it, can be alienating and tone-deaf in terms of acknowledging privilege. But I’ve also read plenty of pieces written by people who come from all different financial, cultural and political backgrounds who acknowledge that any form of self care is a right and a necessity.

      I think that NYer article brought up some great points (thank you for sharing it) about self-care being used as an emotional crutch for people who are struggling to hold and process other people’s grief (or struggles that don’t directly affect them). (Ie: the article’s mention of self care articles that popped up after the tragic LGBTQ night club attack). However, I don’t feel that from this particular piece. So I’d love to talk more about this specific article and what about this made you feel as if it was emphasizing a level of privilege that is problematic.

      I agree that the topic of self-care is a loaded and complicated one and it’s not one to be taken lightly (we try our best not to). I’d love to hear more about how the sponsorship angle made this feel uncomfortable for you. Any feedback and information is always helpful as we go forward, thanks. :)


        • I agree, though the advertisement is not thinly veiled at all, it is quite explicit. I was excited to read a piece about self-care and was instead bombarded by advertisements. I’ve read Design Sponge for years because it avoided such overtly awful advertisements, and was surprised to read this post today. It doesn’t seem in keeping, at all, with the rest of the website.

          • Hi Dani

            None of our advertisements will ever be thinly veiled- I don’t believe in trying to trick people that way.

            Can you help me understand which parts felt like being bombarded? The beauty products aren’t connected to sponsorship in any way.


        • emr153

          Which thinly veiled advertisement? The sponsorship is listed clearly at the top and end of the post (like all of our sponsored posts) and the beauty products people seem to feel uncomfortable about are not tied to any sponsorship.


        • Yep, that’s what annoyed me greatly and sullied an otherwise lovely post. I’d prefer not to see the sponsor’s name woven in so liberally. This one was over-egging it. we get it-if weblike ti we’ll click through, even if it’s only one link. When it’s so many, it gets really annoying and obtrusive.

  • I sort of agree with Lucia, but possibly for different reasons. I’ve been noticing that in the most feminist of places (do you know Meg Keene’s project The Compact?) “self-care” inevitably is tied to buying new objects and outer beauty.

    Please know that I totally love creative objects, I’m of course fine with skin-care, and as a small business owner I 100% approve of promotional posts. I would have never blinked if this post had simply been about things you love and have been creating, things that bring you joy whether old or new. But the conflation, or entanglement, of the concept of self-care with products and beauty, both of which require purchasing, has begun to make me feel blue.

    • Kimi

      I hear you. I agree that confusing the idea of makeup or things you have to buy with self-care is problematic. I think for a lot of people, health care extends to the skin and body so it feels tricky, to me, to say that any talk about body or skincare is inherently tied to purchasing (we have a lot of cheap and easy DIY projects for DIY beauty/skin/body care) or others’ perception of beauty. For example, when I do a face mask (my favorite version of skin/self care), it’s not about beauty or anyone else’s perception of me, it’s about how it makes my skin feel, which makes me feel good. But at the end of the day, I agree with the larger concept of not connecting unhealthy “beauty” standards or perceptions with self care.

      Re: sponsorship, this post wasn’t sponsored by a beauty company. Was it an issue that it was sponsored at all, or that the writer suggested her version of self-care involved purchasing something?


      • I don’t think it’s that the writer’s version of self-care involved purchasing something, I think the discomfort some are feeling stems more from the fact that, by virtue of this being a sponsored post, the writer’s version of self-care is being used to sell us something (or at least the sponsor hopes that readers will buy the sponsor-provided products). Maybe that’s because self-care is supposed to be about giving ourselves a break from the immense stresses of modern life, and being bombarded with the relentless selling that happens in online culture (where everything/everyone is a brand, and lots of posts are actually advertisements) is one of those modern stresses. It starts to feel like we can never have enough to live a good life; we never measure up to what’s being presented online, and we’re constantly being told to buy something to “fix” that. That makes a lot of people feel cruddy. Self-care is supposed to help us re-centered from pressures like that, so when the concept of self-care itself is used to do the selling, it feels uncomfortable.

        That said, I hope Caitlin doesn’t feel bad about any of the comments here. Sponsored content can be so tricky, and you could just about twist yourself into a pretzel trying to think of and avoid every potentially objectionable aspect. The only way to do that is to avoid sponsored content entirely, but it’s a necessity in this day-and-age for blogs, especially when, as is the case with D*S, staff are paid a living wage and benefits. I think D*S is really thoughtful about how sponsored content is managed and presented, and I appreciate that, and your willingness to have a conversation about this particular post!

        • Jen

          Thank you for your feedback and for thoughtful comments re: the necessity of sponsored content. We carefully consider all sponsored posts and we tend to try to push them toward topics like this because it gives us a chance to talk about things we already care about and would write about naturally, rather than forced topics that aren’t comfortable for us. But I understand how this particular topic can, from the outside, be problematic to see connected with self care. I think it’s a complicated issue and I appreciate all of this feedback. Caitlin and I have been talking about this a lot and feel we’ve gotten some really helpful guidelines to keep in mind as we go forward.


      • I’m sorry, I didn’t do a good job in my comment at all! I didn’t mean purchasing beauty products. I meant that it feels like when reading about taking care of oneself, there’s inevitably mention of buying something new (a new notebook, a juicer, something cozy), and also a mention of the external body (skin, nails, anything that makes you glow) rather than the internal. With the title of making creative time, I was thrown by this being mostly about external things. There is only one very small, very perfect, Rifle Paper notebook to jot down any creativity here. And no mention of how to carve out that time.

        The author has done a REMARKABLE job showing what you can make with Shutterfly’s services, not just because her results are lovely, but because she has shown how they can reflect yourself. This totally deserves a post. And she has touched on the capacity for beloved objects to recenter and comfort you, and shared some of her own. This could be its own post. Maybe it just should have been framed differently—how you can create things with Shutterfly that can actually help you feel centered.

        I deeply appreciate your willingness to engage in a dialogue, and have seen how dedicated you are to both good design and feminism. I in no way doubt you or the author’s intentions. Please do keep up the good work!

        • Hi Kimi

          This is so, so helpful to me: “Maybe it just should have been framed differently—how you can create things with Shutterfly that can actually help you feel centered.”

          Thank you.


          • I apologize for my first confusing comment, I bungled the phrasing. And I really do commend you for how clearly you’ve shown that one can make personal, rather than just “personalized”, creations with Shutterfly. I also like hearing about the type of thing you use to weave your own space-within-a-space. My own totemic objects are very different (except for books) and it’s interesting to find out what works for other people as a nest of inspiration!

        • Kimi

          Thanks so much for you feedback. We definitely hear and understand all of the feedback here about being more careful when discussing self-care and the concept of purchasing anything in relation to that :)


  • Grace,
    I am really encouraged to have people take the time to have a thoughtful conversation about a difficult topic. It is what I’ve come to expect from the D*s community and something I really value.
    I agree with you that self care is a right and a necessity and I believe that’s why I feel uncomfortable with its commodification in the form of a sponsored post. I think the issue of privilege is triggered for me when something as personal as self care is made prescriptive and the prescription is to purchase x, y, and z.
    Thank you for your response,

  • Hi Everyone

    I just wanted to acknowledge I’m following this discussion and am grateful for it. I’m taking the time to process all of your thoughts and am thankful that we can have this discussion here.

    Thanks to Grace for encouraging this type of dialogue, and to all of you for taking the time to share your thoughts and feelings.


  • Grace and Caitlin,
    And I’ll play devil’s advocate and say I loved this post. More for the ideas (so many! I didn’t realize Shutterfly had blankets, too!) and the resources (Getty Open Sources, the Met, Rijkstudio) and the book Designing Your Life.
    My background was such that I had no money growing up, but that didn’t deter me from adjusting things to what I COULD make work. If you don’t have money to buy a book, there are splendid libraries where you can check books out (my local library I count as my second home), and if you want to see recycled blankets/quilts that are to die for, go to Alabama Chanin’s site (Natalie has taken old quilts…Goodwill anyone?…and re-dyed them, and embroidered and stamped over them, for amazing results). And beauty products? You can do a lot with basics from Target or a drugstore. Seriously. And you can arrange them on a beautiful plate you love (without buying that plate). Use what you have.
    I think the point of the post was dissemination of ideas, an encouragement to find what’s already around you, to do what you need to do.
    And I don’t think self-care is at all indulgent. I’m a mother, and I’m exhausted at the end of the day, serving everyone else. One thing I’ve learned: the better I take care of myself, the more I’m able to help others. I think we, as women especially, have been taught that to take time out for ourselves is selfish. And it’s a lie.
    It’s funny. I read the article completely differently, so I thought I’d chime in.

  • Great discussion here- thank you for allowing this type of conversation to take place. I enjoyed this post, but I second the above comment that a different framing may work better.

    I also found it odd that the “Mind Map” tile the author said she made of her own mind map was the same as a Mind Map example from the book?

    Thank you for continuing to provide thought-provoking and helpful content.

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