A while back, I was visiting my sister in Texas. Each morning she would go about her routine, getting herself and my two-year-old niece ready for the day. Wanting to help, one morning I decided to get the coffee going for us while she was still upstairs with my niece.
Now when my sister made the coffee, she made it look super easy. When I tried to do it, I felt like a bumble bee, awkwardly bumping into things and zig-zagging back and forth across her kitchen-- over here to boil the water in the kettle, over there to grind the beans with the grinder, over on the other side to get the French press, to the fridge for the cream, over there for the sugar, and back to where I started to grab mugs.
Maybe it’s just the fact that I was doing all of these steps without having had a cup of coffee yet, but the experience made me wonder about my own kitchen set up. My sister was completely used to her system and where to find everything she needed, even though to me it seemed very complicated. Had I fallen into a similar routine?
When I returned home, I inspected. And sure enough, I realized that I had created a very similar situation:
Our coffee pot was next to the fridge, far away from the sink; the coffee beans were stored three cabinets away from that; the mugs were in yet another cabinet; the sugar was over by the beans; the cream back over there in the fridge, and the spoon for stirring it all together was in the drawer by the sink. Totally simple, right?
Besides having our supplies stored all over our kitchen, creating the zigzag effect, the biggest impediment to our kitchen flow was where we had placed our coffee station. It was right in the heart of the food prep area, so whenever we had overnight company and on weekends when my husband likes to cook elaborate breakfasts, anyone trying to get a cup of coffee felt like they were in the way (mostly because, well, they were!).
All in one place
After taking a step back, I realized it would make a lot more sense to move our knives and Kitchen Aid to the back corner of the prepping area, where they can be easily accessed when needed, and to move our coffee station closer to the pantry and the sink, solving multiple problems:
1) Easy access to the faucet to fill up and wash out the coffee pot every day
2) Next to the pantry where we could stash our extra coffee beans making it easier to refill as needed
3) Out of the way so that you can get your coffee without the risk of getting your fingers chopped off. (Don’t worry, it only happened the one time…)
Once we rearranged the kitchen supplies, I implemented one more change in order to streamline the process even further: moving our coffee mugs. At first I thought I would have to rearrange all of our dishes in order to make this work, but it actually wasn’t difficult at all.
I stacked some of our bowls to make room for our small plates, opening up the perfect spot for six coffee mugs, about all we would ever really need at one time (and making me wonder why I’m storing the extra coffee mugs if that’s really all we need… it may be time for more purging!).
After a week of this new set up, I was so thrilled with how much easier it was to get through our morning routine that I started looking around to see what other changes I could make.
I found two more: we moved the drying rack from the left to the right of the sink, further opening up our food prep station and increasing the flow of our dishwashing system. Now everything flows to the right instead of back and forth.
Then I created a little morning routine supplies shelf above the toaster where I could easily grab the things I need to make breakfast and to-go lunches in the morning.
These simple changes have made a huge difference in the amount of time it takes us to get out the door in the morning. All it took was a step back to analyze our routines from an outside perspective, like I was able to do at my sister’s.
When you are used to the way things already are, it can be difficult to envision that there may be a simpler, more effective solution out there.
Taking time to reassess the systems you have in place is the only way to figure out if they are actually effective.
In our case, they weren’t.
As you prepare for the hustle and bustle of the holidays, find a moment to step back from your daily kitchen routines, literally or figuratively, and note the systems you have in place. Could moving a few things around save you time and energy? Even just a few minutes a day adds up over time--and on those mornings where you’ve slept in or woken up to a surprise from the dog, it can feel like a true gift.
Let me know what you discover, and if you find yourself feeling uncertain of what to do next, give me a call and we can tackle it together.
Until next time, keeping enjoying this one and wonderful life,