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Store kitchen tools near the place where they'll be used

What can you do to reduce the amount of time and energy you spend getting meals on the table? How can the kitchen help you? Condensing kitchen tools is one answer that helps in many ways.

The kitchen usually has three work centers: the sink, the stove and the mixing counter. Putting tools near where they will be used for the chores of these three centers will make kitchen work much faster.

For instance, the sink is where you clean produce, peel vegetables and wash dishes. Peelers and knives should be stored within easy reach of the kitchen sink. Dish soap, scrubbers and dish racks should be right there, too.

The stove is where you stir foods, scramble them and flip them over. Spatulas, stirring spoons and wooden tools should be stored nearby. Stove spices should be in an adjacent cupboard. Pans and their lids should be in the immediate vicinity.

The cupboards near the mixing counter should hold measuring spoons and cups, baking spices and mixing bowls to make mixing quick and easy.

The best way to see if your kitchen has tools condensed at their "place of best use" is to stand at each of the three work centers and reach for your tools. Can you get the pans standing in just one place? Can you get the peeler without moving from the sink? Can you mix a cake without moving around a lot?

Every time a tool is moved nearer to its place of best use, the more time you save each and every time you are in the kitchen.

If a tool is used here and there, sometimes it is well worth having several of them. For instance, table knives are needed near the toaster in order to butter toast, but they are also needed at the kitchen table. Why not have two places to store knives, one near the toaster and another near the table?

Another item of interest is the wastebasket. Most kitchens don't have enough wastebasket space to handle one day's kitchen garbage. In fact, most kitchens could use two wastebaskets, both of them out in the open where they are easily used with one-handed motions. One wastebasket could hold non-wet items such as packaging, plastic grocery bags and bulk mail. This one won't need a liner.

The other wastebasket should be lined and hold wet items. This second wastebasket should be near the sink where most of the wet items, such as produce peelings, are found.

Setting the table is often a laborious task. One way to simplify this chore is to take all of the items from the cupboards and drawers when it is time to set the table and put them in a large plastic bin. Carry the bin full of tableware to the table and go to work. Wow, just one trip from the kitchen to the table does the job. Use the same bin to gather dirty dishes after the meal, and again it only takes one trip.

Look for additional storage spots in your kitchen to put tools near work centers. For example, a mixer often has several types of beaters. These could easily be hung from the underside of the upper cupboards so as to be near the mixer. That way the beater can be retrieved with one hand. Paper towels can be hung near the sink, too, where they are most often used.

Remember, every small improvement you make toward putting a tool at its "point of best use" will reduce time spent in the kitchen.

Marie C. Ricks is a motivational speaker and the author of "My House of Order" handbook, "My Master Menu" cookbook and other home organization material. To order her materials or offer comments or questions, contact her at © Marie Calder Ricks/My House of Order.