Recently I was speaking with a friend about an organizing challenge in her home. She told me that both she and her husband loved having coffee in the morning, but that their system hadn’t been working very well. Specifically, they were having two problems:
- My friend was in the habit of making coffee in her “old school percolator,” which made the strong kind of coffee she loves. Unfortunately, her husband wasn’t a fan of the strong coffee, and complained every day that he didn’t like it.
- My friend liked to enjoy leftover coffee around lunchtime. However, with both of them drinking from the morning pot, there was never enough remaining for this purpose.
Neither my friend nor her husband was happy with the coffee “situation.” My friend considered buying her husband a coffee pot of his own, but was reluctant to allocate the prime real estate of the kitchen counter for a redundant appliance. Somehow this felt like it might be breaking some important organizing rule. However, in the end she decided to see if she could make it work. After a bit of rearranging, she found a solution that made both her and her husband happy.
Below is an image of how she resolved the challenge.
I share this story for a couple of reasons:
First, I totally relate to the situation. My husband and I also have two coffee pots in our home. My husband makes multiple pots of full-strength coffee every day, while I typically drink two mugs of decaf each day. We went to the “two-pot solution” decades ago, and it works very well for us. Here is a photo of how we have set them up in our kitchen.
Another reason to tell this story is because it brings up an excellent principle: organizing systems need to function well for the user(s). Each individual and household has different needs, so there is no single “right” design. It all comes down to priorities. Here are some questions that might help you figure out what to keep and where to keep it:
- What possessions in this room do I use every day? Once a week? Once a year?
- What part(s) of the room feels cramped and inefficient?
- What am I keeping in this room that I no longer want/need, or that I could put somewhere else?
- What problems am I having as I try to operate in this space?
- What storage areas can I easily reach?
- If I could snap my fingers and make this space perfect, what would it look like?
The goal of these questions is to focus in on a clear understanding of what matters most TO YOU. The organizing process requires that we make tradeoffs. While we might wish for more space, the reality is that we need to make choices in order to maximize the functionality of the space we have.
In my friend’s case, the top priority was the ability for both her and her husband to be able to make coffee they liked, throughout the day, with a minimum amount of hassle. Given this goal, allocating sufficient surface space to accommodate two coffee pots was worthwhile. It works for them. Another couple may not drink coffee at all, in which case this seldom-used appliance could live inside a cabinet/closet/pantry for the few times guests come to visit. Again, it is all about figuring out what is most important.
In some ways, the approach is similar to the one used by an optometrist. Have you ever had your eyes checked? Typically, the doctor will offer you a series of two-set options. “Which option is clearer: A or B?” In order to get the right prescription, you have to keep making choices until you ultimately land on the optimal solution.
If you are frustrated in your space, perhaps you haven’t clearly articulated your priorities. You may be keeping items in your space because you think you “should,” even though you never use them and/or don’t like them. Similarly, you may be lacking a piece or system that you truly need.
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Is there an area of your home that irritates you? Have you tried asking these questions to drill down on a solution?