The Coffee Pot Conundrum

Two coffee pots

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Image showing how someone found counter space for two coffee pots

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.

Two coffee pots sitting on a kitchen counter next to each other.

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?

24 thoughts on “The Coffee Pot Conundrum”

  1. It’s always a fun exercise to look at problem areas, like the coffee challenge, from a new perspective. And armed with great questions like the ones you shared, is an excellent way to do that. Your story reminded me of a kitchen counter challenge we had. We had various solutions over the years, but none seemed to work. Before we figured things out this round, we had a toaster, but my husband wanted a toaster oven. I didn’t want to have both. And in the past, the toaster ovens we had didn’t really toast bread well. In addition, they took up a lot of space. I began feeling bad because my husband kept mentioning about wanting a toaster oven, and every time he said something, I kept saying, “But we don’t need a toaster oven.”

    Then finally for his birthday, I did the research and bought him a toaster oven. We got rid of the toaster. And you know what? It does a great job toasting. And it also heats up food well. It does take up a bit more real estate on the counter than the toaster did, but it’s not too much. He’s happy. I’m happy. We worked it out.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Choose Words That Will Positively Affect Your Fresh StartMy Profile

    1. Wow, I love this story! The challenge was very similar for you. Sometimes it is a preconceived notion we have (such as “toaster ovens don’t toast well) that can keep us from making our best choices. I think the telltale sign of success is when you are happy with the result, just like my friend and her husband. It’s working, and that is what matters most!

    1. What I’m finding by reading these comments is that many households have a situation where the husband and wife have different needs, tastes and desires. I guess this is more common than I thought! In your case, you don’t need to allocate any space for a coffee pot, so that works, right? It’s all about finding a solution that works for you:)

  2. I really like the way you illustrated the point that you have to do what works for your family and lifestyle. There’s no right way. Having questions to ask, even when it may take a little soul searching to find the answers, makes it a bit easier to arrive at a decision. I find that sometimes using a trial period for a solution works. Suggesting that you try this idea for a little while if it doesn’t work, try a different solution until you arrive at the one that works best for you.
    Diane Quintana recently posted…Feeling Overwhelmed? You’re Not AloneMy Profile

    1. A trial period is a terrific idea. One of the first questions I ask when I return to a client’s home after setting up a solution is, “How is it working?” I want them to know that it is perfectly normal to have aspects of a system that work, and perhaps some that don’t. We can always tweak, but we shouldn’t be afraid to try something new, right?

  3. When we decided on designing the new kitchen, we made sure we had a coffee/beverage area for my husband. In our older kitchen, we found that we were bumping into each other while getting breakfast in the morning, so when we designed the kitchen, we made sure we had two areas – one for the hot beverages and one for where we would make breakfast. It helped us a great deal. While we still are tweaking the kitchen zones, it was nice to be able to spread out and not feel on top of each other each morning.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…12 Organizing Tips I Learned as a KidMy Profile

    1. The kitchen is a busy room, and thinking through activities and traffic can definitely yield great rewards. How wonderful that your new kitchen is easier to use and enjoy. That really feels terrific, right?

  4. We both like coffee the same way so one pot works for us. We have the luxury of a large pantry where I can put those appliances we use only on occasion and they are easily accessible when we want them. The coffeepot is the only appliance we leave on out counter permanently.

    1. How great for you that you both like coffee the same way. It has been interesting for me to see in the comments that lots of couples have different tastes on this one!

  5. Love this post Seana! You captured our situation perfectly. I laughed out loud about the toaster oven…cause one day John just came home with one.! That was a firm NO…it now lives at my sister’s and he uses it when he cat sits.

    1. Okay, that is so funny:) There are limits, right? I had to get a new toaster oven, and the one we ended up getting is much bigger than my old one, so I’m “adjusting.” It is funny how much changes to our kitchens (and the kitchen counters in particular) impact us!

  6. I love this story! My husband and I got a Keurig years ago because he drinks coffee, but not enough for a full pot, and I drink tea, so with this one appliance, we can have both. It was all about drilling down to what we actually needed and what would work with our lifestyle.

    1. The Keurig really is a great option for so many. I just saw on TV a new kind of Keurig that has both the “one cup” and the “full pot” option built in. Seemed like a good idea to me, especially for families who usually only drink a cup at a time, but sometimes have a bigger crowd and want the option to make more.

  7. That’s interesting! I’m sure we have more than one of such scenarios. And we do have a coffee one that we seem to have fixed. I can really only drink decaf but I LOVE the smell and taste of his regular coffee. He really needs it (uses it in a smoothie) and I don’t. I can only drink a 1/4 of a cup of it so he leaves me that exact amount when he goes to work. It’s still hot and it’s never too much that I’ll get sick from it.
    I don’t bother making decaf because I tend to just get it as a treat from a coffeeshop once a week and don’t enjoy making it myself. There’s just something about the last remnants of Cassidy’s coffee, though! Makes my day.
    And we had to really talk about it to get to this solution. Took ages!

    1. I love this unique solution! I have had so much fun reading about he various setups people have in their homes around coffee and morning beverages! I can’t drink the caffeinated either, not because I have any theoretical objection, but only because it makes me shaky. So many factors can impact your coffee setup, including tastes, health issues, quantity of drinks consumed, and even time of day when the coffee is made. In your situation, there is a tenderness to feeling connected to your husband’s final 1/4 c of coffee – so sweet:)

  8. I love that this is a common theme for families. I always say that when organizing, no two partners will agree with the same exact solution. Finding common ground for organizing is a win for everyone!

    1. Yes, it has been interesting to see all of the comments. A variety of solutions are bubbling up, and the best one is the one that works for YOU!

  9. I have found that most situations can be worked out. However, the most challenging is when one person is organized and the other isn’t. Kind of like “The Odd Couple.” Finding ways to manage that as a couple takes time but it’s well worth it.
    I’m so happy to report that we live in this fabulous building that makes Starbucks coffee every morning. That’s something we both love and agree on!

    1. Now that is yet one more solution to the coffee situation – love that one! That takes up zero counter space:) I completely agree that very different styles can cause friction in a household. A combination of good strategies, patience, and willingness to compromise are usually required!

  10. Hello Seana,

    The story is interesting but in my point of view, it’s a common problem in most of the houses and in this situation the actual sufferer is his wife because she is facing the space accommodation problem for the two different coffee makers in the kitchen. In between husband & wife different coffee test is a natural & simple matter. Like my wife like decaf coffee but I like the cappuccino. In that case, I have made a solution like this way- I have bought a Supper automatic espresso machine which is serving many person’s different wants & different tests of coffee. With this machine even we don’t need to go to Starbuck. I think it will help those suffering peoples a lot.

    Thank you
    Gazi recently posted…How to make bulletproof coffee at home (best ways)My Profile

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