The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is often a hub where people gather for nurturance and communing with family members. As mentioned earlier, the kitchen is often where women center their energy. As such, it has become an action area, not only for food preparation, but for women to coordinate a variety of activities as diverse as meal planning, scheduling appointments, coordinating schedules, and making important phone calls.
The kitchen desk probably came into being to accommodate the ever increasing needs of women to have an office of sorts close to where they spend most of their time. The idea was good, creating an area for the CEO of the home to work. I know, you’re already laughing! Who works at their kitchen desk? Who even sits in front of a kitchen desk?
First of all, kitchen desks are usually about the size of a postage stamp–too small to accommodate the needs of a busy family. Also, they are not comfortable places to sit because they are built-in pieces of furniture which force people to sit facing a wall with his or her back to the rest of the room. Sitting with your back to a room puts your nervous system on high alert, ready for any possible threat. In that state it’s difficult to focus. Consequently the chairs of those desks, if they even exist, are rarely used, except as a stacking spot for paper and other objects.
Kitchen desks of even the most organized women quickly become drop spots. Typical desk clutter consists of papers that come in from children returning from school, the mailbox, and meetings, not to mention all kinds of other objects that family members drop on their travels through the kitchen. Most people just roll their eyes when they look at their kitchen desk. Unless properly set up and managed, it is often a source of frustration, as well as an eyesore.
Clearing clutter from a kitchen desk first involves separating papers from other objects.
Work with objects first. Follow these steps:
- Sort objects into those that belong in the kitchen and those that do not.
- As you’re sorting, feel free to pitch any items you know you don’t need, love, or that aren’t worth the effort of moving to another location.
- Put items that belong elsewhere just outside the kitchen door to be dispersed to their homes after you finish working on the desk.
- Put away those items that do belong in the kitchen. That may involve going into drawers associated with the desk. Resist the urge to organize the drawers at this time. Your first focus is on restoring order to the desk top.
- If objects don’t fit in the drawer, put them aside for the clutter clearing session when you’ll address the drawers.
Once you’ve addressed the objects on the desk top, sort the papers that were on the desk.
- Pull out the biggest chunks first: the newsletters, magazines, and stapled-together papers.
- Toss or recycle those that are no longer relevant.
- Sort the remaining papers into the following categories:
Refer Out (goes to another location or person),
Action (actions to be taken at this location),
Reference (e.g. contacts, schedules),
Filing (at this location),
Pending (e.g. tickets for an event, directions to a social event, etc.),
Reading (optional reading), and
Possibilities (e.g. information about products that you could use or events that you might attend).
The only papers that should remain on the desk are the action papers. The desktop is an action area. It ceases to be an action area when clogged with papers that need filing, reading, or are references and possibilities.
- Move reading papers to an area where they are most likely to be read.
- If you have room to store files, filing ideally would be done immediately up receipt.
- Reference items can be stored in files or binders.
- Pending and possibilities can also be filed for easy access.
A good filing solution for the kitchen is an open filing box for files to accommodate all the types of paper you need to access from the kitchen. It could be stored on the counter, but preferably under the counter in a cabinet or in the opening where the chair is supposed to be. It must be easy to access so frequent filing is easy to do.
Whew! Who knew that clearing clutter from a kitchen desk could be so complicated? Anywhere you have paper, you have complexity. When you set up a system for managing paper you need to access in the kitchen, and you use it, maintaining order on the kitchen desk gets easier.
Remember, keep only those things at the kitchen desk that you regularly use in the kitchen. I call those tiny desk areas “prime real estate”. If you want to maximize the potential of a kitchen desk, you can’t afford to park useless things on those small surfaces. If kept clear and set up properly, they can function as the cockpit for the coordination of most of the activities of a busy family. Is that how your kitchen desk functions? If not, why not? Claim your kitchen desk as a mini-home office, an action area for women at the heart of the home.