These 4 Kitchen Counter Zones Helped Cut My Cleaning Time in Half

published Oct 12, 2020
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I’m nothing if not particular about how cleaning happens at our house. This is definitely not to say that everything is perfect. Far from it. But when we (myself included!) stick to some household guidelines, keeping things clean and orderly feels like it’s happening almost in the background rather than governing how my family spends our time at home.

One Way Of Doing Things, so to speak, that I’m more rigid about than others—because it makes such a big difference in the efficiency of our kitchen—is the way I’ve organized our kitchen counters into distinct zones for different tasks.

We have two main lengths of counter, on either side of the kitchen, and they’re broken into two zones each, separated on one side of the kitchen by the sink and on the other side by the stove.

Credit: Lula Poggi
  1. The Prep Zone: To the left of the sink is the prep zone. This is where cutting boards are placed and food is washed, cut, and prepared. After a meal, it’s also where all the dirty dishes get placed. The right side of the sink is where the dish drying rack lives. It’s right over the dishwasher, so clean dishes move from the left side of the counter to the right as they’re washed.
  2. The Coffee Zone: A bit farther to the right, past the dish rack, is the coffee zone, where the coffee grinder and the coffee maker are. The cabinets right above these hold our mugs and coffee beans, and the tea is on top of the fridge immediately to the right as well.
  3. The Baking Zone: On the other side of the kitchen, to the left of the stove, is the baking zone. Our stand mixer sits on this counter, measuring cups and spoons are in a drawer right below it, and the pantry with all the dry goods like flour and sugar is just to the left of this space.
  4. The Admin Zone: To the right of the stove, the last counter zone could be called the admin zone. It’s where we set cookbooks or our phones as we’re referring to recipes, and also where the inevitable clutter-y things and paper items we need to put away end up. If I need to roll out dough, like for cinnamon rolls, I also use this counter, cleared-off of course.
Credit: Lula Poggi

How Counter Zones Can Help Your Kitchen Cleaning

Having zones cuts down on so much cleaning work in the kitchen. It contains messes in general. If I’m cutting up things for slow cooker white chicken chili, for instance, by sticking to the designated prep zone, I only have one section of counter to wipe up while dinner is simmering. Similarly, if dirty dishes never go on the side where clean ones live, no one has to wonder if used and unused dishes got mixed up.

When I’m handling raw meat, by only using one spot to do it, I know exactly where I need to disinfect. And when I stick to the zone that corresponds to my task, I put myself in the best position to clean as I go. For example, if I remain on the counter near the stand mixer, rather than leaving little messes all around and forgetting about them until it’s time to clean a whole explosion of a kitchen, I can easily wipe spills and clear dishes from a small area of counter.

In addition to cutting down on questions about what’s clean and minimizing the areas that need to be cleaned at all, when the whole family pays attention to what happens in what kitchen zone, we can work together even in our relatively small kitchen without getting in each other’s way too much. My kids can assemble their lunches on the prep counter while I brew my coffee, for instance.

The biggest time saver is that when it’s time to wipe down counters at the end of a meal, we rarely need to wipe down every single inch of counter top. Most of the time, we only need to wipe down half of the counters. Those saved minutes add up to more time to get ready in the morning without rushing or to read in the evening.

Thank you, kitchen zones.