I wish I didn’t think about kitchen counter organization as much as I do. But counter real estate is at a premium in my Brooklyn apartment, and so I am in a constant game of Jenga, trying to find room for my stand mixer and cutting board without knocking the fruit bowl onto the floor.
One thing that’s helped: Little storage trays and small dishes for keeping life’s flotsam out of the way of my chef’s knife. I owe this to my mother’s steadfast rule that no non-cooking paraphernalia was supposed to languish on the countertop or kitchen table. Neglected homework, creased paperback YA novels, half-finished lanyards: All that stuff got put in a bowl on the edge of the counter and you knew you’d better collect it once the bowl reached capacity.
Now, in accordance with science, I’ve reached the age where I’m rapidly turning into my mother. So, I rely on a slightly more elaborate version of that storage bowl system: a mail organizer, a tiny leather tray that acts as a key and wallet holder, and a pinch bowl where I keep my rings when I’m doing dishes.
If you find yourself swiping away junk mail and stray ear pods when you’d rather be busy preparing your mise en place, browse on for a few kitchen countertop organization ideas.
Tiny pinch bowls
Have a spare salt pig laying around or a few little pinch bowls that you usually use for sauces, herbs, or fried shallots? Those are ideal for rings. Just be sure to place them far enough away from the sink to avoid any wedding-band-in-the-garbage-disposal accidents.
You can only ask so many times that the day’s junk mail not be plopped down on your clean countertop before you usher (okay, push) your housemates (also known, on their good days, as your family) toward the mail rack. Bonus: These are also great landing places for loose homework, grocery lists, and most important, printed out Epicurious recipes.
$7.00, Bed Bath & Beyond
One or two strategically placed hooks will keep keys from landing on the counter—and having a designated spot will shave time off of your departure routine.
Storage trays and baskets
A sleek plastic storage tray is always handy (especially if you have small kids and expect you’ll be wiping fruit purée off whatever storage solution you choose). If you want something a bit less utilitarian and modern, consider a catchall basket or soft leather tray.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious