(I'm sorry I can't credit this idea due to my wide-ranging browsing style, but I thank whomever from the bottom of my heart.)
This means: designate particular areas of the kitchen for particular tasks, and stick to it.
I only needed to designate two zones to make a huge difference! (I also tidied for visitors and took the photo opportunity :-)
I'm giving you one rather difficult angled picture rather than several better ones, and I hope it works.
I chose the far left of sink surface to be food prep and the right to be cleanup in waiting. (The size of each area is roughly equal in real life, unlike in the photo.) Note that I had to choose the best compromise in my sadly imperfect kitchen....so you can too.
The bulk of my food prep is for the microwave. (And the oven is across from the sink next to the fridge, with so little prep surface around it that it is unworthy of a photograph, phooey!) I also have my cluster of kettle, food processor, and toaster, all ready to go. And the pantry cupboard is just a turn around away. But the dishwasher is under the food prep side and the cutlery and cookware drawers under cleanup. OK, so with those problems, why even bother? I hear you ask. Control freak, you mutter under your breath, but I hear that too. No really, this is cool!
With these zones, I can start food prep at any time without having to clear away a stack of dirty dishes. Any waiting dirty dishes not in the dishwasher are either soaking in the sink or stacked to the right. Purists might argue that I should clean up before I start anyway, or not leave dirty dishes around in the first place, but I've failed for years to adhere to that, whereas this works pretty well. Plus, with something prepped and cooking in microwave or wherever, that is the perfect time to multitask for a few minutes and load the dishwasher - whereas any time you must spend clearing beforehand is spent and gone.
- Having the dishwasher on the opposite side isn't so bad - the dishes travel via the sink for a rinse and then to the dishwasher anyway
A few microrules help even further. Soaking is an important part of my routine - it saves water and effort. I even reuse soaking water when I can, even if it gets gungy. But I try to soak the breakfast bowls and other small items that collect during the day in the small sink only. That leaves the big sink free so the tap can be used (filling the kettle, during food prep, etc) and in extremis, for the days when I am so rushed I don't get around to the breakfast dishes until after dinner, the dinner plates still have a place for their own quick soak and rinse right after dinner instead of balancing dangerously and ineffectively on bowl and saucer towers or having to wait until even later.
And don't forget the rinse and reuse. Act now, and some dishes rinse off so clean it would be a crime not to reuse them. I don't care, and the kids don't notice. I have a small special stack for those, and DH knows he's to front up with his breakfast bowl. Don't put these gems into the sink, for soon they will be swimming in gungy water and they will be dishwasher fodder.
You remember I said my stove and fridge area wasn't worth photographing? Well, that's true. But have a look at the shelves over that side of the kitchen... before...
Hooray for me!
So now share your best kitchen tips and tricks....