This year, we celebrated Christmas with an old family favorite – spaghetti with meatballs and spareribs – cooked in a large crock-pot that consumes 18 inches of countertop space. With 16 people for dinner, space is a premium. I covered the small second kitchen sink with a cutting board and placed the crock-pot on top of it. Counter space problem solved.
We use the small second kitchen sink less and less these days. Installed during a kitchen remodel years ago, when children crowded the kitchen, it was convenient to have one sink for meal prep and one sink for cleanup. The second sink had a water filter which provided clean drinking water and served the cook. The old sink collected dirty dishes and served the dish washers. As the years went on, the water filter on the second sink became cumbersome to maintain and I elected to replace it with a better quality under-counter water filter on the old sink.
Now that the crock-pot covers the second sink, I realize there is not only more countertop space, but a whole other cabinet below to store pots & pans – that is – if plumbing pipes were not in the way. This suggests a new countertop though.
There are umpteen options for kitchen counters: laminate, corian, lapitec, stainless steel, concrete, granite, recycled glass, recycled paper, butcher block, soapstone, quartz, marble, tile, travertine. What to do?
I called Robin – a friend who is also a talented interior designer. She asked what I was looking for. I said that I wanted to replace the laminate counter (yes – laminate, not granite) with a honed-like material like recycled paper or soapstone.
Robin arrived a few days later to assess the kitchen counter.
Robin: “What about the flooring?”
Me: “The flooring?”
Robin: “Yes. The flooring. Are you going to keep it? Good design, no matter what style, selects one area to focus your attention on and all other design elements become supportive to that one item.”
Then, as politely as possible, Robin said, “Your floor is pretty busy.”
A random pattern of bright red, green and blue primary colors, our checkered kitchen floor is about as busy as it gets. Happy, but busy.
Me: “Well – it’s vinyl. We installed it 18 years ago before I knew how toxic vinyl was. It’s cracked and hard to clean. I’m ready to replace it.”
Relieved, Robin gave me some flooring and countertop ideas to ponder.
On her way out, I gave her my book, Making Work Visible – Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work & Flow. She responded, “Well – I don’t know if I’ll understand much of it – I’m not technical, but thank you!”
I explained that while the book does have an IT bent to it, people outside of tech have found it helpful. The technology sector does not have a monopoly on overload. People in all industries are overwhelmed with conflicting priorities and unplanned work.
Several days later, Robin emailed me, “I like the idea of grey quartz countertops with your pretty cabinets and this should be the focal point of your kitchen. A place for your eyes to rest. So that is why I think it’s best if your floors are quiet.”
Thankful for Robin’s sound advice, I read on.
“I’m reading your book and find it interesting that a lot of what you write about are issues which strongly influence interior design. I’ve attended many industry seminars (both local and regional), and the consensus is that the bombardment from social media, cell phones, and constant email have swayed design trends more than you would realize. It is one reason why the mid-century revitalization has come around so strongly. And why there has been a strong turn toward making interiors quiet, spacious, even spare. The need to escape the constant “tapping on your shoulder, just one more thing”, environment of today has brought about interiors that attempt to give your mind space to wander and relax. People are ripping out their flashy granite countertops in favor of solid color countertops. They want to come home to a serene, tranquil space.”
This is the reality of our everyday world. Continuous demand from children, school, aging parents, cooking, cleaning, laundry, social media, hosting holiday parties – it all adds up. Does any working parent have a normal thyroid anymore? Or non-stressed adrenal glands? The litany of health issues from stress is real and compounded from Facebook depression, decision fatigue, and digital dementia. It makes sense then that finding ways to cope with overload has bled into the kitchen.
Quiet colors help reduce stress. Finishing existing work before starting new work also helps to reduce stress. Limiting the amount of work-in-progress enables smooth work. Creative work. Quality work. Like a clean calm kitchen, limiting work-in-progress helps people enjoy a fluid workflow.
The small second sink has not been used for over a week and the crock-pot still sits on the cutting board. It’s currently empty – but not for long. Tomorrow it will cook Lau Lau’s for our New Year’s Eve dinner. So, I’m trading the small kitchen sink for more counter space. One less sink to clean, less plumbing to maintain.
By cutting out the unnecessary, the mind gets a moment of calm – a quiet bit of time to simply breathe. And like purging unused items, limiting work-in-progress enables us to simply think – a must have for the new year.