If spring is time to scrub away a long winter’s worth of dust and dirt, then fall is the perfect season to gather, sift, and sort for the demanding months ahead. It’s been a long time coming—the easy, breezy days of summer have passed and you’re likely already feeling overwhelmed by the morning rush, getting dinner on the table while juggling homework and afterschool activities, and maybe even the looming holidays, which will be here before you know it.

Being prepared and feeling in control is the best way to ease your anxiety, and when it comes to the busy fall season, there’s no better place to start than the heart of the home—the kitchen. So pick a weekend, evaluate your items and space, and consider what you can do to save time and sanity. Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat “Keep it together” as your mantra. Think of the words literally as well as figuratively using these smart strategies and clever hacks.

  1. KEEP RELATED TASKS AND ITEMS TOGETHER: First and foremost, is your kitchen set up as efficiently as it should be? Are dishes and glasses in cabinets over the dishwasher? Are coffee-related items near the coffeemaker? Are trash bags near the trash can (or stored inside it, as many people like to do)? The goal is to complete necessary tasks while minimizing unnecessary extra steps.
  2. KEEP SELF-SERVE BREAKFAST ITEMS TOGETHER: AM crunch time is much easier when kids can help themselves. Keep morning must-haves like butter, jam, syrup, and yogurt in a grab-and-go fridge caddy that you can set out on the counter and quickly put away when everyone is done. Do the same with breakfast-friendly pantry items like cereal, breads, and granola bars.
  3. KEEP LUNCH PREP ITEMS TOGETHER: If packing lunches is part of your routine, designate a cabinet (ideally right over or under the counter) for storage of all the essentials, from reusable containers and brown bags to napkins and plastic cutlery. (Tip: This is also a great landing zone for the single-serve utensil packets and condiment packets from your takeout delivery!)