In the name of getting great dinners on the table in not too much time, our recipes often use a bunch of different cooking vessels at once: say, a pot, a pan or two, some prep bowls, a couple utensils, and a knife and cutting board. With so much going on, the kitchen can get messy, and you, the cook, can feel frantic about the various kitchen activities you’re supposed to be overseeing.

There’s one change you can make to banish this feeling. The trick? Have a place to go.

What does that mean? A few examples:

Before you pull a hot baking sheet out of the oven, clear a space on the counter and set down a folded dish towel or a trivet to make sure you have a place to set the hot pan. That way, you’re not straining your wrist, burning your hand, or freaking out about dropping the pan.

When you start stirring your simmering sauce, have a plate or spoon rest ready so you don’t plop the bolognese-covered spoon on the counter, leaving a big gloppy mess–where something clean is apt to land before the cooking is done.

And when you go to fry the cakes in next week’s recipe for Crispy Chickpea Fritters with Ratatouillepictured above, it means having a paper towel-lined plate prepped and ready near your skillet. That way, when each fritter is finished cooking, you don’t have to search around for a place to set it, all the while dripping hot oil and losing your patience. This will never happen when you’ve got a place to go.

Do you have any simple, smart cooking tips you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments.