The Helpful Guide to a Clutter-Free Kitchen Counter

“The kitchen is the castle. This is where we spend our happiest moments and find the joy of being family.” – Mario Batali

There is something entirely refreshing and life-giving about a clean, uncluttered kitchen counter. In fact, it is one of my favorite benefits of a minimalist lifestyle. It sets tone and culture for the home. It communicates calm and order. It promotes opportunity and possibility (who enjoys cooking in a cluttered kitchen?). It saves time and promotes cleanliness.

Yet it is one of the most difficult places in the home to keep uncluttered. There are, of course, several reasons for this challenge:

  • The kitchen is hard-wired as a natural gathering place for the family.
  • The kitchen is physically located in a high traffic area of the home.
  • The purpose of the room requires messes to be made during its use.
  • The kitchen is often used as a collection area for various odds and ends (mail, etc.).

While it is one of the most difficult places in the home to keep clutter-free, it is often one of the most desirable. It is also completely achievable. We have made it an important feature of our house and you can accomplish it in yours as well.

The Simple Guide to a Clutter-Free Kitchen Counter:

1. Remove the unnecessary.

One of the biggest causes of clutter in our homes is our tendency to put too much stuff in too little of a space. When we do, it becomes difficult to store things, find things, and access them. As a result, we dread putting things away and it becomes convenient to leave things on the counter.

Typically, the kitchen is full of this clutter. We have cupboards and shelves and drawers full of cooking utensils, gadgets, things we thought we needed, and items we purchased for a one-time use.

If keeping your kitchen counters uncluttered is a problem in your home, this is the most important step you can take. Remove completely any item you no longer use. And store items used less than 3 times/year elsewhere.

2. Relocate any thing that does not belong.

Kitchens are notorious for becoming collection areas for all various odds and ends. Unintentionally, they become the storing place for many of them: mail, kids’ homework, purses, keys, almost everything in your junk drawer.

Identify a new proper home for each. Then, change the culture in your home that allows them to stay there. Think of your kitchen as a Department Store Customer Service Area – items may enter there, but rarely stay. You can also extend this thinking to items you already store in your kitchen: televisions, radios, telephone books, etc.

3. Give every item a proper home.

One of the most essential steps in organization and keeping a home clutter-free is to find a proper home for every item. Designate drawers for silverware and cookware; cupboards for plates, containers, and small appliances; and closets/shelves for food and larger, less-used appliances. After taking steps #1 and #2, you’ll find this easier than you think.

4. Store daily use appliances out of sight.

If your counters are routinely cluttered, there is a good chance you are storing many daily-use items there (toasters, coffee makers, teapots, can openers, spice racks, etc.).They are often stored on countertops for convenience sake.

But in reality, these items spend far more time as clutter than they do as needed instruments for food preparation. For example, if you make toast every morning for breakfast, it’ll take roughly 3 minutes to toast your bread. After that, the toaster will sit unused for the next 23 hours and 57 minutes. You use it far less than you think you do.

Rather than allowing these appliances to take up counter space and cause distraction, find a home in an easily-accessed area. In our current home, we store the toaster, coffee-maker, and tea pot in a cupboard right next to the outlet. In our previous home, they were stored in an appliance garage.

5. Change your “counter is convenient” mentality.

The fallacy of convenience is a big reason our kitchen counters stay cluttered. We tend to keep things in plain sight because we believe it makes our kitchen more convenient. As a result, our counters fill up with baking ingredients, knife racks, cutting boards, and coffee mugs.

And while it may be more convenient to readily grab those items when needed, we rarely notice the other conveniences we are sacrificing by storing them there. We move them every time we wipe the counters. We sacrifice precious prep space when we cook. And they subtly fight for our attention whenever we enter the room.

6. Finish unfinished jobs completely.

When a counter is clear and tidy, it becomes motivation to put things away. But a cluttered counter attracts clutter… and unfinished jobs are clutter.

Granted, some projects take more time than others, but many kitchen jobs (washing the dishes, wiping the counters, returning used items, etc.) can be completed right away before ever leaving the kitchen in the first place. For best results, if a job can be finished in less than 2 minutes, do it. Finishing tasks will do wonders for your attitude the next time you walk in.

7. Reset each evening.

If you are lucky, your kitchen gets used every day. And any room that gets used daily will need to be reset daily. That’s why it has been on my evening checklist for a number of years.

We live our lives and often get too used to them. As a result, we get used to our cluttered kitchen counters and don’t realize how freeing it can be to keep them clear. We may be reminded when we walk into a friend’s house or see a photo of a simple kitchen, but we’ve become so accustomed to the current state of ours we forget we can change.

You don’t need to live with a cluttered kitchen countertop. The solution is indeed simpler than you think.

Image: Yasu’s Photo

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    ‘Change your “counter is convenient” mentality’

    Nice point. I’ve recently discovered that a cluttered surface ( or room, or desk ) brings about stress as compared to a clean counter top. Nice clean lines tend to calm.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  2. says

    We follow most of the above mentioned points in our kitchen except for having a separate storage for kitchen appliances. Half of the kitchen shelf is occupied with the appliances which have limited use daily. Implementing this advice is going to make a big difference. Thank you for sharing!

  3. says

    Thanks again Joshua,
    If we all could just master the kitchen first, it will help keep the whole house clutter free. The kitchen is our first and best place to start. We can set an example for all the other rooms. I know most of us know this…. but that is why I SUBSCRIBE to your blog. It is great to get these reminders to keep on our path. You are so right on… get the kitchen done and keep it done and you will be empowered to clone that clutter free feeling to the other areas of you life.
    Thanks again for the gentle reminder!

  4. Lisa says

    As for kitchen gadgets & clutter: get rid of single use gadgets. A toaster oven is a multiple use item (save a lot of $ to use a small toaster oven than heat the whole large oven for small baking) and replaces the toaster. A rice cooker is nice, but just one more item and doesn’t actually reduce the amount of dishes to be done. All the little gadgets we buy are usually easily replaced by a couple of good knives (and learning how to use them).

    Have a gadget that you haven’t used in a year? Get rid of it :-).

  5. says

    Okay, okay! I’ll dismantle my spice rack tonight and re-gift the rice cooker to the neighbors. Thanks for the motivation, Joshua. Kitchen clutter has been quite the 9:30 pm argument ignitor. Let’s put a stop to that!

  6. Thia May says

    Oddly enough, this is my least problem area, mostly because my kitchen is in the back of the house (not a high traffic area) and I have a home office with a bin for mail. However, I have the toaster and coffee pot out. I can’t remember the last time I actually had toast. Need to move those now. And as always, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your blog. Thank you!!!

  7. says

    Right after I read this post, I rearranged some things in the cabinets and made space for my coffee maker. The toaster oven is just too big to hide away, but now it is the only item left on the counters. I’m loving it!

  8. Fiona Malone says

    A friend read a tip in a book, which was basically a zero tolerance approach to Things on Flat Surfaces. The idea was that if you’re inclined to be messy, don’t put ANYTHING on a flat surface, the absolute opposite of what happens in decorating magazines. Because once one thing is allowed there, it will grow friends: the flowers attract the keys, which attract the phone, which attract the bag, which attract the pens…
    I tried it. I removed everything from my kitchen table and bench. I found everything a new home (including the bin). And now I do not leave the room while there is stuff on the surfaces. When I’m done in there, the surfaces are clear.
    It’s been several months. I still have clear benches.
    (Except for the gingerbread house that was an awesome idea but badly planned, because I have no idea where it should live. I think we need to eat it soon.)

  9. O+ says

    This post made we wonder about your philosophy on food itself and your consumption of it. :) Is your fridge full or is it minimalist also?

    Keep up the good work!

  10. says

    And another great bonus to keeping counters clear, is that they are safer! There is a food handling component to the clean kitchen theory too. One area I struggle with, is my pantry stock. But for counters, being able to fully wipe them down after preparing a meal means there are less germs to cause a potential problem. Trying to cook on a cluttered counter top also means an increased chance of injury — you need room to chop, a safe place to put down a hot/heavy pan, etc.

  11. Marianne says

    I see everyone talking about coffee makers and I forgot what it was like to have that appliance out. Last year we bought a brew express coffee maker that installs into the wall. It comes out about 2 inches onto the counter and hooks directly to the water line. I love clean spacious counters!

  12. laurie macpherson says

    I have a lovely spring table in my kitchen and lots of cupboards for storing stuff!!

  13. Anne Stockwell says

    My kitchen is easier to keep neat, because it is the room I control most fully. I do need to implement some of these tips though!

  14. Karen says

    I have started working teaching cooking & the kitchen there is spotless. At home I cook around the mess & clutter & its driving me nuts.
    I even printed this out to keep as a reminder.
    Thank you for this post.

  15. says

    I love these tips. I’ve never seen an appliance garage before, great idea. I will work on implementing these steps to help eliminate the clutter in the kitchen. It’s one of the most difficult rooms in my home to keep tidy. It seems like I’m constantly working on it!

  16. Jodi says

    Hmmm…I have 5 kids and we have lots of bowls of fruit and veggies on the counter (tomatoes, onions, garlic, limes, lemons, apples, oranges, whole watermelons and pineapples). What can I do with those?

    • says

      Jodi why not allow one bowl of fruit for decoration/use? Put some of that list in the fridge. Lemons, limes, garlic, onions, oranges, and apples all do well in the fridge. Watermelon too if you have the room! Keep the rest in one bowl!

    • Jenn Marie says

      Kudos to you for keeping healthy food out for your family. I keep my onions, garlic, and potatoes in the pantry. For the citrus fruit and apples, a three-tiered fruit basket (standing/hanging) or tray works well and is decorative. Watermelons and pineapples can go in the fridge or on the floor of the pantry. If you choose to store citrus in the fridge, remove it 12 hours before use. Cool temperatures cause the fruit to dry out, and room temperature helps restore it.

  17. says

    The kitchen counter being clear is the start of my calm. We do have our appliances put away with the exception of a kettle that we use frequently throughout the day and a bowl of fruit. I like to say “the counters are my workspace.” I keep them free of things so I have room to cook, bake, and pay bills. It’s a great place to start for someone trying to have less.

  18. Maya says

    I am making a vision board of how I want my future life to be and I picked a photo of a clear kitchen counter. I didn’t realize how my cluttered counter was affecting me in a negative way. Thank you for this article. Now to get busy. I am not a hoarder but magazines and counter clutter is my downfall. Any ideas would be appreciated. We are an older couple.

  19. says

    Today I began to clean my closet, and I couldn’t have imagined what I would experience my wife was just about to call the therapist from hoarders, because I didn’t want to get rid of my old T-Shirts. She had like 15 of them that I never wear, but I swore I would wear them again one day! I eventually got rid of them at a Goodwill store! I feel like I’ve made a step in the right direction. I’ve been reading your blog in 2013, and I’ve told everyone I was going to do this in 2014. I got a taste of how hard it was going to be to becoming a minamalist!

  20. Catherine says

    I am so excited. I minimalized my kitchen today. I have a big box of kitchen gadgets ( melon ball thingy anyone?), coffee mugs, and baking trays all ready to donate. Loving the journey!

  21. says

    It’s difficult to whip up dinner when you can’t find an inch of work space between that bulky blender, hulking knife block and rickety spice rack. Find ways to clear your food prep area by uncovering surprising new places to stash some of your biggest space hogs.

  22. Carolyn A says

    I would love, love, love a clutter-free countertop, but with a 1920s farmhouse kitchen from the 1950s and six people, there’s no where else to go with certain things other than the countertop. That said, we can probably do better and have less out than we presently do.

  23. Paula says

    THANK YOU! I have been reading your posts for awhile and implementing a couple of the smaller quicker changes but I just spent 6 hours going through my already small kitchen and pulled out all the clutter and unnecessary things. WOW my counter is empty except for a fruit bowl and a knife block. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Slowly but surely I am “becoming” a minimalist!

  24. says

    I appreciate this reminder. It took me a long time to adopt your method of putting away the coffee grinder and other items.

    Now I will focus on keeping it decluttered every night.

  25. Amanda says

    This is a great challenge! Living in an apartment with a small kitchen, its sometimes much easier to leave the things I use daily out instead of trying to find a place to store them. But this does get a person thinking of ways to implement the concept.

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