“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