Inside: Learn how to get rid of countertop clutter for good and enjoy your space more by decluttering and creating habits to keep them clear.
When you look at your kitchen countertop, what do you see? How does it make you feel?
Countertops are one of the most likely places to accumulate clutter. Today let’s look at how to get rid of countertop clutter for good.
For my birthday this year, I asked my husband and daughters to clean the house. Gifts aren’t really my thing, but someone besides me doing housework? Yes, please.
They worked so hard without complaints and it was lovely. One of the things my husband did when he cleaned the kitchen was cleared everything off the counters.
When I walked into the kitchen I noticed what a huge difference that made. The kitchen felt bigger and I saw how much more workspace there was.
This got me to thinking about how countertops get cluttered in the first place.
Why there’s countertop clutter
There are a variety of reasons that countertop clutter accumulates. Here are the 6 most common that I’ve seen and experienced.
1. It doesn’t have a home
One reason items get left on the counter is because they don’t have a home to go to. It may be something that is new or something you’ve never found a good location for storing it.
If you notice this happening, first question whether or not you want to keep the item. I’ve found that some people don’t create a home because they don’t actually want or need the item.
If it is something you want to keep, then now is the time to find a home for it. Where would it make sense to store it? Think of somewhere that is convenient and that you’ll remember.
Sometimes the places that seemed so logical initially are soon forgotten leaving you questioning your memory. Think of where you’d look for that item. Maybe that’s where it’s home should be.
2. Not taking the time to put it away
Countertop clutter can pile up due to simply not taking the time to put it away immediately. Let’s just admit that most of us have all done this at some point. I know I’ve been guilty of it!
The item is easy enough to put away, but you just don’t feel like doing it right now. ‘I’ll remember to do that later’ is the gateway for clutter accumulation.
If this one resonates with you, challenge yourself to practice the one-minute rule. If it will take you less than a minute to put that item back where it belongs, go ahead and do it now.
Most often it does take a very short amount of time. Once you get in the habit of putting things away immediately and remembering this rule, your countertops will be clearer.
3. As a reminder
How many times have you left something out on the counter intentionally? Not because you were lazy but because you felt like putting it away would make you forget the project you needed to do with that item.
Leaving items out as a reminder isn’t really the most effective way to get a project completed. How long have you had those items sit out for days, weeks, or months even, and at some point you’ve gotten used to seeing them there and no longer notice?
A better way to remind yourself is to leave a note on a whiteboard or put a reminder in your phone. Better yet, stop pushing off the project and just get it done as soon as you can.
So often we imagine things will take longer or be more difficult than they really are. We waste our mental energy and clutter our counters
4. Because of kids
Countertop clutter can come from any member of the household, but I’ve noticed it happens the most with my kids at my house. There could be a combination of reasons for this.
Laziness may be a factor or not knowing where that item belongs can be another one. Although, sometimes I hear one of my kids use that as an excuse when they full well know where things belong.
To help prevent kids from cluttering up the countertops make sure you have systems in place for where those items belong and that your children are aware of them.
Have one or two times during the day where they help with a quick clean up and clear those items off the counter and put them away.
5. Due to assumptions
Another reason for countertop clutter is assumptions. Perhaps in the home you grew up in the toaster always sat on the counter so yours does too.
Maybe you’ve never tried other storage solutions so you have extra items sitting out.
Often times we adjust to what we have out on our counters and we become blind to the clutter they create. I know this had happened to me and I didn’t even realize it until all the items were removed.
You may assume you have to own certain kinds of items or they have to be stored on the counter because that’s the way it’s always been.
6. For the love of accessories
Are you a super fan of Home Goods, Marshalls and/or TJ Maxx? They, and other similar stores, offer a plethora of home decor.
So many of them look so cute in the store and so you bring them home to brighten up the kitchen or make your space feel more cozy.
There’s nothing wrong with a little of that, but for some people, there is a lot of that. Having too many accessories can make your house look cluttered. Instead of it looking cute, it can become too much.
It isn’t that you shouldn’t have any accessories. It’s just that when you have too many you no longer notice any of them and they all begin to collect dust and clutter up your countertops.
It’s not just your kitchen
While countertop clutter may be the most common in the kitchen, this same theory applies to bathroom countertops and to the top of furniture as well.
Look around your home at the top of any flat surface where items collect. That could be on dressers, nightstands, kitchen tables, desks, coffee tables, bookshelves, or even the top of your fridge.
In almost all homes (in fact, I’ve never seen one where this wasn’t true) these areas collect clutter. You get used to seeing it over time so you stop questioning it. All these areas lend to feeling like your home is cluttered.
Once you are able to see your home with a fresh perspective you can begin the task of getting rid of the countertop clutter for good.
How to get rid of countertop clutter for good
You may now be noticing your countertop clutter more than you have before. That’s a good thing because once you can see it you can work on getting rid of it for good.
Here are some tips to help you through it.
1. Take everything off
The first step is to take everything off the counters. Every appliance, every decor item, and every item that holds other items (utensil holders and knife blocks, I am talking to you).
Now that you have everything off the counters notice what the space looks like. How does it feel?
It takes time to adjust and see how it functions, so I suggest setting those items aside for a period of time so you can see what’s truly essential.
You’ll likely quickly notice the benefits of having decluttered countertops. That feeling will help you be more selective in what you put back.
2. Be selective
Now that you’ve noticed what it’s like to have less on the counters, you may find you are missing a few things.
Maybe the empty counters feel too cold. That’s fine. Feel free to add selectively add back a few items.
For functional items you’ve had sitting out, consider if you could store them elsewhere. Do you have room in a cabinet to store the toaster? Do you have a pantry or cabinet the mixed would fit in?
If you truly don’t have other options or they are just too inconvenient, it’s ok to leave some items out. Just try to be selective on what you keep out to decrease the visual clutter and so you have more room on the counters to work in your kitchen.
Declutter & Re-home
Decluttering your kitchen will help you to have more storage options. I found that after I decluttered my pots and pans, I had space to store the toaster in that cabinet.
There are a variety of options for storing items differently. The cooking utensils could go in a drawer. The knives can too, although you may want to add a lock to it if you have young children.
The act of clearing the items off and only slowly adding back the necessary helps you to think more creatively about storage solutions. It also helps you to more clearly see the clutter.
Now when items are left out on the counter, they stand out more, which leads us to looking at daily habits.
3. Daily habits
Now I know you might be thinking sure it is easy to take everything off the counter and declutter and rehome some things. I can get my counter looking nice. What I can’t get is them to stay that way.
And yes, that is the eternal challenge isn’t it? This is the point in which habits need to change. It may be some of your own habits and also those of other family members.
When everyone has been used to treating counters or tables as dumping grounds it takes some effort to break those practices.
For yourself practice that one-minute rule. When it takes less than a minute to put it away, do it immediately. Also, make sure you have appropriate systems for dealing with mail or other paper clutter.
Get the family in on doing daily decluttering or tidying up. You could make it at a particular time or have it be right after dinner each night. Whatever works best for your family.
During this short time, everyone needs to put away the things they left out earlier in the day. This becomes part of training your kids to be responsible for their own stuff and helps the adults to lead by example and be responsible too.
You can make it fun by listening to music. When you get in the habit of doing this daily, it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
Benefits of not having countertop clutter
There are numerous benefits to decluttering your home. For the countertops specifically, these are the most noticeable effects.
1. Enjoy your space more
When you look in a room and there isn’t clutter sitting on the tops of furniture and counters, it lets you breathe easier and feel more at peace.
That’s not to say everything is barren. It is just that the items are chosen carefully and not all sitting out by default.
When you have clutter free counters, you have more freedom to prepare food. Cooking is more enjoyable and less frustrating when you have the space to work.
You may be surprised by how much simply getting rid of countertop clutter as well as clutter on the top of furniture helps you gain a fresh perspective on your home.
2. Less visual clutter
With having less out and visible, you have greatly reduced the visual clutter in your home. We adapt to our living conditions so you get to a point where you no longer see the clutter or realize how it’s negatively impacting you.
Having visual clutter in every room of your home can make you feel tired, distracted, or uneasy.
Your home should feel peaceful. It should be where you go to relax and recharge and get a break from the busyness of the outside world.
When you limit the visual clutter, your mind is better able to rest. There are things about your home you can’t control, but clutter is one you can.
You may find that you love your home more when you get rid of the excess.
3. Saves time
When your countertops are cluttered, it’s so much harder to find things. Have you spent far too long looking for that school assignment for one of your kids or the note where you wrote down when your dental appointment is?
We’ve all been in those situations where we’ve spent too much time looking for something. It’s frustrating and it’s a waste of time.
When you take the time on the front end to keep the countertops decluttered, you’ll save yourself time in the long run.
It also makes for less stressful mornings as you’re trying to get everyone out the door with all the things needed for the day.
4. Easier to clean
When you get rid of the countertop clutter, cleaning becomes so much easier. Cleaning off your kitchen and bathroom counters is really fast when you don’t have to remove a bunch of items.
Dusting furniture is also lots easier when you don’t have excess item on them. Your space will take less time to clean and also just appear cleaner without the extra stuff sitting out.
I hope that this has helped motivate you to get rid of the countertop clutter and the flat surface clutter on your furniture for good. It takes some intention and ongoing effort, but the benefits are worth it.
Want to stay up to date with The Simplicity Habit? Sign up on the form below and you’ll get weekly decluttering tips sent straight to your inbox. You’ll also receive the Your Home Decluttered Jumpstart which includes 100 easy items to declutter and 12 high impact areas to declutter in 10 minutes.
What do you do with coffee maker , toaster oven and large countertop microwave? Too big, and no
Place to rehouse.
Hi Sue. The decisions of what stays out vs put away depends on the counter space and storage options in the home. Not everyone can put everything somewhere else (nor would they want to necessarily). It’s more about seeing what you can clear off and find what works best for you & your home 🙂
I am contemplating how to downsize now that we’re retired. There is a fridge that makes pod coffee, ice, and cold and hot water! There goes the coffee pot and water cooler! A Ninja 10 in 1 eliminates the need for a toaster, air fryer, and OVEN! it also dehydrates! 🙂 I plan to put the Ninja on a lift in the cupboard.
Most people use 2 burners on their stove. My plan is to have a mobile 2 burner inductive unit. It can also go under the counter!
I’ve done exactly this in my new home. It was quite easy and really gives me a sense of peace. As we get older, we realize how little we really need. I also realized how great a single bowl kitchen sink is. No longer have a dish drainer out, and I wash, dry and put away dishes immediately. I love it! Just takes so little time to simplify your life.
I am a traveling nurse, and only get home for 30 hours a week, from Friday night until Sunday at noon, and all I want to do is sleep. Each week I have to unpack and re-pack my car, doing laundry, mow the lawn, and still find time to visit my elderly parents in town. I teach a class during the week so I have a backpack with books, and papers, blah, blah, blah, and each week I get home, I have a new stack of mail and other stuff to go through, which usually goes into the abyss on the counter. My 25 year old daughter lives with me, and for the most part takes care of the house while I am gone. She goes in spurts with cleaning up after herself, but doesn’t much help otherwise. It is overwhelming. I end up throwing everything into my bedroom, which becomes a battle to “find” the bed to sleep. Tupperware is another thorn in my side. I have really good containers, but the lids and bottoms are forever separated, and I can find no good storage options for them. Where do I begin, and where should I look to find help to come in and assist me?
Hi Leah. I have this post with some tips on when to hire a professional organizer and what to look for: https://www.thesimplicityhabit.com/when-to-hire-a-professional-organizer-and-when-not-to/. I hope that helps!
Maybe a different career? Something less demanding of your time and (possibly) mental sanity. Hire someone to mow the lawn if a man, partner, husband or brother isn’t in the picture. Does it need to be mowed WEEKLY? There’s some lawn services who do the whole neighborhood on different days of the week, but still weekly. Ask/require more from adult daughter if she’s choosing to live with you. Tackle one area of your home at a time so it’s not overwhelming. Kitchen cabinets (under sink). Pantry/upper kitchen cabinets. Counter clutter. Bathroom cabinets. Bedroom closet. Hall/entry area. Refrigerator. Get file binders with dividers for important mail. Have a bin/receptacle for junk mail and papers you want to shred. A trustee friend or relative who’s great at decluttering and organizing (with less emotion towards it) helps.
Thanks for your article. Three years ago we had a ‘major’ remodel, from a walled off rambler to now open plan. Everything was planned by hubby and I, with the kitchen the ‘major’ priority. Three counters (which include an attached island forming a U shape work area).
After reading your article I stood back and realized how cluttered it feels. Removed everything except my two large round cooking utensil holders. I hate having them out as they collect dust and grease as they sit beside the stove. No place to ‘stick them away’.
Hi Patti. Could you condense them to one container of just the essentials? That would help cut down on the space they take up if you don’t have any drawer space for them.
Thank you Julianna, (now why didn’t I think of that). Did what you said. Tall spoons in one holder and the other in my corner under counter turntable…looks and feels so much tidier. And now with all the ‘nonessentials of everything’ off my counters the kitchen looks SO much cleaner and now easier to clean.
My husband uses our countertop as a desk so I bought a beautiful little desk for him to use. Guess what? Now I have two cluttered areas. Lol.
LOL This is exactly what I did too. But Im gonna take her suggestion, and clear it all off at once and organize some file (make a home for everything – with a list of what to keep and how long) and start over. Good luck.
Our counters are only ever clear for a party – and my husband is great at sticking stuff in boxes and shutting it behind closed doors… I just found a pair of shoes hidden in this way that our eldest son has been hunting for for weeks!)
I put the knives out of the knife block and the utensils in a drawer to see if we could manage that way. The knives have stayed in the drawer, but the utensil holder is back out. Sometimes you just have to try stuff and see.
I have small kitchen syndrome. I simply don’t have much countertop space period. I don’t have a tremendous amount of stuff, but what stuff I have has a home on my countertop. Lol I do like the idea of taking everything off the counter and see what it feels like and then do my best to find a better home, or maybe no home at all in my home. It’s like the Swedish Death Clean where you take everything out and only put back in what you actually want that room to look like. Not as simple as it sounds, but nothing ventured, nothing gained right?
Thank you for your article. It came at a much needed time. Very helpful.
This article was so helpful. Off to
the kitchen counter I go, to get rid of the can opener, Water Bottles, coffee maker, etc. Since I don’t use them often, to
The pantry they go.
My kitchen counter is partially what got me interested in minimalism. I have a low clutter threshold and I have too much stuff to fit in the space I have. The more I declutter, the better I feel. I don’t have much cabinet or pantry space in my kitchen, so the counters just catch the overflow. I was making progress decluttering the cabinets when my MIL moved and we ended up with all her kitchen stuff. I wanted to donate all of it, but my dear husband loaded it all up in my kitchen!! So now I am back at ground zero, easing it all out as I can get away with it. Clear counters are the goal!!
That’s all great advice but I don’t have storage for certain things I have to keep n my counter. For example my biggest issue is the toaster oven/ air fryer we use a lot but it’s just an eyesore
I’m at the point where I want to get rid of clutter but have a hubby who likes to keep things and have “stuff” where he can see them and get to them.” It becomes a battle when we try to clean out an area. I try to clear out a room when he’s not around, leaving his stash. How do you get another person to be on the same page?
In short, that part isn’t always easy or simple. I wrote a post about it here: https://www.thesimplicityhabit.com/declutter-spouse-want-to/
I have found your posts just in time as I start the process of decluttering to pack up for a major kitchen renovation. One of the the main items I just don’t know what to do with is all the glassware we have picked up from wine tastings and souvenirs. So many are dated, no one else will want these! How do I recycle or dispose of these?
I don’t know what specific options you have in your area, but in ours, we have glass recycling where you could take them.
I love the idea of a clear countertop. Wondering how many actually cook in their picture perfect kitchen? There are a few things that I know would be better in the pantry like my vitamix blender but I know if it makes it to the pantry I just as well take it to Goodwill. My biggest pet peeve is the paper towel holder and fruit on the counter. I do not like mounted towel holders. Any suggestions on what to do with the paper towel holder?
Perhaps an inside cabinet mount for the paper towels?
A handy trick for reducing visual clutter in any room is to groups items together on a tray (basket etc). My morning tea items and meds (themselves stored in a pretty wood box) sit with my mug on a serving tray on the counter. It automatically places limits on how much I can leave out (only what fits on the tray), makes it easy to clean as I can lift the tray as a whole to then wipe down the counter, and it even serves as ‘storage’ space for the tray, which I otherwise only use a few times a year when I have guests over. A breadbox corrals my baked goods, offering easy access but minimal clutter.