8 ways to unclutter your kitchen counters (and keep them that way)

The kitchen counters. A space to prepare food, display our meals, gather around with friends and ultimately, become a dumping ground for every single thing in the free world.

The counters in almost every home are a magnet for clutter. But why? Well, they are a horizontal surface, the BFF of clutter and junk everywhere. They also reside in the most visited and used area of the home. For that reason, it just tends to be the place that everything gets dropped and dumped.

The problem isn’t when small piles sit for a day or two before you finally clear them off. The problem is that those small piles, when ignored, become skyscrapers full of paperwork, mail, junk, books, sporting equipment, half-empty bottles of water and soda, pens, bags, and so, so much more.

You know all of this, I know all of this, so how do we stop it? How do we unclutter our kitchen counters and keep them that way?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

1. Don’t bring it into the kitchen

This seems overly simplistic, but most of these tips and tricks are. There isn’t a magic pill for organization and cleanliness that you can swallow. Most of the ways to keep our homes from being taken over by clutter are by making small, easy steps, day in and day out. So in the simplest of terms, if you don’t bring it into the kitchen, it can’t end up on the counter. For example, if you notice that your kids dump their backpacks on the kitchen counter every day after school, designate an area in the mudroom, entryway or coat closet to hold their bags. Often the best way to fight clutter is to just find the right place for it.

2. Commit to a 5 minute round-up every night

I’m all about a good, solid nightly routine. I developed mine many years ago after the birth of my son. I found that I had pretty deep post-partum anxiety and that a routine really helped me to decompress and destress. Since then, I make it a habit to declutter and clean the kitchen every night. What. A. Relief. I take 5-10 minutes max to remove things that don’t belong, throw away garbage, put things back in their rightful “home” and wash off the countertops. You’ll find that after a week or so of this, it will not only become more habitual, but you will probably find that you have less clutter to clean up any way. Habits are funny that way.

3. Keep only what you need on the counters

How often do you use your blender? Are you actually making waffles in that waffle iron? Is the only time you use that espresso machine when you throw your annual Christmas brunch? If so, find another place for it. Can you store it in the basement, in a cabinet, outside on a garage shelf? If you aren’t using it often, it doesn’t need to be stored close by and certainly doesn’t need to be cluttering up your precious countertop real estate.

4. Use baskets with a purpose

Baskets are equally useful and a hindrance, depending on how you use them. If you are going to keep baskets on the counter, be sure they are storing only what you need. Perhaps you organize your spices into a basket, or oils, or the napkins and paper towel holder. Baskets can really help to cut down on the clutter that is spread out, but only if they are holding necessary items and aren’t just a receptacle for more junk.

5. Utilize the sides of cabinets

The sides of your cabinets (as in the end of the countertop, both below and above) are excellent areas for extra storage. Hang wire file folders or small bins to keep those things that would normally end up on your counter.

6. Use hanging rods and baskets for more space

In our home, we have hanging rods and baskets from IKEA. They rock. They are screwed in under the cabinets and hold these cute hanging baskets where we store our spices and oils. I can’t recommend these enough if you are lacking cabinet space and want to organize your things close by.

7. Use file folders

If paperwork is your nemesis, file folders and holders are a great alternative to create a paper pile city on the countertops. If you have a door in the kitchen, invest in an inexpensive over-the-door hanging folder system. We use this in our kitchen and it has completely eliminated any need to keep papers on the countertop. You can get them in different colors, patterns and materials. Win!

8. Give a basket to everyone in the house

Having a basket designated for each person in the house is a really neat way to be sure that everyone gets their sh…stuff…off the countertops each day. During that 5 minute nightly round-up, let everyone take their own belongings in their basket back to their room. You shouldn’t be the only one cleaning up here, mom. Put the responsibility on someone else for a change and give them a basket to carry everything back to their room or play area.


Ok, so we've got the kitchen counter tops down, but what about the rest of the house? Is the clutter taking over and causing you to think "It would just be easier to move to a yurt." The problem is, you don't even know what a yurt is and you love your home, so let's find a better way. I've designed a checklist just for moms like you who are ready to take the junk by the proverbial horns and get uncluttered for good. Download your free copy of the Purge it Like It's Hot list. Room by room, you'll find out what to toss for good.