Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters

When we’re consulting with potential clients about organizing their kitchen, we talk goals. Almost always, at the top of the list are clutter-free kitchen counters.

It’s no surprise. When a kitchen lacks systems, clutter builds in the easiest to reach location – countertops. As the heart of the home, the kitchen is a space that often serves as a catch-all: command center, drop zone, AND food-prep area. It’s an area ripe for those delayed decisions that lead to clutter!

Using organization techniques and the right products, we can create more storage space in the areas that can’t be seen (inside cabinets and drawers). And systems and routines can take care of the “life clutter” that accumulates here, too.

Read on for tips and tricks to help make your kitchen space more efficient!

Prioritize a Prep Zone

When starting any organization project, its important to keep in mind the end goal. Your “Why?” In this case, we want counters clean because they look nice, sure, but more than anything we need the space for a countertop’s main function – food prep!

(One of life’s little frustrations is that moment when you need to start cooking dinner and instead of jumping right in you have to take time to shove things aside to make room. Organization is all about getting rid of these stressors!)

When you’re going through the items in your kitchen, decide what needs to be left out (essentials only) and what needs to find a new home. Set aside an area (or maybe two) near the sink and stove for food prep, and make it a clutter-free zone. From front to back, this area needs to be clear always.

Find another spot for the coffee maker (near the cupboard where you keep your mugs is the perfect spot), ditch the decor, and keep this area wide open for cooking.

Taking a few minutes to think about how you use the space will dictate where things should go. For example, once you’ve designated your prep zone, move your frequent prep items (mixing bowls, knives, cutting boards, etc.) to this part of your kitchen.

drawer of cutting knives

Organize from the Inside Out

After figuring out what needs to stay on the counters, it’s time to find a home for everything else. By organizing your cabinets and drawers, you will create more space.

Follow the basic steps of organization for each drawer and cabinet: take everything out, edit down to what you really need, sort into categories, measure, contain and label.

Drawer dividers and organizers are essential to maximizing space. And adding labels makes it easy for everyone in the family to know where things go so they can help put items away.

By organizing behind closed doors you also do yourself the favor of knowing what you have. Instead of rebuying things that are already shoved in the back of your cabinet, you’ll be able to easily see where everything is. You’ll save money at the store and  bring less clutter into your home.

drawer of miscellaneous

Use Every Inch of Space

Another way to see how much you have in your kitchen is to decant items. Oxo containers are great for this reason, and because they fit together. Stacking them can really help you take advantage of taller cabinets or shelves in the pantry.

And don’t forget that often times you can adjust your shelves to eliminate wasted space between them. It’s an easy job that can make a big difference.

If you aren’t able to adjust your shelves, consider shelf risers that can double your storage space. Can risers and lazy susans also help take advantage of height and depth in cabinets.

Definitely don’t forget the backs of doors, either! Over-the-door organizers are so quick and easy to install, and give you so much more storage in an otherwise wasted space.

Read more here about how to utilize the space under your sink for cleaning supplies.

shelf of sauces

Make it Easy on Yourself

Sometimes one of the reasons things don’t get put away is because it’s just not convenient. No one wants to bend over or squat to put away that heavy pot so it’s just easier to leave it on the counter or stovetop.

If this is you (don’t feel guilty, we all do things like this), find ways to make your kitchen more user friendly. Keep a stool on a hook nearby to help you quickly reach tall cabinets. Install roll-out drawers or pull-out shelves in your lower cabinets.

Also think through what items you use the most. Store less frequently used items in those harder to reach places, and keep every day necessities front and center.

This is true for kids, too! If you want them to be able to help put away their own dishes, designate a lower cabinet or drawer just for them to use. Use picture labels to help them know where each item goes.

Shop the Photo: Chrome Cupboard Shelf 3-Tier Spice Organizer • Large Expand-a-Shelf • Chrome 2-Tier sliding Organizer • Roll-Out Lid Holder • Roll-Out Cabinet Drawer • Multi-Purpose Bin • THE 9″ Lazy Susan • Elfa Utility Pantry Over-the-Door Rack

Have a Plan for Paper

When we arrive home after a busy day, the kitchen is often the first stop. That pile of mail you just grabbed gets dumped on your countertop and so do all the papers your kids brought home from school.

If you don’t have a dedicated mudroom or drop zone near your entry, add one to your kitchen.

A family command center, with a family file box (learn more about this in my Reset Workshop Series), trays or wall hanging files for mail and kids’ papers, will give a home to these action items.

Set aside time on your calendar each week to go through this area and reset it. Sunday afternoon works for my family, but it may be a different time for you.

Re-read these blogs for more on paper organization: Organizing Important Papers • Organized School Papers Guide •  Office Organization

kitchen table island

As always, remember that it’s not just your job to keep the kitchen clutter-free. Have a family meeting about why this is important, and assign duties so each person is doing their part to keep counters clear.

I hope this will motivate you to add a kitchen refresh to your spring cleaning checklist. It’s the time of year for new beginnings, and the heart of your home is a great place to start! Reach out if you need help creating these systems. My team and I hare always here for you!

Happy Organizing!




Each of my career choices-wedding coordinator, event planner, and teacher — gave me the creative freedom to organize everyone and everything. I have always thrived on to-do lists, planners, and systems! Now, I lead a team of organizers to help me on my mission. Read more…

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