How to Declutter Your Kitchen Counters and Free Up More space

What if you could simply walk into your kitchen and get to work, without having to move or rearrange anything to make space?  Preparing meals is faster and easier when you’re not fighting counter clutter.  Follow our suggestions to reclaim your countertops and enjoy a streamlined workspace.

“How do I free up counter space?” is the question every mom with a cluttered kitchen wants the answer to.  As you’ll see below, the answer is to declutter, then rethink your storage, and finally to use accessories that maximize your space.

1. Remove everything and sort.

Don’t skip this important step when you declutter kitchen countertops.

Remove all the items and give the surface a good wipedown.

Then sort into these categories:

  • Discard (trash, garbage, recycling)
  • Put away (items just need to be put where they belong, whether in the kitchen or elsewhere in the house)
  • Donate/Give
  • Keep in the kitchen

You may be surprised at how many of these items don’t even belong in your kitchen.  But somehow they seem to end up there on a regular basis.  We’ll talk more about that a little later.

Now that you’ve decluttered down to a smaller amount of items to keep, you’re ready to think about what actually belongs on your counters.

2. Relocate as many items as you can.

Many items that end up on our counters actually could (or should) be in a cabinet, drawer, pantry, or other storage space.

Maybe you’ve just always had them on the counter and never gave it a second thought.  It definitely takes intentionality to break out of our own clutter blindness.  And now’s the time to think outside that box and try some new ideas.

Common counter top items to consider keeping elsewhere;

How can you move as many things as possible off your countertops?   If necessary, you may need to rethink and/or rearrange some of your other storage spaces.

3. Prioritize items that are functional.

In the scheme of things, give counter space priority to functional items that serve a purpose.  Now I’m not saying to ditch all your kitchen home decor.  But things sitting on your counter that are strictly decorative can be minimized or even avoided altogether in favor of more space.  

4. Store only very frequently used items on a counter.

Are you wondering what should be left on your kitchen counters?

A good rule of thumb is that everything on your counters should be used regularly and often.   Not that everything you use often should be on your counters, though!  

Try to limit yourself to items used virtually every day.  That may seem strict at first but give it a chance and see how it works for you.

5. Declare one counter area off limits.

This idea has done wonders for our kitchen and taught me that I need fewer items on my counters than I thought. 

We selected the main section of counter, between our stove and sink, to be totally empty except when it’s being used.  Now I always have a clean space to work, and it goes a long way toward making the kitchen feel more open and spacious.

5. Deal with hotspots

The kitchen is a natural clutter hotspot, especially flat surfaces like countertops. 

It’s often one of the last rooms people are in before they leave the house and one of the first they’re in when they come home.  So all different kinds of things end up collecting there.

What type of things tend to congregate on your kitchen counters?  If they don’t already have a designated home, it’s time to create one.

  • Mail
  • Shopping bags
  • Newspapers/Magazines
  • School papers
  • Coupons
  • Receipts
  • To-do lists
  • Keys
  • Lunch boxes
  • Thermoses  
  • Recipes
  • Random items

For each type of item, find a real home.  It may or may not still be in the kitchen, but not on a counter.  

6. Contain multiple small items.

Small items that are frequently used have their place on the counter, but can create a cluttered look and feel. 

Gathering these items together on a tray, in a basket, or in some other container keeps them freely accessible but limits the visual clutter. 

A couple things to consider:

  • The small items should be decluttered first.
  • Don’t have a counter full of containers that are full of items.  

Some examples include salt and pepper shakers/grinders, napkins, a sugar bowl, cooking utensils, etc,  

7. Use your space more efficiently

Walls

Turning wall space into storage space can go a long way toward clearing your counters.  It can also be used to open up space in your cabinets, which can then be used to store items now on your counters.  Using rods, hooks, baskets, or other accessories, you can hang all types of things:  knives, mugs, spices, utensils, paper towels, measuring cups, etc.

Check out these highly-rated wall storage ideas.

Under cabinets

This area is also often overlooked potential storage space.  We moved our paper towels from a counter top holder to an under-cabinet holder and I immediately wondered why I hadn’t done it years ago.  Add hooks, a small shelf, or even hanging Mason Jar storage.

Check out these highly-rated under cabinet storage ideas.

Tall counter storage

Another easy way to take advantage of vertical space is to use counter accessories that are tall.  For example, a two-level storage basket only takes up as much counter space as a single-level basket, but gives you twice the capacity.  

A Two-Tier Countertop Basket is great for fruit and snacks.

This Over the Sink Rack and Storage uses almost no counter space.

Space-saving accessories

We never have quite as much counter space as we’d like.  That’s why using clever accessories designed to maximize the space we have is the next best thing.  Some even actually create more usable space, like the Roll Up Rack below.

Check out these highly-rated space-savers.

This Over the Sink Caddy helps keep the counter behind the sink clear.

A Roll Up Rack creates extra work space on top of your sink.

The OXO Foldaway Dish Rack is easy to collapse and hide under the sink when you’re not using it.

Tips for Success

Much of decluttering is specific to your personal circumstances.  But, there are some suggestions that I think apply to just about everyone.

  • Don’t just put things in containers or holders and call it a day.  As tempting as it may be, that’s not decluttering.  And you’ll only end up with containers full of clutter.
  • Empty eveything off your counter and then decide what will go back on it.  Make things “earn” their way back because they really need to be there.  
  • Be open to new things.  Use this as an opportunity to reinvent your space instead of falling into old patterns.  Push your comfort zone a little and try something you don’t know if you’ll like … maybe really minimal countertops or keeping a frequently used appliance in a cupboard (in easy reach).

Wrap Up

Clear counters make being and working in your kitchen so much more enjoyable and efficient.  It’s well worth the effort to get them and keep them that way.  Like any type of decluttering, it helps to push yourself a little past your comfort zone.  There are many creative and affordable ways to make it happen!

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