Clutter hotspot: Kitchen counters (before and after)

For this week’s clutter hotspot, I decided to tackle my kitchen counters. Counters obviously are a hard-working area that collect clutter constantly.

Since the kitchen is the heart of our home, it makes sense for me to have a strategy in place to clear off the clutter.

Kitchen counters are a clutter magnet in my home! Here's how I clear mine off every day (with before and after pictures). A little organization in your life goes a long way!

Before decluttering and cleanup.

Here’s what my counters looked like before I cleaned them up on Wednesday morning. It doesn’t look too bad because breakfast dishes and lunch fixings were mostly put away by the kids after they used them. But still…

the messy kitchen counters before
The messy kitchen counters before tidying up.

My counters never get awful, well at least not awful for very long.

But – it seems like if I don’t keep on top of it, there is just stuff everywhere.

Library books are waiting to be taken the car, water bottles, dishes dirty and clean, and other miscellaneous things need to be put away. Plenty of crumbs, too.

Tip: For a lot of homes, bulky kitchen appliances like coffee makers, toaster ovens, blenders, and bread makers add to kitchen counter clutter. Having a cabinet space for these items to be stored when not in use helps keep clutter under control.

Getting rid of things you don’t really needs helps the most!

After – cue the angels!

I really enjoy the look of a completely clear countertop. It’s very satisfying for me.

Kitchen counters are a clutter magnet! Here's how I clear mine off every day (with before and after pictures).
Ahh – that’s much better!

Tidying up the kitchen is a combination of on-going decluttering and simple cleaning up. Plus, we use this simple tip to save tons of time cleaning!

2 Simple Goals for Kitchen Cleanup

My kitchen cleaning efforts boil down to 2 simple goals: clean sink, clean counters. Get there and I’m done! It’s also an easy standard to remind the kids – “clean sink, clean counters.”

Kitchen counters are a clutter magnet! Here's how I clear mine off every day (with before and after pictures).
I like using trays like this to group and contain things that stay out on the counter.

The hardest part is getting started.

Doing a thorough clean-up only took 10 minutes 50 seconds. I timed it for you just to see how long it would take. A quicker clean-up really takes only 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, unlike decluttering my keys, this job needs to be done every day. But at least it’s pretty quick, especially if you adopt and use the one-touch rule.

Kitchen counters are a clutter magnet! Here's how I clear mine off every day (with before and after pictures).
Ahhh – much better! Those bananas have got to get eaten so they stayed out and in sight. This scene is so much more calming and welcoming than the before.

Isn’t it amazing what a difference 5 or 10 minutes can make?

Of course you don’t want to be cleaning all day long! I aim to do this 1 or 2 times a day maximum. Plus, my kitchen is organized this way so it’s easy to clean up anyway.

Tips to make decluttering the counters easier:

  1. Run the dishwasher in the afternoon. One of my kids’ afterschool jobs is to empty their lunchboxes. Once they’ve done that, the dishwasher is started, whether or not it’s full (it usually is). Then someone can empty it while we’re setting the table for dinner. This, in turn, allows us to have plenty of room for dinner dishes and breakfast dishes.
  2. No paperwork on the counter! All paperwork is either tossed in short-term storage or dealt with immediately. Leaving it out doesn’t help me remember any better. Here’s the easy way I manage paperwork and school papers if those also end up on the counter.
  3. Counters are not storage places. Counters are workspaces. As much as possible, I try to get the stuff off the counter and put away out of sight. I’m even contemplating buying a smaller toaster to replace my ginormous toaster oven to help free up counter space. Would that be taking things too far?

On that last point, read more about how counters and flat surfaces are the worst offenders for clutter hotspots. They are the main culprits with bedroom clutter as well!

Kitchen Counter Clutter FAQs

How do I keep my kitchen counters from cluttering?

Have a home for kitchen supplies. Have a system for clearing dishes and papers regularly. Do a little everyday.

What should be left out on kitchen counters?

Not much should be left on kitchen counters except for things you use frequently and those appliances that can’t simply be stored away in the cabinets between uses. Needs will also vary depending on your kitchen size and lifestyle.

We recommend a tidy caddy for dish and hand cleaning supplies at the sink. A fruit bowl might be a must in your family. Also, certain utensils and knife storage often remains on the counter.

There is no right or wrong. It really is about finding the right balance between clean, tidy and functional.

What are some additional ways to keep the kitchen counters decluttered?

Install more wall storage:  If you have the ability and the resources, adding some hanging storage could do wonders for keeping countertops clear. A towel rack can be used for hanging kitchen utensils, hand towels, or small baskets.

Use trays and baskets on the counter:  If you have to store things openly on the counter, placing them in a basket or on a tray will help them look less messy. You can also easily move the basket or tray in a pinch to free up counter space when necessary.

Even more good kitchen decluttering and organizing posts to help you reach your goals:

Before and after kitchen counter clutter!

Do you have any tricks to keep your kitchen counters decluttered?

Want to send me a before and after picture of your counters? If you have pictures to share, I’ll post them here.


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8 thoughts on “Clutter hotspot: Kitchen counters (before and after)”

  1. Great advice. A clean kitchen is very calming! I also agree on keeping countertops free of clutter. If it were up to me we’d get rid of the toaster all together, and just use broil in the oven, but my husband wants it. (We store in basket in our buffet table, though). My dream kitchen has enough drawers and cabinets such that not one thing has to be out on the counters. I do have a utensil crock and my Kitchenaid, and I really wish I could find to get those things off the counters as well.

    • Your kitchen sounds really decluttered! I am lucky that we do have room for the Kitchen Aid in a cupboard, but that giant toaster oven …

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I find what I consider “visual pollution” makes me tense. Even though we use the toaster most days, I put it away after we’re through with it. I have an ceramic utensil holder and a decorative container that holds olive oils, vinegars etc. That’s it for the counters. It makes cleaning the counters SO much easier! At the moment I’m trying to figure out a good storage solution for my every growing yarn stash……I’m open to suggestion……..

    • I remember that you always put your toaster away! That was such a revelation to me – that people could tidy up like that. Now about the yarn, I don’t have any suggestions…

    • There are a couple of ways to tackle the yarn. One is to store them by color in clear plastic sweater boxes. Another is to store the yarn in larger clear plastic storage boxes by type. For example, all 4 strand yarn in one box, bulky yarn in another, cotton yarn gets its own box, etc. I also use zip lock bags to store each ongoing project by itself with the proper hook or needles. Be sure to label each box. I’m sure there are more ways, but I have used both of these.

  3. Just a suggestion – If you ran your dishwasher overnight instead, you could probably save a bit of money on power, as night tends to be off-peak and afternoon tends to be peak and hence more expensive.

    When we’re all at home it feels like I spend half the day decluttering the kitchen counters! Must get my kids (and my husband – and, okay, myself too) better trained to put stuff away when we’re finished with it!

    • Thanks for the tip – I’m not sure if the power company offers that discount – that would be a good reason to run laundry overnight. But I do like having an empty dishwasher right before dinner. It makes the crazy after dinner / before bedtime block a little easier 🙂

      And yes, training is so critical! We’re working on that here, too.

  4. Lovely post! Your kitchen looks so good after decluttering all the unneeded items. My kitchen’s the room the gets dirty first and gets cleaned last. It’s hard to keep it clean and your idea seems to work great in my case. May be one decluttering day will solve my problems. Thank you for the idea!


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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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