How to Declutter Your Flat Surfaces… for Good!

Ever notice that the flat surfaces in your home are the ultimate clutter magnets?

There’s just something about that flat surface that says, “Yes, set your stuff down here.” And then we do just that until we can’t see what was once our dining table or kitchen counter.

Let’s explore the ways to keep this from happening so you can declutter your flat surfaces and keep them that way!

how to declutter flat surfaces for good

Why are flat surfaces problem areas for clutter?

Flat surfaces are convenient places to set stuff down in a pinch. Once those items are down, it’s even easier to leave them there!

If you’re busy, taking the extra steps to put things in their proper home in another area of the house can get overlooked. After a while, you may even get used to your flat surface having those things on it.

The key to keeping your flat surfaces clutter-free comes down to defining your problem areas, the types of items that get left there, and setting up the right systems.

Common Flat Surface Clutter Hot Spots

The following is a list of examples of flat surfaces that might be collecting clutter in your home:

  • kitchen counters
  • dining tables
  • coffee tables
  • side tables / bedside tables
  • desks
  • dressers
  • chairs / seats

How to Declutter Your Flat Surfaces… For Good!

Step 1: Focus on one flat surface at a time.

It’s a good idea to just pick one surface at a time to deal with. That means you can give the area the attention it deserves – even if it’s just in 10-minute bursts.

Once you’ve decluttered and organized this one area (after going through these steps), you’ll want to maintain that area before moving on to the next.

That area is officially decluttered and off-limits to being used as a clutter catch-all.

Step 2:  Analyze your flat surface clutter.

Take a good look at the types of things being left in these clutter hot spots.

Mail, keys, and handbags left on the kitchen counter could be a good sign that you need an organized and purposeful drop area for these items as soon as you enter the house.

Craft supplies left on the dining table could mean that a good storage area for them should be close by.

Step 3: Create a home for these items in a convenient place.

Everything needs a home.

The key to an organized and tidy home is to have these homes near where you use them. That ensures you find what you need and move about your home life more efficiently.

Another perk is that these same things will have a higher chance of getting put away – and not remaining flat surface clutter!

For example, add a basket for mail near the entrance of your house or in your household command center so that it’s not left next to the kitchen sink.

4. Clear the surface as part of your daily routine.

The art of long-term decluttering success comes down to building the right habits.

You’re probably wondering, “How do I make the habit of putting things away?”

If you created homes for your common flat surface clutter, then it will make this process so much easier.

Here are a few extra tips:

  • Add it to your routine. If you’re washing the dishes, add clearing off the kitchen benchtop to the list of tasks that go along with doing the dishes. Clear off the bedroom side table (a common bedroom clutter hot spot) as part of your nighttime routine of putting your pajamas on.
  • Don’t put anything down. Instead, put it away. Mentally reminding yourself that putting an item on a flat surface is off-limits will help you create a good habit.
  • Don’t say, “I’ll do it later.” If you leave something for later on a flat surface, there’s a good chance it’ll stay there. Finishing what you start is so important.
  • Take something with you. Every time you leave a room, take a piece of clutter with you and put it where it lives. Never leave a room empty-handed.

Tips for Specific Flat Surface Clutter Magnets

Dining Tables

Keeping the dining table set will give you less room to use it for other purposes. Plus, it looks a bit fancy, and you never have to waste time just before dinner getting everything ready.

Bedside Tables

Downsize to smaller bedside tables so you have less room to throw everything onto it. Or, get ones with drawers so you can stash things accordingly (in their proper home, of course).

Kitchen Counters

Utilize vertical wall storage and hanging racks to clear off normal kitchen clutter (like serving utensils). Getting a kitchen island with shelves for storage helps for small appliances.

For non-kitchen clutter, like mail and paperwork, make sure there is a dedicated basket or home for these in the area or just when you enter the home.


Jewelry can be a common clutter issue for dressers, so be sure to get a good jewelry rack – or better yet, utilize some wall storage to hang necklaces and the like!

For clothes clutter, be sure to set up an organized closet/clothing system that makes it super easy to put them away. Folding in the laundry room is a good first step. Having a clothing “in-basket” may also keep that flat surface a bit clearer!

Bathroom Counters

If you lack good drawer and cabinet storage, you may need a good makeup storage rack or even a rolling cart to house your beauty items. The rolling cart is nice because you can put it in the most convenient and out-of-way place when not in use.

What are some methods you use to keep your flat surfaces clutter-free?


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13 thoughts on “How to Declutter Your Flat Surfaces… for Good!”

  1. Someone once said “It only takes a few more seconds to put something where it belongs, rather than just dropping it somewhere.” I have tried to adopt this and most of the time it works. Otherwise, you end up with huge piles of ‘stuff’ to be put in its proper resting place and that task seems overwhelming.

  2. I’ve started doing this. I have been working on my dressing table tonight and then saw this pop up on my emails.
    Thank you for the encouragement you

  3. I really believe it is “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Saves hours of searching. Keys on hooks. papers into labelled files. Pencils and pencils into their holders.
    Shopping bags into the bin that goes shopping. Mugs and coffee in cupboards near coffeemaker. Toilet paper in bathrooms. You get the idea. My motto for 2021 has been 20 steps 21 seconds – just do it!

  4. Yes, I do have these things happening with me andonly since I have lost some weight do I feel that I can start doing the decluttering of the ttable and benches

  5. I used to have jewelry creating a mess on my dresser and night stand. I made a necklace rack for all my necklaces. It displays them and keeps them off flat surfaces. I put an empty chocolate tray (like what Valentine candy comes in) in the top drawer of my dressers for all my earrings. Trying to put them on an earring rack never worked for me. All my stud earrings I pierce thru a LONG wide ribbon. Amazingly, I really do put them all away now and it’s been a couple of years now!

    • I too use a Russell Stovers chocolate candy box for ear rings. You can fit so very many pairs of earrings in these nice little spots. Easy to see what you have and very easy to put back.

    • I stapeled some chicken wire in an old frame and hung it behind my bathroom toilet door! Now i know exactly where my earrings are and its easy to see what i have, plus they are out of sight! Love your idea of hanging the posts on a ribbon. Thanks.

  6. I helped a friend get a housecleaning business started years ago. She was fond of saying, “Don’t put it down, put it AWAY.” I always do that for specific items, meaning that I never have to look for my purse, phone, or car keys. Other stuff, not so much. Working on that 🙂

  7. I am working on organizing my kitchen table. I don’t have a craft designated table so my pens, water colors and paints are on my kitchen awaiting me to go back and work on them. My dresser top is a mess. I think if I work on this place first and see success, I can tackle the kitchen table dilemma.

  8. I agree, Sarah, and I teach that you double your work when you put something down instead of putting it away! That is, instead of one step taking off a jacket and hanging it up, it becomes two steps when you lay it down and you have to pick it up AND put it away.
    Anything you take the time to find a “home” for saves you 10x the work later so it can be put away right away.
    Great article, Sarah!


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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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