Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.
Let me just start by saying that it’s very easy to have clutter free countertops when you have lot’s of storage space – cabinets, a pantry, closets, or a basement. Without being prescriptive and preachy about how people should live their lives, I will outline what it is that I do (and have done in a much smaller kitchen) to keep my counters clear and clutter free.
While having a big kitchen helps keep clutter free countertops, larger counter space allows for even more things to accumulate on it. (Read My Dream Kitchen Reveal Post.) And if you have a small kitchen to begin with, it is even more important to keep the little counter space that you have clutter free and available as a working surface.
My previous kitchen was probably a quarter of the size of this one and my countertops were still clutter free.
Clutter-Free Countertops – Most of the Time
Obviously, the counters are there to put things down on them. At any given time, I have plenty of things on my countertops. Looking around right now, I spot a water bottle, my kids’ medication, a frying pan, an iPad, and a catalogue. But these things are not permanent fixtures on my countertops. Yes, groceries, mail, and homework will be set down on them but then they will soon be moved to their actual homes. I like to have a kitchen that is lived in but that can be quickly tidied up by putting all the things in their permanent spots.
Without being prescriptive and preachy about how people should live their lives, I will outline what it is that I do (and have done in a much smaller kitchen) to keep my counters clear and clutter free.
The essentials are things I always have on my counter and putting them away would really impact the functionality of the kitchen – dish soap, hand soap, a dish sponge, and paper towels. (My old kitchen had a built-in paper towel holder underneath one of my cabinets so the roll didn’t technically sit on my counter.) Even though my essentials are missing from the picture above, they’re always there in real life. Don’t be mislead by the pictures you see on Pinterest and Instagram! I remove the essentials for the sake of the pretty picture but they’re otherise always there.
The only small appliance that sits on my counter and is part of my essentials is a drip coffee maker. I have tried unplugging it and putting it in the cabinet directly below but that really irritates my husband. It’s the only small appliance that gets used every single day and given how accommodating Russ is with all my other quirks, I let him have his way with this one little thing. But if I’m having guests over, or for blog pictures, I put the coffee maker away.
What about the rest of my appliances? The Nespresso machine, blender, toaster, panini maker, hand mixer, stand mixer, juicer, crock pot, bread maker – they all sit inside base cabinets in my island and perimeter. In my old house, a lot of these small appliances (the bulky ones) were stored in the basement. I have probably used the KitchenAid stand mixer three times in almost 15 years, same for the juicer. Such rare appearances didn’t warrant for dedicated kitchen cabinet storage. It really wasn’t a big deal to walk down to the basement if it was once in a while. As far as the more frequently used appliances – like panini press or toaster – they just get put away in their cabinet spot after each use. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to do that especially when the reward is a clear counter!
What if you don’t have a huge island to store all your small appliances? If an appliance is used often enough that you want to have it within reach, I would then examine other items in your kitchen and decide if they could be relocated to a closet or further storage to make room for the things that you do use on a daily basis. Which brings me to probably the most important part of this post …
I figure out what my most used items are and make room for them in the cabinets within reach. Everything else can be moved to a further spot – even outside of the kitchen. We have all accepted certain standards when it comes to what should be in our kitchen cabinets and where things should be located in relation to one another and within the kitchen. You actually have the right to make your own rules and store things in a way that makes sense for how you use your kitchen. For example, I don’t bake very often. So things like flour, sugar, mixers, etc. don’t need to be in a very accessible space for me. Canned goods, cleaning supplies, paper products – these can be in closets, pantries, basement, or garage.
Ok, so I omitted these when I listed the random things that I could see on my counter right now and they’re also not included in my Essentials. The reason is, if I didn’t have much counter space, decorative objects would be the first to go. Candles, statuettes, vases, trays – all gone! I don’t think I had any decorative objects in my much smaller previous kitchen. However, some of the items that you use can double up as decoration and find their way on your counters in a more functional way. For example, a fruit bowl or pretty wooden cutting boards. I would still prioritize clutter free counters over decorations. I don’t tend to overdecorate, especially with permanent objects that only end up gathering dust and contributing to a cluttered look.
Cutlery, Spices, Knives
These are favorite items to be kept on top of the counter but not for me. Not only are my spices in a drawer but they’re also all in cute matching jars – so they look pretty. (These are just the little things that make me happy.) Same goes for my cutlery and knives – in a drawer. When we renovated the kitchen, we ordered some of the drawer cabinets with built-in dividers. My installer told me the cabinet companies actually use drawer dividers from Rev-A-Shelf and cut them down to their specs. You can buy Rev-A-Shelf organizers online and cut them to the dimensions of your drawers. So that’s what I did for the cabinets that didn’t already come with an organizer. I have rounded up my favorite inserts in my Kitchen Drawer Organizers post.
Custom Drawer Organizers by Rev-a-Shelf
Overall Functional Designs
If you’re renovating your kitchen or building a new home, you have the opportunity to design your kitchen to not only be pretty but to function well for your specific lifestyle. For example, think about how you will organize your cabinets in order to make your life easier doing every day things. My cutlery drawer is in the island directly across from the dishwasher. That means, I stand in one spot when I unload it which makes that mundane task that much faster and less unpleasant. Same goes for my dishes – they’re in a cabinet above and to the right of the dishwasher. My glasses are next to the fridge where most drinks are kept, as well as the ice. The coffee maker is also right there (not pictured but it normally sits on that little counter.)
This sort of planned placement can’t always be perfect especially in a large kitchen. My glasses are close to the fridge but far from the dishwasher. My dishes are close to the dishwasher but far from the stove. You just have to figure out what’s more important to you and design your space to make your life easier.