Declutter Kitchen Counters: 15 Minute Mission

Today's decluttering mission is simple, declutter your kitchen counters.


kitchen organization challenge
Now, I know this is called a 15 minute mission, and when you read to declutter all of your counters in this time period you might just think, "ha! No way!"

I get it, I totally do.

So realistically, if you've got a lot of clutter this will not happen in such a short time period, at least the first few times you do this mission.

In fact, the whole first week of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge is all about kitchen organization, focused on countertops and the sink area.

But remember, these missions are to work and make progress for fifteen minutes. You don't actually have to get completely done in that time period just to have made progress!

Plus, sadly, but true, you wouldn't be able to keep your counters uncluttered with just 15 minutes once anyway, because life happens.

So read on about this mission, and also what I think about how to make this particular mission a daily habit, so you can actually have clear kitchen counters most of the time!

Flat Spaces Just Beg To Be Filled, But Resist The Urge

Flat empty spaces are just like an open invitation to put something down and leave it there.

Unfortunately, this quickly leads to clutter, and since everyone is in the kitchen a lot it seems your counters get a lot of clutter accumulation quickly.

What we want is for you to be able to realize the joy of having mainly clear kitchen counters, and then to be able to enjoy them most of the time.

I could wax poetic about the joy of clear spaces for a long time, but suffice it to say that it makes a room feel calmer and more peaceful, it is easier to clean, and you actually have enough room for food prep and cooking when you've got clear space to work.

Two Types Of Kitchen Counter Clutter

There are two types of clutter on this flat surface.

The first is the obvious stuff that doesn't belong -- the hammer from the recent home repair, the school books that should go back in your child's backpack, etc.

These items are somewhat easier to deal with, especially in a fifteen minute decluttering mission like this one. You can tell they don't belong there, and you move them back to where they do belong instead.

In this instance it is just as much about tidying as it is about decluttering.

The second type of clutter is more insidious. It's stuff that does belong in the kitchen, but perhaps shouldn't be on the counter but put away in a drawer or cabinet instead. (Or perhaps it really is clutter and should completely leave your home.)

This second type of clutter is what the first mission of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge is really all about dealing with. It's the type of stuff that I've suggested taking a full week to deal with, to whip your kitchen into shape.

But once you've dealt with this second type of clutter, such as after you've completed the first week's challenge, you're just left with the first type to deal with on a more consistent basis.

Fortunately, you only have to do the big challenge once, or every year or two, and this little fifteen minute mission more frequently, most likely daily.

So read on below to see pictures of both cluttered and uncluttered kitchen counters that have been sent in by other readers, plus my thoughts on how to make decluttering your counters a daily habit.

Photo courtesy of Emily May

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Real Life Examples Of Kitchen Counter Clutter: You're Not Alone!

First, I want you to know that you are not alone if your kitchen counters are full of clutter.

It happens to the best of us, and this site is not about judgment, at least not from me.

Come to my house after a crazy day (or the next morning if I'm exhausted the night before) and you're very likely to see something quite similar. That's because clutter just seems to accumulate, like I've said before.

So here's real life examples to drive home the point that you're not alone, and you're not a failure while "everyone else" has it together, all the time.

The picture above is from a reader, Becky, who said when I first discussed this challenge on the Facebook page, "Ooohhh, good mission!"

Here's some more for you. The first is from a reader, Rebecca, who said: "I try and clear my counters regularly, and then dh happens! Will have another go... Here's a 'before' shot (taken at end of day before clear up)."

real life example of kitchen counter clutter


This next one is from Jennifer, who said: "I did mine this morning. Again. And this is tonight after dinner. I need a maid."

real life example of kitchen counter clutter


Perhaps you can relate? Or look at the one below from another reader, Shirley. This is really a series of photos, and she explained that they are before, after "and 10 minutes after - the pictures nobody ever posts, when it is all getting messed up again."

real life when decluttering kitchen counters

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You've Got To Make Clearing Your Kitchen Counters A Daily Habit

So as we've seen above you're not alone, and the kitchen counters get junked up fast, even as unfair as it seems, including right after you've cleared them off.

So how do you deal with this?

Make it a habit to declutter your kitchen counters daily as part of your kitchen tidying.

That statement, I realize, is both exceedingly simple to say and often very complex to put into practice.

But no one can deny that consistently putting away things, tidying up, and dealing with one or two pieces of clutter as they occur is so much simpler and less time consuming, and less stressful, then dealing with big mounds of it.

On the other hand, no one wants to be the person screaming or grumping any time something is laid down on this flat surface, because goodness knows if that was the case we'd be upset all the time.

So here's my solution for making this a habit without losing your mind.

Have A Regular Time Where You "Reset" Your Counters By Clearing Them

You can go crazy if you immediately try to deal with every bit of clutter as it happens. So I like to think of each evening having a "reset."

What this means is that during the day you just don't stress about it, but each evening you do a reset, and make sure all the clutter is dealt with, perhaps by doing this particular decluttering mission every single night.

It keeps you sane most of the time, because it can only get so bad in a short period of time, and then you fix it before it gets too out of hand.

Once a day reset will work for many many people.

But I hear you already, as I write this, "but Taylor, if I let it go all day it would be a disaster by the night!"

OK. I grant that can happen in very busy households, or where you've got an extremely tiny kitchen, or . . . whatever reason for this to happen for you.

Well, if that's the case you just are going to have to do your reset more often.

Here's an example from my life. During the school year now all three of my kids are in school during the day, so a once a day reset works fine for us, despite the fact that my husband and I both work from home. (It worked even better when we weren't home during the day either, LOL!)

6 daily kitchen cleaning tasks
But I change my pattern during the summers when all five of us are in the house basically all day long, every single day. Then, if I did just one reset a day I would be drowning in clutter. So instead, during the summer I do a reset after breakfast, lunch and dinner.

That may sound like a lot, but I'm not just clearing counters, but also just tidying up the kitchen so it all is combined into one chore (and yes, I enlist my kids to help. They helped make the mess, after all!)

Often these resets don't actually take a full fifteen minutes anyway because like I said, if I deal with these things consistently it just doesn't seem as overwhelming as waiting for it all to pile up.

So, that's how I suggest trying to make this mission a habit in your home.

The pictures above are from a reader, Debbie, who showed off her clutter free kitchen. She explained, "Every night when I cook, my kitchen is a mess; however before I finally get around for bed, kitchen is neat and tidy again." So basically, she does exactly what I'm suggesting, and has made her kitchen clean up and clearing of clutter a daily habit.

Hard to argue with those results! The kitchen looks gorgeous!

See below for even more inspirational pictures from readers who've taken up this mission and seen real results!

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Completely Clear Kitchen Counters Feel Amazing!

by Amanda

Amanda says:

Cleared the kitchen counters!! Feels amazing.

I haven't even missed the items I thought would be hard like the spoon jar or knife butcher block.

Taylor says:

Amanda, this looks amazing!

Now, a note for everyone. Recently I posted an article explaining why this woman had decided, like Amanda, to completely clear off her counters of everything.

I personally don't think you need to go that far. My rule of thumb is that only things you use regularly, such as daily, should stay out on your counters. Everything else should have a different home in a kitchen drawer or cabinet typically.

But you can make whatever rule for yourself you want, that works for you. Amanda found completely clearing them worked for her. That can be a good idea if you suffer from clutter blindness, where you start to not to see it after a while.

Then, even regular items you use may lead to "just one more thing" syndrome, and soon, your counters are again cluttered. So if completely putting everything away works for you, go for it!

On the other hand, if you find it a pain to put away stuff you use daily (like I do) you don't have to go to this extreme! Keep out the coffee maker, or the utensil crock, or whatever, and still feel good about the way your kitchen looks.

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Take The Kitchen Counter Organization Challenge & Declutter Mission!

Stove and adjacent counters.

Stove and adjacent counters.

Stove and adjacent counters. Island and counter. DDs' Using the Breakfast Bar, and sink.

So I hope you're now convinced that keeping your kitchen counters mainly clear most of the time is a good thing, and with some consistent effort you can do it, I'd like you to do one last thing!

If you've got the second type of clutter that I was talking about at the beginning of this article -- the stuff that does belong in the kitchen but not necessarily on your countertop, take the Week #1 Kitchen Organization Challenge. That will make doing this daily mission much much easier.

Here's an example of a reader, Diane, who took on this week long challenge, and rocked it! She submitted the photos above, and explained:

"I cleared clutter, and got rid of a bunch of not useful decorative items. I have been on a mission of paring down for the past couple of years, but this is giving me an organized way to go about finishing the job :)"

Are You Ready To Declutter Your Home?

declutter 365
I hope seeing these pictures has inspired you to declutter your kitchen counters.

When you begin to declutter the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.

I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.

Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!

How to declutter kitchen counters and keep them that way (at least most of the time!) with habits {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Clutter Free 15 Minutes At A Time Hall Of Fame

Getting Rid Of Kitchen Clutter Hall Of Fame

How To Declutter Your Kitchen Island

Go From Declutter Kitchen Counters Mission To Home Page

Comments for Take The Kitchen Counter Organization Challenge & Declutter Mission!

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There is such thing as TOO CLEAN counters
by: MaryAnn

I agree with getting clutter off counters, but I, personally, prefer a few decorative items on my counters. Without decorative pieces a home looks vacant, unloved and unlived in to me. I use a decorative red canister, candle and knife block on one end of the main counter and a marble rolling pin on a wooden base, and a fanciful ceramic cat on the other end with the red coffee maker.

Thanks for all your encouragement.

my progress
by: Katie Martell

Removed piled up (but not action Items) clutter from kitchen counters, found and relocated small appliances to better locations.

what's on my counters
by: Lynette

The only things on my very limited kitchen counters are a microwave, toaster oven, knife block, paper towel roll, coffee pot and dish drainer. I use all of those items at least once a day. I have been looking into putting my paper towels under a cabinet, but I rent my apartment and they have weird rules.

totally empty counters look like no one lives there
by: Jen

I have too much counter space and it looks very stark with nothing on them, as if no one lives there!

Woo Hoo!
by: Viv

Awesome!!!

Direction from an expert and giving myself the freedom to adjust any suggestions to fit my own home personality!

We moved last year into a small, older home with some reno's being needed. We promised each other we would live in the house for a year before tackling the bigger issues.

The kitchen IS the heart of the home. Without a doubt as we have raised 4 beautiful & independent kids who are fabulous people. We know how much it is used and abused and then polished up again!

For me, this is a GREAT place to start so as our adult family returns from time to time - it will function well with 10 of us as much as it will with the 2 of us.

Let's go....
"The journey of a 1609.344 kilometers (aka: a thousand miles) begins with a single step."

suggestion for Lynette
by: Mary

Use command sticky mounts to put things up under cabinets.

My kitchen's purpose is to bring smiles to my family
by: Donna Jean

I am happiest when I'm making something in my kitchen and my family knows that. For my birthday last year I got a new pistachio green KitchenAid mixer. It doesn't get stored in a cupboard. It gets prime real estate on my kitchen counter. I call it "my precious" (Hobbit reference). I have it on a clear glass cutting board so it easily slides out to where I use it. When I'm done it is easy to wipe it down and wipe the glass area around the base of it and then push it back into its place. The best part of all is when one of my boys asks "Will my precious be making cookies today?" Of course!

Out of sight, would not get used
by: Jan

I have a vacuum/sealer appliance that might not get used at all if I have to drag it out of a full cabinet. I prefer to leave it out but tucked into a corner so that when the occasion arises it is ready to use and saves me money by extending the life of the food I seal.

What a nice improvement
by: Susan

I could have sworn my kitchen counters were uncluttered and clean. 45 minutes later they were. What a nice improvement.

Nothing on counters is too bare
by: Anonymous

I agree with other members, nothing on counter looks too bare. I like to have a few things that make it MY kitchen. Unfortunately I have a very small home so it always looks cluttered. One good tip I got from this site is find other place for appliances that I don't use everyday. Can't wait to see my home get decluttered 15 min. at a time.

clear counters are calming
by: ctmassagethrpst

One trick I used after the kids left for college and I had no intention of having a cluttered house anymore was to buy wicker baskets. Found them at Marshalls for about $10 - $15 dollars. Mine are rectangular. I bought 4 placemats at Pier One. Little clutter things go into the baskets closest to them and are covered with a placemat. The kitchen always looks cleared and calm. I'm using your tactic to go thru the baskets at faithful intervals and empty them out completely and start fresh with an empty basket again. I also have on junk drawer that needs faithful attention I haven't given it in years. The baskets keep the appearance of clutter at bay. At the end of the day I wipe down all the kitchen surfaces and there are no pencils, scissors, etc lying around. I have decorated the counters with things so it still looks lived in with a personality. I have a bamboo dish drain with perfect plates and bowls positioned just so; we never use these dishes. It just looks like we do. The colors of the plates and bowls match the olive green and mustard tones of the walls. Again, I got these plates at Pier One, Marshalls and Goodwill. I put out a huge black wicker fruit basket (Pier One on clearance) and force myself to fill it decoratively with fruits and vegetables each Sunday. With it being right out in front of us we are eating all of it within the week. A plus! We have Yankee candles jars on the counters. Stacks of mail go into a basket not on the counter. Dishes go directly into the sink. I don't have to freak when company is coming. I have the illusion of a perfectly clean house. it's just hidden. Now I just have to go thru the hiding places and declutter them on a regular basis!

Pix Fix
by: Anonymous

Put a good sized picture you enjoy under a piece of clear plexi... maybe someone you love - and you won't want to put any clutter on it.

Interuptions in life
by: Carolyn K.

I have the flu....still. Somehow I reached the senior category, which I thought was like 83, a decade or so earlier. If you have ever actually had the flu you know that horizontal is the only way to go.

Mostly a friend drops single serve portions in bags at the door. I throw out things I would have always recycled, reused, composted. It's still surprising what accumulates when standing over 5 minutes is just silly.

So I am investing in a cleaning person to wash floor, empty sink, etc.

When alone and help is needed get it to keep the habit going.

my progress so far in the Challenges
by: Kathryn

First, my children are grown and away from home, so other than occasional cherished visits from them and the grandchildren, it's only my husband and I. And he always puts things away. So I'm the only culprit.

Second, I have ADD/Executive Function Disorder. Starting this challenge may be the best thing I have ever done. You all are my support group.

Last week I made my clutter box and my notebook. I didn't put too much time into making them, however, because that is part of my problem. If I get creative in that I get my accomplishment high and lose my drive to actually use them. So the only satisfaction I get to claim from them is actually using them.

My rule for the clutter box is that I either put something where it belongs or it goes in the box. I put my clutter box in an otherwise unused corner nook in my kitchen and I empty it every day before I go to bed.

Knowing that this challenge was coming up I did a sweep of my counter tops on Saturday. No recipes, receipts, food, bags, memorabilia, grandkid’s drawings, stuff that wouldn’t fit in the breadbox (went into the freezer), extra aroma candles (I had every one I’d ever received sitting out for ??? reason?), pretty salt and pepper shakers (truthfully they only get greasy when I cook), and other stuff that I no longer remember.

On my counters I now have: a cookie jar, a toaster (yes, we use it once or twice a day), a breadbox with a small basket of fruit (I don’t like my fruit cold, so I now keep one of everything in the basket) on top, a spoon rest (on the stove), my knife block and two utensil barrels. I get the dish drainer out (from under the sink) only when I’m handwashing dishes and—so far, remember this just started on Saturday and now it’s Monday—I empty the drainer and put it away immediately. I decided not to do my usual "I’ll wait until I have enough dishes to make it worth washing."

On my island right now I have one pretty placemat in the center for decoration. My cutting board is upside down (little suction cups facing up) on top of the refrigerator. The only thing on the refrigerator. And that is that.

And nothing is in the sink. Not always true, but it is true today. I haven’t had any dishes to wash by hand. At night I make sure the sink is cleared and everything is put away. Then I take my clutter box and empty it where it belongs.

So far, so good.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Too little is boring
by: Anonymous

I like everyday items like utensil crocks on the counters. It gives a kitchen 'personality'. With the counters completely clear, it looks boring and like no one lives there. The dilemma is what amount is just right and what is too much clutter. In the end, though, the homeowners make the decision on what makes them comfortable.

Small decorations on my counter
by: Anonymous

I love a small lamp and picture on easel on my countertops. Usually it's a family photo that's seasonal from the past years.

Reset my kitchen after every meal or it will pile up
by: Anonymous

My husband and I are retired so that means we are at home a lot. I have found that I have to reset my kitchen after every meal or it will pile up. So I have trained myself that everything has a place and is in it, and nothing is on the counters except essentials. Life happens and if I skip a day, it begins to pile up. I have to be vigilant. But is it so nice when I have unexpected company like today and the kitchen is clean and organized.

Good bye counter stuff!
by: Mom with jobs!!!!

It feels so much better to clean off the counters. I couldn't just stop there. I did challenge day 4 and five on the same day. This alone made a huge difference in my home appearance.

I wish you lived next door to me!
by: Josie

You'd be hired. I'd leave and you could do your magic and then leave a note for me telling me where everything is. ALAS! I'm in Indianapolis.

keep extra stuff in garage
by: Anonymous

My garage is right next to kitchen. I have a 5 shelf pvc thing a few steps outside the door. My crock pot, an electric broiler, casserole dishes are nested on it, plus my Ninja bullet. If I want one it takes 30 seconds. If dusty a dishtowel fixes anything.

no place to store anything in my kitchen
by: Samm Seals

I don't do \ have junk clutter. I have cupboards that are too full. There's no room for kitchen items we own. No pantry. When we remodeled we replaced the old cabinets, then refinished them and nearly doubled our storage. Before that food actually sat on the floor in boxes. It's a 1970s split level house, eat in kitchen. I hate it but never give up. Always shuffling, discarding, trying to be inventive.

Little kitchen storage
by: Linda

I would like to have less on my counter, but have very little drawer and cupboard space in which to store things. Thoughts?

Daily grind.
by: Joy

I clean off my counters after each meal. I have things on my counter tops but they are not clutter at all. It's important that your kitchen reflect your personality but it should not reflect your clutterness. I think a clean kitchen is important, but a kitchen with personality and no clutter shows the true refection of what you are trying to show others. Small steps are important so whenever you have a chance put the small things away continuously and have a place for them to put them. At the end of the day your kitchen will be easy to clean up but it will also be ready for your needs the next time you want to use it.

Moving Helped
by: Kathy

I know, not feasible to move constantly, but I was able to pare down a lot. I have been able to keep my counters pretty clutter free except for one spot. In that spot I placed a basket and I place all those miscellaneous papers and such in the basket. I try to go through either once a week or when it is full. It also helps that I can easily lift the clutter out of the way when company comes or I need extra space.

Son's response
by: Sharon

After my son (he's 10) went to bed, I did some decluttering. The next morning, in reference to our largest kitchen counter, he said "Wow, you really cleaned that off!"

My problem are the electrical small appliances
by: Anonymous

All of us would love declutter counter space, but when you have very limited storage space to put items away into how do you accomplish this. What takes space on my limited counter space is my microwave oven, coffee pot, and slow cooker. All of those items require an electric socket to plug into and take 3/4 of the counter space the rest is used for dish drainer for drying dishes. Above all this is cabinets, one side is my pantry for dry goods for cooking and the rest for storage of all dishwater not being used. All my pots are under counter in one cabinet under flatware drawer. The under sink cabinet holds all soap (dish and laundry needs) and the last one holds the dry items like aluminum foil, etc. I usually have to do all preparation for cooking on sink using cutting board and special drain board. As this is a rental apartment, I can't make any remodeling fixing so I have to live with this older styled kitchen. The space is so tight, my refrigerator is right by stove.

Kitchen counter clutter
by: Anonymous

So happy to see these pics as I thought I was the only one with really bad clutter!!!! I go to friends houses nothing on their counters, table on anything in sink.

I've got a beautiful feeling......
by: Maggie

When I make myself leave the kitchen clean (and for me, that means a white sink, too!) at night, set the coffee pot so that we have only to press a button in the morning, mornings are much, much nicer. It is a pleasure to walk into a clean kitchen. It is truly amazing how much clutter can make you feel horrible. I want my home--all of it--to be a place where it feels good to be, and clutter prevents that. I love this website and recommend it to my students too.

Living in a Tiny Floating Home
by: Anonymous

I live aboard with my DH and 2 furbabies. Keeping a tidy tiny kitchen is a project. Trusting the suggestions and missions will improve our tiny slice of heaven!

With that many cabinets...
by: Anonymous

Most of those shots had so many cabinets in them, I don't see how it would be difficult to keep counter tops uncluttered. When you have a small kitchen, it's a lot more difficult. Storage space is crucial.

downsizing and discarding.
by: Devoid

After moving from a larger house with a large utility for all the overspill I found the only way was to drastically prune and discard. If it's not in regular use it has to go. Same for the rest of house too. No fiction books, all on e reader. It's still an ongoing project, I guess we had too much stuff.

Coffee stuff
by: Jackie

My husband makes the coffee every night, much to his credit. However, I have a spot set aside in the cupboard above the coffeemaker for the beans and filters. But he insists that they be on the counter. I could make sarcastic comments about his right arm being too weak to lift the coffee can, but I have accepted the fact that if I want fresh coffee ready and waiting in the morning I have to put up with the coffee can and filters on the counter. Guess you can't have it all.

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