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.
Three Types Of Kitchen Counter Clutter
There are three types of clutter on this flat surface, and I suggest you deal with them one type at a time.
(Of course, to the extent that you have dirty dishes, pots and pans, etc. on your counters, a preliminary step before any of these types of clutter is just cleaning these items and putting them away.)
Type 1: Stuff That Doesn't Belong In Your Kitchen
The first type of clutter 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 on your kitchen counters, but for some reason were placed there, and your job is to move them back to where they do belong instead.
In this instance it is just as much about tidying as it is about decluttering. Get rid of this stuff first.
Type 2: Paper Clutter
Later, in the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge and corresponding Declutter 365 missions, we're going to spend a LOT of time dealing with paper clutter.
However, I know that a significant amount of that paper clutter accumulates on people's kitchen counters.
If you have a lot of paper clutter, and want to clear it while also clearing your kitchen counters, I suggest you also read through the Paper Organization Series here on the site, which will walk you through the process of decluttering your paper piles, for the big picture.
Type 3: Stuff That Belongs In The Kitchen But Maybe Not On Your Counters
The third type of clutter is often the hardest to get rid of. It's stuff that does belong in the kitchen, but perhaps shouldn't be on the counter but instead should be put away in a drawer or cabinet. (Or perhaps it really is clutter and should completely leave your home.)
An example of this types of clutter includes appliances that you use, but maybe only every couple of months. The question you've got to ask yourself for these types of items is: (1) how often do I use it, and (2) where else could I store it, and how easy or complicated would it be to get it out when needed?
I've found people's tastes about how much to keep out on their counters varies widely. Some people love a few decorative items or well-loved and used appliances to stay out, thinking it makes it seem cozy and homey, as well as convenient.
Others want a bare and minimalist approach, choosing completely clear counters because it brings them calm and is more utilitarian.
There is no right answer. You keep clearing your kitchen counters until you are happy with the result, and don't feel inconvenienced with having to get out or put back away various items that used to live on the counter regularly, but that you moved to a drawer or cabinet.
Once you've got your counters cleared to your level of satisfaction, then the big trick is keeping them that way from now on.
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.
Top photo courtesy of Emily May, and before and after collage courtesy of a reader, Gloria
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)."
This next one is from Jennifer, who said: "I did mine this morning. Again. And this is tonight after dinner. I need a maid."
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."
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!)
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!
I haven't even missed the items I thought would be hard like the spoon jar or knife butcher block.
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.
Take The Kitchen Counter Organization Challenge & Declutter Mission!
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?
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.
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!