My Quick Tip to Clear Kitchen Counter Clutter

posted by Andrea | 11/13/2015
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kitchen counter clutter

In general, I like to keep my flat surfaces relatively decluttered at all times… especially the kitchen counters, and especially this time of year when I’m doing lots of holiday cooking, baking, and entertaining.

Even if there are crumbs on the floor, fingerprints on the windows, and spilled food on the stovetop, I feel like I can easily whip up a quick snack, a hearty supper, or a fancy dessert as long as my kitchen counters and dining room table are clutter-free.

On the flip side, if I walk into the kitchen and see piles of dirty dishes next to the sink, random craft and coloring supplies strewn over the table, junk mail and school papers stacked up on the island, and backpacks or toys littered about my flat surfaces, I feel like I’m going crazy and absolutely MUST declutter before I can start preparing any food.

I realize I might desire a bit more cleanliness and organization than some people; however, I know I’m not alone in my hatred of kitchen counter clutter.

Thankfully, I have a REALLY quick tip to clear your counter clutter (and really any surface clutter). I’ve used this tip countless times in my own home and as I worked with hundreds of organizing clients over the years… and it works every time!

Of course, it’s not magic! It does require a little work on your part — but in my opinion, it’s one of the easiest, most effective, and least overwhelming ways to quickly clear surface clutter in your home. It’s also a great way to include children or other family members in the process.

So what’s my fabulous tip?

Well, it’s actually a 5-step process — but I promise, steps 1-4 will only take you a few minutes… and step 5 isn’t too bad either 🙂

STEP 1: Grab a large box, bin, or basket (laundry baskets work well)

STEP 2: Literally put EVERY SINGLE THING on your counters into that basket. Take a look around and enjoy the instant gratification that comes with your beautifully clutter-free counters.

STEP 3: Wipe down the counters.

STEP 4: Go through your basket and put back anything you WANT to have out (like decorative items, cookbooks, a fruit bowl, etc.)

STEP 5: Go through everything else left in the basket and trash it, recycle it, shred it, or put it away (in the appropriate spot). I like to set my timer for 15 minutes to see how much I can do. Then I take a break and come back for another 15 minutes later (if necessary).

Obviously, step 5 will take you the longest — but I have a feeling that if you work quickly, you’ll have things put away in no time.

In my opinion, the reason this decluttering method works so well for so many people is because it has an element of INSTANT GRATIFICATION that we all love. It’s so rewarding and motivating to see perfectly clean and clutter-free counters after just a few minutes of work… and that motivation propels us to keep going and finish the task.

One thing to mention… although this is a “quick tip”, I certainly wouldn’t suggest tackling your kitchen counter clutter unless you have at least 20-30 uninterrupted minutes to devote to the project. There is nothing worse than starting something and being interrupted every 3-5 minutes, or needing to rush out the door 10 minutes into your work.

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And since we’re on the topic of kitchen counter (and I know I’ll probably be asked), I figure I might as well share the following information about our kitchen counters 🙂

Our Granite counters are from Premier Granite and Stone and the butcher block slab is from Tontin Lumber (both are local West Michigan companies).

The Granite color / pattern is called “New Venetian Gold”.

Here’s the link to my DIY Granite Countertop Cleaner.

Here’s the link to my Q & A post about our butcher block island counter.

Do you have any other decluttering quick tips?

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33 comments

  1. Milja

    12/26/2015

    You really gave me a “duh, of course, why did I never thought of it myself” -moment!

    Although I do still have the problem with not knowing at all where to put some stuff. Our kitchen is one big compromise lacking proper places for many things, and there are also other things laying there because neither of us knows where to put it.

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  2. marlene

    12/12/2015

    LOL, I thought you were going to say my favourite tip…..put a trash can at the end of the counter, take your arm and scrape EVERYTHING into the trash can. TOO EASY! LOLOL

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well, yes! but most people probably wouldn’t be willing to do that 🙂

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  3. Megan

    12/02/2015

    Andrea, love your blog! Quick question on the topic of kitchen counters- where did you store your vegetables from your garden this past summer? We had a great garden this year. At times it was overwhelming though. One whole section of our kitchen countertops had trays of tomatoes & peppers. Do you have any recommendations on how to store these? Thanks!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Megan!
    I probably don’t have a great answer for you because we have LOTS of extra space for this… We have a huge extra outbuilding with an extra refrigerator and lots of counter space that we keep all our extra pop, water, milk (and produce). We also can store a bunch in our basement if necessary (all my canned fruits, veggies, and jam are in the basement!)

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  4. Joy

    11/16/2015

    I love the look of your kitchen! Thank you for sharing those doable tips! 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Joy! The kitchen was definitely a labor of love (almost 6 months of work!) but we love it too!

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  5. Karen

    11/16/2015

    I actually do what you are suggesting in each of my rooms. I gather everything (other than furniture) into a container and then evaluate what I truly want to stay in that room and only put those items back into it.

    I have also used this principle in my kitchen cupboards, pantry, and drawers. Anything that I remove because I don’t use it, or need it, I give away. Less is more. I’m starting to use the same plan in my bathrooms, closets and dressers.

    As to the kitchen, I have a work space with counters and then I have a separate table area for eating. I have scaled back my work area to just the appliances or items that I need for cooking. It cuts the clean up time by at least half. My “decorations” are all centered around the eating area making it a warm and inviting space to eat in.

    As soon as the mail comes, I go through it and get rid of trash and bring what I need to keep into our office area. That keeps the papers from piling up on the counter as well.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I do this in many of our rooms too — and I almost always did it when working with my organizing clients! They were ALWAYS amazed by how quickly this simple trick made their space look neat and organized. It suddenly seemed less overwhelming to tackle the basket or box of clutter now that the rest of the room was relatively neat and clean!

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  6. Kate beckett

    11/14/2015

    This is the trick i use for bedrooms too. Except i put everything on the bed, clean the floor, then put everything away. That way you can see all the places to put things. That process goes faster every time and having one place clean ( like the floor) makes you see quick progress. It’s like a brain trick that motivated. Never thought to do it for the kitchen. 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yup… works for pretty much every room in the house! I love that you put all the bedroom clutter on your bed. That’s a great idea!

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  7. Debbie W.

    11/13/2015

    I find that paper clutter is one of the biggest challenges in my kitchen. I’ve often said that it’s not the dishes that make keeping the kitchen so difficult, it’s everything else! So in the past year I’ve been really working at improving my filing system with the purpose in mind of being able to clear the paper from my counters more quickly.

    One thing that has helped me sooo much is a three month rotation within my files. They are marked Month 1, Month 2, and Month 3. If I find something that I’m not quite ready to throw away, but know I don’t want to keep very long either (sale papers, catalogs, children’s art-work that I’m not permantly keeping, etc), then I file it here. When the month changes, I move the current folder behind the other two, glance through the next folder to see if I want to keep anything longer, and then throw most of it away. It is so awesome, and has really made clearing my kitchen counters faster!

    Now I’m thinking if I follow your tips, I’ll be even quicker! Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow, that sound like a good system — glad it’s working well for you! Thanks for sharing 😉

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  8. Jenni

    11/13/2015

    I feel like I have to have clean counters to get solid work done too, but sometimes there is just not enough time to sort through everything. We homeschool largely at the table right off our kitchen, so many books (including my own) get put there or on the other kitchen table when we clean up for lunch, etc. And then there are the hot wheels that seem to breed themselves. And the random Lego pieces, puzzle pieces, game pieces . . . The other night I laughed with my husband as I pointed out how many objects we had that were totally unrelated and would require me literally going to all corners of the house to put them away.

    That said, I did manage to sort out our junk drawer, and then I created a spot in there with a Tupperware container to hold random Legos, Automoblox wheels, etc. that usually are found on the counter. I made it small so that when it fills up, it’s time to put all the pieces away. I think I will give it to a child to sort them out, and then each child can take one category of pieces and take them all to one place.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well your new organization system sounds really good. And I like that your delegate the putting away to your kids! Thanks for sharing what works for you!

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  9. April

    11/13/2015

    Question for you Andrea. Where do you keep your toaster, tea kettle, coffee maker, fruit basket, etc? Things like these are my problem.

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    Andrea Reply:

    We don’t have a tea kettle or a fruit basket and we keep the toaster and coffee maker in an ‘appliance garage’ type of cabinet in one corner of our kitchen.

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  10. Tricia @ Our Provident Home

    11/13/2015

    I do the exact same process! My biggest hang-up is number 5. I always promise myself I’ll finish it immediately, then something comes up. Then I promise myself I will do it before I go to bed. Then, I forget or decide I’m too tired. Two weeks later I have two laundry baskets full of stuff and nowhere to put the laundry. And, I wonder where did that Ad go I know I had it on Thursday. I need to be tougher on myself about cleaning it out. I like the 15 minute rule. I’ll try it today.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, the 15 minute timer seems to work well for many people. You have to work really hard not to let yourself get distracted — but if you can fully focus for 15 minutes straight, it’s honestly amazing how much you can accomplish!

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  11. Susie

    11/13/2015

    I get tired of clearing counters and sweeping so I gave those jobs to the kids and I do the dishes. They think dishes is the worst so it works great in our house. I just have to remind them we eat 4-5 times a day so we need to do it often!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like an excellent plan! I can’t wait for my kids to be a little bit older so I can delegate more 🙂

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  12. Barb

    11/13/2015

    Andrea, I love the simplicity of this tip! I will be using it in my kitchen of course, but I think I will also use this in my home office. Thanks for this simple ‘how to start’ tip!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Barb, it works in many other rooms besides just the kitchen!

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  13. Ava Peron

    11/13/2015

    Hi Andrea, I’m on the look out for a good cutting board, and like you I dislike wooden cutting boards, do you have any recommendations for one?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh boy… I’m honestly not sure. However I did just post it as a Reader Question on my FaceBook page. You can follow along with other people’s suggestions here.

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  14. Emily

    11/13/2015

    Oh I just love your kitchen!! We’ve talked about remodeling our farmhouse kitchen and your kitchen was the first one I showed my husband. 🙂 We have limited counter space so clear countertops are a must in our house. Great tips!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Emily… I honestly can’t even imagine taking on a kitchen renovation with 5 little kids — but I’m sure you could do it 🙂

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    Emily Reply:

    Aw, thanks! 🙂 I think we’ve determined that the cost would not be worth it as we probably wouldn’t make it back when we go to sell. Only the Lord knows how long we’ll be in this house but we hope someday to have a house with more land and maybe a little more room for our growing family.

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  15. Julie Spady

    11/13/2015

    My essentials (toaster, spoon holder, knife block, kitchen aid, coffeemaker, toaster oven) make my kitchen look cluttered. Never mind everything else that shows up!!

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    Kate beckett Reply:

    Mine too. I found a way to put it all in cupboards. Except the knife block. It feels so much better that way. I just take it out and put it away even to i use the stuff daily.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I even put my knife block in the drawer with my other utensils — I don’t like it sitting out! You can see what I use in this post: http://andreadekker.com/favorite-things-5-14/

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  16. Stel

    11/13/2015

    I am a pile maker, a tower builder. So if I have a container on the counter (basket, anything) it Wil Be Filled. Then I need to clear or or move it, and then I Fill Again.
    So it’s better not to have anything there!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — at least you know what works for you!

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