How to Have Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters

If you struggle with a mess in your kitchen all the time, then this article on how to have clutter-free kitchen counters is the answer you have been looking for. A great way to have more kitchen organization in your home.

I LOVE cleaned off counters, don't you?! Sometimes it's the simple tips that make the biggest impact. If you are struggling with surface clutter in your home then this tip will help you fix all of that. A family-wide tip that will help everyone keep their things in check so they are not looking for lost items. Kitchen clutter solutions you can use all over your home. #kitchentips #clutter #organize

I learned a long time ago if I wanted to have a neat kitchen then I needed to find out how to have clutter-free counters. It’s almost like magic. If your counters are clear of random things the entire room looks neater, even streamlined.

And nowhere is it more important than in the kitchen simply because so many things happen in this one room. It’s where we cook, eat, celebrate, talk, do homework, visit, even begin our days and plan our weeks.

If your kitchen is something you tend to avoid then our goal today is to change all of that by tackling the mess you can see. The chaos that greets you just as soon as you walk in each morning and sets the tone for how you will begin your day. 

Women in kitchen drinking coffee. Pink shirt, brownish hair, and red/white checkered table cloth.

When you have so many things happening in one room, organizing it can be a bit tricky. For that reason, I heavily rely on zones for my kitchen layout. Zones work incredibly well to keep the kitchen streamlined and will also help to eliminate a lot of the surface clutter you may be dealing with now. 


What are zones?

Zones are specific areas where you perform a task. Like getting dressed in your bedroom or paying bills in an office. When you know where an activity occurs you can better set up that space to make the task easier to do. Zones are the key to keeping a large room functional, so I encourage you to read or pin that article for later. By setting up a Clutter-Free Kitchen board on Pinterest you will have a hub of information ready to refer to right when you need it.

Before we dive into how to keep our kitchen counters clutter-free, let’s first address why they are cluttered in the first place. More often than not the reason is that there is so much open space available.

Those counters are crazy convenient, large, and so inviting. They call to us to set our things down and take a break.

couple returning home from grocery shopping copy

The problem is that when we forget all the items we just put on our counters, and before we know it, the rest of the family comes home with their own armful of things that they add to the pile. 

Sure, I understand the convenience of drop-and-go, especially if the kitchen is the first room you come to when you enter your home.

It’s just easier to empty your arms so you can remove your coat and grab a drink. You will deal with those things in a bit, you tell yourself. Only the problem is you are so busy when you get home that you have other things grabbing your attention.

A mother in the kitchen feeds babies breakfast

And if this is a daily occurrence you may already have random items scattered on your counters which means any new things that are added will only get lost in the mess. A mess that will camouflage anything new that is added, turning those important (maybe even critical) items into immediate clutter.

Now, that sentence right there might just have gotten your attention, so, let’s stop and talk about what clutter actually is.

Clutter is anything that does not have a home or is not in a home.

That’s it in a nutshell.

  • If it has a home – put it away.
  • If it doesn’t have a home – create one.
  • If it doesn’t need a home – get rid of it.
woman putting things away into a cabinet

Yes, it really is that simple.

Finding homes for your things, especially all the things that are housed in a kitchen, can be tricky, and why I rely so heavily on zones.

(Make sure you read that article and if you haven’t yet, you can do so HERE).

How to Declutter Kitchen Counters

Even though this is a small are in your home, I still find it helpful to break things down into steps so you can work your way through each one making progress as you go.

Step #1.  Gather up the trash.

This is where I always start, and for good reason. It might surprise you to know that more often than not, the clutter we have out is actually trash, and just by doing this one step you might see that your clutter problem is not quite as bad as you originally thought. 

Now, since this step is relatively easy, I want you to be relentless here. Do not keep any store ads, magazines, junk mail, or anything else you feel you might “get to” later on. We are cleaning out and cleaning up, so toss it now.

First, take a trash bag and gather up all the trash you find. If you recycle, take a second bag along for those items as well.  

You may need to make two passes to get this first step done. Just keep walking around until you feel confident that most of the trash is removed. Keep your trash can close by as you go through the following steps. 

Step #2.  Gather up all the dishes.

If they are clean, put them all away. If they are dirty, put them all in the dishwasher or at the very least the kitchen sink. The goal is to uncover the exact clutter you have so we can deal with it more efficiently.

Step #3.  Gather up all the food.

Any food that has a home such as a cabinet or a pantry take the time now to put it away. If it is stale, toss it so it’s done. If you do not have a pantry or other space designated to hold your food, for now, put all items in a large (and clean) clothes basket. Set this basket out of the way. Once you have clutter-free counters, it might be easier to find a spot to hold all the food for your family.

Step #4.  If it has a home in the kitchen, put it away.

Even if your kitchen is the most disorganized in the entire world, you still have designated areas for most of your things housed there. Dishes, pots, pans, and silverware are just a few that come to mind. Take the time to find anything that already has a home and put it away now. You might be surprised at how many things are simply items that need to be put away, and you aren’t quite as bad off as you thought. 

woman using a pantry paper towels copy

Step #5.  Paperwork.

Next on our decluttering radar is paperwork. For some reason, so many papers end up on our counters, and if you have been misplacing bills or permission slips, it is simply because you do not have a system set in place to deal with papers.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds, and if you have a family, then baskets might be the key to keeping things tidy. 

For now, however, get yourself a clothes basket like this one and put all the papers that you find inside of it.

D/M Pro Tip:  If you find an important paper that needs to be dealt with in the next 24-36 hours, set it off to the side to deal with asap. Set a reminder on your phone to take care of “Hot Paperwork” so you do not forget.

Each week make a date to deal with any “hot papers” so you never miss a bill or important date again. This can be the same day you pay the bills. Go one step further and automatically put any hot papers in your bill-paying area so you know, at the very least, those things will get attention within the week. 

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Step #6.  Put it away.

Next, you will want to gather up anything that has a home in another room. Toys, tools, craft supplies, office supplies, and even clothes. Whatever it is, gather it all up into another clothes basket to deal with later.

D/M Pro Tip: If you find things along the way that you are broken, stained, or no longer need, put them into a donation box or bag right then and there. Out of sight is out of mind, and decluttering as you go is a great way to deal with a lot of stuff without a lot of the overwhelm.

When you are finished in the kitchen, you can simply carry your basket around the house, putting things away as you go.

basket of random things that need to be put away

Step #7.  This is your clutter.

Remember, clutter is anything that does not have a home. And since we just spent the first 6 steps putting things where they belong, what you have left is your actual clutter. Any items that do not have a home.

That means your counters should be 90% cleaned off, and whatever is left, you will want to deal with now. Go through what is left, putting any items you no longer want into the donation box and tossing anything that is not good enough to be kept or donated. If you find things you do want to keep, you will need to designate a home for it. To do this simply as yourself, “Where would I look if I needed this item?” Use that as a guide to picking a home. 

D/M Pro Tip: If you find you are going to keep an item in an area you are afraid you might forget, make a note on a Post-It and place it on the front of your refrigerator. Use this as your reminder until you learn the new locations for your things.

Step #8.  Clean things up.

Take a few minutes to wash off your counters and assess what is left. You should only see appliances, produce, cookbooks, or any other items you use daily in the kitchen. If you are still unhappy with your counters, you might want to house more things so you have less out.

  • Keep cookbooks on a shelf in a cabinet.
  • Keep produce in a bin or basket and refrigerate any that needs to be kept cold.
  • Keep meds in a small hard to use cabinet on a lazy susan or store them in the bathroom.
  • Keep seldom-used appliances in hard-to-reach cabinets. This will use that undesirable space and still keep appliances you use weekly or monthly close at hand.

The goal of keeping clutter-free kitchen counters is to set up a system that makes it easy to put things away when you are done using them. A great clutter-free habit to incorporate into your daily life is learning to put things “All the way away.”

What does that mean?

  • Instead of putting dirty dishes on the kitchen counter, you will put them into the sink to soak or into the dishwasher.
  • Instead of your kids putting permission slips on the table, they will instead put them in your family command center.
  • Instead of tossing mail onto your kitchen counter, you will instead put it into your new mail basket.

By just adopting this one simple rule you will eliminate quite a bit of the clutter you are always seeing out.

More Decluttering Resources:


  1. Thank you for the ideas. With a compact ’50s galley kitchen, I do not have huge counters, but the kitchen table it “the” spot. When our 4 children were young and home, everything was off the table by dinner time. As “empty nesters,” we almost never see the whole table. Even for just the two of us, your ideas can help.

    1. Yes, I totally get it!
      I am an empty nester myself and in some ways, it can be harder to keep things put away than when we had the kids home. (we have 4 as well). I literally contain my entire home using baskets of all makes. why? Because they work and are super easy to keep things put all the way away.
      Good luck!
      Tracy Lynn

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