The kitchen is the heartbeat of the home, but too often our kitchen counters can be messy and cluttered which can lead to us feeling stressed and overwhelmed. A clean kitchen is a happy and productive place to be!
I shared last week about how I had completely cleared off my kitchen counters last summer, and the big difference that it made in my life. And if you follow me on Instagram you probably noticed that I spent most of a recent Friday sharing my process of clearing off my counters.
I hope those posts inspired some of you to think about decluttering and completely clearing off your kitchen counters too! So today I want to walk you through how to completely clear off your kitchen counters!
Is it really convenient?
One issue that we need to tackle before we get started is the idea of leaving things out on our counters that we use regularly because it’s “convenient.” I first came across the alternative to this idea when reading about decluttering your kitchen on Becoming Minimalist.
A lot of people leave things like toasters, coffee makers, other small appliances, cutting boards, knife blocks, cooking utensils and more out on their counters. I think there are two reasons for this.
- They feel like these are things they use regularly and think it’s easier and more convenient to leave them out on the counter.
- They don’t think they have room in their cupboards for these items.
Let’s address #1 first, and then we can move on to #2. Here’s the thing about leaving these daily use items out on the counters – It’s really not as convenient as you think it is!
Just for example – let’s say that you have 8 hours in your day at home (8 hours are spent sleeping and 8 hours are at work – if you’re a stay at home/work at home mama like me, you’ll spend even more hours of your day at home.) Out of those 8 hours, how much time are you actually using your toaster, or coffee maker, or cutting boards, or cooking utensils? 5 minutes? Maybe 10 or 15 minutes at the very most, right?
So, if you use each of those items for 15 minutes of your day at the most, that leaves 7 hours and 45+ minutes that those items are sitting unused on your counter and taking up precious space – both physically and mentally because of the visual clutter they produce.
Now let’s think about how much time you would spend to take those items out of your cupboard and then put them back away.
- It takes me about 5 seconds to pull my toaster out of the cabinet and plug it in.
- It takes me about 2 seconds to open the cabinet door and grab my cooking utensil out of the container.
- It takes me 10 seconds or less to put these items back into the cabinet – depending on if I wipe them off after using them, or if I’m taking them out of the dishwasher and putting them away.
- So, that’s about 15 seconds of time that it takes me to remove these items from the cupboard and then put them back again. All to be able to use the item for the same 5-15 minutes as when it sat out on the counter.
You tell me which is more convenient:
- Using 15-20 seconds of time to take something out of the cabinet and put it back again, and having the other 7 hours and 45 minutes of my day with a completely clear and free counter to use to do other things like baking and cooking?
- Or leaving that item sitting unused on the counter for 7 hours and 45 minutes, just so I don’t have to spend 15-20 seconds taking it out and putting it away?
(Obviously if you use something less than once a day, and it sits out on your counter the rest of the time, the amount of time that it spends sitting there using up space is greatly increased!)
For me, the answer has become a no-brainer. I’d rather spend 20 seconds taking something out and putting it back, and have my counters free for the rest of my day! (For me, this is actually much more than 7 hours and 45 minutes, more like 15 hours and 45 minutes, because I’m usually at home all day.)
Try it for Two Weeks!
Maybe you’re not convinced yet, I wasn’t sure at first either. So, I decided to just completely clear off my counters and leave them like that for two weeks. After the two weeks, I could put anything back onto the counter if I thought it was too inconvenient to get it out every time I wanted to use it.
I want to encourage you to try the same thing. Completely clear your counters and leave them that way for two weeks. If you’re not convinced, pull your stuff back out and put it on your counter. But I think you’ll find, like I did, that it’s really not as inconvenient as you thought! And the benefit of having clear counters all day long is totally worth it!
So, now that we’ve covered issue #1, let’s start working on the second reason people leave stuff out on the counters: they don’t know where else to put it.
How to Completely Clear Off Your Kitchen Counters
As I show you pictures of my cabinets in this post, this is real-life – my kitchen the way it really looks right now. My cabinets could use another round of decluttering and organizing. But the work that I did to make space for my small appliances and other things that used to sit out on the counter is still in place so that I can continue to keep my counters cleared off.
Above is my pantry, on the top I keep small appliances like my bread machine, blender, immersion blender, and rice cooker. The bread machine used to sit out on the counter when I was using it at least once a week. We don’t use it often now, so it sits at the back of the cabinet. I’m planning to work on clearing out the food in my pantry to make more space to store summer produce so it doesn’t have to sit out on the counter.
1. Declutter Your Cabinets
So, now you need to make space in your cupboards for the things that usually sit out on your counters. This is going to take some work, but as you can see, I have a fairly small kitchen and I was able to find a way to store all of my stuff in the cabinets (although I will admit that I have good cabinet space for the size of my kitchen).
Clear out your cupboards of anything that you don’t use on a regular basis. Make room in the basement or some other storage area for these things. It’s a better use of your cabinet space to store your toaster or coffee maker that you use every day or several times a week in your cabinets, then to take up space with your Christmas dishes that you only use once or twice a year, right?
This is also a great time to get rid of and let go of items that you truly don’t need or use. Again, what’s more important to keep in your kitchen – things that you use all the time, or things you haven’t used in 5 years?
A clear counter is made possible by a decluttered kitchen.
This step may take you some time the first time you tackle it. So leave yourself a good several hours one day, or work on this over the course of a week, as you work toward clearing off your counters. When I first did this, it took me working several hours each day over a whole weekend to get my counters completely clear.
2. Clear the Junk
Most of us have an area of our counters where junk just collects from all around the house. This happened to me over the past few weeks. I had put the coffee maker back up in the cupboard, after having it out for a few months, and then the space where the coffee maker was became filled up with miscellaneous junk.
My trick for junk on the counter in the kitchen is to grab a basket and put all of the junk that doesn’t belong in the kitchen into the basket. Then, viola! Your counter is cleared off and you will feel so much better! Then you can walk around the house with the basket and put things back in their appropriate places.
I used this trick last week when I was clearing off my counters. I put everything in the “junk corner” into a basket, and then I just had a few more dishes to wash and my counter was completely clear! Of course, you need to make sure that you empty the basket and don’t just leave the stuff sitting in it – but once your counter is clear it will help to motivate you to get the rest of your stuff cleaned up too!
3. Create Zones
Now that you’ve made space in your cabinets, the next step to clearing off your counters is to create “zones” in your cabinets for items that you usually use at the same time.
You’ll have to figure out what this looks like for you, but in my cabinets I have a coffee zone, a baking zone, and a cooking zone. I keep like items together, and near the place where I usually use them.
On the second shelf of this cabinet is my coffee zone. I keep our French Press, coffee, sweetener, vanilla, and Keurig coffee maker (yes it’s heavy, and I used to haul it out of the cabinet every day, but now we use a French Press to make our coffee).
In my baking zone I keep my baking supplies, and this is also where I keep my toaster oven, because the counter below is were I use it most often. You’ll also notice my popcorn popper and knife block – which I’ll talk about a little bit later.
The blue boxes hanging under the cabinets are produce storage boxes that my husband made for me after seeing a picture on Pinterest. They hold whatever fresh fruit or veggies I have on hand, to help keep them up and off the counters.
In my cooking zone I keep my cooking utensils on one side of the stove, and my spices on the other. My utensils used to sit on the counter below the cabinet, but I cleared a space so I could keep them up inside the cabinet. It’s really no big deal to open up the cabinet and grab a spoon or spatula and it keeps that small counter space on the side of the stove clear so I can use it while I’m cooking.
Creating zones in your kitchen helps to keep your cabinets organized, helps you to know where to store things, and helps you work more efficiently.
My Kitchen Aid Mixer and food processor live in a cabinet above my fridge.
4. Create a place for anything else
You may have some other random stuff that you used to leave on the counter that you now need to find a place for. Make space in your cabinet, create off-the-counter kitchen storage, or somewhere else in the house if appropriate, and put it away.
First, my husband made us these awesome kitchen storage boxes to help us keep our produce and other items up and off our counters. You can make these boxes yourself with this easy DIY Kitchen Storage Boxes tutorial!
Our knife block doesn’t really need to go in a “zone”, but it does need to be near the place where I usually use it. I also found that putting our knife block up and away was an important safety measure. My kids stand on stools to help in the kitchen and have access to the counters, so it’s safer to have the knives to be up and out of the way!
5. Put everything away and reveal your new completely cleared off counter!
How amazing does it feel?! I mean, I really think having a completely cleared off counter is a undervalued joy in life.
It is amazing how much it changes the way I feel about my kitchen and my home in general, and how walking into my cleared out kitchen fills me with peace and gives me inspiration to make great and healthy food for my family and take better care of the rest of my house. It is such a great motivator!
This was the first time I cleared of my counters. I got once side completely clear, but the other side was a disaster! I just had to keep working at it to get to the point that everything was cleared and put away!
Are you ready to completely clear off your kitchen counters? Get my FREE checklist to walk you through the process!
A few tips as you go:
• It will get worse before it gets better.
As you’re clearing out and decluttering your cabinets, your counters will get REALLY cluttered and full of stuff. But that is part of the process of removing the things you don’t really need from your cabinets in order to make room for the things that you do use on a regular basis.
• It takes work.
You will probably not be able to clear off your counters in an hour – unless you only have a few things sitting on them and your cabinets are already pretty clear and decluttered. It’s a process that can take several hours or even several days, depending on how much time you have to devote to it.
• It will look different for each family and home. Only you can decide how much tolerance you have for keeping things out on your counter. Maybe you have a big kitchen with more space, so it’s worth it to you to leave things like the coffee maker or stand mixer out on the counter. Or maybe you have other reasons for leaving things out, and that’s totally fine too.
The important thing is to make sure you are intentional about the things you leave out on your counter – you have weighed the pros and cons of leaving them out, and determined what works best for you and your family.
Will you join me in completely clearing off your kitchen counters this week? It will take some effort, but the results are SO worth it!
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