This post contains affiliate links & photos. See our full disclosure here.
In this post: Find out how to organize kitchen counters, with these easy-to-follow kitchen counter organization tips.
Are you finding that you have too much “stuff” on your kitchen counters? Does your kitchen look and feel cluttered? Learn how to organize kitchen counters with these kitchen counters organization ideas and love how your kitchen looks and functions.
Why Organization Matters in the Kitchen
Whether you’re home for work and school or running out the door, our kitchens get a lot of use and abuse each day. There are always dirty dishes and there’s always the next meal or snack to be prepared and cleaned up after. And when the kitchen looks messy without any organization, it can be even harder to function in, let alone enjoy the space.
A Place for Everything
The flip side of that though is that if your kitchen is organized and there’s a true place for everything, it becomes easier to make each meal, clean up and maybe even actually enjoy the whole “feeding your family every day for the rest of your life” process. 😉
3 Types Of Kitchen Counter Clutter
There are three types of kitchen counter clutter.
01| Stuff That Doesn’t Belong In Your Kitchen
The first category of stuff that tends to clutter up the kitchen counters is the stuff that doesn’t even belong in the kitchen, to begin with.
You know, those random things that seemed to get dropped on virtually every surface. Discarded jewelry, keys, glasses, books, you name it.
02| Paper Clutter
Kitchen counters also often become a drop zone for all manner of paper clutter as well. Junk mail, unopened mail, bills, kids’ artwork, grocery lists, reminder notes, etc.
03| Stuff That Belongs In The Kitchen But Maybe Not On Your Counters
There’s a special kind of frustration caused by things that technically belong in the kitchen, but that really shouldn’t live out in the open on your counters.
2 Reasons for Kitchen Counter Clutter
All three types of kitchen counter clutter mentioned above occur for two reasons:
- Everything does not have an assigned home to be returned to so it gets left on the counter by default.
- You (or the people you share your home with) are not in the habit of putting things away when you’re done with them.
Keep reading to solve both issues…
4 Steps to Decluttering Kitchen Countertops
The first part of organizing kitchen counters is to declutter them. Here’s how to do that.
Step 1: Completely Clean Off Your Counters
To declutter your counters you need to start with a clean slate by completely clearing off your counters. This may take some time, depending on how cluttered your counters have become. But that’s okay. Put on some music or your most favorite but familiar (so you don’t get distracted) show and get to work.
- Start cleaning off your counters by tossing any obvious garbage.
- Then load the dishwasher or handwash any dirty dishes. Dry them and put them away.
- Gather all the loose papers and kids’ artwork into one big pile, tossing expired coupons, old grocery lists, and any other papers that don’t need keeping as you make your pile. We’ll come back to this pile in Steps 3 and 4.
- Return whatever doesn’t belong in the kitchen to its proper home.
- Now, remove anything and everything else from your counters. The means the toaster, coffeemaker, microwave, toaster oven, soap, and dishrack. Anything that’s left on the counters. Move them to the dining room or living room if you have to.
- And finally, thoroughly wipe down the empty counters.
Step 2: Choose What to Keep on Your Kitchen Counters
If you want to have uncluttered and organized kitchen counters, the big question then is what should be left out on kitchen counters? The answer is, that depends.
How much and what you deliberately leave out on your kitchen counters depends on how:
- big your kitchen is
- much counter space you have
- you use your kitchen
- tolerant you are of visual clutter
If you are a baker and use your stand mixer daily, you will want to keep it on the countertop and create a permanent home for it there. That is unless you love the act of hauling it out of a cabinet every time you want to use it.
If visual mess causes you stress, and you don’t mind opening drawers when you want a spatula or slotted spoon for cooking with, then those things should not live on your countertop.
Do you need to keep your paper towels on a holder on the counter, or can you mount a paper towel holder under a cabinet?
So take inventory of what you use regularly. Decide what needs to be out on display and what doesn’t. Make note of the main spices you reach for constantly and keep them on a tray on the counter or decant them into small mason jars stored on a wall-mounted DIY spice rack. But put the coffee make away in a cupboard it’s only used for company.
Step 3: Create a Designated Spot for Regularly Used Items
Now that you’ve decided what you use regularly and want to keep within arm’s reach, create a spot for it to live.
Everything in its place only happens if you have a place for everything.
Step 4: Sort and Relocate Additional Items
Once you’ve assigned the necessary items a home on the countertop, sort out and relocate what’s left.
See the kitchen counter organization ideas below for more ideas on where to put things and how to organize your kitchen counters.
20 Best Kitchen Counter Organization Ideas
Use one or many of these 20 kitchen counter organization ideas to help you get your kitchen counters all cleaned up and tidy.
1. Store as little as possible out on the counter
We just took all items off of the counter that do not belong there and found a proper home for them. If you’re happy with how little or how much is out, great. But if it still seems too cluttered for you, rethink what you decided to keep out.
Since the kitchen gets used so much, and there’s always a variety of cooking utensils and tools being used, keeping your counters as basic as possible will help to eliminate the appearance of clutter even when the space is messy from use.
2. Create zones
How should I organize my kitchen countertops? Well, think about ease of access when storing items. Keep the spices and cooking utensils near the stove and the sugar and mugs near the coffee maker. Create zones in your kitchen by arranging your kitchen counters with the items you need for each task nearby.
3. Use trays or stands to corral items
Once you’ve thought about zones, use trays, cake stands, or baskets where appropriate to corral the items that will live on your counters. Here are a few ideas:
- Place a few often used spices, like salt and pepper, along with olive oil and a canister of cooking utensils next to the stove.
- Use a pretty tray to hold dish soap, hand soap, and the dish sponge by the sink.
- Put the coffee, k-cups, tea bags, sugar, and coffee syrups on a riser next to the coffee maker and tea kettle.
4. Use shelves to create more space
Sometimes closed cabinets are useful and the right choice in a kitchen. Sometimes it’s better to make use of shelves instead or in addition to closed cupboards.
If you want to test out using open shelves, you could temporarily remove the doors on your upper cabinets to see how that works in your space. Then if you like it you can remove the uppers and install shelves. But if you don’t, no harm no foul, just put the doors back on! We did this in our wee bungalow and then installed open shelving in our next two houses.
If you like your uppers and you have a little extra floor space you could add shelves to create more storage space and get even more off your counters.
5. Hang knives from a magnetic knife rack
Knife blocks are big and bulky and can take up a lot of counter space. But not all of us have enough drawer space to hide our kitchen knives away out of sight altogether. If that’s the case for you and you want to save counter space, consider installing a magnetic knife block on the backsplash, like we have in this house.
6. Group items together
Group like items on your counters to create a cohesive, intentional feel, rather than having each individual thing spread out across your counters. Think of it a bit like arranging vignettes for your kitchen necessities.
7. Use dish drying mats instead of racks
If you want to eliminate some visual clutter on your counters, consider using dish drying mats in place of bulkier dish drying racks.
We used to use a lovely metal two-tier dish drying rack beside the sink on our island. But I found that it just looked messy. So we replaced it with two dish drying mats that lay flat on the counter. The hand-washable dishes still have somewhere to sit while they dry, but they aren’t so visually imposing on the space.
8. Get cookbooks off the counter
While we use a lot of online recipes, we still have a small collection of well-loved cookbooks in our kitchen. But instead of keeping them out on the counter, we tuck them into a closed upper cabinet to free up much-needed counter space.
9. Organize your junk drawer
There will always be random things that need to be kept in the kitchen. But if you don’t have a home for them, like in a junk drawer, you’ll probably find them sitting atop the counter.
If you organize your junk drawer, with drawer divider inserts for different categories of things, you can then easily stash these random things away out of sight and off your kitchen counters. And it doesn’t have to be fancy.
10. Keep attractive, large cookware on the stovetop
I love our Caraway Dutch Oven so much that I love to see it on display.
Rather than tucking it in a cupboard to keep it off the counters, I actually keep it on the rarely used “warming” element (turned off, of course) on the stove. It just looks so pretty and it fits the kitchen color and style so well sitting there. And it’s not really cluttering the counters.
11. Store cutting boards upright
Cutting boards will take up less space if you store them standing upright, leaning against your backsplash, rather than laying flat on the counters.
We actually have both here. Our main cutting board is always next to the stove as that’s where we do all our meal prep. But we also have a few other cutting boards and charcuterie boards that we store vertically over by the spice rack and microwave.
12. Don’t store appliances on the counters
No matter how big or small your kitchen is, you should only keep the small appliances out that you use every single day (or multiple times a day). Like the toaster and coffee maker. Or whatever you and your family use daily.
Relocate small appliances that are not used frequently to a large cabinet or even a nearby closet or pantry.
13. Declutter kitchen counter decorations.
Kitchens have enough going on that you don’t often need to fill them with decor.
In our kitchen, I’ve made a conscious effort in the last year or so to switch our necessities over to more stylish versions so that they can speak for themselves.
We traded our black rather commercial-looking Keurig for a white one. I replaced our stainless steel utensil canister with a nice cream-colored ceramic version.
The decor I did include is out of the way and off the counters for the most part. A vase of flowers, a candle, some framed art, and a wreath round out the look in our kitchen without adding to the clutter.
Keep Decorations to a Minimum.
14. Create a command center to declutter kitchen counters
A lot of the time the things that can clutter up the kitchen counters are important things like meal plans, grocery lists, calendars, and invitations that just don’t have a home.
Fix that by putting together a bulletin or magnet board with a couple of wall files or paper trays to hold and display those needed things.
By setting up a command center nearby, you can clear a few more things off the countertops.
15. Relocate canisters to the pantry
Although it can be tempting to buy all the pretty containers and canisters and keep them out on your counter, they really just add to the clutter.
Unless you use the contents of your canister (like flour, sugar or coffee) multiple times a day, there’s no reason it needs to take up precious counter space. Instead, tuck it away in the pantry or in an easily accessible cabinet.
16. Create more space inside your cabinets with shelf risers
If you need to squeeze a little more into your closed cabinets to keep things off the counters and keep them organized, add shelf risers to two or three cabinets.
We do this for our vitamins and supplements. Previously they took up so much space and we couldn’t see the ones in the back.
17. Use a utensil crock
And pick utensils to match your kitchen, like our bamboo set in an off-white ceramic holder. Arrange this on a tray with the often-used spices and oils beside the stove.
18. Eliminate paper clutter
We already talked about a command center for things like calendars and invitations. But the kitchen often becomes the dumping ground for more than just those papers.
You can greatly reduce and eliminate much paper clutter by unsubscribing from mailing lists and putting a “no junk mail” sign on your mailbox. Also, toss any flyers or junk mail immediately into the recycling bin – no procrastinating or saying “I’ll get to those later.”
Use a mail organizer
Mail has to go somewhere when it comes into our homes. For most of us, that place is the kitchen. If you put a mail sorter (ingoing, outgoing) somewhere in the kitchen this should help keep it organized instead of scattered in piles haphazardly around the room.
Or set up a hanging file folder
Filing is our entire family’s nemesis. We’re terrible with it. Our filing cabinet for long-term file storage is in the basement, which means it’s a bit out of the way when the mail comes into the house.
This is why we finally designated one deep kitchen drawer as an office-type drawer. In it are pens, markers, and tape as well as a hanging file folder for bills and other important or often accessed documents, like our appliance warranties.
When a bill or statement comes in:
- it gets opened
- the extra inserts are recycled
- the amount and date due are entered into our budget spreadsheet (which takes under a minute)
- then it gets filed in the appropriate folder
At the end of each year, I pull out the files one alphabetical section at a time and make a new one for that category for the next year. Once I’ve done that, I take the old files down to the filing cabinet.
19. Kids’ artwork and school papers
Children’s school papers can be handled by either the family command center or the other paper file solution you choose.
Kids’ artwork is a little more delicate because they tend to want to see it on display.
I recommend assigning each kid one clip magnet on the fridge or on your family command center to display their everyday art. That way a few pieces can be rotated out as desired without too much clutter.
Any special artwork can be framed and hung on a gallery wall or stored safely in a memorabilia box.
20. Trinkets and odds and ends
While most of these smaller things can be handled by the junk drawer, it’s always good to have something specific for them.
I tend to discard my jewelry while I’m cooking, so I keep a small dish tucked into the junk drawer just for this purpose. Otherwise, they’d end up scattered around the counters and possibly lost. I also try to keep a couple of extra hair ties in the drawer, since I like to put my hair up when I’m working in the kitchen.
If you or a spouse are similar, make it easy on yourself and set aside a dish or container in a drawer or cabinet for these small things.
Keep the Clutter Away by Developing Good Habits
Habits are simply actions that you’ve repeated so often that you don’t even have to think about doing them anymore. You can make organizing the kitchen counters into habits by doing the following:
Clear the kitchen counters daily
Set a regular time where you “reset” your counters by clearing them off and returning things to their homes.
Maybe that’s after each meal if you’re home all day. Or after dinner if you work during the day.
Just implement clearing the counters into your routine and before long it will become a habit and you won’t have to think about it anymore.
Wipe your kitchen counters every night
Along with clearing your counters off each night, make sure you wipe them down too.
Even small bits and crumbs can make the kitchen look cluttered and disorganized. If it helps to keep you motivated, use a counter or all-purpose spray cleaner that you like the smell of.
Allow yourself some grace
Listen, you can do all the things right, and still, there will be days or weeks when things get a little out of hand. But those times will be so much easier to recover from if you’ve put in the work, decluttered your spaces, and set up systems for what to do with the stuff you need to keep in the kitchen.
You’ve got this, lovely! You can do it!