April 26

How to Keep Decluttered Kitchen Counters in a Small House

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When the kitchen counters are decluttered and everything is hidden away, everything is right in the world. When stuff is scattered everywhere, I feel unsettled by the bombardment of reminders of so much to be done.

A few years ago I wrote a post about how we kept our kitchen counters decluttered in our very large kitchen (about twice the size of our current kitchen). Today I’m sharing how we keep the kitchen counters decluttered in our smaller kitchen.

Mindset

I think the number one factor to keeping the kitchen counters decluttered is your mindset. If you decide that your kitchen counters are going to be clutter free, no matter what, then it becomes a possibility for you. And you find a way to make it happen.

In the three houses and one apartment we have lived in together, my husband and I have always agreed that cleared kitchen countertops were an important part of our daily experience. They aren’t cleared off 100% of the time. But generally by the end of each day they are. Because we know that is the eventual goal for the kitchen to be reset. And we have space for everything to be put away.

Enough Storage Space for Kitchen Items

Moving to a house with a kitchen half the size of our previous one was a leap of faith. I think the kitchen stuff was my biggest concern when it came to the question of how is all this stuff going to fit?

I remember the boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff labeled kitchen and realizing that we had way too much kitchen stuff. It forced us to let go of things we didn’t really use, need, or want. And quickly, because there was no place to put it.

I honestly don’t even remember what we let go of. I don’t miss any of it. I don’t even know what it was! We certainly didn’t need it.

Even though we may have half the kitchen storage space as we used to, there is still plenty of it. Everything that might make its way out onto the kitchen countertops throughout the days needs to fit in your existing kitchen storage space by the end of the day in order for the kitchen counters to be cleared off.

After you have decided which small appliances are critical to the countertop real estate (for us it’s a KitchenAid mixer and Keurig), everything else needs a designated hideaway. With the exception of a few well-chosen decorative or functional items that make the space feel like home for you. We have a side counter that has gone through several iterations of decor, but generally serves as one part coffee bar and one part wine bar, with a few candles and other sentimental items that we have switched out from time to time.

Storage Space for In Progress Items

Having a drawer and cabinet dedicated to in progress items is my biggest secret to decluttered kitchen countertops. This changes everything.

In our old house, we each had our own drawer and cabinet in the kitchen that we referred to as our “tiny house closet”. This was our place to shove whatever junk was out in the kitchen (papers, mail, magazines, small items for a project, etc.) whenever we wanted the kitchen to be decluttered again.

When we first moved into our smaller home, we didn’t have this dedicated space for the first few months. It took me awhile to get through reorganizing the kitchen cabinets and drawers after we had just put things where ever they would fit during the move.

I eventually figured out a drawer and cabinet that would work for this purpose after rearranging some things. My husband actually declined having his own drawer and cabinet because his home office is right off the kitchen, so he keeps all his extra stuff in progress there. For me, I’m always out in the kitchen with our girls, so it still makes sense for me to have a place to put away things I’m in the middle of.

I use the drawer for loose papers, my paper folio, random pens, cards, and other things that I still need to deal with or put away another time. I use the cabinet for larger in progress items. It was a great staging area while we were assembling Easter baskets.

I strongly believe that the key to having decluttered counters is having a space to put away things that are in progress. And the key to creating this space, if you don’t already have one, is figuring out what can go from the existing kitchen items to free up a drawer or a cabinet. Or ideally both.

I didn’t think it would be possible to clear out a whole drawer in our smaller kitchen with less drawers. As I am writing this, I can’t even remember what we originally were using that drawer for. I think I ended up combining two drawers into one after clearing out some things we didn’t need.

Size Doesn’t Matter

As much as I might have been apprehensive about how we would fit everything into our smaller kitchen, it turned out that the size of the kitchen had nothing to do with our ability to keep it organized and decluttered. Living in a smaller house has helped us make the decisions about letting go of things so much faster. When there isn’t space for an item and it isn’t otherwise necessary, not having a place to put it pretty much seals the deal on its fate.

What mattered was that we had already established our mindset for decluttered countertops, and we eventually adapted our old systems to our new space. Having less storage space just forced us to get rid of some stuff we didn’t need anyway, and to establish our new norm with less stuff.

Having a dedicated space to put things that are in progress right in the kitchen has been the biggest secret to decluttered countertops for us. Do you have a hideaway space like this in your kitchen?

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  1. These are great tips for a small space. I know all to well how important it is in a small kitchen for everything to have it’s place.

  2. I love the idea of having an in progress space! We have a drawer in the kitchen that we use for this- and it certainly has helped with our limited counter space!

  3. These are great tips! I used to live in NYC and I swear the counter space was the size of a posterboard!! Haha

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