Tips to Declutter Counters to Make Your Kitchen Feel Bigger! | From Overwhelmed to Organized: Tips to Declutter Counters to Make Your Kitchen Feel Bigger!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tips to Declutter Counters to Make Your Kitchen Feel Bigger!

Do you have a small kitchen?  Or does it feel small because you have too many things in it? 

During my kitchen organizing tips series, I've shared several times that my kitchen is very small.  It's a walk-through galley style kitchen with cupboards and counters on each either side, with a breakfast nook on one end and a dining room on the other.

But, over the last month or two I've been intentionally decluttering kitchen items (always step one when I'm feeling overwhelmed!).  And, I've been actively looking for ways to get things off our counters and other surfaces so there's less visual clutter and I don't feel so crowded in my kitchen.

Today I'll share a few tips to help you do the same!

Kitchen Organizing Tips

First, here's a list of all the tips I've shared already (with links to the corresponding post).

  1. Use drawer dividers
  2. Measure before you buy
  3. Determine the purpose of each drawer
  4. Purge before organizing
  5. Store like with like
  6. Keep items where you use them
  7. Store items you don't regularly use in "out-of-the-way" spots
  8. Maximize the vertical space in deep drawers
  9. Create zones in your kitchen
  10. Use boxes and baskets to contain like items
  11. Use clear containers for baking ingredients
  12. Label your containers
  13. Done is better than perfect
  14. Store dishes in a cupboard you can easily reach when you empty the dishwasher
  15. Maximize the vertical space in cabinets using wire shelves 
  16. Store all your hot beverage supplies together
  17. Use under-the-shelf baskets to maximize vertical space in cabinets 
  18. Store all your breakfast supplies together
  19. Use the top shelf of a food cabinet to store extra foods

I mentioned above that our kitchen is a galley style but part of what makes it feel so small is that within the space of the 2 facing rows of our kitchen, we fit our fridge, stove, microwave, dishwasher, and sink, so they take away a lot of counter and cabinet space.  We basically have a small counter on either side of the sink, and one between the stove and fridge.

It used to be even worse, but when we did our mini renovation a few years ago, we invested in an over-the-range microwave so we didn't have to use up a whole counter with a microwave anymore.

Here are a couple of pictures of our counters before.  You've seen a few of them already.

This is the counter to the left of the sink.

Sometimes Often there are more dishes waiting to be washed here too.

And this is the counter to the right of the sink.  

Sorry I didn't get a full counter shot but this counter is about the same width as the one on the other side of the sink.  The part you can't see occasionally frequently has hand-washed dishes drying on it {or waiting to be put away}. 

This is the before picture of the counter across from the sink, between the stove and fridge.

That toaster oven is a flat surface so we often put items up there to make more room on the counter for food prep.  We just need to remember to take them off when we use the toaster oven so nothing melts.  Don't ask me how I know that :)  Oh and we need to leave the space in front of the toaster oven free too.  We melted something one time, causing those lovely brown marks on the bottom left part of the window.  Yep... cluttered kitchens are not fun. 

And, since our stove is a flat surface, it often has things set on it too.

When I took this picture the kitchen was fairly clean, so there's just my old kettle and a frypan on the stove.  But this surface regularly has pots and pans from the previous night's dinner last several nights' dinners, waiting to be washed. 

See why my kitchen feels small?  There's very little counter space and what we do have is filled with small appliances, dirty or clean dishes, cooking utensils, potholders, paper towels, lunch containers, etc.

{Note: I'm using the word "clutter" a lot in this post, but not in it's usual sense - "items you don't need, use, or love" - because most of what's on my counters we actually use.  I'm using it more in the "or have the space to store" sense because I really don't have space on my counters for all the stuff that's usually on them.  Well, actually I technically have the space for the stuff, but then I don't have space to use the counters to prepare meals, which is a key purpose of a kitchen.  So really I don't have the space.  Make sense?!}

OK, now that you've seen my cluttered kitchen surfaces, let me show you some of the things I've done to make my kitchen feel bigger!

Kitchen Organizing Tip #20: Hang paper towels on the back of a cabinet door to keep them off your counters

I bought a wall mount paper towel holder, similar to this one and mounted it on the back of a cabinet door under my sink. 

This holder was easy to install and now my paper towels are off the counter!  It's just a small thing, but every little bit helps right?!

Kitchen Organizing Tip #21: Keep as many items in drawers or cabinets as possible, instead of on counters

After that I set out on a mission to get as many other items off my counters as I could. 

First, I decluttered some of my kids' lunch dishes from those stacking bins, and made a new home for them in some clear plastic shoeboxes one of my deep drawers.

Yep... I've already changed my deep drawers, since I shared them with you in November!   Things change quickly.  Especially when I'm a gal on a mission to gain back counter space :)

This solution is so much better than the stacking bins taking up so much space on my counter.  

Plus, getting rid of those stacking bins made counter space available for my hot beverage zone.  Which also got my kettle off the stove.  And it got my tea mug and the bowl with my spoon and tea bag off my toaster oven.  Kind of a chain reaction!

Love my hot beverage zone :)

And the lunch dishes are actually better in the deep drawers, because they're now right under the counter where I usually make the kids' lunches.  So no spinning around and getting dizzy :)

I also cleared counter space when I put my hubby's water bottles in a basket in a cupboard, so they're no longer falling all over the place or cluttering up the counters.  You may can see the basket on the bottom shelf in this picture from my breakfast zone post.

So that cleared up more space on the counter to the left of the sink.  Just doing those few things made a big difference.  But I wasn't done yet!

Kitchen Organizing Tip #22:  Rearrange or relocate items on counters for a less cluttered look

Next I did a little switching around of items in the kitchen and it kind of makes the kitchen feel more spacious.  I moved the toaster from beside the stove to the breakfast zone and moved the crock with cooking utensils to the counter beside the stove.  Makes more sense that way!   Oh and the phone moved from beside the sink to beside the stove too because there wasn't enough space in the breakfast zone for it.

Having the breadbox along the back instead of along the side creates more open counter space which is not only good for breakfast prep, but it makes the kitchen feel more spacious.

I also moved the basket of potholders that was beside the stove onto our kitchen shelf unit (after lots of decluttering of both the items in the basket and on the shelves).

These potholders are still easy to grab when cooking, because as you can see, the shelves are right next to the stove.  {I'll show you more of these shelves in another post}

That created a bit more empty space on the counter beside the stove. 

This is our main food prep area so the more space we can have here the better!

Kitchen Organizing Tip #23: Wash dishes frequently and put them away quickly

So you remember those dirty dishes I mentioned earlier?  Yeah... I'm not usually a fan of washing them.  So I let them pile up.  Which makes me even less motivated to wash them because I know it will take longer.  And those dirty dishes never stop coming.

My kids have a litterless lunch policy at their school, so they use and bring home sandwich containers, snack containers, and water bottles every. single. day.  I love that we're helping the environment by hardly using sandwich bags anymore, but those dishes add up!  And they don't fit well or dry well in our dishwasher, so I wash most of them by hand. 

Add pots and pans, leftover containers, and cereal bowls that don't fit well in our dishwasher either, and there's a never-ending stream of dishes that we wash by hand. 

The other problem is that I also don't always put them away when they're dry.  Clean dish clutter is better than dirty dish clutter, but it's still clutter and makes my kitchen feel smaller.

So, my one new habit for the month of January was to wash these dishes at least once every day.  And put them away when they were dry.  I'm happy to say that I succeeded in doing those two things pretty much every day last month, and sometimes even twice.

I couldn't believe how much of a difference this made in how I felt in my kitchen!  It felt so great to walk in and have counter space when preparing meals.  And washing or putting away dishes took so much less time to do because there were less dishes involved.

My stove is usually clear now too because I don't have dirty pots and pans cluttering it up anymore.

Doesn't that look better?  I'm working on keeping the top of the toaster oven clear as well.  The only things I usually put up there now are my hubby's and my water cups that we reuse throughout the day.

All these tips in and of themselves may not seem like much, but combining them all together has made a HUGE difference.  I honestly feel less overwhelmed in my kitchen because it feels bigger now. 

I really didn't purge much from my counters, but because I decluttered so much in my cabinets, drawers, and shelves, I was able to move things around to create more counter space. 

And I'm going to keep up the daily (or more) dishes habit :)

You can find more kitchen organizing ideas on my Kitchen Organizing board on Pinterest. 

And stay tuned the next few weeks as I continue to show you my kitchen and share tips to help you organize yours. 

Does you kitchen feel small or cluttered?  What do you keep on your counters?  How often do you hand-wash your dishes?  

P.S. Don't forget to check back here tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. for all the details about the printables love sale!!

Happy organizing!

I link up at these great parties - Check them out!

Here are all the posts from the kitchen organizing tips series:


  1. We recently got a new knife set and my husband got a new pot and pans set for Christmas. None of which is allowed to go through the dishwasher. So..I'm washing by hand more now, which I find to be terrible. Our sink has a larger left side so it holds a lot more dishes and seems to always be full and when I am ready to fill the dishwasher there are more than can fit because of the oversized sink. Ugh. I have been trying not to let it overflow before I do a load, but it's annoying. I also need to get some sort of containers for my utensil drawers, those are purged but still sort of cluttery. The husband doesn't like when I rearrange either, so I have to go slowly :) Your kitchen looks awesome..someday I'll get there...someday :)

    1. I'm so not a fan of doing dishes Melissa... I honestly believe getting a dishwasher saved our marriage :) But I have been surprised how much less of a chore it feels like when I do a little bit here and there instead of letting them pile up. Drawer organizers are amazing for utensils! LOL on the hubby's reaction to your organizing... mine's the same sometimes. He likes it when he's used to it, but not when he can't find something. Thanks for thinking my kitchen is awesome... it's taken a long time and I'll probably always keep tweaking it, but I'm much happier with it than I was before. You will definitely get there too! Kitchens have to work hard for us so it's worth showing them some love and organizing them :)

  2. The bread box is a big space eater!! Toss the box and store the bread in the cabinet or pantry. My sister was shocked at how much roomier her kitchen was when I convinced her to toss hers!!

    1. Oh I know it Cathy!! I was REALLY hoping to fit the breadbox or just the breads in a basket or something in one of the cabinets, but even with all the purging I did, I just don't have enough lower shelf space for the bread... yet. I'll keep working on that one :)

    2. We keep our bread in the refrigerator!! It keeps it off your counters AND your bread stays fresh longer. We never have stale bread. If you want to eat it right away and don't like it cold just microwave for 7-10 seconds. If your making sandwiches for school lunches it won't matter.

    3. That's a good idea Jen! We do keep some bread items in the fridge to help them last longer, but I never thought about putting it all in there! I'm organizing my fridge next so I'll see if I can work it out to have an organized place to keep all of it. Thanks!

  3. Do you really need both a toaster and a toaster oven? Not being a big toast eater, I got rid of both. Also I noticed your hot beverage area. I have my sugar and creamer, vase for teaspoons, and container for artificial sweetener on a lazy susan on my kitchen table. These things would save you a lot of space. You're doing great, but organizing never seems to be finished, does it?

    1. Thanks for your suggestions Cari. We do use both our toaster oven and toaster. We didn't like how the toaster oven actually toasted so we use the toaster for that and the toaster oven is used for small meals to avoid having to use the main oven, which takes a long time to heat up and wastes a lot of hydro when we're just making something small. So for now, we're keeping both.

      My kitchen table is pretty small so I don't keep much on it. But using a tray for my hot beverage station means I can temporarily move it to the table when I need counter space and then move it back when I need the table space :)

      You're absolutely right... organizing is never finished! But that's a good thing :)

  4. About the washing up, I do it usually in the morning when I wake up, while the kettle is boiling (kind of) and I'm still half-conscious.
    My sink is in the corner, but there is some space between the wall and the sink on the left. Although no space on the right. All the dirty stuff goes directly to the sink, except for the big pots which temporarily remain on the stove next to it. The stove is on the small wall “around” the corner where the sink is, so my main counter along the long wall is always empty except for the eternal water bottles and the hot beverage stuff.
    About the drying : we have a big plastic « plate holder-dryer » (whatever it could be called) on that “counter” part on the left of the sink in the corner. Plates and cutlery are stored there vertically, drying off by themselves much faster, and not taking any room. It's a pity that you don't have such empty dedicated space near your sink for the drying.

    1. I've switched things around a bit since this post and I have a bit more space beside the sink now (as long as I keep up with washing the dishes LOL!). It's good to have a daily routine like you have Gil.


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