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Q&A Tuesday: How do you keep your kitchen countertops cleaned off?

I am decluttering our house like a crazy woman because I believe, like you, that less is more. But I still struggle in the kitchen. I see your kitchen photo when you do your freezer cooking and I can’t believe you have only crock pot on your counter. How do you do it? -Nami

Growing up, my mom never liked to have anything on the kitchen countertops, so I’m pretty sure that’s where my love of clean countertops originated. I try to have mine completely clean and cleared off as much as possible. Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of homeschooling around the kitchen table, things will pile up. That’s life–and I’m okay with it.

However, I try to make sure the countertops are clutter-free every night before dinner and then again before bed. At least in our home, I’ve found that if I purposefully clean everything off the countertops and put it away at least twice per day, they never pile up beyond control.

To give you a little peek into my kitchen, here’s how I try to have it look every afternoon and evening (try being the key word there, believe me, it doesn’t always happen!)

And here’s a view from the other direction (don’t ask me why the lighting is so bad; I still have a hundred thousand things to learn about photography–as is very apparent from all the pictures I post!):

I keep our weekly menu on the side of the refrigerator. Having it there has been working so well for us to stay organized and to remind me of what I had planned to fix! I just print off the menu I format for my blog post each week and then cross things off as we make the meals:

I don’t keep a lot of cookbooks, since many of the recipes I make are online (thank you, !). However, I do have a few favorites that stay on the shelf. And then I have a few others that are kept in one of the cupboards.

This house is the first we’ve lived in that has an actual pantry! It’s taken some shuffling and re-shuffling for me to determine what works best to keep in the pantry. Here’s how it looks now:

Our Busy Bags are on the top shelf in separate tubs. Jesse’s protein stuff and vitamins are on the second shelf. The third shelf holds the crock pot and lunch bags that we use when we take a field trip or have a picnic. The fourth shelf has my bread machine and a canister of oatmeal on it. The floor has the juicer, food processor, and some bulk items.

Since we do much of our homeschooling around the kitchen table, I wanted to have some place handy to keep all our current school books and notebooks, but I didn’t want it to take over our kitchen/dining room. I finally decided upon these storage tubs:

They don’t match our kitchen, but I got them free and they are fun and functional. We store the rest of our homeschooling items on the shelves in our school room/exercise room down in the basement and I just bring up what we need each week. I’ll probably need to revisit and revamp this system as our children grow and our schoolwork/books multiply, but this is working well for us right now.

We do keep a tea kettle out on the stove at all times since I use it often. But other than that (and the knife set you see in another picture above), all other appliances are stowed away when not in use. The built-in Lazy Susan serves as a perfect place for the Vita-Mix, toaster, grain mill, popcorn popper, and a few other items

It might seem like a lot of work to put appliances away when you aren’t using them, but I honestly have found that the extra seconds it takes are worth the clutter-free look it brings to our kitchen. This system might not work for others, but it works well for us. An added benefit is that I have a lot more countertop space to use when working in the kitchen!

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258 Comments

  • Sharon says:

    Wow! Amazing! I wish my kitchen looked like that, but I just can’t find the time to do it. I am a pack-rat and piller and keep almost EVERYTHING! I can’t break myself of the habit. My oldest just turned 4 and I have every daily and scribbled piece of paper she brought home from daycare. Now with 17 month old twins you can imagine the amount of stuff I am collecting! My husband thinks I am going to end up on hoarders soon, but really it’s not that bad. I am slowly trying to part with objects even if it means scanning or taking pictures of them so I don’t feel like they are gone forever! I agree with many posters, but the one about having one clean space really struck a cord with me. So my goal will be to have a clean kitchen. After doing that for a few weeks/months, then maybe I can expand my clean zone to other areas of the house.

    Thanks Crystal for the inspiring post!

    If I could request, pictures of your stockpile/food storage would be helpful. Thanks!

  • says:

    Just one question, where do you put your fruit and bread? I LOVE this and pinned it to my page, I’m inspired to clear off my already pretty clear counters!

  • Crystal DuBois says:

    I am truly and COMPLETELY fascinated by this post, and have read ALL 197 comments! I just can’t believe that a kitchen can actually looks so fantastic!

    I hope this doesn’t come across as nit picky, but I am genuinely wondering…where do you store your paper towels… and tomatoes? When the bananas are on the counter, do you put them in a basket or fruit bowl or something? And do you store your potatoes and onions in the fridge too?

    • Crystal says:

      We don’t use papertowels (see this post: https://moneysavingmom.com/2009/03/is-it-really-a-necessity.html) and tomatoes are stored in the fridge. Onions are stored in the cupboard next to the fridge and I store potatoes in the “pantry” in the basement.

      When the bananas are on the countertop, I just have them stuck there in a bunch. They rarely last for longer than a few days at our house, so that’s worked okay.

      Congrats on reading all the comments–that’s quite a feat in itself! 🙂

  • nicole says:

    Can your lazy susan really take that much weight from the appliances? Are they plastic shelves held into the cabinet door with only 4 short screws? Maybe you have a different set-up but my DH would never let me put that much weight on those shelves. Your kitchen is clutter free but I just wanted to give you something to think about that no one else had mentioned.

  • Debbie Burgess says:

    Been cleaning almost all day on my kitchen….. getting rid of a lot we don’t use anymore…… my kitchen isn’t as spotless as yours but it looks MUCH better. Still have a bit more to do though. Thanks for the much needed inspiration. Amazing what a few pictures can do 🙂

  • nicole says:

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    These corner cabinets usually have a weight limit that must be observed in order not to overtax and wear out the mechanisms that allow it to spin effortlessly around. Unfortunately, because they are so handy, many homeowners pack the shelves full or fill them with heavy pots and pans with detrimental results. If you’re having a revolving cabinet installed, or if you already have one in your kitchen, be sure to find out how much is too much so that you don’t burn your unit out. If used properly, these cabinetry innovations should operate smoothly for years one end without giving you any problems.

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  • jjoiner says:

    I don’t know what to do with mail, bills that need to be processed, thank you notes that need to be written, to do lists, etc. Those are what clutter my kitchen counters. I’ve tried filing things away but then I forget about them. So, I like to keep these things in plain sight and the best place is on my kitchen counter. My husband thinks I’m going to catch the whole kitchen on fire with my stacks of papers though! Any ideas?

    • Angela says:

      This drives me crazy too or did until we got a shoe cubbie (Target open cubbies) to put by our front door and a little closed shelf on top of it for our mail. All mail goes there until it’s sorted and (hopefully) put away. It really helps to have a place-a drawer, cabinet, basket, whatever works!

    • Maree says:

      A basket in which you could place these items till they are taken care of could be one solution

  • Teresa says:

    Beautiful! What brand and paint color are your walls?

  • says:

    I love having my counters clean. It is easier to “clean up” if you know it shouldn’t be on the counter. My mom told me that you shouldn’t have anything on the counter unless it is something you use every day, so I only have a crock of kitchen utensils since I do use them regularly and cannot fit them in the drawers. I have to get out the toaster often, but I like putting it away and having things look clean.

  • Yunnie says:

    Crystal, thank you for sharing your great habits!

    Have you guys ever read a book called “Sink Reflections”? By the amazing FLYLADY.

    She used to be a very messy person and was so stressed living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome – she lovingly dubs it). She has these awesome babysteps. I get a once daily e-mail from her that’s so helpful.

    I felt so much better once I read in the book that the reason we’re messy is because we’re actually perfectionists. What?! I said. Well, yeah! That’s why we don’t start cleaning, because we know if we’re going to do it, we’re gonna want to do it right and all the way through – but that’ll take all day, therefore, let’s procrastinate another day….

    Totally recommend her site and book!

  • Jill says:

    I admire how hard you must work to keep it so clutter free! I do think we differ on our style, though. I enjoy having my appliances out, along with a few small plants and herbs, and my cookbooks out on display. It keeps my kitchen feeling warm and cozy, and keeps everything I use day to day at my fingertips!!! 🙂

  • says:

    I loved this post, thanks for sharing! I have to ask, though – where do you keep your food?? I noticed there isn’t any (except oatmeal) in your pantry. I have a very small pantry in our new house, and I’m trying to figure out how to store food in it without it looking like a mess. What are your tips?? Thanks!

    • kathy says:

      You could use a lazy susan, graduated wire shelving racks. My husband made pegs for my pots and pans and lids. See through containers are great for storing food.

  • Abigail says:

    So I was very motivated by those spotless clean kitchen pictures. This was such good timing as I had just done some light decorating for fall in the empty space above my kitchen cabinets. But it just didn’t look quite right as I had over 20 (!) cookbooks, a crock JAMMED full of utensils, a canister of salt, salt and pepper shakers, a food processor and lots of other useful things cluttering my counters. I am blessed with lots of cabinet space, so everything fit right inside (after eliminating a junk drawer and parting with a few cookbooks). My kitchen looks so BEAUTIFUL tonight. I am burning a candle on my cleared counter and drinking in the peaceful atmosphere. Thank you for the inspiration, Crystal!

  • Tammy says:

    I wish I had a lazy suzan cabinet like that. I would be more apt to use to store items away b/c it would be easier to access in and out of that cabinet, but it is not right now. I cannot reach items way in the back at a long angle to the right (I have to take the entire contents of my cabinet out to beable to access those items in the back. I HATE IT)! Grrrr. LOL You are SOOOO lucky to have a lazy suzan cabinet. That is my DREAM some day to have that…………………….SOME day. (I hope). 🙂

  • says:

    I love, love, LOVE bare countertops! For me, personally, it inspires me to cook. Over the last few years I have sort of surrendered to the clutter and it has been bugging me. Your post has motivated me to tackle it over the weekend. Now I just need to find a spot for the often-used toaster oven, coffee pot and blender. The KA mixer will stay put since it’s so big and heavy (and pretty, lol).

  • Audrey says:

    Like you, I already store my appliances in the cabinets, as I also love completely bare countertops (minus the pesky pile-up of dirty dishes, which I am committed to get better at.) But, your post, Crystal, has encouraged me to become even more organized and to really take pride in my kitchen, as I love my kitchen (both in the sense is that it is where I prepare meals for my family, and also in the design, layout, and color scheme.) I like that you post your weekly menu plan on the side of the refrigerator. I see your menu plan posted on your site every week, but it took me until seeing the pic of it posted on the side of your fridge, to really realize that I need to subscribe to this method. I am inspired by you to do some weekly menu planning of my own for my family. We’ll see how good I get at it – but, at least I’ll give it a try. Thankfully, you post your weekly menu plan and recipes for further inspiration.

  • says:

    sooo jealous….. I’m getting there though.

  • Amy f;) says:

    I’m going to give away one cookbook right now…its a start.

    And don’t feel bad about any perceived lack of decorating skills- clean is very asthetic and definitely working for your home:)

  • Dee says:

    I feel inspired to declutter my kitchen. Thanks for all you do!

  • Aberline says:

    Crystal, you probably won’t see this 200+ comments in, but the lighting was bad in that picture because the camera automatically adjusted the exposure for the much brighter window where you pointed the camera. I’m assuming you’re using a cheap point and shoot camera that doesn’t give you much control, but there are ways around it. Just point at a place that is lit similarly to the room you are trying to photograph (e.g. the drawers of the cabinet that you are facing.) That place also needs to be the right distance away so that the auto-focus won’t make the photo be out of focus (i.e. don’t focus on your shoes and then take a picture of something 20 ft away). While pointing at this suitable spot, press the shutter button halfway and hold it, then frame up your shot the way you want it to look. The camera will keep its settings from the other position but will take the picture where you are pointing it. Take the picture and it will be lit the way you want it.

    It could also help to close the blinds on those windows when you are shooting towards them, but the natural light in the other pictures are why those pics look so good.

    • Crystal says:

      Thank you so much for the info! I don’t have an expensive camera, but I’m trying to learn to make the most of it, so what you shared was incredibly helpful. Thank you!

  • Karen says:

    Not sure if I can find my last comment.LOL This really got me motivated. I stuck my toaster in the cabinet and a jar that holds plastic bags in another cabinet. I popped a cookbook on EBAY. I never realized how much I don’t use cookbooks. they’re pretty. LOL

    Do you have a section about getting paperwork off of the counters when your countertop sometimes serves as a working area. I pay bills there and deal with school papers. My countertop is like a pennisula.

    Any suggestions?

    • Angela says:

      Could you keep a tote, file box, crate or other basket container with folders/dividers for your stuff? That way you can slide it into a cabinet or at least keep it contained. I like the Sterilite tall show offs with handle lids. They are the sized of a file folder, but sleek and narrow and easy to snap shut and tote to their home.

      • says:

        I’ve tried a crate in the kitchen. That worked but I really didn’t have space for it. I would always have to move it if company came. I like your ideas though. I think I am going to use an accordion file with a handle until I can figure out a more permanent solution.

        Maybe I can free up some space by ditching some more cookbooks.
        I didn’t think decluttering would give me such a charge. Sometimes you need a ittle motivation or a straight up kick in the pants.

  • jen says:

    I find it so hard to keep my kitchen organized. We have a small kitchen and not much counter space or cabinets. We don’t have a basement. Where do people put their toaster, kitchen aid mixer, microwave, cookbooks, and coffee pot if you have a small amount of cabinets? So far, the only spot we have is the counter. I would love to have a larger kitchen. But I am thankful for what I do have. 🙂

  • Susan says:

    Where do you keep your pantry items, mainly foods?

  • Ena says:

    Thank you for a needed reminder! We succeed at things we intentionally do! Your counters are clear because you declutter them twice daily. Set priorities, intentionally meet them, that is the “magic”. Thank you!!!

  • molly says:

    The only question i have is where do you keep your food? My pantry is full of food not appliances. I have a separate cupboard for them.

  • Troobee says:

    Great Ideas! While I would rather have the coffee pot, toaster (i know i’m in the minority there), bowl of fruit, blender, canisters (i have no pantry) out on the counter, because I USE THEM EVERY DAY!… i can see the beauty of the totally clear counter tops. My toaster, for example, weighs like 90lbs (not really) and I can’t really manage getting it in and out of a cabinet (I’m old and decrepit, LOL). I can’t imagine putting the Osterizer (blender) away every day; too bulky, and way heavy. But, you know, different strokes for different folks, as they say.

    The only true criticism was regarding tomatoes in the the fridge. Mama said NEVER put tomatoes in the fridge! They must ripen on the counter. I disobey the rule in that once they are “ripe” –really just redder– i have been known to put them in the fridge to keep them from spoiling once they reach the perfect color and all. They taste so much better, if ripened on the counter. Plus there is a certain beauty in a tomato sitting there reminding you to eat it!

    Happy to have found your blog, I’ll be back to visit. I like hearing another voice besides the very WONDERFUL Flylady, who I’ve subscribed to for forever… i do know that the magic is in the STARTING, and must say Flylady can make a success out of you, if you pledge to yourself to do the missions EVERY DAY. And not beat yourself up if you miss a day or backslide. She always says you’re not starting over, just jump in where we are.

    Oh, and great idea about the meal plan; gonna start that first! I’ll check your post on that very soon. Thanks!

  • Sylvia says:

    This looks awesome!! Where do u dry your dishes??

  • says:

    Wow! I wish I could do that, but I don’t know where I would put everything. I don’t know where I’d put the 2 cooking utensil containers I have, or the fruit in the fruit baskets. Maybe this week, I can try to figure out where to put some of the other things I have out because I do like the way your counters look.

  • Ashley says:

    Off topic, what is the name and brand of the green paint you used in the kitchen/hall? I love it!!

  • Janell says:

    This must be an older post (it was linked on https://moneysavingmom.com/2016/02/how-starting-with-a-clean-kitchen-changes-my-day-go-to-bed-challenge-day-12.html) because that is either a different kitchen, or you revamped it. If you just revamped it, how did you have room for the island?

    Enjoy your blogs! Thanks!

    • Jo says:

      Yes, that’s our kitchen in our house in Kansas. We have a similar set up here in TN in how we keep our countertops cleaned off. I need to do an updated post!

  • Hannah says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I am a serial space filler which drives my other half nuts 🙂
    Today I have had a go at clearing my kitchen and it feels so good! I have left a few things out which work for us but I can’t believe I have managed to clear so much! It’s given me so much more space, and I love it.

  • Sarah says:

    My biggest discouragement in keeping the countertops clean (not even clear, just CLEAN), is the rest of my family leaving stuff out or not throwing trash away. I can remind the kids several times a day, but reminding my husband like that would, I am sure, be taken as nagging! Maybe I haven’t stuck to it for long enough for the habit to catch to the rest of the family? But it’s just depressing when, for instance, my husband will bring in food trash from his office, and put it on the countertop not 3 feet from the trash can! It just makes me cry a little inside. What would you do, Crystal?

    • Jo says:

      Have you had an honest, kind conversation about it with him to explain to him how it makes you feel? He might not really understand. Or, he might be one of those people who just honestly doesn’t think to do things that come obvious to you.

      If it’s just a simple matter of throwing out the trash and would only take a few seconds, my advice is to talk to him, but then — if he continues to do it — just use it as a reminder to be grateful you have a husband and throw it away.

      My husband does plenty of things like that and I have a choice when it happens on a daily basis: I can be frustrated and stressed and upset, or I can use it as an opportunity to be grateful for him. Because many women would just plain LOVE to have a husband!

      We all have our pet peeves, we all have our things that are frustrating to other people, and I know that I do many things on a daily basis that could be really frustrating to my husband, as well. But he rarely ever gets frustrated at me and overlooks those things. He lost his mom at a young age and he has such a great perspective on just being grateful for someone’s life instead of wishing they were different or trying to change who they are.

      • Sarah says:

        Hi Crystal, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my question. I have talked to him about it (gently enough, I hope!), but I think plan B (just being plain ol’ thankful) is the best route for my own sanity. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder to be grateful for what I do have.

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