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Combatting counter clutter

HousekitchencounterAs I plan to paint and lighten up my kitchen, to spend around $200 on a beautiful, yet-to-be-determined backsplash and under-counter lighting, I got to thinking about how much stuff is on my counters.

Do I need all that stuff out ALL the time?

When I visit kitchens for my articles, the homeowners seem to have cleared the counters.

See what I mean in this Claremont kitchen, or this Downey kitchen, or this West Adams-adjacent kitchen, or this Manhattan Beach kitchen. Do people live like this? I suspect not.

I’d love to have clear counters, but what kind of hassle is it to haul things out all the time?

Here are some of my counter clutter challenges, from right to left (above):

Bread maker While I only use this wedding gift four or five times a year, I love having it handy in case I want to amp up the dough action. But how likely is that?

Cake plate We use this like a cookie jar, but the sweets are visible for all to admire.

Spice and hot sauce tray So handy for cooking. But I wonder if I should explore getting one of those cool, pull-out spice racks. I do have a slot to the right of the stove.

Cooking utensil basket How do people live without one of these on the counter? I love the feeling of pulling just the right spoon or spatula or whisk from this basket.

Coffee paraphernalia Imagine what my counters would be like if we didn’t indulge in one of the greatest legal drugs of all times? We’ve got the coffee maker, coffee grinder, French press and tea kettle. All are too precious to hide.

On the other side of the sink we’ve got the rice cooker/vegetable steamer, blender, waffle maker, table lamp and microwave. And in a nook there is a Cuisinart mixer, toaster, hand mixer, juicer and electric can opener (the latter we never use).

It’s a gadget gallery in there. Do I need these things out all time, 24/7?

I’m curious: How do you work it out in your kitchen? Do you leave everything out? Keep everything put away? Or, what is your middle ground?


9 Comments on Combatting counter clutter

  1. I use the SpiceStack spice rack to store my spices in the cabinet. It gets spices out of the way (but not too far away from the action), keeps spices freshest in a dark, dry place, saves on cabinet space, and most importantly, allows me to always find the spice I need quickly while cooking (instead of digging around on a lazy susan or in a messy drawer). SpiceStack holds 27+ bottles from the grocery store so you get to choose your own spices. Its a quick, inexpensive solution for storing and organizing spices….check it out at http://www.SpiceStack.com and Happy Organizing!

  2. We are building a new house and my goal is to have absolutely nothing out on the counters. We are retired and part of the fun of each day will be putting everything in order in the kitchen, making it look brand new every morning. I am sure this will change as time goes on but we lived in our previous house for 35 years and the kitchen was never the way I truly wanted it to be. This time it will be just right and I think the cabinets are planned so that everything I need will be easily accessed when the time is right.

  3. Form follows function. It has to be handy if you use it daily.
    One thing you can do to rid the counter surface is to install a shelf on your backsplash or under your upper cabinets.
    Also you can make your utensil container a deliberate sculptural focal point.

  4. I have most of the spices hidden away. Just a few that I use all the time (everyday since I cook about everyday) like salt, pepper and soup stock cubes.
    I have the bread machine on the counter, but I then use it for 3-4 breads each week. Same for microwave.
    But my blender, mixer, utensils are stacked away. They are not to big (so do not take a lot of cabinet space) or to heavy, so they are out of the way. I always feel that if the kitchen is to cluttered, there is no space to cut vegetables and prepare food.
    So I would guess it would be trade off. Something you keep up there (even if that is not magazine picture friendly), but some stuff can be put away, to make space for cooking.

  5. it is very difficult to decide, without knowing what your storage options are, but having half of this on my counters would make me bonkers.
    are all your cabinets crammed full already? if i recall, you have an “island” which is taking up floor space but is vastly underutilized as a storage space. this would be a great place for visually acceptable appliances to go, and stash the less attractive ones in a cabinet.
    i would put spices in a pull-down rack near the stove and utensils in the small drawer next to the stove. i can’t quite see why you need a coffee maker and a press out all the time. my espresso maker, which i use every day, is out, alone. all the coffees, my press, thermoses, sugar, grinder, etc. is in the cabinet below it.
    i would definitely leave a cake plate with goodies OUT and stash everything else, because although i am guilty of being swamped with my own clutter, i find it terribly oppressive! or maybe i’m just projecting?
    in other words, a balance – how often do i use it and how inconvenient would it be to pop it out of a cabinet, on a continuum against – how depressing/inspiring do i find looking at this object vs having the cleared, clean expanse of counter? not to mention how annoying is it to clean these things every week!!
    good luck, and thanks for sharing your process.

  6. Kathy Price-Robinson // March 26, 2008 at 5:17 pm // Reply

    Thanks for all the feedback and ideas from all you good people. I’m coming to some conclusions: It’s personal. Each of us can stand a certain amount of visual clutter. Me, not so much, and yet it did build up. Also, I only need to leave out stuff we use often. We never, ever, eat toast, so what’s with the toaster getting dusty on the counter? It’s a throwback from another era. And the electric can opener? That was a mistake and will be going to the Goodwill. Alos, half the stuff on that spice and condiment tray will never be used. So I’m going to look at it for the next 10 years? I don’t think so.
    And here’s the big epiphany: I leave these out so I’ll want to cook, but having so much clutter, and so little counter space, makes it awkward to cook. So I defeat my goal. Can get another “duh” here?
    Great food for thought! Calm environments help create calm (and more effective) individuals. Thank you!

  7. I’m planning for 30″ deep counters in order to accommodate more junk at the back of the counter and free up working space towards the front.
    Since that’s not an option for you, have you thought about retrofitting a base cabinet with a lift up shelf / appliance lift / hide-a-shelf?
    See pictures here: http://www.visitwoodcraft.com/accessories1.htm
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    KPR: Thanks Brent. Great idea!
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  8. I have never had any kitchen gadgets or appliances on my kitchen counters – there is no reason things can’t be put back in cupboards when you are finished using them. Put all of the stuff away and appreciate all of the new counter space you will have (and as a bonus, your home will look less cluttered).

  9. Do you like your kitchen? …because I like your kitchen. It looks warm and homey. Life is short. Use it, enjoy it and don’t worry about it.
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    KPR: Thank you! I do like it, especially since I cleared off the counters. What a difference that made! Thanks so much.
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