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How to Organize Kitchen Counters

Keep kitchen countertops clutter-free with these smart, space-saving solutions.

As a professional organizer, I’ve observed kitchen counters become catch-alls for most families, and the clutter never seems to cease. Between tools that you actually need for mealtime and everyday items that mysteriously make their way into the room, kitchen surfaces are constantly in use.

Fortunately, I’ve picked up a few methods over the years that can drastically reduce the amount of stuff that requires precious counter space. Most kitchen countertop organization ideas take minimal time, effort, and investment but make a big difference in how a kitchen looks and feels. These storage solutions can also help to streamline your daily routine.

Corral Items Onto a Tray
This kitchen counter organizing idea not only looks effortlessly elegant, but it’s also highly functional. A tray strategically placed next to the stove can hold bottles of oil and vinegar, a salt cellar, and, if large enough, a crock of kitchen tools. A ceramic tray by the sink is ideal for keeping dish soap and hand soap alongside a scrub brush or sponge. Or place one by the coffee maker to create the ultimate home coffee bar with your favorite mugs, sugars, and syrups.

A tray on the kitchen island can be used to show off decor and contain excess clutter. Include a mail organizer and a small bin or two to collect items that need to be sorted and put away elsewhere. This prevents miscellaneous items from taking over the kitchen and makes wiping down counters a breeze since you only have to pick up a single tray. If you’d prefer, a lazy Susan or even a cake stand can also do the trick.

Choose a Tiered Basket
Countertop organization can be tricky if your family loves fresh produce and frequently has a large quantity on hand. For fruits and veggies that don’t need to be refrigerated, countertop baskets are your best bet. However, consider maximizing space by going vertically.

A two- or three-tiered fruit basket takes up little surface space while providing storage. A combination basket with a banana hanger is also a clever choice. Or opt for square, open-front stackable bins in either bamboo or metal. Lastly, baskets that hang from the wall or the ceiling save counter space altogether. Try individual hanging baskets or a tiered hanging style in jute or macrame.

Utilize Floating Shelves
If your kitchen lacks cabinet space, consider adding floating shelves to a blank wall. Like trays, open kitchen shelves look beautiful while also serving a purpose. Use them to store some of the bulky items currently taking up space on countertops, such as jars of decanted coffee and sugar. Or use open shelves to store your collection of cutting boards and cookbooks so they’re out of the way yet still within reach.

Hang Some Hooks
It’s no secret that small kitchens come with their set of storage challenges. And if both drawer and counter space is limited, cooking utensils can quickly become cluttered. In lieu of an oversized crock or stuffing utensils into a drawer, consider hanging them on the wall. A simple wall-mounted rack with S hooks can help neatly contain utensils and keep them at your fingertips while prepping a meal.

Consider a Magnetic Knife Rack
A knife block can also take up a good chunk of precious countertop real estate. Plus, it’s one of the germiest places in your kitchen. A magnetic knife strip is a smart space-saving solution. Do your research to determine the best knife rack for your needs; a good quality rack should be strong enough to hold your knives without worrying about any accidents.

Be Smart with Appliances
One of the rules of kitchen organization is to keep the countertops as clear as possible. That’s nearly impossible if it’s littered with appliances big and small. Some appliances that are used regularly, such as the coffee maker and toaster, deserve a permanent home on the counter if it makes your daily routines easier. For everything else, consider alternative spots to keep the appliances out of sight. Base cabinets are ideal for items you pull out on a weekly basis, while cabinets above a microwave or refrigerator can store rarely-used appliances. Or consider installing an appliance garage to keep appliances close but hidden.

Add an Island
This kitchen countertop organization idea is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase your counter space. If you’re looking to remodel, consider installing an island; if not, consider adding a standalone kitchen island with storage. Opt for an island with plenty of surface area; a drop leaf can also help to comfortably prep meals. Island shelving gives you room to store items you might otherwise keep on kitchen counters, freeing up more counter space. Some styles also include a hook rack for hanging utensils or mugs or a rod for dishcloths or paper towels.

Sneak Storage Inside Cabinets
Rather than keeping measuring cups and spoons on the counter or shoving them into drawers, try this unique kitchen storage idea. Install small, individual hooks to the inside of a cabinet door, preferably near the spot where you do most of your baking and cooking. Give each cup and spoon its own hook and clearly label the capacity so you can grab the one you need in a pinch.

Mary Cornetta, Better Homes & Gardens