Keep Kitchen Surfaces Clear

Don't you love those decorator photos or model homes where the kitchen worktops are completely clear except for a beautiful plant or bowl of fruit?  Everyone does.  It's peaceful.  The kitchen looks ready for cooking or for having a friend in for coffee.  It looks clean, and easy to keep clean.  (And isn't that something you want in a kitchen?)

So how do we achieve this state of bliss?  How do we clear kitchen counters and keep them that way?

3 Steps to Kitchen Clarity

1.  Clear out the cupboards so you can store things in them.

The things we keep on the counter are the things we use most often, but we may be forfeiting valuable cupboard space to things we use rarely, if at all.  Do you have a pasta maker or ice cream maker shoved way in the back?  Or a stack of large serving trays?  Or maybe you have a waffle maker, even though you always serve French toast because it's easier to prepare and to clean up.  Maybe you have a cupboard overflowing with mismatched mugs, or vases, or a third set of dishes your mom gave you.  You might need the space more than you need the items, so declutter them and make room for the things you like to use that currently crowd your countertop.

Do you think you'll lose efficiency if you store the items you use regularly out of sight?  For example, the toaster.  Yes, you use it four or five times a week, but only for a few minutes at a time.  Why should it take up counter space all day every day?  My toaster lives in the cupboard; it takes a few seconds to get it out and plug it in when I want toast.  The same would apply to the stand mixer you use every couple of weeks or the blender you use for five minutes most mornings.

Evaluate everything on your worktop, particularly if you must always maneuver around things or move them to make room for food prep or clean up.  (Especially if you find yourself just wiping around them most of the time.)  Appliances or storage containers that get dusty between uses definitely belong somewhere else.

You can make life in the kitchen easier.  If you clear a cupboard or a drawer of things you never use, you can put the items you do need out of sight, but still easily accessible.

2.  Establish the one touch rule.

If you are cooking and open a package of pasta, put it all in the pot and discard the package immediately, or if you don't use all of it, close it up and immediately return it to its spot in the pantry.  You only want to touch that package once.

When you come into the house with your jacket or attaché, don't set it on a chair or the counter – hang it on its hook right away.  You don't want to handle it again until you're leaving the house.  Open mail right over the recycling bin, put bills on your desk, and hang the birthday card on your bulletin board.  You don't want to have to touch that pile again.  Put groceries or clean dishes away immediately so you don't have to deal with them again.

Keeping the one touch rule saves time, since you don't have to retrace your steps to pick up after yourself.  It saves you anxiety and aggravation, because you don't have to wonder "Now where did I put that?" or "Why is there a pile of junk all over the worktop again?"

The one touch rule lets you be more relaxed, and even a little bit lazy.  Since you're not procrastinating, but dealing with stuff immediately, you don't have to remember or think about or do anything with those items later.  They never have a chance to become clutter.

3.  Practice your new system.

The items that crowded your counter were there because it was your habit to keep them there.  You're going to have to make some effort to establish new habits.

Be ready for some pushback.  You're going to think, "What's the big deal if I don't put the toaster away?" or "Why should I put the tea bags in the drawer when I'll have to get them out again?"

First, remember the one touch rule.  Deal with items right away so you don't have to come back and do it later.  Second, practice tidying the kitchen after each meal.  Enlist the help of your housemates and this will only take a few minutes:

  • Do a quick pick-up (toss trash, put things away, sweep the floor).
  • Load the dishwasher or wash the dishes.
  • Wipe down the stove and counter.

Don't tell yourself you'll take care of the kitchen after you watch a little TV.  You'll either get interested in the show and forget the kitchen, or you'll fall asleep and wake up later just to stumble to bed (ask me how I know).  In the morning, you won't have time to clean what is now a bigger mess.

Tidying after every meal means that the kitchen never gets out of hand.  Dishes don't pile up, the stove doesn't accumulate cooked-on crud, and the counter is never a disaster.  Everything stays manageable, and your kitchen looks like it's ready to be featured in a magazine.


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