1. Limit mail on the counter.
This means reducing junk mail, dealing with unwanted mail at the door, and having a place to put important mail instead of tossing it onto the countertop. Check out landing strip ideas over at Apartment Therapy to see how even your actions at the front door can have major impact on the seemingly-unrelated kitchen.
2. If you air dry dishes, have a system.
I often allow hand washed dishes to air dry, feeling like towel-drying is less thorough and more time-consuming. But I made a mistake in wasting crucial counter space with no system for said air-drying. Soggy dishes would just sit willy-nilly on the countertop until dry. An in-sink or countertop rack (or even a wall-mounted drying rack!) will save space so you can free up more counterspace even when you have dishes drying.
3. Wash cookware as you go.
Large items like sheet pans and soup pots are big culprits on wasting counterspace as they wait to be washed. They're often too big to soak in the sink and end up waiting (and waiting, and waiting) to be washed if you don't stay on top of them. So, wash up as you go. Or if that's not practical, be sure to wash up your tools and cookware from preparing a meal as soon as the meal is over. This way, your countertops are clear next time you're ready to prep a meal and you don't have to play that all-too-familiar game of catch-up.
4. Use hooks.
Quick! How many items currently lying on your kitchen counters could happily be hanging on a hook? I count three on mine: purse, shopping bag, and towel. The purse and shopping bag belong on a hook in the coat closet, and the towel belongs on a hook here in the kitchen. There is no excuse for me to be out of habit on this one, as there isn't anything easier than hanging something on a hook. Well, besides throwing it on the countertop!
5. Make a habit of letting loose, but by design.
Design one small area into your kitchen where you can fall back when you're caught in a pinch. That might mean designating one small open shelf over the counter where you can easily put things you don't have time for in the moment (in open view so you're reminded to get to it later, but up above so you can still use the counter for kitchen prep). Or having one "junk drawer" that catches those "homeless" odds and ends that inevitably end up on the kitchen counter. Allowing a little room to be messy takes the pressure off, making the prospect of sustainable success much greater.
As they say, everything in moderation. I think it's important to remember that the adage goes for limiting the junk that piles up, but also for being realistic about keeping things perfectly organized.
What are your tendencies when it comes to the kitchen counter? Do you have a helpful habit to share with The Kitchn community on keeping countertops clear? Please share in the comments below!
(Image: Leela Cyd Ross)