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By Laura Gaskill, Houzz

That vast expanse of open kitchen counter probably looked appealing when you first moved in or remodeled. But over time, what you’d hoped would be a wonderful space for baking, homework projects and long chats over wine with friends has become a magnet for clutter, with layers as complex (though perhaps not as interesting) as an archeological dig. If you’re ready to reclaim your kitchen counter space, we’ve got the tips and strategies to help you master your clutter so you can revel in that new-counter feeling again.

The first step toward a clutter-free counter is understanding where your counter clutter comes from. Excavate it to see what you have: unopened mail, catalogs, rubber bands, pens, receipts, school papers? Make a mental note of exactly what sort of clutter you tend to accumulate in this area, and keep that in mind as you read through the solutions that follow.

1. When the Kitchen Is Also Your Entry

Carve out a command station. If your kitchen also acts as the most-used entry to your home, your counter likely holds detritus we come in the door with, like car keys and shopping bags. Nip this problem by installing command station essentials by the door. This can be as simple as a few wall hooks and a whiteboard, or as involved as having a custom cubby system designed and installed to fit the space perfectly.

Trick out the pantry. No room by the entry? Try outfitting the pantry door instead. In the space shown here, a magnetic chalkboard keeps shopping lists, notes and coupons handy, while a door-mounted paper sorter handles incoming and outgoing mail.

Repurpose pretty bowls. There’s no need to buy new containers for organizing when you probably have what you need hidden away in your cupboards. Set a few small, pretty bowls on the counter to use for keys, pocket change and any other tidbits that tend to accumulate on your counter. Choose a time every week or month to clean out the bowls.

Use a mail tray. If the easiest spot to stash the mail when you get home is the kitchen counter, roll with it. Giving the mail a dedicated tray to land in helps keep it from spreading over the entire surface. Be sure to dedicate a regular time to sorting through the mail each day (or several times each week) to stay on top of the pile.

2. When Projects Migrate Here From Other Rooms

Wall-mount the magazines. If you and your family members enjoy reading magazines (or saving them for recipes) in the kitchen, these items can quickly take over the counter. Dedicate some wall space to a storage rack, and you can quickly scoop up the whole pile and get it out of the way when you’re ready to cook — and grab them again when you want something to read while the soup simmers.

Stash a basket (or two). If the counter gets used for projects — whether it’s your knitting or the kids’ homework — it’s helpful to have a few big baskets on hand to store the related supplies. Use a cleared-out kitchen shelf to store the baskets, and before-dinner cleanup time will be a whole lot quicker.

3. When Your Kitchen Is Also Your Workspace

Decide what your true essentials are. A little desk in the kitchen sounds like a good idea, but so often the drawers just end up filled with junk: pens out of ink, too many rubber bands, an economy-size box of staples. Instead of cramming any old thing into your kitchen workspace, really consider what would be useful to keep here. A few pens? Certainly. Five hundred pens? Probably not. Move excess supplies to a more out-of-the-way spot.

Install extra shelving. If you’ve been using your kitchen as a workspace but it lacks a built-in desk, you may need more storage.

If you have a bit of wall space, you can probably fit in some wall-mounted shelving. Use it to store file and document boxes or whatever materials you need close at hand. Attractive storage containers matter since they will be on view to the whole kitchen, so look for a nice set in a color and material that works with your kitchen scheme.

Dedicate a drawer to tech. If your devices and charging cords tend to sprawl over the kitchen counter, consider creating a hidden charging station. You will likely need to hire a pro to get this done. A maintenance worker can do the job if an outlet is already in an accessible spot; hire an electrician if you need to add a new outlet.

Even if you don’t want to go to the trouble of creating a charging station, it’s still helpful to have a drawer dedicated to storing your tech devices and charging cords when not in use.

Ideas for Moving Forward

Keep it beautiful. Focus on what you want to use the kitchen counter for, and do what you can to emphasize that purpose, beautifully. Want to be able to eat breakfast at the counter? Set out fresh place settings and a small vase of blooms. Hoping for a clean, clear space for cooking delicious feasts? Wipe the counter and set out a few useful items — perhaps a thick cutting board or a bowl of fresh farmers market produce.

Maintain a habit that works for you. Most important of all, to keep your counter clutter-free, you’ll need to commit to shifting some ingrained habits — no easy feat.

It’s often easier to tie a new habit to an old one, so try this: Every morning while making your coffee or tea, take a moment to scoop up any clutter that has accumulated on the kitchen counter and put items back where they belong.

Keep this up for a few weeks, and pretty soon you’ll have a new, clutter-busting habit that will keep your counter clear.

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