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Studio McGee, original photo on Houzz

by Laura Gaskill, Houzz

From quick weekday breakfasts grabbed on the way out the door to special-occasion dinners planned and prepared with care, the kitchen is nearly always a hub of household activity — which also means it’s a common place for clutter to accumulate. In this series, we’re approaching each room in the house from the perspective of identifying what sparks joy. So far, we’ve tackled the bedroom and the bath. Now we look at ways of clearing the clutter and creating a beautiful, useful space in the kitchen.

Create calm, clear surfaces. Kitchen counters can quickly become cluttered with mail, shopping bags, small appliances, and kitchen tools and gadgets. Once these surfaces are full, preparing meals becomes much more challenging. Plus, just the sight of a cluttered counter can add to your daily stress. Reclaim clean, clear space on your kitchen surfaces to make room for cooking.

Related: Why you should invest in the indestructible option of cement countertops

Take action: Start by completely clearing off and cleaning your kitchen counters, one at a time. Before putting anything back, consider what you honestly need to access on a daily basis. These are the items worthy of prime counter space — for example, your coffeepot, a jar of wooden spoons and a favorite cutting board or fruit bowl. Aim to find a different home for everything else, inside a cupboard or on a shelf.

If your kitchen also happens to function as your home’s entry, dedicate a specific spot to store keys and mail (for example, a dish for keys and a tray for mail) so that these items don’t spread over your freshly cleared counter.

Related: Will soapstone countertops work for you?

Brittany Stiles Design, original photo on Houzz

Choose your essentials. Instead of focusing on what to get rid of, choose to look at clearing clutter in a positive light, and ask yourself this: What do I love and use in my kitchen?

Focus on clearing prime space (top drawers and easy-to-reach cabinets) for the pots, pans, tools and dishes you use daily. Highly specialized cooking gadgets have their place (and if there’s one you love and use, by all means keep it!), but allowing these items to take up space front and center will only make it harder to work in your kitchen.

Take action: Without looking in your kitchen cupboards, think through a typical day of preparing meals at home, and make a list of the pots, pans, cooking tools and dishes you use to make that happen. Make sure these items are stored in the drawers, cabinets and shelves that are easiest to reach.

Look at what’s left in the other areas, and see if you can let go of some cooking tools, small appliances or excess food storage containers that you rarely (or never) use.

Alvhem Makleri & Interior, original photo on Houzz

Rethink nooks and corners. If your kitchen is compact and galley-style, this may not apply — but if you have a bit more space to play with, take a moment to consider how you are using that space. It’s clear how the main work area of the kitchen should be used (for cooking, chopping and washing up), but when it comes to the nooks and corners, it’s really up to you.

Think about what you want from this space: a nook to read, a tidy desk to pay bills, an art corner for your child? Let yourself daydream a bit, and note down what you come up with.

Take action: Once you’ve decided how you want to use your kitchen nook or corner, gather the items you want to have in this space. If items are collecting here that do not serve the purpose of this area, move them out.

For example, if your goal is to create a quiet corner to read while a pot of soup simmers on the stove, pull in a comfy chair and a few favorite books — and take out the unnecessary and distracting stuff, like piles of bills and old shopping bags.

Paglialonga Studio, original photo on Houzz

Make space for simple pleasures. The kitchen is a hardworking space, but it can also be where we gather and relax. Whether you’re enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day or listening to a favorite podcast while washing the dishes, consider which simple pleasures you can incorporate into your space and your routine.

Related: Make dish duty easier with a larger kitchen sink

Take action: Thinking through each part of the day, consider what small item or routine you could add to make your time in the kitchen a bit more pleasurable. Here are a few ideas:

      - A radio or dock for listening to music or podcasts
 
      - Fresh flowers in a vase
 
      - A pot of fresh herbs on the windowsill
 
      - A candle to light beside you while you wash dishes
 
    - A pair of stools so that friends can chat while you cook

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