3 Types of Kitchen Clutter and How to Manage Each

In a burst of friendly energy, you invite someone over for coffee after gym class. You are chatting with animation as you unlock your front door, but as you walk into your kitchen, your voice wavers. You can hardly believe what you see – where did all this clutter come from? You don’t remember it being there when you walked out of the kitchen just a few hours earlier.

3 Types of Kitchen Clutter and How to Manage Each

(Pixabay / 2taol)

You’re not alone if your kitchen counters are magnets for clutter. And if you have become so accustomed to clutter that you don’t see it—at least until company comes—then you have a case of “clutter blindness.”

Ready for a clutter-blind test? Pull out your smartphone and take a photo of your kitchen. Study the photo (rather than your actual kitchen) and imagine showing it to a friend or posting it on Airbnb. Do you suddenly see the clutter to which you turned a blind eye? Keep reading for a scored clutter-blind test at the end of this article.

According to Home Storage Solutions, there are three types of kitchen clutter. Try dealing with them one at a time, giving yourself 15 minutes to tackle each type.

Type 1: Stuff that Doesn’t Belong in Your Kitchen

A family board game, the medication you used for a cold last month, a hammer and nails, a baby gift, and a pair of jeans that needs to be returned. The one thing these eclectic items have in common? They are things that don’t belong in your kitchen in the first place.

Deal with these items first by putting them where they go. Take 15 minutes – set your timer, and make something happen.

Some of the things have a place, but what do you do with the things that don’t? Put them in the “too hard basket” – literally. Get a bin where you can put things that need a place or are in transit.

Another trick is to have a near-by place for storing items to donate to your local thrift store. This Goodwill bin could be a bag, a drawer, a box – keep it somewhere near the kitchen, but not in the kitchen. When you find something that doesn’t have a place, but which you are not ready to give away, put it in your Goodwill drawer anyway, knowing that you won’t be taking the items to the thrift store until the drawer is full. In a few weeks or months, when the drawer is full and needs to be emptied, see if the item is still there. If so, you’ve lived without it this long, so go ahead and give it away.

Whew – this might be enough for one day. Take 15 minutes to tackle Type 1 clutter, and save Type 2 for tomorrow.

Type 2: Paper Clutter

Your daily planner, bills, stamps, newspapers, notices from school, junk mail, kids’ artwork: Type 2 Kitchen Clutter is paper clutter.

Paper clutter is trickier for most people than Type 1 clutter, but solutions are not out of reach. On Day 2, set a timer for 15 minutes and focus on the paper clutter.

Instead of resenting the papers, see them as a sign that you are still relevant in the world. Realize that, because you are alive, the mail keeps coming, as do the bills and neighborhood notices. The invitations and thank-you notes will keep arriving, too (you hope). As long as you are alive, take a moment to remember that every day is a gift and make peace with the idea that paper clutter will keep marching into your kitchen.

Dealing with paper clutter may take some strategies that are beyond the scope of this article, but here are a few tips:

  • Make it tidy while it’s waiting to be sorted. There’s a world of difference between stacked papers and strewn papers.
  • Assign a drawer as a paper catch-all drawer, or buy a plastic “inbox” where you can keep paperwork in one place while it is waiting to be sorted.
  • Make it a routine. Plan a time (daily, weekly, or monthly) when you sort through your paper pile and then set your mind at ease in the meantime.

Type 3: Stuff that Belongs in the Kitchen, but Not on the Counter

A half-eaten bag of salted cashews, a small notepad, a tub of protein powder, a pan lid, paper towels, and a vase. This is Type 3 Clutter, or stuff that belongs in the kitchen but not on the counter.

It’s Day 3, and time to take 15 minutes to specifically look at items on your kitchen counters that are not paper but which belong in the kitchen.

First of all, do some research on yourself. Analyze your Type 3 clutter by giving yourself a point for every item on your counters, no matter how deserving of its place it may seem. Then rate yourself using the scale included below.

Here are some scoring examples:

Fruit bowl1
Five apples sitting near each other on the counter5
Knife block1
Two pens and a pencil lying horizontally on the counter space above your catch-all drawer3
Toaster next to a butter dish next to a loaf of bread3
“Treasure bowl” filled with your car keys, some coins, a pair of fingernail clippers1
Car keys, five coins, a pair of fingernail clippers7

Now take your score and divide it by the appropriate number of feet of counter space. For example, if you have 10 items on your kitchen counters and approximately 4 feet of counter space, then your score is 2.5. (You can search for “10 divided by 4” on the internet if the math slows you down.) If you have two items and 4 feet of counter space, then your score is .5.

Here’s how your score plays out:

Your ScoreClutter Rating
0 - 0.25Cleanswept
0.25 - 0.5Active
0.5 or greaterClutter-blind alert

Some people value convenience more than an empty counter, preferring to leave out the toaster and salt and pepper shakers. Other people value the clean counter over convenience and are willing to store the dish soap under the sink or open a cupboard to stow the car keys. Whether you value a more cozy approach or a more minimalist approach, your kitchen is your own space. Aim to impress yourself – not the imaginary friend from the gym – and you’ll be happy in your home.