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16 Common Kitchen Items That Clutter Countertops For a Messy, Unorganized Cooking Space

The kitchen is the perfect landing spot for clutter to accumulate quickly and transform what should be a functional space for meals and memories into a chaotic catch-all.

From unused appliances to stacks of mail and everything in between, these items can crowd your countertops, making the kitchen feel less inviting and more unusable.

Clearing these unnecessary items off your counters enhances the aesthetics of your space and restores its functionality. Here are 16 things to remove and reclaim your culinary workspace. 

1. Dish Drying Rack

Clean dishes on drying rack in modern kitchen interior.
Image Credit: New Africa and Shutterstock

Nobody needs a dish drying rack on the kitchen counter. If not cleaned properly, they lead to water stains on the countertop and promote the growth of mold, bacteria, and mildew. 

These racks take up valuable space in the kitchen and encourage people to keep dishes on the counter instead of promptly putting them away. However, alternatives like foldable drying mats or pull-out collapsible drying racks free up counter space while providing a dedicated area to dry dishes.

2. Cookbooks

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While it’s convenient to have cookbooks at hand, they can take up valuable counter space and get dirty. Consider storing them on a bookshelf or in a cabinet nearby. Alternatively, use a cookbook stand that can be stored away when not in use to keep the book open to your recipe while you cook, or use a digital recipe organizer.

3. Pet Supplies

Hungry border collie dog sitting on counter in modern kitchen looking with puppy eyes funny face waiting for food.
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Items like dog treats, pet vitamins, or small feeding dishes can clutter the counter. It’s better to have a specific drawer or spot in a pantry for these to keep them easily accessible but not in the way.

4. Large Cutting Boards

chef cutting onion with chef knife cutting board cheese oil on table.
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While one cutting board might be essential and decorative on the counter, storing multiple large boards can consume a lot of space. Hang them on a wall or store them vertically in a lower cabinet near where you prep food.

5. Snack Bags and Boxes

meal planning
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Open packages of chips, cookies, or other snacks can create a messy look and spoil food quickly. Give all of these items a home in your pantry. Use airtight containers to store such items or organize them in a cupboard.

6. Coffee Cups and Mugs

coffee maker and cup pastry on kitchen counter.
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Leaving a few cups out is common, especially near a coffee maker. However, to maximize counter space, it is more efficient to store these in a cupboard or hang them on a mug tree or under-cabinet hooks nearby.

7. Unused Appliances

Modern multi cooker on kitchen counter.
Image Credit: Michael Dechev and Shutterstock

First, stop buying large kitchen appliances because they sound good. Then, only keep appliances you use daily on the counter, like a coffee maker or toaster. Store infrequently used items like mixers, blenders, or food processors in cabinets or a pantry. Consider decluttering appliances you haven’t used in over a year.

8. Excess Utensils

Stylish scandi cuisine interior decor. Ceramic plates, dishes, utensils, jars, cookware, and cozy decor on wooden shelfs.
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Remove any utensils that aren’t used regularly. Instead of keeping them all in a holder on the counter, select some essential items and store the rest in drawers. Old items that you’re not using should be donated or discarded.

9. Paperwork and Mail

Thoughtful female sit in kitchen holding financial documents look on computer screen.
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Kitchen counters often become a dumping ground for mail, newspapers, and miscellaneous paperwork. Find another place in your home to organize and store these items. Consider a drop spot near the front or garage door to make mail more manageable. Be sure to set a time to regularly sort through all of the paperwork and mail that is co-located together for convenience.

10. Dishes

clean dishes pots and rice cooker on kitchen counter.
Image Credit: New Africa and Shutterstock

Sounds like common sense, but avoid leaving dirty dishes or clean, ready-to-put-away dishes on the counter. It’s best to clean dishes right away or place them in the dishwasher and then empty it before bed to keep the space tidy.

11. Excessive Decor

Side view of wooden kitchen with green houseplant decor.
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While a few decorative items can make the kitchen feel homely, too many can cause clutter. Choose a couple of favorite pieces to display and store the rest. Consider the amount of space you have to make sure that everything has white space around it to avoid an overwhelming look.

12. Spices and Condiments

Hand holding jar of spices on kitchen counter.
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You wouldn’t be a good cook without several spices and condiments. Consider storing them in a cabinet or using a dedicated spice rack that doesn’t take up counter space.

13. Food

kitchen pantry organization
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Bread, fruit, and other perishables should be stored in the pantry or fridge, not left out on the counter unless you consume them quickly. A small fruit bowl is fine if it doesn’t overcrowd the space.

14. Cooking Oils and Ingredients

variety of oils on counter with peppers.
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Like spices, these should have a specific storage spot to keep things tidy and functional. A cupboard or drawer near the stove makes them easily accessible without taking up counter space.

15. Personal Items

Young cheerful woman using laptop computer and eating cereal in the kitchen at home.
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Keep cell phones, keys, purses, and sunglasses in a designated area away from the kitchen counter. It’s even better not to bring these items into the kitchen. Keep the kitchen for cooking and eating meals. Enjoy your kitchen and be present while in it.

16. Excess Cleaning Supplies

woman cleaning counter.
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Store most cleaning supplies under the sink or in a utility closet. Dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, and scrubbing pads on the counter visually overcrowd the area and make it look messy. Keep only what you need regularly, such as hand soap and a dish towel, neatly arranged in a small tray or bin in the sink.

16 Frugal Habits That Don’t Make You Cheap

older couple happy grocery shopping vegetable aisle.
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The concept of frugality often comes with negative connotations. Images of someone cheap or stingy quickly come to mind.

However, being frugal isn’t about being cheap or stingy. It’s about making smart financial choices that prioritize value and long-term goals over immediate gratification. Here are 16 frugal habits that don’t make you cheap.

15 Must-Have Kitchen Tools Every Cook Needs Without the Clutter

Happy couple in bright kitchen preparing lots of vegetables on counter.
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Having the right tools in the kitchen can make cooking more efficient and enjoyable. However, having too much of anything can be overwhelming and unnecessary.

Streamline your cooking process with the necessary tools to free up much-needed space and simplify cooking.

Decluttering unnecessary items and keeping the right tools means each tool serves a vital function in the kitchen. Here’s a list of 15 must-have kitchen tools and the corresponding items that can be discarded to minimize clutter while maximizing utility.

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