Challenge Day 24: Clear Kitchen Countertops

clear kitchen counters

New Year Cleaning Challenge Day 24

The old real estate maxim works for kitchens, too: "location, location, location!" What's taken up residence on your kitchen counters?

In the kitchen, countertop space represents the room's most prestigious--and hardest-working--real estate address. Is your cooking space clean and lean--or crammed and cluttered?

Today in the New Year Cleaning Challenge, we'll clear kitchen countertops, applying a simple A-B-C method to make zoning decisions for appliances, decor and storage.

Today's Assignment:
Clear Kitchen Countertops

Stand in the doorway of your kitchen area, and scan your surroundings. What's living on your kitchen counters?

For many of us, it's a disorganized melange. Piles of mail sprawl next to coiled cellphone chargers. Bottles of nutritional supplements crowd around the coffeemaker, while a stand mixer rears its head above canisters, salt and pepper shakers, and an oil mister.

When it's time to do some cooking, is there adequate preparation space ... or do you need to shove aside the interlopers to get dinner underway?

Today's Challenge assignment is to clear those cluttered countertops! It's a two-part goal: first, to remove items that don't belong in the kitchen, and second, to allocate space for the survivors according to use.

To clear kitchen counters, grab three boxes and a trash bag. Label the boxes as Put Away, Store, and Donate.

Clearing first round: remove items that don't belong in the kitchen. This means stray mail, electronic clutter, medicines, personal items and reading material go straight to a put-away box. Trash--like last week's newspapers--goes to the trash bag, while any recyclables, such as discarded soda cans, get marched out to the recycling bin.

Set the put-away box aside, as we'll empty it at the end of the clearing session.

By this point, the counters should be stripped down to a working state ... maybe. Even with the clutter removed, many of us have given far too many appliances, decor items and tools a piece of precious countertop space.

Time to trim them down with a simple A-B-C exercise!

To make decisions easier, grab a piece of paper and answer this question about each item: "I last used this on __________."

Now grade each answer:

  • A - within the last week
  • B - within the last month
  • C - within the last year
  • D - never
  • Decor decor items

Turn back to your countertops. Remove all C, D and Decor items.

Commonly, these groups include things like one-use appliances (mini-pie maker, anyone?), decorative canisters (because you keep forgetting to fill them), and kitchen equipment that doesn't fit your lifestyle (a 6.5 quart crockery slow-cooker in a back-to-two household).

As you clear each C and D items, make a quick choice into one of the labeled boxes: store or donate? Hint: if you've never used the item, it's time to find it a good home with a family that will love it ... and use it! Seasonal items, like turkey roasters, can be stored until next November rolls around.

Put all current Decor aside. They'll earn a place--if they earn one--after the working items are assigned a home.

What's left? Only those items that you use, and use frequently. Time to scrutinize the survivors! All A items have earned their countertop home by frequent use. Whether it's the coffeepot or tea kettle, toaster or microwave oven, these worthy workers rest secure.

The B category? In your house, perhaps it's the crockpot, stand mixer or food processor that falls in this middle zone. Yes, you use it, but not every week.

Here's where kitchen size and personal choice will come into play. If counter space permits, B items may be given a home--or if they're too large and bulky to move frequently, such as a bread machine, their size may earn them the right to stay out in view. Think carefully about the playoff between space and availability to assign homes to B category items.

Once you've parceled out the real estate, only then turn back to kitchen decor. As you replace decorative items, remember that old rule of the well-dressed woman: get dressed, add your accessories, and then remove one item. It works with kitchens, too!

Next, tend to the leftovers of countertop clearing session.

Place the Donate box in the car, and drop it at the charity collection point next time you drive past. Store holiday or seasonal items with holiday decorations, or in a remote storage area.

Finally, circle the house with the Put Away box, and return stray items to more appropriate homes.

Then return to your streamlined, pretty kitchen. Time for a cup of tea, while you enjoy the feeling of accomplishment!