The 10 Commandments of a Clutter-Free Kitchen, and Why They're Impossible

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

1. Keep the countertops clear.

Well, duh! Any tips on how? “Relocate small appliances,” it says cheerfully. To where, exactly? The moon? At this moment, even though I’m not in my kitchen, I can tell you what appliances we have on our countertop: microwave, mini food processor, blender, coffeemaker, toaster and toaster oven. Where am I supposed to put those things? If I had the answer, I wouldn’t have to read articles like these.

2. Keep things in cabinets.

Clearly, the author of this article has never seen my overstuffed cabinets. This is not reducing clutter. It’s adding to it.

3. Follow the “one in, one out” rule.

For everything new you bring in, says the article, take something out. Do frozen waffles count? If so, I’ve nailed this one.

4. Follow the “don’t put it down, put it away” rules.

This one sounds really good, and I do give it the old college try, as they say. If something belongs somewhere, like the dishwasher or the garbage, I put it there. So why is the kitchen still a mess? Because I don’t live alone! My kids think everything needs a holding area before it moves on to its final resting place. Lids, wrappers, half-eaten bagels, used napkins, pencils—it all needs to sit in the kitchen for a while. Legos. Socks. Soccer balls. Straws. Should I continue? Snack bowls, sandwich crusts, bike helmets, lightsabers …

5. Don’t use the refrigerator as an art gallery.

Spoilsport. I don’t want to take off our photos, field trip reminders, and funky magnets collected from various trips and museums. They’re fun! Shut up.

6. Find alternatives to the pile.

It’s true, things in piles don’t look very good. I know that. And yet I pile them. It’s called the pile panic. And if I start hanging pots on my wall, I think that will make me feel MORE cluttered. Someone offered us one of those beautiful stainless steel numbers for pots and pans that hangs from the ceiling, and just thinking about it gave me an intense case of claustrophobia. I’m not sure that hanging things is really preferable to the pile.

7. Do a chore a day, instead of all at once.

This doesn’t work for us at all. It says to do a little cleaning every day, instead of doing it all at once, which would work really well if nobody else used the kitchen. One minute after a quick pass of the Swiffer, someone comes running in with muddy shoes. I wipe down the counter, and my kids pick that moment to get themselves a snack. At least when the entire kitchen is clean, they can tell, and usually respect it for about an hour or so.

8. Have morning and evening kitchen rituals.

My evening ritual is to shove everything into the dishwasher, and my morning ritual is to empty the dishwasher. Also, I like to say a little thank you to the dishwasher for being there for me through thick and thin. That counts, right?

9. Let yourself have one messy drawer.

How about four?

10. Always leave the kitchen better than you found it.

Piece of cake! I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who actually wipes down the counters or shakes crumbs out of the placemats, so this is a simple achievement. Bonus: If I just have to leave the kitchen for 10 minutes or so, and then come back, I get to do it all over again.

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