In a survey, 60 per cent of respondents cited cluttered counter space as their biggest source of stress in the kitchen. Too often, kitchen counters become a prime spot to stash things you’re not sure where else to put, which is why they get cluttered so quickly.
For instance, your kitchen counter may seem like the obvious place to keep toasters, blenders, mixers, and other appliances—they’re kitchen tools, after all. But if you only use them every once in a while, there really is no sense in having them take up space on your countertops. Indeed, more than half of survey respondents said that appliances were the biggest culprits of their stress-inducing counter clutter. A good rule of thumb to give yourself is: If you don’t use it every day (or every time you cook), it shouldn’t be taking up space on your counter.
And the number two cause of counter clutter-related stress, according to the survey? Stacks of papers. This one’s easy to understand; it’s a lot easier to just toss day-to-day papers onto your counter than to read through and sort all of them. Whether it’s magazines, newspapers, junk mail, or not-so-junky mail like bills, papers can accumulate fast, and the more they do, the more of a hassle it is to organize them.
And a messy look isn’t the only reason to keep papers out of your cooking space. If papers, especially magazines, get wet while sitting on your countertop, “the ink can easily get transferred onto your countertop’s surface,” cautions Stephanie Cooper of Energy Cleaning. “After that, it is a nightmare to clean.”
As with appliances, there’s no need for the fancy china and dinnerware that you only use on holidays to sit on your counter day in and day out. “From a cleaner’s point of view, it is a nightmare to properly wipe each thing every week,” Cooper says. “From a health perspective, it is not advisable to keep dusty objects near the place you prepare your food or eat.”
Instead of keeping fancy dishware on your counter to literally collect dust, consider storing it in a glass-front cabinet, or, if you’re feeling particularly decorative, even hanging it on a wall. The same goes for decorative trinkets and other non-functional items; especially if they’re small, there are probably plenty of places you can store them that don’t take away from your cooking space.
We won’t fault you for wanting to keep the decorative canisters containing your sugar, flour, and other such ingredients in plain view on your counter. But you can’t deny that they can sometimes be bulky and take up a good deal of room.
This one’s really a matter of personal preference, but it’s still pretty easy and convenient to keep them in a cabinet just above your counter. Or, as thekitchn.com points out, they are called “pantry staples,” so you could keep them out of the way in your pantry as well, especially if you don’t find yourself using them very often.
Spices It may come as a surprise, but your counter probably isn’t the best place to keep your spice collection. In particular, make sure you’re not storing spices near your oven or stove top, where accumulated heat can weaken their flavours over time. Light, and heat from sunlight or cooking surfaces, can degrade the flavours faster than if you store them in a cool, dark place.
Knives Fancy knife blocks do look nice, and as such, you may want to keep them in a prominent spot. And there’s nothing wrong with doing that, of course. Just be aware that it’s not the safest place to store your knives, especially if you have young children in the house—Bostic recommends keeping your sharp knives in a drawer with a lock to keep them out of sight (and reach) of little ones. And, safety aside, you may just rather not have a large knife block taking up lots of room on your counter, especially if you don’t regularly use most of those knives. In addition to being heavy and bulky, many knife blocks can be very difficult to clean properly.
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Olive oil Here’s another food that you’ve probably been storing on your counter and inadvertently spoiling. Just like spices, olive oil can go bad more quickly if it’s stored in direct light and heat. The same is true for other types of oil as well; they will keep better in a cool, dark place. Inside a cabinet or pantry works well for most oils.
Junk food You had to know this was coming. The more visible and accessible your guilty-pleasure snacks are, the more likely you are to grab them, start eating, and not stop. Keeping desserts and snacks in less convenient, less accessible places will allow you to be less tempted by them. The same goes for anyone else in your household, too (looking at you, kiddos). And, on top of that, baked goods and candy can leave stickiness and crumbs on your counter, which, well, isn’t the best, most sanitary kitchen aesthetic.
Cleaning products Put simply, food and harsh chemical cleaning products don’t mix! You don’t want to risk spilling any toxic substances onto your food or the areas where you prepare meals. Even less hazardous products, like dish soap and disinfectant, should be stored in a closet or a cabinet, such as one underneath the sink, especially once they’re open. This way, they’ll have a much lower chance of contaminating your kitchen prep space, which, in addition to potentially being dangerous, also just makes a big mess.
With the increasing popularity of home devices that can be very helpful while cooking, such as Amazon’s Alexa, it’s tempting to keep them handy on your kitchen counter. But considering the amount of water-pouring, dishwashing, and accidental spillage that happens during meal prep, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Keep your phones, laptops, virtual assistants, and speakers off of your counter and out of range of any potential water damage.