4 Reasons to Try Totally Clean Countertops

It’s easily the best thing I’ve done so far.

Nothing else has made as much difference in my day-to-day life as my totally clean countertops.

Instead of simply wiping off the counters and placing the same junk back into freshly cleaned spaces, I decided to go for something more radical: Nothing on the kitchen counters.

There are three exceptions. The microwave remains at the far right of the L-shaped countertop. To the far left, David’s cream, sugar and French press coffee maker still occupy the two feet to the left of the sink. A bottle of dish detergent (which doubles as hand soap) stays at the back right of the sink.

There’s no room on my counters or in my life for trivets or canisters shaped like mushrooms.

It’s a simple concept, but it’s making a big difference in my life. When I go into the kitchen, I immediately see a reminder of how important cutting clutter is to me — and of how much progress I’ve already made. More importantly, there are four good reasons why it’s best to have nothing on your kitchen countertops:

1. Clutter Breeds Clutter

If you allow one thing on a surface, just one more item won’t hurt anything.

A loaf of bread looks lonely and out of place on a totally clean countertop, but next to a sack of potatoes, a box of cereal and a ceramic cookie jar, it seems at home. Boxes are meant for cabinets; bread stays fresh better in the refrigerator; potatoes keep longer when kept in the dark. The blender stays cleaner between uses if it’s covered and stored under the counter, and so does the slow cooker. I didn’t use the food processor or toaster oven, so they’ve left the building — and I don’t miss them.

2. You Save Time

If the countertops are totally clean, that means everything is put away where it should be, saving the time you would have spent looking for it. Is that plate the one I just used or was it from last night’s snack? Where did I put the pepper grinder? Why is the can opener way over there?

We also had a real problem with the number of dishes we used each day, but we’re using fewer dishes now. We allow ourselves one drinking glass each day, and we try to limit the number of plates and bowls we use. Using fewer dishes keeps the countertops clean and means less to wash.

3. It’s More Sanitary

When items stay out, they gather dust. Crumbs get pushed under them. Then, you bump against them and shift them slightly as you prepare your meals. Dust and debris fly, and some of it lands in your food. Where did that hair come from? It was from one of the cats, and she shed it weeks ago. Crumbs and dust are more noticeable when they fall on a totally clean countertop.

When nothing is there, a quick wipe with a spray cleaner, some vinegar or a cloth soaked in bleach-water disinfects your whole countertop area, not just the parts of it that aren’t under something else.

4. It Creates Mindfulness

Processes have beginnings, middles and ends. Preparing a meal starts with the shopping and ends when the dishes used for it are put away. Eating well means careful purchasing, thoughtful preparation and deliberate eating, but if you leave the dishes on the counter, on the table or in the living room, you haven’t completed the process.

It’s no wonder people often feel their lives are missing something. They probably aren’t completing life’s processes.

I’m feeling more complete because I’m putting things away when I’m done — and keeping things away that don’t serve any purpose.


  1. WOW!! Your post is powerfully persuasive. My husband has ragged for years about having nothing (or rather, just the microwave and coffeemaker and KitchenAid) on our counters. You may be on to something about the effect “nothing” will have. Perhaps over this holiday weekend. . .

  2. Great points. We’ve been gradually getting our counters empty as well (or as empty as possible, anyway, that stand mixer is too heavy to take in and out all the time).

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