Best Decisions: Totally Clean Countertops

Today, I’m starting a new series of posts on So Much More Life about the best decisions I’ve made on the road toward a simpler, more deliberate life. I’ve identified 10 really good choices I’ve made that I think might also benefit you, and I’ll talk about each of them over the coming weeks.

There’s no doubt which life-simplifying decision belongs at the top of the list:

Totally Clean Countertops

The idea behind totally clean countertops is very simple: Once you’ve decluttered a surface like a kitchen counter, a dining room table or a living room end table, don’t put anything back on it.

Cleaning is a breeze when there’s nothing there. If something finds its way onto a completely clean surface, it immediately looks out of place and begs to be moved somewhere more appropriate.

What could be simpler?

I introduced this idea to you in my post 4 Reasons To Try Totally Clean Countertops way back on April 14, 2010. (Can you believe I’ve been writing about the minimalist lifestyle and simple living all this time?)

At the time, I thought this seemed like a good idea, but I now know that it works very well over the long term.

In fact, the surfaces in my home that I decided should be completely clear of clutter — like the kitchen table and the kitchen countertops — are still completely clean. When necessary, I bring out the things that I need, use them, then put them away. While a few dirty dishes sometimes sit on the counter near the sink and a box intended for donation to a thrift store sometimes clutters up the table for a few days, nothing lives on these surfaces.

The rarely-used toaster and a slow cooker hang out under the counter until they’re needed, and there are no decorative odds and ends confusing me about whether they’re really clutter or not.

The surfaces that I decided didn’t need to be completely clean — like the table by the front door and the bar between the kitchen and living room — have repeatedly attracted new clutter and have required cleaning.

Clutter, as it turns out, attracts more clutter.

Also, totally clean surfaces look nice, finished, complete and sensible. Surfaces with stray mail, receipts from repairmen and decorative spaghetti holders look disheveled, unreasonable and even silly. Bills belong where they can be paid (and usually not on paper at all), and spaghetti comes from the store in a perfectly usable bag or box.

Putting This Into Practice

I suggest ditching the useless décor items that clutter your surfaces and putting food, appliances and other utilitarian items out of sight. If cleaning up means that a certain surface serves no purpose at all, remove it completely if possible. No home needs extra tables sitting around that could someday attract clutter.

You may be surprised by some of the other things that I count among my best decisions so far, but I hope this first one is as obvious to you as it is to me. Totally clean countertops work to immediately eliminate the feeling of clutter in your home. Dumping the debris from your flat surfaces is also one of the best possible starting points for those turning to a clutter-reducing lifestyle.

We’ll talk about other things during this 10-post journey through some of my best practices, but we’ll eventually get to all 10 of my best decisions.

I’m curious what you think of this post. Have you tried totally clean countertops? And what do you think will be the next good decision I highlight?

If you prefer not to comment, maybe this is a good time to check out my original post about this topic. It’s waiting for you, and comments are still open there too.


  1. Clean counter tops are where it’s at! This idea was actually a driving force in getting rid of our bookcases, side table, any random furniture piece. The view tops we have left can easily get cluttered, but clearing it has become much more of a priority as they are spaces we frequently use. There is just something about a cleared counter top that brings a sense of peace 🙂

    1. Absolutely. I don’t think people always realize that peace is the best goal for a home’s design and decor. There is enough stimilation and stress from other sources. That’s why there are no video games or big screens in my home.

  2. I would love to do this but I don’t have enough reachable cupboards into which to put even my minimalist kitchen stuff. If I wasn’t too short to reach those over the frig, and microwave for instance…

    1. I think it’s a goal worth striving for. It’s worth eliminating even more stuff and rearranging the space you do have to make this happen. If you try it, you will be amazed at the difference it makes in your home.

  3. This is a great idea and one I strive for but it does not come naturally to me and it’s an uphill battle. However, it’s one worth fighting. I look forward to the rest of the ideas.

  4. I do this too. there’s a toaster oven on my countertop but I use it all the time. Maybe I should put the bread machine under the counter since I don’t use that as often. uncluttered surfaces make things a lot easier for me in general.

    the bar is a whole different story. there’s a bunch of stuff on it but it’s all stuff I use.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Lorie. I don’t have a bread machine, and I’m wondering why I have a blender. It hasn’t been out since we put it under the counter more than a year ago.

  5. Went back and read the 4 Reasons post when I finished this one. Clean counters – that would be SO nice. Unfortunately, I don’t have control over this situation at the moment and I’m starting to think it’s because I have big lessons yet to learn about letting go. Do I hear the Serenity Prayer calling my name? But there are plenty of areas over which I do have control that I can work on, so…

    1. That’s right, Crystal. Work on the things over which you have control and gently exert pressure on the things you don’t have control of — without worrying about how much progress you make on other people’s business. You may find your simply is contagious, but at least you’ll be happier with your simple corner of the world.

  6. I find that any flat horizontal space quickly accumulates clutter. For me it tends to mostly be notes and other bits of paper as well as various tools, tidbits, small gadgets, and other odds and ends that don’t really have a home of their own, or else their home is too inconvenient so they just get dumped on the table.

    I think the cure for me might be finding a convenient, easily accessible yet out-of-sight home for these things so that they remain handy without contributing to the visual clutter.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Mike. One of the keys to keeping things clutter-free is having a place for all the things that live in your home. With no place to go, these things will become clutter and attract more clutter.

  7. I agree with your heading that clutter attracts more clutter. It is because of our tendency to think that there’s nothing we can do about the clutter anyway, but that is just in our heads. We can do something about it as you said.

  8. I would LOVE to have totally clean counter tops! I’m working towards that, but baby food jars and baby bottle parts seem to get in the way. As well as a husband who throws stuff everywhere. It’s an uphill battle with him. To the breakfast bar goes everything – baseball hats, magazines, tools, flashlights, USB cords, and – get this- mail that he opens like checks, bills, etc., reads and then puts back into the original envelope (with the scraggly torn edges)!!! UGH! It’s hard to train that! 🙂

    1. All I can suggest is setting a positive example yourself. Clean off those surfaces whether you cluttered them or not and perhaps your husband will get the idea that clutter doesn’t belong there. Maybe.

Comments are closed.