Counter Top Tales: Organizing Counter Top Clutter

Something’s been eating at me. As a visual person it’s very important to me that surfaces here at home be as clear as possible in order for me to be at peace, and lately things haven’t been too visually peaceful. We have a counter top. You know, one of those expansive spans of horizontal surface that just cries out a siren’s song: “Fill me with clutter. Lay your cell phone on my barren surface. Put stacks on me, please!”

I know my counter is not the only one singing this song, because Jessica posted pictures of hers this week too. I found her neat stacks pretty visually tolerable, actually (and isn’t that a beautiful kitchen!). My struggle is with paper, overstuffed files, random books, and electronic devices.

I know it doesn’t look horrible, but take into account Matt’s three devices are missing from this photo, the kids had the iPad and my iPod at the time, and I was using the camera to take this picture.

Mostly all I have done in the past is clean everything off every two to three weeks and then watch as it gradually all came back. I knew what I really needed was a plan.  So I did nothing for two days while I thought things over and asked some opinions of people who know my faults and my house anyone who would listen to me. I think now I have something workable in place. In fact, my counter has looked like this over the past four days with very little effort on my part.

The glass jar is only there through Lent, and then it will be gone too.

Here is what I did. First I knew I need a handy place to keep my camera and the couple of lenses I have been switching between. I need to be able to grab it quickly, but also keep it away from curious little hands. Since Thomas is a bit older now, I decided that it would be safe to move my Pyrex casseroles under the counter — I hope. That freed up a shelf in the cabinet above the computer for the camera equipment.

Pretend the camera is sitting on that self.

Next, I knew that I needed a catch-all place for the various things that wind up laying on the counter. It needed to be something attractive and large enough to hold all of the stuff, but not so large that it could get stuffed to the brim and be overwhelming to clean out — because then I would just put it off. You would too, right?

So I found this nifty little sea grass basket holding some themed school books. I moved those back to their homes and commandeered the basket for my task. So now it sits at the end of the counter.

It can hold all of the electronic devices, TV remote, plus books I want to keep handy, as well as the occasional pacifier or letter to mail. Right now it is holding a couple of books I am referring to for homeschool, my Lenten reading, and the Netflix envelope and disc. My plan is to go through every couple of weeks, and if I haven’t touched something in a week it needs to go back to its home.

Next I decided to tackle the file system. There were things I had crammed in my file box that just needed to go. Once that was done, I took a look at the folders themselves and asked myself some hard questions. I had been trying to use Dawn’s genius file folder system, but I have come to the conclusion that many folders is just overkill for me. So I modified it and now I have far fewer.

Remember It! – For calendars and papers relating to upcoming events. Church bulletin, kids’ spring break day camp registrations, library book receipt, a letter from our archdiocese with the dates of Lenten confession, etc

Pay It! – Bills and tithing envelopes.

Do It! – Reminder cards to make doctor’s appointments, other scraps relating to things I need to do.


Consider It! – Things I am not ready to take action on, but I am also not ready to file or toss. Right now it holds information about American Heritage Girls, a Catholic Child Catalog I want to look through, and registration forms for a local homeschool umbrella school.


Keep It! – Things that come in the mail that need to be filed. Financial statements, insurance papers, etc.

I also have folders in there for special events that deserve their own space. Right now I have one for Lent to hold our coloring pages and activities, a coupon folder, and one for the homeschool convention I am attending next month. My file box also has plenty of room to hold my calligraphy materials, a few pads for writing, and the small camera.

Like any file system I will have to go through periodically and purge to make it work. I think about once every two weeks should work.

I had a household binder I was using to hold cleaning checklists and calendars, but decided it really wasn’t working for me. I don’t want to leave the binder open on the counter, and I never remembered to pull it out, so would just take out the papers. Those things are now in the Remember It! file. I put the binder away and will rethink its purpose later.

So the file box, my flower pot of pens and pencils (only working ones now), the phone, and the Blessed Mother anchor the end of the counter along with my computer.

I can’t tell you what a peaceful feeling it has brought to my past few days to walk into the kitchen and see this lovely, clear counter. The fact that it hasn’t been hard to maintain adds to the joy of it. I am hoping with a little bit of maintenance I can keep the good feeling going.

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  • Dawn says:

    I have issues with stuff piling up on my countertops too…who doesn’t! And yes, a red Netflix envelope also seems to be in my kitchen at all times. I like your system. You’ve inspired me.

  • Stephanie says:

    It is just SOOO true! A Clean counter makes me feel peacefull too! Thanks for the inspiration to clean up all the stuff laying there!

  • Mandy says:

    you are sooooo funny. ha…you call that clutter? 😛

  • I have remembered this for quite some time and am finally getting to it! I think it’s going to make a big difference in my kitchen as I am a Master Stacker!

  • Ugh! I’m working on this right now in my kitchen. Found your blog on Pinterest. Thanks for the ideas. 😉

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