5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters :: maximizingdaysblog.com

It’s a head-to-head race between kitchen and bathroom counters as to which gets used more.  Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to keep them clear.

In our home, the kitchen is the center of everything and the kitchen island is the first flat surface as we enter, which is an equation for everything getting dropped there.

I am a big believer in using spaces for which they’re created and in order to do that with kitchen counters, you have to have usable counter space.

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters

Create a Place for the Stuff that isn’t Cooking/Food Related

I get it.  I totally do.  This is where we spend most of the time AND there’s a flat surface.  That’s the perfect recipe for stuff to land where it shouldn’t.

To combat that, create a “drop zone” for the items that are not food or used for cooking food.  Don’t over-complicate this.  Pinterest can be your best friend or your worst enemy in this situation.  It can be as simple as a mail tray that collects all the paper and 3 tiny hooks for keys.  That’s it.  Done.  No paint.  No DIY.

Another option is to use vertical space on the side of your cupboards.  I finally splurged and purchased a few pieces from Pottery Barn’s Daily System to put on the wall next to our fridge that is right inside our door.  By using the vertical space on the wall behind the door, we’ve created a landing zone.  Keys, wallets, sunglasses, mail, pens and even our iPad live here.

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Make Items Earn their Right to Live on Your Kitchen Counters

Hold each item that currently lives on your counters, and weed out items that don’t get used often.  You get to decide what warrants “often”.

I get tight in the chest when there’s stuff all over my counters, so my rule is that an item has be used at least once a week to earn the place of living on the counter.

What doesn’t get used often gets stored in cupboards, drawers or closets with other like items.

Use Vertical Space

Look at what you have remaining and decide what could be hung under counters or on your backsplash.

This is a preference thing.

If you simply do not have enough cupboard space for what you need, hanging items underneath cupboards is a way to get stuff off the counters and can double as decor.  It can also double as clutter, which is where the preference piece fits in.  If mugs hanging under your counters isn’t your idea of cute decor, then don’t hang them.  But, find another spot to store them where you have room.  Or get rid of some mugs.

A great example of using vertical space well in a kitchen is a paper towel holder.  It’s not so much decorative, but it’s really practical and it can get a big, bulky piece off the top of your counters.

Think Creatively About Other Storage Options

Do you really need that knife block?  Do you use all of the knives in your knife block?  Donate the knives that you don’t use and put the rest in drawer or on the wall with a magnet strip.  Are your drawers too full?  Go through and see if can make room by purging unused silverware.

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters - Store the few knives you use most often in a drawer :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Do you really need that k-cup stand?  Clear out a spot in your cupboards (near the mugs!) for k-cups.  In their box!  Or get fancy and put the cups in a basket (like I do).

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters - Store k-cups in a basket in the cupboard next to mugs :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Corral Small Items

If a coffee station with all of the fixin’s on your counter is what bring you joy, then corral everything on a tray.  It gives boundaries and makes it look cleaner.

5 Steps to Clutter-Free Kitchen Counters :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Cooking is enough work as it is.  Don’t make it harder by having a workspace that doesn’t work well for you.

What do you find to be the hardest part of keeping your kitchen counter clutter-free?

Read more about how to Reign in the Mail Clutter or that other Kitchen Trouble Space – the Refrigerator.  

Black Bean Avocado Salad

Protein & Veggie Loaded Black Bean Avocado Salad :: maximizingdaysblog.com

A few months ago, my husband and I strongly considered doing Whole 30, but couldn’t commit to the time it would take to prep all of the food every.single.day.  That and #iheartcheese.

We decided, instead, to be intentional about eating mostly vegetables and lean protein and limiting refined sugar and carbs.  Breakfast was easy; Scrambled eggs & berries.  Supper was doable by making meals where carbs could be left out.

But I really struggled with lunch.  By lunch time, no matter how much lean protein I ate at breakfast, I am starving and I want something fast.  And by fast, I mean from empty to full plate in less than 4 minutes.  I’m not exaggerating.

About this time, I found this recipe when Kate at The Small Things Blog posted a link.  I decided to take her suggestion and add some chicken and give it a try.  I made a few adaptations the second time I made it, so feel free to do the same.  Add stuff you like.  Take out stuff you don’t like.

Protein & Veggie Loaded Black Bean Avocado Salad :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I’ve eaten it every day for lunch since then.  A huge bowl of it.  I may add some pita chips, fruit or cheese to the side.  Or not.  It’s that sustaining.

This salad also keeps really well – even the avocado!  I usually make it on Sunday and it’s good all week.

Black Bean Avocado Salad

(Recipe Adapted)

  • 1 seedless cucumber, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 1/4 cups corn
  • 1 orange pepper, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 package pre-cooked chicken breast strips
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Protein & Veggie Loaded Black Bean Avocado Salad :: maximizingdaysblog.com


  1. Place the cucumber, black beans, corn, orange pepper, cherry tomatoes, red onion and chopped cilantro in a bowl.
  2. Squeeze the fresh juice from the lime onto the salad & stir well.
  3. Mix in the chicken & avocado, season with salt and pepper.

Protein & Veggie Loaded Black Bean Avocado Salad :: maximizingdaysblog.com


Simplified Summer Challenge PRIZE

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

This past summer, a group of people from this community read through Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life together and used the book as a guide to simplifying our lives.  At the end of each chapter, Emily Ley has a ‘Simplicity Challenge’, which are 5 steps that you can do right now (most take less than 5 minutes) that make big strides toward achieving your goal.

I’m giving away all of these goodies to the person who completes the most Simplicity Challenges by Friday, September 28th.

Prizes include:

Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley

Grocery List Pad by Emily Ley

Y-Weave 5 Piece Basket Set

Kenra Volume 25 Hairspray

Essie Gel Couture Set

Post-It Page Markers

Cable Clips

Go-Go squeeZ Variety Pack

To earn these prizes, comment on each blog post with the number of simplicity challenges you completed from that chapter.  I will track each person’s progress (this is a total honor system thing) and the person with the most challenges completed will get this swag.

I’ll make things easier once you’ve completed challenges, by linking below to each chapter’s blog post.  Log your challenges in each blog post’s comment section, and I’ll add them all up to determine the winner.

Chapter 1 – Simplified Space

Chapter 2 – Simplified Style

Chapter 3 – Simplified Meals

Chapter 4 – Simplified Schedule

Chapter 5 – Simplified Finances

Chapter 6 – Simplified Hospitality

Chapter 7 – Simplified Technology

Chapter 8 – Simplified Self

Chapter 9 – Simplified Motherhood

Chapter 10 – Simplified Faith

Happy Simplifying!!!


Currently :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I Am Currently…..


This shirt.

A few months ago, I told you about my discovery of Athleta.  My love for that store has only grown.

In July, they had their big annual clearance sale, and I snagged this shirt.  The moment that I tried it on, I knew that this was going to be a closet staple.

It is the perfect layering piece.  And is ideal for these fall days that start out chilly in the morning and then are warm and sunny in the afternoon.  It’s made of a lightweight, breathable fabric that transitions really well in those middle temps.


Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley.

Confession: I’m not actually reading it yet.  But I ordered it this week and am PUMPED to get it so I can dig in.

If you’re new around here, we spent the summer reading through Emily Ley’s second book, A Simplified Life.  By the time I finished chapter one of ASL, I knew that I wanted to read Grace Not Perfection.  I have high hopes.  And absolutely zero concern that I will be disappointed.

SIDENOTE: I am giving away a copy of Grace Not Perfection, along with some other goodies to the person who completes the most Simplicity Challenges.  Read more about it here.


This Salad.

Grab a napkin to wipe your drool after you read the recipe.  Yep, a salad that makes you drool.  This is no joke.

I add cooked chicken and eat it for lunch EVERY DAY.


The Newsroom.

I am an Aaron Sorkin superfan.  You may think that you hear a little bit of shame in that proclamation, but you are mistaken.  I have zero shame about my love for that man’s talent.

He wrote The Newsroom for HBO, but because we don’t have HBO, I’ve only ever seen the pilot episode.  But a friend, who knows of my love for all things Aaron Sorkin, informed me that you can watch The Newsroom on Amazon Prime.

So there goes all of my free time while the hubs and I binge watch.



My Simplified Planner.  I wrote all about how I use it here, but suffice it to say that this little “book” is the only reason anything in my life gets done.

This past week, Simplified launched their 2019 calendar planners, of which there are 6 covers to choose.  In listening to people talk about how they didn’t know which cover to choose, I realized that I don’t think I’ve seen the cover of my planner since I started using it on July 31st because it’s always open.

And messy.


That it might be time for my five year old to drop her nap.  I’m drowning in my pool of tears.

Seasonal Transitions

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximizingdaysblog.com

My daughter turned 5 on Sunday and started Pre-K yesterday.

Excuse me while I cry in my pumpkin spice latte.

Not because she is getting older or has started school, but because summer is over.  We just wrapped up the BEST summer and returning to the reality of a schedule and commitments is more than I can bear.

This is my daughter’s second year of “school”.  She did preschool two mornings a week last year, and I struggled hugely with that transition.  I thought the same thing that you probably did when you read ‘two mornings a week’: That won’t really change much for us.

I was wrong.

I was determined to do this transition better this year.  Here’s what I learned last year and am trying to do better this year.

How to Ease the Pain of Seasonal Transitions

Create a Schedule

This seems obvious, but if you think that you can skip this step, you will regret it.  Start with calendar appointments (things that have fixed times) and then add in what tasks have to get done each day.  You can see how I do this each season here.

Write down a weekly routine; what you do each day.  Make this as specific (schedule each day) or as vague (a brainstormed list) as you prefer.  Writing it down helps you to anticipate what’s coming next so that you’re not caught off-guard.

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Schedule Tasks & Set Reminders

Think through the periphery tasks that come along with your schedule.

For instance, now that my daughter is back in school, her backpack will need to be packed 3 nights a week and I will need to plan a snack for each week.

Your Reminders app on your phone is your BEST FRIEND in this situation.  Set a recurring reminder for the days and times these tasks need to get done.

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximzingdaysblog.com

These small things seem like no big deal, but when added to other “small tasks”, the compounded weight of getting them done can make you feel like your drowning.  Let your reminders app be your life preserver in this case.

Switch Out Seasonal Wardrobes

If you live in a place where shorts and t-shirts are worn after Labor Day (not here in the tundra!), do everything except actually switching the wardrobes out of the dressers and closets.

Go through and inventory what you have, make a list of (use this free printable) and purchase what you need for each person for the upcoming season.  Wash it and have it ready for when the weather does finally change.

Create a “Drop Zone”

Find a spot in your house that works best to be the place for all the things you need to get out the door in morning.  And to drop all.the.things when you return home in the evening.

Shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, papers, keys, coats, bags… the list goes on for miiiiiiiiles.

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Word of Warning: Don’t let perfection get in the way here.

The goal is not to make the space look like a page out of the Pottery Barn catalogue.  Don’t let that unattainable goal stop you from achieving the purpose you need here.

If space prohibits you from having all these things in the same spot, fit as many as you can (realistically and functionally!) in one spot, and then designate spots for the other things.  It’s more important that everything have a home than everything’s home being in the same place.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Think through what you need to do to make a busier season work.

You can’t expect to just do what you’ve been doing and add in a bunch of new stuff and have it work well.

That’s what I tried to do last year and it bombed.  BIG TIME.  For any of you who have been around for more than year and follow me on Instagram, you may recall a teary Instastory related to this….

Reconsider morning and evening routines.  Enforce strict bedtimes for everyone (including yourself).  Prioritize self-care.  Set reminders on your phone for the things you will inevitably forget.  Hang a file folder on the wall for papers that need to be signed, read, returned, etc.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

We all have adjustment periods.  Try as you might, there’s no way to know exactly what you need to do until you experience it.

Use this adjustment time to your advantage.  Acknowledge pain points and work on solutions to alleviate them.

And when it’s too much and your kid didn’t get her form turned in in time to go on the field trip and you just served frozen pizza for the third time this week and you’re wearing your underwear inside out because it’s better than going commando?  It will be okay.  Sure, you could have done a few things differently and had a different outcome.

But you can’t change the past, so now, ask yourself, “What can I do to make it better from here on out?”

How to Manage Seasonal Transitions :: maximizingdaysblog.com