Housekeeping Routines: tackling kitchen clutter


In a quick post on Instagram I asked if there was anything I could share on the blog that would be helpful or maybe just answer some questions, and I was surprised to get a lot of housekeeping questions!

I immediately thought that I shouldn’t write about this stuff because I’m not good at it, but then I realized I could share my problem areas and how I’m trying to overcome them!

I’ve always been a sprawler and one that was totally fine living in clutter. My mom reminds me that my bedroom was pure chaos for a lot of my youth, and when I was asked to clean it I would usually just shove things under the bed.

College wasn’t all that different for me, as far as organization goes, but I slowly got a little bit better over time.

With 2 kids, working about 20-ish hours a week, and plenty of other things to do (from playdates to other commitments), it’s gotten harder and harder to keep up with clutter. Not to mention I get a lot of stuff shipped to the house from brands as promotional packages (not complaining, just stating the facts).

So, enter problem areas:

  1. The kitchen (in general and also this one spot right by the door)
  2. My office
  3. My bedroom

I’ll tackle kitchen organization in this post and then write 2 follow up posts for the other locations!

In general, the boys know where to play and where not to play in the house. Our home is a little unusual in that there is an attached apartment off of the kitchen. The living room part of the “apartment” is where the TV is and where the boys play. Every other room in the downstairs is off limits for playing. That may sound extreme, but establishing the playroom from the very beginning made it really easy to stand by that rule. They are allowed to run around the whole first floor, but we keep the toys contained to the playroom. For me, it’s too dangerous to risk stepping on a toy carrying a pot full of boiling water to the sink so I don’t even allow that to happen.

The clutter, though, in the kitchen is Justin and my things. It’s mail, keys, grocery lists, sunglasses, our bluetooth speaker that we use constantly, papers, boxes, etc. Recently I was feeling overwhelmed by the state of the kitchen and took about 30 minutes to just put stuff away. There were 2 factors that played into this that may help you attack some clutter or piles in your own house.

First, I try to live by the rule of being “10 minutes away from clean enough for a new house guest to arrive”. Essentially, I should be able to gather up clutter and clean up enough in 10 minutes that I wouldn’t be embarrassed about the state of my house. Before you start to think that I always pick up my house before friends come over, let me assure you I do not! I actually love the notion that your closest friends are the ones you don’t need to clean for! They come over and don’t care about the mess because they know your life and what you have going on! So the “10 minutes to guest ready” idea is really to keep me from letting it get out of control, and sets me up to feel comfortable IF, in fact, someone new was going to swing by!

Secondly, I read an article about minimalism a few weeks back that asked why we sometimes feel like we need to have duplicates of things. I tossed that question around in my head a lot. And in the kitchen, I quickly saw that I had multiples of things that I simply didn’t need multiples of. Like coffee mugs! Spatulas! Mixing bowls! I spend 45 minutes a few weeks ago and picked out every single coffee mug I knew I could live without and was left with 5 mugs. I dropped the box full off at a donation center and never looked back. 5 coffee mugs is plenty. I have one if a friend comes over, and if I’m having a party I’d just buy paper coffee cups anyway so that solves that problem.

So with these two ideas in my head, I cleared the two piling zones that Justin and I are repeat offenders of and felt instantly ahead of the game. It’s been so much easier to KEEP those areas clean, and I told Justin that I was really trying to maintain a clutter-free kitchen so he’s joined me in that effort.

I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen, so looking around and seeing the clutter stressed me out. I love to cook and bake, and generally feel better about doing that now that I’m not shoving other things out of the way for counter space!


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Comments (39)

  1. Posted August 18, 2017

    Cleaning always makes me feel better, especially cleaning the kitchen! I actually use it as a downtime to just not think about anything, and as a bonus, it’s productive!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Posted August 18, 2017

    I hate when my kitchen is cluttered. My fiance had a small kitchen appliance that’s been on our counter forever now that he’s just not using. I finally got him to get rid of it, now we have so much space, it’s crazy!

  3. Kerry says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    I love th mug idea! I’m a teacher and I get about 10 mugs a year for presents.

    • Posted August 21, 2017

      I would love to know what you think are the best teacher’s gifts. I never even thought about the multiples of an item a teacher might get. Lol, I was actually looking at a really cute mug recently for a teacher so I’ll pitch that idea

      • Pat says
        Posted September 2, 2017

        I used to give “replacement” items as gifts to teachers-post-it’s, pens, fun colored tabs, etc. Items they might have to buy themselves.

  4. Sophie says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    pas facile de tenir une maison en ordre πŸ™‚ Il faut aussi que je trie ma cuisine (kitchen)

  5. Posted August 18, 2017

    The kitchen is definitely the toughest area for our family – great tips!

  6. carole m. says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    hi! odd comment i know but i think your backsplash tile is just what i am looking for…. can you give me the info on it? thanx so much!

    • Lynn says
      Posted August 18, 2017

      Looks like subway tile, pretty common.

      • carole m. says
        Posted August 18, 2017

        no, it is not subway. there is a varying pattern on the tiles, possibly marble?

  7. Posted August 18, 2017

    The one rule we have is that kids can’t put things on the kitchen counters or take things off. My girls (6 and 4) LOVE to touch mommy and daddy’s stuff on the counter and then it goes missing. So we have space for their stuff and space for ours. It seems to be working so far πŸ™‚

  8. Marjorie says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    Can you give us details on that cute little plant!

  9. Kelly says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    Clutter! Something I deal with all of the time. I am really interested in this series you are writing and posting. I cannot wait to put some of your tips/advice into practice. Thanks!

  10. Erin says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    Our kitchen island is the place where things always land on and never go away! Additionally, we have a butler area that things seem to also gravitate towards and die! It drives me insane!!! My husband and step-son don’t think twice about dropping things off there and never coming back to them. Ideas on how to reprogram this habit?

  11. Karen says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    I work to live by the 10 minutes to straighten rule. Love it!
    Do you menu plan for the week? I have not been great at that. I tend to over buy at the grocery store so I have options. I probably waste more doing this. Busy family evenings dictate the time and effort that goes into the meal. Fantasy… family arrives home from our busy day and the smell from a beautifully prepared meal greets us. We sit at a pretty, yet comfortable table and have pleasant conversation that replenishes us. I know – I need a cook!

  12. Gina says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    After I went back to work full time, it became very apparent that I needed help cleaning the house, so I hired a cleaning service.
    I had no choice but to keep clutter picked up so the ladies could clean properly. One great thing that has helped me is keeping a large laundry basket labeled the “junk basket.” The night before the cleaning service comes, I go through our house and place all “clutter” in the basket. Our kitchen island is the worst! I place the basket at the bottom of the staircase. No one is allowed to go to bed until all their things are removed from the basket and put up in their appropriate place. It has kept our house clutter free because I have to do this once a week, plus, my husband and son are keeping things picked up because they don’t want to deal with putting up a lot of things out of the dreaded “junk basket!” πŸ™‚

    • Kristi says
      Posted August 20, 2017

      that is a great idea! I hate clutter and stay pretty much on top of it but my teenagers always throw their stuff on the kitchen counters/table/floor/any available space. Now I’ll have to institute your rule. They will love it. Ha!

  13. Posted August 18, 2017

    I have such a small kitchen and it’s where the front door is so I’ve never really had the option to let it get cluttered or messy. My closet is a whole other story sometimes though, I try to pick up and put everything away at least once a week.

  14. Annie says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    I share your cluttered life-style. My coffee tables are just meant to grow sketch pads and magazines. And don’t get me started about the kitchen counters. I tidy up just so that I can have more room to toss things.

    But I love your thoughts on minimalism. My daughter read that book and threw out her couch. Yeah – no more furniture for her.

    I have just started a blog. So far, it is just stories about my life and all centred on my rescue dogs — but also family and adventures.

    Check it out at:

  15. carole m. says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    it is not subway, has a pattern to it, .. is it marble?

  16. Ray says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    I can totally relate to this. Clutter makes me uneasy perhaps because I have a bit of OCD. Your kitchen look good.

  17. Christina says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    Where did you get our cute key hooks?

  18. Kate L says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    Kitchen clutter is the single-most stressful thing in my home upkeep. School papers are the worst. Not the kids’ work that comes home – I have a system for that. It is all the fliers and announcements! The kind of thing I leave out to make sure to note in my calendar, etc. Dreaming of the day my kids’ schools go as paperless as I prefer to operate! πŸ˜›

  19. Deirdre says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    I love this series! Thank you for sharing the 10 minute to company rule, I need to start doing that. Could you please link the article on minimalism that you read about having duplicate items? Would love to read it.

  20. Emma says
    Posted August 18, 2017

    I know this has nothing to do with this post, but what is the best concealer for great coverage.(on a tight budget) THANKS!!!

  21. Karen VanLoo says
    Posted August 19, 2017

    Even though I generally follow you because of your beauty & fashion tips, I enjoyed this post! I’m always wanting good organizing tips and inspiration. My kitchen tends to be a “dump place” too for mail and misc. items. I needed these ideas. Thanks!

    • Kate says
      Posted August 19, 2017

      Thank you!!

  22. Miriam says
    Posted August 19, 2017

    I don’t know what scares me more…your before photo that you think is clutter or the state of my breakfast bar if that your photo is what you call clutter!!

  23. Erin says
    Posted August 19, 2017

    A wall mounted mail organizer in the entryway/mud hall have made a huge difference for our counters. $15 at Homegoods and 5 minutes to install πŸ‘πŸ‘ Bonus: My husband has to deal with his own mail as it arrives.

    • Chris says
      Posted August 20, 2017

      I bought one of these too… all the mail/papers go in that rather than tossing on kitchen table. Right next to it is a hanging key hook bar, right next to door.

  24. Branna says
    Posted August 20, 2017

    We have issues in our kitchen with piling everything on the bar. It gets pretty disastrous by the end of the week and I spend a larger portion of time than I wish to trying to clean it off. I’ve got to get that under control!

    I love your key hooks. They look so simple and clean. Do you mind sharing where they’re from?

  25. Kaya Miller says
    Posted August 20, 2017

    Would love to know what hooks you used to hang your keys on?

    • Sandy says
      Posted August 20, 2017

      Those are clear command strips hook, we have them too

  26. Rebecca says
    Posted August 23, 2017

    Will you do a post on makeup brushes….which to use with what products?

  27. KT says
    Posted August 29, 2017

    Can you give the name of that counter top cleaner that you mentioned in insta stories a while back? I’m struggling with cloudy counter tops.

  28. Danyelle H says
    Posted September 2, 2017

    I love this post. I’ve not heard of the 10min to clean rule before, but I love that!

    Where’d you get the small basket in your counter?