A clutter on your countertop can also spoil your day, whether you’re rushing to get ready for the morning meeting or trying to get dinner ready before your hungry child melts. Although your kitchen or bathroom can’t instantly double in size, there are plenty of easy (and affordable!) strategies to make the surfaces in those important spaces work more efficiently.
Professional home planners will tell you that the first step is to think about your lifestyle. “It really takes a look at how you work every day and what you wear the most,” says Kimberly Hairston-Neal, owner of Pittsburgh organizing company The Modern Steward. “Normally,” says Kenica Williams, founder of Tidid by K in Atlanta, “people have a lot of stuff.”
But if excessive cleaning is not enough, then what? Here’s how the experts suggest reclaiming your counter space.
Edit and Contain
The general rule of thumb is that if you’re not trying to get to him every day, there’s no need to sit at his counter. “Free up things that take up space but aren’t actively used,” says Williams.
To fit the remaining elements, combine trays, baskets and other inconvenient containers. Placing the pieces in specific places will keep them from taking up unnecessary counter space and help them look useful. This does not require a spending spree at the container store. Instead, buy your own house. For example, a seldom-used pitcher of water can be used as a utensil tray in the kitchen.
Create More Closet Space
One of the biggest mistakes in bathrooms and small kitchens is not using the full capacity of cabinets and under sinks, says Marisa Hagmayer, co-founder and COO of the national organizing company Neat Method. She recommends creating vertical storage with over-the-door organizers on the backs of cabinet doors, or adding tiered units or risers to your shelves. Stackable chests can also act as makeshift drawers. “I always recommend that people try to go against the horizontal,” she says.
Turntable storage is another smart option. Like the Lazy Susans in the lockers inside, these allow you to store items farther away from your closet and reach them with ease. In the kitchen, Hagmeyer suggests loading them up with oils and seasonings that will mar surfaces. In the bathroom, they are ideal for holding daily skin care products and perfumes on the countertop, or hair care products and utensils under the sink.
Put Your Walls to Work
When you’re short on counter space, thinking of your walls as storage opens up so many opportunities. Follow the classic Julia Child look with a pegboard for hanging pots and pans. You can make your own using inexpensive supplies found at most hardware stores. Or, for a little money, add a bookshelf. Hairston-Neal has a sturdy metal unit in her kitchen with sections for appliances and a pantry.
In the bathroom, wall-mounted train racks or hotel racks can hold extra bedding. Try over-the-toilet shelving or floating shelves designed with glass containers and trays to hold cosmetics and other space supplies. “I added a decorative element, but it still holds the things you need,” says Williams.
More Fake Counter Space
Whether you have a gas or electric stove, a pasta dish, also called an extractor hood, will sit above the burners, turning them into usable space for preparing or serving. Betsy Finn, president of Clutterbusters, says she appreciates that her pasta bar looks better than an exposed stove. “It feels so much more than that, and I get compliments all the time,” she says.
Another way to “create” more space is to invest in multitasking machines. Hairston-Neal refers to his beloved Ninja Foodi, who can pressure cook, air fry, and steam.
Use Other Storage
Free up space by moving extra supplies elsewhere. Can you make room on a shelf in your closet? Or better yet, is there free real estate on a room or studio? “It doesn’t have to be the volume or the backup on the space you’re working on,” says Hagmeier. Appliances you only use once in a while, like a pasta maker, or extra toilet paper and paper towels are prime candidates for relocation.
Finally, it’s important to remember that “practice makes progress,” says Hairston-Neal. Her first attempt at organization may not last as long or be as successful as she hoped, so instead of seeing it as a failure, she suggests seeing it as an initial step in changing her habits.
“Take it in small pieces,” advises Hammer. “You see little successes, suddenly I’m more motivated to do a bigger project.”
Maya Bottiger is a journalist based in the capital who also covers education from kindergarten through high school.