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Effective Kitchen Decluttering in 6 Simple Steps

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Effective Kitchen Decluttering in 6 Simple Steps

Kitchens pose a special challenge when it comes to decluttering. Not only do they require having dozens of different sorts of items in the same room, each needing their own storage solutions–dry food, cold food, canned food, flatware, utensils, oven-ware, bake-ware, cleaning products, dishcloths/towels, etc.–these items are removed from their places and used multiple times every single day. In no other room in a typical home will the clutter-potential be so high!

In this article, we’re going to present 6 steps that you can take towards decluttering your kitchen clutter in a thorough, effective, efficient way. As we always do in our articles about decluttering, we’re going to focus on being methodical. Having a method to follow will keep you focused, and keep it simple.

Before getting started we suggest that you take a look at our How to Define Declutter. There we consider what we really mean by ‘clutter’ and ‘declutter’. When you want to be effective in any task, including decluttering, it’s very important to be clear about what, exactly, that task is! Having a definition, a meaning in mind has been tremendously helpful in our own decluttering journeys.

In the Steps below we’re going to do multiple passes through the kitchen. Since it isn’t an enormous space, that really doesn’t impact efficiency. But having one or two simple tasks for each of several passes does drastically increase simplicity, and does a lot to lower challenge and stress. 

We’ll start with the lowest-hanging fruit, then move on to more careful looks.

Step 1: Set Aside Two Spaces for Temporary Clutter Piles

After Steps 2 and 3 you will end up with two piles: one for non-kitchen items, and one for items that have no permanent dedicated place to live. These are two of the primary sources of kitchen clutter. They will be dealt with in the final steps, so they’ll need a place to sit temporarily until we get there.

The sizes of the spaces you’ll need to set aside will obviously depend on the amount of clutter you’re dealing with. But temporarily dedicating each half of your kitchen table (if you have one), or some particular counter, should be sufficient.

The advantage of making “piles” of items to be dealt with is that you can see, all at once, the scope of your clutter problem, and they can even help you to see why you’re getting clutter in the first place. If you have a lot of one type of item, or several items that are normally stored in some other room, that may be a sign that you need to permanently, and properly, store those things in the kitchen rather than where they’re usually kept. 

We’re going to take a moment to describe each “pile” so that you know what you’re looking for.

Non-Kitchen Item Clutter

It’s very likely that you have items in your kitchen that actually belong elsewhere in your home. We’re talking about two different sorts of things.

  1. Items that already have a dedicated place, in another room, for you to put them.
  2. Items that currently have a dedicated place in your kitchen, but have nothing to do with kitchens.

Kitchens have so much traffic for so many reasons that it is completely normal and common for all sorts of things to migrate there. But to truly tackle clutter you need to remove both of those types of items from the room. Permanently.

It’s worth pointing out that items of the second type may or may not have a dedicated storage place elsewhere in your home. If they do: it’s this pile! If they don’t: the next pile!

Homeless Clutter

In this pile, you’ll be putting items that don’t yet have a dedicated place to be stored anywhere in your home. These are things that you’ve put in a kitchen cupboard, or on a shelf, or even on top of kitchen appliances, that aren’t kitchen-related but have landed there simply because you don’t know what else to do with them. These pose a bigger challenge, which we’ll discuss below.

With those in mind, let’s get to the decluttering!

A decluttered classy wood kitchen with lots of clutter storage.

Step 2: Deal With the Obvious Clutter

We’re going to start by looking around at the items you can see without opening any cupboards, closets, or other such spaces. These are things that have managed to sit out and create clutter, even though we can see that they’re clutter, perhaps for long periods of time.

For many of us, when items have been left somewhere for a long time, we start to simply ignore them. Even if they’re clutter, even if they shouldn’t be where they are, we stop noticing them. This “clutter blindness” is a common problem, and is what this first step is really meant to address.

Find the Clutter

As we hope you read in our How to Define Declutter, clutter is, essentially, whatever doesn’t belong where it is. Identifying what is clutter is a very important first step since it lets you assess how big of a project you’re dealing with, and what you will need to do to tackle it.

Look around at everything you can see in your kitchen; really look hard. Look on the counters, on the tables, on top of the fridge, on top of the cupboards if there’s space there (don’t open them yet!), and on the floors. Consider each item that’s sitting out in your kitchen, and whether it is in the best place that it could be. Consider whether it actually has anything to do with a kitchen.

Separate the Clutter

  • If you find any items that don’t really belong where they are, but they do have a spot in the kitchen, put them in their proper dedicated place now.
  • If the item has a place but it isn’t in the kitchen: put it in the non-kitchen pile.
  • If you see an item and think “I don’t know where else to put it”: put it in the other pile.

That’s Step 2 done! We’re going to come back to the two piles of things in the final steps; leave them as they are for now.

A decluttered, sleek, older minimalist kitchen with no clutter.

Step 3: Deal With the Hidden Clutter

You’re now going to look for the “obvious” hidden clutter. Starting in one corner of your kitchen, make your way around the perimeter. Seriously! Proceeding carefully, methodically like this helps a lotWhat you’re looking for are, similarly to Step 2, any items that obviously don’t belong where they are.

We find that all sorts of things end up hidden away in the dark corners of the kitchen. Be really mindful about whether each item, every single thing, truly belongs in your kitchen. Decluttering isn’t easy! That’s what the two piles are for…use them.

Find the Clutter

Look in every cupboard, high and low, every drawer, every closet, and the pantry. If you have an island, look in every space in it.

It really is important that you’re methodical with this. In Step 2 you only had to look around for obvious things; this time you need to be more careful. As we suggested above, start in one corner and make your way around. That way you won’t skip over any cupboards or drawers that you don’t often open.

Separate the Clutter

  • If you find any items that don’t really belong where they are, but they do have a spot in the kitchen, put them in their proper dedicated place now.
  • If the item has a place but it isn’t in the kitchen: put it in the non-kitchen pile.
  • If you see an item and think “I don’t know where else to put it”: put it in the other pile.
And now we’re finished with Step 3! This step may take a while, depending on the size of your kitchen. But decluttering hidden clutter can be a big step towards long-term decluttering. It’s worth it.

Step 4: Deal With the Non-Kitchen Items that Have a Home

In the previous two Steps, you looked for clutter and set such items aside to be dealt with later. We’re now going to tack the first pile, which is the simpler one: items that have a dedicated place somewhere in your house that isn’t the kitchen.

Take all of these items to their proper places in your home now.

If during this step you find that you have some items with more than one place that they’re stored: it’s time to consolidate! Unless you have a very good reason for having multiple locations (maybe you need scissors in both a home office and a crafting space…fair enough!), splitting storage like that is a sure-fire way to end up with clutter. If the reason for splitting locations is that you don’t have a storage solution large enough, or appropriate to the item: you should acquire the appropriate storage. We’ll address that below, in Step 6!

And that’s Step 4. Since everything already had a place to go, it’s an easy one!

A simple, small, decluttered kitchen.

Step 5: Deal With the "I Don't Know Where Else to Put It" Pile

You’ve completed your decluttering, other than this pesky pile of things that simply don’t have a proper place. Now’s the time to deal with them. The question to ask is this:

Does it belong in the kitchen?

If it doesn’t belong in the kitchen, then you need an appropriate, dedicated, permanent place for things of its type somewhere else in your home.

If it does belong in the kitchen, and there’s a good, permanent place in your kitchen where it can be stored, then great! That is its new home.

If it does belong in the kitchen but doesn’t have any good place where it could be permanently stored, then you need to either acquire more storage (see Step 6, below!) or remove other things from your kitchen to create room.

This step can be tough. It’s very likely that you’ll end up with items that don’t have a great place in your kitchen, or even elsewhere in your home, to be stored. Resist the temptation to just stuff homeless items into some place where you don’t have to look at them. That’s the problem we’re trying to solve!

For better or worse, decluttering requires appropriate storage. With that, we move on to the last Step!

Step 6: Acquire Appropriate Storage

When you want to keep your home decluttered, it’s really important to have appropriate storage.

There just isn’t any way around it: keeping your home decluttered requires permanent, dedicated, appropriate places to store all of the things that you want to keep in your home. However, that doesn’t mean that you need all sorts of expensive furniture! There are often very affordable and/or clever solutions to storage needs.

We can’t give you as much guidance as we’d like to with this step, as we don’t know what, exactly, you’re dealing with, or how much of it you have.

As a start, you should take a look through our Top Lists for some affordable new storage solutions. In particular, you could take a look at our 10 Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Kitchen, and maybe our 10 Affordable Solutions to Declutter Using Wasted Space.

Look for storage solutions that are appropriate to the type of thing that you are trying to store. Yes, most things can just sit on a shelf…but that isn’t really decluttering. It’s just cluttering slightly more tastefully.

Don’t worry if none of the suggestions in our Top Lists are useful for your particular situation–use them for inspiration! Check out the suggested related items, and hopefully you can find just the right thing!

A very tidy, decluttered kitchen.


The steps we’ve set out here have you pass through your whole kitchen looking for both obvious and hidden clutter. It’s likely that within weeks, even days, possibly hours, clutter will simply appear in your kitchen again! Kitchens are like that, since they are often multi-use, and typically have very high traffic.

If clutter does keep appearing, then know this: that’s normal! As we always discuss in our articles on decluttering, it is an ongoing process. It never really ends, and it’s important to really let that sink in and to be okay with it.

Having appropriate storage in your kitchen for everything that you need in the kitchen is a big step. Always removing things that don’t belong in your kitchen is an important habit to develop. It may take some time, especially to get everyone in your home onto the same page, but it can be done!

We really hope that you’ve gotten some useful guidance from our suggestions here. Good luck!!