If you’re currently living with a kitchen that makes you want to do anything but cook in it, it may not be because the flow is wrong, or it’s too small, or it just needs some cosmetic updating. The problem may be that it’s not functioning because you’ve got too much clutter, and you’ve set yourself up for failure without even knowing it.

They key to a great kitchen isn’t designing something worthy of a Pinterest board, it’s creating a kitchen you’ll actually want to use.

Without knocking down walls or buying new cabinetry, we can make a few minor adjustments that will create major impact. Let’s take a look at eleven hacks for decluttering your kitchen.

1. Counter Tops

Always begin here. I don’t know why, but I’m always surprised at the number of people using their counters as storage spaces. Your counter tops are prep and work spaces. Their purpose is to be a place where food is made. I see a lot of folks storing their Crock Pots and Kitchen Aid mixers on top of their counters. I know these things are bulky, and I know they take up a lot of cabinet or pantry space, but they really take up a lot of counter space.

2. Utensil Drawers

These places can end up being the pit of despair. Do you know what’s in your utensil drawers? I’m guilty of this one as well. I once did a purge and realized I had about 7 paring knives in one drawer alone. I’m not sure where they even came from. I’m guessing they were just descendants of other paring knives.

Purge whatever you’re not actually using, or haven’t used in a long time. To tidy up the look of your drawers so that you don’t have things mish-mashed together in a utensil knot, consider some adjustable dividers like these.

3. Beneath the Sink

This is another space we often neglect in the kitchen. The problem is due in part to the fact that there’s typically so much space that we begin to pile and stack things under there. Pretty soon the piles are falling over, the kids are tossing things in and shutting the cabinet door as quickly as possible, and the SOS pads have started their own government.

Look for bins and containers you can sort your items in. Throw out old cleaners, sponges or rags that have long since been useful. Ask the kids to get their own apartment.

4. Pots and Pans

This is another thing that seems to breed over time. Gather all of your pots and pans and decide which you’re actually using most of the time, and which need to go. We have our favorites, and there are likely a few hanging out in your cabinets taking up space that you forget you even own.

5. Plastic Storage Containers

These are the bane of my existence, and I’m guessing you know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re like the lice of kitchens. Put all of these containers out on your counter or table. The best way to deal with these is to be real about how much you need. Keep that amount. It’s also best to acknowledge that you’re probably never going to find the missing lids, or bottoms, and it’s time to part ways with anything that doesn’t have it’s top or bottom. You have no time for anything less.

6. Cookbooks/Recipe Cards/Cooking Magazines

If you are not in the throes of writing your own cookbook, are not a food blogger, or do not host your own cooking show, then you probably don’t need thousands upon thousands of recipes taking up physical real estate in your kitchen. Go through all of your cookbooks and keep only those you love and use. Donate the rest.

If you are hanging on to any cooking magazines because of a recipe or two, cut out the recipe and put it in a recipe box, or take a picture of it and save it on your phone. You can also check to see if that recipe is already online and pin it to a Pinterest board. Comb through your recipe box, or any binders you keep, to make sure you’re only saving recipes you know you want. Toss anything that you don’t need. I completely understand if online recipes don’t work for you, or if you have favorite cookbooks – most of us do. But don’t hang on to loose papers and entire magazines. That is serious paper clutter and it doesn’t belong in your kitchen.

7. Dishes and Glassware

If it’s chipped, cracked, scratched or you don’t like it anymore and you’re not using it, time to say good-bye. Also, be sure you don’t have more dishes stuffing your cabinets than you actually need. One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to collect things like coffee cups over the years, and before they know it they’ve got 30 of them for two people. It’s a good idea to go through and thin down the herd.

8. Outside of Refrigerator

If you did nothing but clean off your counters and declutter the outside of your refrigerator, your kitchen will still look entirely different and you’ll notice an immediate difference in how you feel. I know that so many people put photos and magnets and postcards and fun things on their fridge, but notice how clean and tidy your kitchen looks when your refrigerator is clear.

9. Mail in the Kitchen

This in and of itself is an entire process and deserves its own post. All I’m going to say for now is that mail in the kitchen should have its own place that is only for mail, and that is where the mail always goes. I highly recommend setting up a “command center” or some other intake process, especially for large families, where you can gather and redistribute mail and other papers that come in to the home and need attention.

The kitchen counters should not have random piles of mail and other paperwork. If you’re not looking to create a neat filing system, or don’t have a designated space where you can create a command center of sorts, then minimally have a bin or basket for mail, and set the expectation that everyone clears their mail by the end of every day.

10. Small Appliances and Gadgets

Do you still have small appliances or gadgets you know you haven’t used or wanted or needed or even liked in years? Donate that onion chopper so someone else can enjoy it. If you have these types of things and you truly do use them, even once in a while, and you don’t want to part with them, no worries. Just store them somewhere in your kitchen where they’re out of the way from the day-to-day things you need access to all the time.

11. Spice Rack

All of us probably have some random spice sitting around that we used for a recipe once and we never made it again. It’s time to go through and purge your old spices, not only because they’re taking up space, but because they lose their potency after a while. If you don’t have a spice rack already built into your kitchen in some fashion, consider installing a rack on the back of your pantry door. This is a great spot to save some space, but still have easy access to your spices at all times.

Here are a few other pro tips to keep in mind as it relates to decluttering and improving the functionality of your kitchen:

  • Keep the things you use the most closest at hand. Don’t make it hard on yourself to access things you use every day.
  • Always keep your sink clean. This is a game changer like making your bed each morning. Don’t leave dirty things in the sink for too long. You’ll be shocked at how much less stress you feel in general just by following this rule.
  • Store like with like. Keep everything that is the same “category” together. This way you don’t lose anything, and you always know how much you’ve got.

I know it’s not easy keeping up with the kitchen. It’s the busiest room of the home, and we don’t always see it as a space that needs “decluttering”. But try me. Go ahead and apply these hacks and see how you feel. I’m guessing you’ll be shocked at how much you love your kitchen. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and you’re stuck with a clean kitchen. If I’m right, you’re probably going to want to bake me banana bread. Or minimally, whip up a cocktail. And I’ll let you.