What To Store on the Counter in a Kitchen (and What Not To)

organized counter

The Spruce / Michele Lee

A big part of organizing any space is knowing what to store there and what not to store there. This is especially true for kitchen counters that tend to become cluttered and disorganized easily.

Below are the most common kitchen counter items and which category they fall into:

  • Store on your countertops
  • Maybe store on your countertops
  • Don’t store on your countertops

What To Store on Your Counter

Your kitchen counter space should be reserved for items you use frequently. This is the space to store small appliances you use daily, as well as containers of kitchen staples (unless you store these in a pantry), and paper towels. The point is to keep items close by so you're not running around while getting ready in the morning, making meals, or cleaning up after cooking.

  • Canisters: Canisters (small and large) are a decorative way to store and contain small items. You can use them to contain grab-and-go snacks, napkins, and other small odds and ends to keep your counters from becoming cluttered.
  • Coffee maker: If you make coffee every day, there is no better place to store it than where you use it: on your kitchen counter. The best option to set up a coffee zone. This means gathering everything that you use to make coffee and storing the items above and below the counter where your coffee maker sits. Include mugs, to-go cups (if you use them), coffee, and coffee filters.
  • Dish rack: A dish rack on your counter is a must if you don’t have a dishwasher and a maybe if you do. "Maybe” because you may only run your dishwasher a few times a week and opt to do your daily dishes by hand.
  • Mixer: There are very few drawers or cabinets that can store a large appliance like your mixer. Plus, the size and weight may even damage your cabinets. Keep your mixer on the counter.
  • Paper towels: These need to be handy but not in the way. You want to be able to grab them when you need them, but it’s a pain to have to move a paper towel holder around. Keep it in an easy-to-reach spot near the sink.
  • Cooking utensils (contained in a crock): The best location for frequently used utensils like spatulas, spoons, ladles, and tongs is next to your stove. It’s handy to have these right within easy reach when you’re cooking. You can buy a utensils crock or DIY one that fits your kitchen decor by using a vase, a large Mason jar, or even a planter.
  • Salt and pepper shakers: Since you’re going to use these all the time, it makes sense to keep these handy.
  • Veggie/fruit basket: Many fruits and vegetables can’t be refrigerated and you’re more likely to eat them if you can see them right there on the countertop. Plus, fruits and veggies look nice.
dish rack on counter top

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

What To Maybe Store on Your Kitchen Countertops

When considering items that maybe should be stored on kitchen countertops, it all depends on your unique cooking and eating habits, along with the ability to stow some things—like cookbooks—elsewhere while still keeping them close at hand.

  • Cookbooks: Move cookbooks onto a shelf when possible. This way you won’t have to move them to wipe down the countertops and they won’t become dirty when you’re cooking. While you’re cooking, protect your cookbooks with a wooden or stainless steel cookbook holder.
  • Cutting board: Oversized cutting boards look great when left on people's counters, don't they? If you have the space for it, great. If not, it's best to keep it stashed away until needed so it doesn't clutter up your countertop.
  • Toaster oven: If you make toast daily, then go ahead and store this on top of your counter.
cutting boards on a counter top

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

What Not To Store on Your Counter

The last thing you want on your kitchen counters is a lot of clutter. Not only does it create a messy look but it creates more cleaning from food splatter. For items that you don't use often, find another spot for them such as a cabinet, pantry shelf, or even the donation pile.

  • Appliances you rarely use: If you don’t use it every day, get it off the countertop. Store appliances you use only once or twice a year.
  • Collections: Anything like teacups, figurines, or photographs can be mounted on the wall so they can be admired while being out of the way. 
  • Papers: If you store them in some type of message center contraption—preferably on the wall above the counter, then you can store a limited amount of papers here. Just don’t let this become a dumping ground for papers you are not sure what to do with.
  • Serving pieces: Store these—unless you entertain daily, they’ll be taking up more room than is necessary. Another option is to mount serving platters on the wall as decor.
delicate china stored in a cabinet

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida