Containment Is the Key to These Kitchen Counter Organization Ideas

Eight ways to help everything find its place.
White kitchen counter with white shelf above
Photography by Emily Andrews; Styling by Elaina Sullivan

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It happens slowly, then all at once—you put out that big bottle of olive oil that doesn’t fit in your cupboard and a bowl full of produce. But soon enough, your countertop is so full that you’re left with hardly any room to prep your food. It’s admittedly a challenge toeing the line between tidy and messy when you can’t realistically leave this space completely clear (especially if you have a cooking space to begin with). But a few kitchen counter organization ideas can help you find a method to the madness.

Paring back on any unnecessary clutter is always a good start, but beyond that a bit of strategy goes a long way. Sorting your essentials into zones (just like you would in your cabinets) is especially helpful when it comes to kitchen counter organization, and containment is key to keeping everything neat in the long run. Take a look at these spaces for inspiration, and find the perfect solutions for your own space.

Make Good Use of Nonessentials 

Kitchen bar area
Photography by Brittany Ambridge

Realistically, you’re not going to use that cake stand every day—or even every week. Instead of letting it collect dust on a high-up shelf or sit in a china cabinet, set it on a tray and use it to keep smaller essentials (like your everyday spices or oils) elevated and in easy reach, yet out of the way.

Jadeite Ruffle Cake Stands by Martha Stewart


All-In-One Cake Turn Table by Totally Sweet Products


Find Your Window

Window above kitchen sink
Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Just because you want to keep your kitchen as neat as possible doesn’t mean you have to give up any nonfunctional decor. Here, an extra-wide window ledge makes the perfect space for more decorative elements.

Nuovo vase


Favrile Glass Henna Vase


Add a Shelf

Even if you have ample cabinet space for all your dinnerware and essentials, don’t underestimate the power of a super-simple shelf, where you can store the things you use every day: Your coffee maker, olive oil, and so on. Clearing them off your counter leaves extra space for finally trying out that complicated recipe.

Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Thea


Ratio Eight Cobalt Glass Coffee Maker

Williams Sonoma

Hold It All Together

Eclectic kitchen shelves
Photography by Aaron Bengochea

You can be a maximalist and still have a kitchen where every loose item has its place—People of 2morrow founder Sybil Domond’s home is proof. While long, narrow shelves serve both a decorative and functional purpose, two key elements on the countertop keep things tidy: a tray that acts as a makeshift spice rack and a basket that holds often-used liquids like maple syrup and soy sauce.

Bamboo Tray by BergHOFF


Woven Bread Basket by Longaberger


Create a Hub

Small kitchen with stovetop
Photography by Stephen Kent Johnson; Styling by Kate Berry

Paris apartments are not known for having especially ample space—which is why this one keeps all countertop essentials, like cooking utensils and cutting boards, in easy reach of the stovetop. Opting for simple, visually pleasing tools reduces visual clutter, even when objects are grouped together in one zone.

End Grain Round Chop Block by Architec Madeira


Walnut Utensil

Set of 6, Williams Sonoma

Hang Up Your Knives

Kitchen sink with metallic knife strip next to it
Photography by Michael Wiltbank

When clearing out space on your countertop, you can quickly rule out the knife block. But you don’t want to keep knives in a drawer—instead, install a metallic strip like this on the wall to store them safely in place and out of the way.

5-piece Knife Set by Antigua


Magnetic Knife Rack


Get Hooked

Small apartment kitchen with shelving above stove
Photography by Aaron Bengochea

If you don’t have upper cabinets, a shelving system is a must when you’re in need of extra storage. But you can get even more use out of that shelf if you add hooks to it, where you can hang cooking utensils, mugs, towels, and other necessities that might otherwise take up space in your meal-prep zone.

Porcelain Mugs by Risa Nishimori, Coming Soon ($60 each)


Accessory Hooks by Range Kleen


Assemble a Serving Station

Spacious kitchen with neat countertops
Photography by Douglas Friedman

Even when you’re entertaining, a simple trick can keep your countertop looking neat: Stack plates and utensils on a tray or large cutting board, and you can easily transport them all as needed. 

Jungle print enamel serving tray


Melamine Salad Plates by Le Cadeaux Antiqua


See more organizing stories: You’re 3 Steps Away From Your Most Organized Kitchen Cabinets Yet 7 Kitchen Organization Hacks That Make the Most of the Storage You Have A Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing Your Kitchen Pantry