In her famous tidying manual, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo offers a simple tip for organizing your kitchen: Clear off the counter beside the stove.
When I read this, I immediately felt a flash of guilt. The area immediately beside my stove is host to numerous items I had considered essential: a canister of wooden spoons, cutting boards propped against the wall, a mortar and pestle, salt and pepper shakers, a knife block, and an olive oil dispenser. On occasion, I’ve even been known to leave my oft-used spice jars out, too. In my head, this was super logical: of course I should keep useful items on the counter!
Kondo, however, wisely points out that “a counter is for preparing food, not for storing things.” Crowding the countertop near the stove means, well, that you don’t actually have any work space beside the stove—space to actually wield a knife and cutting board, for example, or to place a bowl of chopped vegetables to toss into a simmering pan, or to set your saucy spoon between stirs. Also, did you know this is Marie Kondo’s favorite food storage dish?
She also notes that anything kept near the stove will eventually become sticky with grease, including that nice collection of wooden spoons!
How to Keep Countertops Clear
Kondo suggests leaving countertops as clear as possible. Do keep handy items close by, though: Just reconsider where you’re putting them. Here are a few ideas:
Wall-mounted canisters and hooks can hold utensils, colanders and other vital cooking tools. Find more ways to maximize counter space here.
Stash in a Drawer or Cabinet
Modern kitchens often have a narrow pull-out drawer next to the stove, built especially to hold spices. You can also stash spices in a shoebox (or just the lid of a shoebox) in a cabinet. Store oils and pepper mills in the same cabinet, and you only have to visit one space for your seasonings.
Don’t Overthink Storage Solutions
In her book, Kondo cautions against relying too heavily on special storage tools. She relates an anecdote of organizing oils and vinegars on a lazy Susan inside a cabinet, only to find that the bottles tipped over during the spin. Rather than trying to “trick” your space into holding more items, Kondo recommends paring your belongings to only essentials, and keeping your most-used items in front.
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