The Tidy Kitchen Counter Trick

We put this organization method to the test.

Regardless of size, kitchen counters can easily get cluttered—that's why space-saving compost bins were invented. We love this kitchen counter organization trick because it's virtually effortless. The basic idea: Instead of constantly fighting against the clutter that naturally collects on your kitchen counter, corral it. Invest in a tray (or multiple trays) that are strategically sized to fit your counter and the type of clutter you typically struggle with. For example, if the condiments and spices threaten to take over, order a turntable large enough to stash the essentials within reach. If a pile of mail is the culprit, order a shallow woven tray to contain it.

The moment these trays start to overflow, it's a signal to relocate extra spices to the cabinet or finally tackle that paperwork. Rather than attempting to maintain a flawless countertop all 365 days of the year (a worthy, but entirely unrealistic goal), the tray method makes your kitchen look perpetually tidy without daily organizing.

We Tried It!

Our former editor-in-chief, Liz Vaccariello, put this trick to the test. To reclaim her kitchen counter from her #clutterhusband ("a neat but prolific pile maker"), Liz introduced a rectangular tray to collect everything from mints to medicine bottles. Without tossing out a single thing, the counter looks instantly neater.

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A Shallow Tray for Mail and Papers

Woven tray for mail and papers
Pottery Barn

Take a look at what's piling up on your kitchen counter. Is it mail, papers, and your kids' homework assignments? Invest in a shallow tray that can collect every last sheet of paper. Opt for one with handles so you can quickly whisk it away when guests come over, or you need a little extra counter space.

Choose a tray that's large enough to hold a standard sheet of paper (this one measures 14-by-18 inches), yet isn't so large that it will monopolize your counter.

To buy: $50,

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A Lazy Susan for Spices and Condiments

Wood and metal lazy susan tray

To corral all of the condiments threatening to take over your counter, look for a lazy susan with a lip or rail that will prevent bottles from spilling. When you reach for the salt or paprika, the rotating base makes it easy to grab what you need.

To buy: $40,

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A Stylish Tray for Odds and Ends

Organization tray made of wood and metal
World Market

To contain everything from medicine bottles to matchbooks to candles, order a stylish tray you'll want to display. Bonus points for one with handles.

To buy: $40,

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A Small Tray for Keys

Color blocking blue kitchen tray

If you want to make sure your keys don't get lost in the shuffle, invest in a small colorful tray reserved just for them. This small tray—it's 4-by-6 inches—is perfectly sized for a keychain you can grab on your way out the door.

To buy: $18,

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