Our Editor-in-Chief put this organization method to the test.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated January 02, 2020
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Don't call it a New Year's resolution—this kitchen counter organization trick is virtually effortless. And unlike the other lofty goals you'll likely forget about in a few short weeks, this is one you won't have to try very hard to maintain. The basic idea is simple: 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 your counter, 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!

After learning about the tray organization trick from our home director, Stephanie Sisco, our editor-in-chief, Liz Vaccariello, decided to put it to the test in her own home. To reclaim her kitchen counter from her #clutterhusband ("a neat, albeit 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.

Pottery Barn

1

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, and 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 space. 

To buy: $50, potterybarn.com

Target

2

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 onto the counter. When you reach for the salt or paprika, the rotating base makes it easy to grab what you need. 

To buy: $40, target.com

World Market

3

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

To buy: $40, worldmarket.com

Amazon

4

If you want to make sure your keys don't get lost in the shuffle on your kitchen counter, invest in a small colorful tray that's 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, amazon.com.