Achieving the Holy Grail Part 2: Figuring it out… What is Covering my Counter and WHY?

As I confessed in the first post of this series, my dining room table and kitchen counters are clutter magnets. It is my vision to find homes for some of the items that land on the surface so that I can keep my table and counters 60 percent or more clear. 

Just like my clients, I am following Living Peace’s “8 Steps to Getting Organized.” I’ve already established my vision and now it is time to figure out what exactly lives on my table and counters. 

As so many others have done, I see the clutter as one huge blurred mess instead of categories of items. By defining the types of items that land on my flat surfaces, I can more easily see what is landing there, why it stays there, and plan a strategy for how these items get off my table and counters quickly (and hopefully avoid it altogether.)

This is what I discovered:

 • Too many things land on these surfaces because they have no other home. I will need to really plan out new homes for a lot of this stuff.

 • Mail, magazines, newspapers, and kids artwork often stay on the dining table because I’m delaying making a decision of what to do with them. I need to decide if I will commit to reading the magazines and newspapers or admit that I don’t have the time and recycle them? Is this piece of artwork worthy of the memory box or should it be recycled discreetly?

 • My dining & kitchen surfaces are often the holding spaces for transitory items that either need to go to the basement or go upstairs to an office. I definitely need to plan for baskets that can hold items ready to go up or down stairs. I also need a bin for items that need to head out the door to my car.

 • My husband has a nice place to empty his pockets into and contain his receipts. I need to get one for myself because in the transferring between purse, work bag, and diaper bag, I always have a pile of receipts, lipsticks, and random other items that end up on the counter.

 • I have sugar packets on my dining table that we never need. Gone.. Yay, 1% of my dining table is clear. You have to celebrate the small victories! 

My next step in this process is weeding out what I don’t need. Then it will be the hard part of assigning homes for each of these categories. So check back for the next post to see if I have to call in a contractor to expand my home or if I am able to get creative in finding homes for the stuff that lands on my dining and kitchen surfaces.


For those of you who are curious, here’s what piles up… 

On My Dining Table… 


Sunday Newspaper Grocery Ads that need to be filed

Action items to File in the office

Kids Artwork from school, daycare & randomly created at home

School notices

Daycare reports

Store Returns

Library books/cds/dvds to return

Water bottles


Daily vitamin cases


Stuff to mail


Napkins/salt & pepper/sugar packets

Papers to recycle that haven’t made it into the bin yet

Coupons (about to expire or need to be filed)

Snack containers

Pens & Pads of paper


On the Kitchen Counters…

Bread that doesn’t fit into the bread box

Stuff to get shredded

Candy jar


Spray bottles (to deter cats)

Items on the way back to pantry in basement

Dirty dishes

Snack bags (think goldfish crackers and trail mix)

Insulated Lunch bags

A few of my husband’s medications

Bag clips



Potatoes/Winter Squashes/Onions/Garlic

Random grocery or store receipts

Dessert of the week

Dishes that husband doesn’t know where they go (A+ for effort!)

Recipes to use or to file

Stuff going out to car

Items emptied from pockets or purse

Papers we want to keep but have no home for

Small appliances that are used on a daily basis


Stay tuned for Part Three as we keep moving forward to getting clear tables & counters! If you missed Part One, you can read it here.

Do you have areas that seem to attract tons of clutter? What did you do to get it under control? What seems to be the hardest thing for you to maintain? I would love to hear from you. Please share in the comments below.


About Gabriela Burgman

Gabriela's mission is to empower her clients with the tools and motivation they need to get and stay organized. Prior to becoming a Professional Organizer, Gabriela worked in a photograph archive as well as several university archives, assisting offices, administrators, and retiring academics to sort through their files for preservation or disposal. She became a professional organizer in 2007 working as an independent consultant before joining Living Peace. When Gabriela is not learning new ways to organize photos or paper both physically and electronically, she is spending time on what matters most to her: visiting with family and friends, reading a good mystery book, or cooking a tasty meal.

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