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a clutter free kitchen island

The kitchen is where we congregate. It’s where we cook meals while kids do homework, where some of us sort the mail and pay the bills, and where the lighting is best for projects, puzzles, and games.

It’s also where we dump our stuff. “When people come home, they’re tired, and they often don’t pause and take the extra steps to put the bags away or sort the mail they just brought in,” says certified organizer and life coach Sara Skillen.

Why Decluttering Matters

This high-traffic area is used every day, which makes it easy to clutter. Still, we need to keep it clear of things that get in the way of preparing and eating food.

“We call it the shuffle,” says residential organizer Katie Tracy, author of Behind the Closed Door: The Mental Stress of Physical Stuff. “You shuffle stuff from the counter to the table so you can make dinner, and then you move it from the table so you can eat dinner, and it ends up back on the counter.”

Skillen notes that “we’re going to be healthier if we prepare our meals at home and sit down and eat together. If there’s too much stuff on the kitchen table to sit down, everybody’s going to park where it’s easy and most comfortable, often in front of the TV.”

How to Declutter

The kitchen table or island is ultimately meant for eating; it isn’t really designed for activities like working, paying bills, or playing games. But that’s how we use it, so rather than trying to relocate these activities, we can create systems to accommodate reality.

For example, if your kids like doing homework at the table, Skillen suggests buying a small caddy or rolling cart where they can stash their books and papers when it’s time to eat. “You can roll it away from the table and it doesn’t have to be a big production,” she says.

If you regularly pay bills or do other paperwork at the kitchen table, set yourself up to do so officially by keeping your checkbook or files in a cabinet or drawer near the table, advises Tracy. You can also create other spaces nearby for incoming stuff — a basket for mail, a bowl for keys, hooks for bags. Keeping the kitchen table decluttered is largely about creating systems to accommodate its many uses.

How to Defend With Beauty

Andrea Gerasimo, a feng shui and decluttering expert, explains that placing something beautiful — a special bowl, a silver platter, a bouquet — in the center of the table or island creates a sense of structure and discourages the willy-nilly depositing of clutter. “There’s something about a thing of beauty that says, ‘Don’t just come and set all your crap down here!’”

Decluttering Inspiration

Clutter affects our mental and physical well-being. Check out “4 Easy Decluttering Projects” to discover three more high-impact areas to declutter.

Jill Patton, FMCHC

Jill Patton, FMCHC, is a Minneapolis-based health writer and functional-medicine certified health coach.

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