No matter how little stuff I own or how much counter space I have, my countertops are always not just cluttered looking but actually cluttered.
I used to think it was because my space was too small or that I had too few surfaces to put things down on. But over the years I have come to realize that while those two statements may be true, they aren't the reason behind why my countertops have been and continue to be the repository or landing spot for all the random things that take up residence there.
In my first apartment, shared with my guy, there was just one "bar" area. It held a Kool-Aid can we used to hold change, mail, laundry detergent, hats, keys, pens, papers, receipts, telephone, answering machine, junk. Of course, back in those days I had so little "stuff" that I wasn't thinking about paring down and wasn't too concerned about the mess.
In my next apartment, on temporary loan from my father, I managed to keep the countertops free of keys, papers, etc. In this particular apartment the kitchen was its very own room and I had an entry table and an office to hold all those items. But I managed to fill the counter space with retro-themed kitschy junk and they were just as crowded as my previous kitchen's counter.
My plus 400 square foot apartment I resided in with my guy had a bar top and counter that were just as cluttered, if not more so, than the one in our previously shared residence. We managed to add food storage jars, trays, microwave, fax machine, in and out box, vases, candle holders, some sort of carrier that held pens, pencils, paperclips, and on.
While there were many, many more cluttered countertops between then and now, the problem has not dissipated. We don't have much in the way of counter space in our current apartment but what little space we have is taken up by a printer, router, bread box, toaster, phone charging stations, dish drainer, paper towel holder, VHF radio + charger, postage scale, container for recyclables, change bowl. We barely have room to set down a bowl or plate when making food.
"They" say that every surface is just another place for clutter to amass. And "they" are right. Because in addition to all those things we need on the counters, somehow every piece of mail that needs to be dealt with "later" ends up there. Every receipt, wayward keys, wallets, wires, you name it, end up on the countertop.
We talked about buying a console table to keep near the entryway as it would seem a better solution for phones, keys, wallets, change, paper. But I've been reluctant as I just know it will turn into another place to heap "junk" rather than the alternate place to do so. And in a small space, clutter looks a million times worse than it does in a much larger space. So having two "junk" zones is less than appealing to me.
I've seen so many minimalist home pictures with those wide expanses of clean, empty counters and I am ever envious. Because I know that no matter what I do, no matter how minimal I go, I will never have the counters that exist in those images.
In my present reality, I don't have the option of storing things away, as much of what exists on my counters needs to be in quick and easy reach for myself and my guy. Unless I purchase additional furniture I can't relocate the electronics that need outlets to power themselves. Without installing additional shelving I can't free up surface space. And so I have to try and learn to live with the visual "mess."
No matter how much it pains me. Or how often I wish I didn't need to keep bread, or toast things, or print things, or dry things, or charge things.
I wish I knew the secret that everyone but me seems to know about how to keep a countertop free and clear of the necessities of life. It is a secret I've been actively looking for an answer to for years. Aside from the idea of a custom home with hidden spaces for all the things that are currently on display, I have not found an answer that dovetails with my reality.
I haven't given up quite yet... and so I'm off to do more research. But I am beginning to lose hope.
To be continued...