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Category: Living Simply

Why We Have Almost Nothing on Our Kitchen Countertops

When people come to our house or see pictures of our kitchen, they often ask, “How on earth do you keep your kitchen countertops cleared off?”

Yes, I might be weird, but I like to have really, really clean countertops without almost nothing on them.

I’ve always been like this. I grew up in a home where my mom modeled this. Other than a basket of towels and occasionally some bananas, there was never anything on the countertops.

And I grew to love those clean countertops so much that I knew it was what I wanted in my own home someday.

Now, a lot of people have said to me, “If I had a big kitchen, I could totally have clean countertops.”

I found this picture of when Jesse and I were first married and lived in a little basement apartment during our lean law school years. This apartment was small enough where you could plug the vacuum into one outlet and vacuum the whole apartment without switching to another outlet.

Here’s a picture of our kitchen in that basement apartment…

Our Basement Apartment Kitchen
See? It IS possible to have almost nothing on your countertops — even in a small kitchen.

Yes, it was harder to keep the countertops cleaned in this kitchen because it was so tiny and when you made a meal, it messed up the entire kitchen. However, I loved a clean kitchen and clean countertops so much, that I made it a priority to have my kitchen look like this most of the time.

Now some people think that our kitchen is too clean and too minimalistic. I’ve been told before by people online that our home seems sterile and not warm at all because it’s too cleaned off. And I get that. What works for us, won’t work for others and that’s okay!

I’m a big believer in creating a space that works for you and your family and that makes you happy and encourages you to thrive. However, if you’re wondering how we manage to have clean countertops, here are four tips that help us keep our countertops cleaned off:

1. Only have a few appliances.

Okay, so I’m probably going to step on some appliance-loving toes here, but I don’t think you need to have an appliance for everything under the sun.

If you have a doughnut-making business, by all means, have a Doughnut Hole Baker (is there even such a thing? I may have made up a new appliance!), but if you’ve never made Doughnut Holes and never plan to, please don’t go get yourself a Doughnut Hole Baker and then have it collect dust for years.

Appliances take up a LOT of space and are usually one of the biggest reasons people need to have items on their countertops — because they have so many appliances that there isn’t room to fit all of them in their cupboards.

We stick with a few quality appliances that have multi-purpose use (in most cases) and that we use weekly, sometimes daily! These are things like: a Vita-Mix, a waffle iron, a hand-held mixer, a Bread Maker, a toaster, a KitchenAid, two Crock-Pots, and a Keurig. That’s it!

Our Kitchen Countertops

Why We Have Almost Nothing on Our Countertops

The kitchen in our first non-rental house, the house we paid cash for — I loved this kitchen so much because it was so much bigger than any kitchen we’d ever had in the apartments and duplexes we’d rented in the past. I did a tour of this kitchen and where we kept everything in it here

2. Don’t keep what you don’t use.

I go through my kitchen very regularly and ask myself, “Do I have more than I need? What can I get rid of? What am I not using?”

If you’re just hanging onto an item because you think you might use it or if you’re just keeping it because there’s some nostalgic reason but it’s serving no purpose, taking up space, and not bringing you joy, get rid of it!

If you don’t love it and you don’t need it, find another home for it. Because there’s no point in it taking up valuable real estate in your kitchen cupboards or on your kitchen countertops!

3. Regularly clean out your pantry.

I’ve talked about having Eat From the Pantry weeks where we challenge ourselves to see how long we can go without going to the store. If you want to have some creative meals, save some money, and use up what you have, this is great way to do so.

Then, once you’ve gone as long as you can go on your Eat From the Pantry Challenge, go through the extra items and get rid of what you’re not going to use. If you’re not going to eat it and it’s not expired, donate it to a local food pantry and bless someone else.

Kitchen Countertops

Our current kitchen in TN — my favorite kitchen of all the houses we’ve lived in, even thought it’s a rental house!

4. Train yourself to put it away.

Want to know my best tip to get rid of stuff on your countertops? It’s simple: Train yourself to put your appliances away. Find a place for it — not on your countertops (!) — and start developing the habit of putting back what you got out.

When we lived in the basement apartment, I had to get creative when it came to where to store things. I ended up putting some of less-often-used appliances at the top of the coat closet that was right next to the kitchen. It was unconventional, but it worked and it allowed us to use that closet space fully while also enjoying clean countertops.

Try the 30-Day Clean Countertop Challenge!

Having clean countertops might seem like a lot of work and effort and it might be something that’s just not a priority to you. I totally respect that! What works for us won’t necessarily work for others.

That said, if you’re frustrated with the current state of your kitchen countertops, I want to challenge you to do a 30-Day Clean Countertop Challenge. Here’s how it could work for you:

  • First, go through your kitchen and get rid of items you don’t love, need, and/or use. (I highly recommend reading or listening to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for some encouragement to pare down and make your home a space that you love and that brings you and your family joy.)
  • Then, find a place for the items that are currently taking up residence on your countertops. If you can’t find enough space, go through your items again to see if there’s anything else you can get rid of. Or, get creative and find other places to store items that might not necessarily be in your kitchen (i.e. my coat closet example above).
  • Finally, commit to 30 days of clean countertops. 30 days where you’re committed to put away everything you get out once you’re done with it. At the end of 30 days, you will likely find that you just naturally put things away — without even thinking about it!

If you hate your clean countertops at the end of 30 days, you can go back to however they looked before the challenge. But maybe you’ll fall in love with it and realize you love clean countertops, too! And if you do, I will be so happy because my mom inspired me with it and I’d love to be able to inspire you, too, because it’s made such a difference in our home!

What helps you keep your countertops cleaner? Leave a comment and tell us!


Do you have a bad case of the “if only’s”??

Do you have a bad case of the "if only's"?

Not too long ago, I finished Mark Batterson’s book: If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities.

Mark shared this very simple yet substantially valuable quote that he says deeply challenged his perspective: “If every day were a good day, there would be no good days.”

Wow! Think about that for a minute. Isn’t that a great perspective?

It’s so easy to fill our days with “if only” thoughts and regrets that cause us to be discontent.

“If only I had more money …”

“If only I had a better body …” 

“If only I had a bigger house/a better car/a bigger yard…”  

“If only we didn’t have food allergies…”

“If only I had more time…”

“If only my marriage was like hers…”

“If only we could find a way to increase our income…” 

In the book, Mark says:

“If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you were more blessed than the million who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you’re better off than 5 hundred million people in the world.”

He went on to share more about how even our bad days usually cannot compare to those of the rest of the world. The truth is that many of us don’t truly know what a bad day is.

Take a second and think about it.

If you have more than a meal’s worth of food in your fridge, clothes to wear, and a soft place to sleep, then you are 75% richer than the rest of the world.

If you can read this article, then you are more blessed than 2 billion people in the world that are unable to read.

If you have money to spare, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

No matter what your life circumstances are, I can guarantee you that someone else would love to be in your shoes.

Remember: You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose your attitude in life.

Choose well today.

Expecting Miracles

Expecting Miracles

He came and sat on my lap at lunch on our trip to South Africa. When all the other children left to go have playtime, he stayed.

We sat together. I hugged him tight.

I talked to him (even though we spoke a different language). And he clung to my “Expect Miracles” necklace and turned it over and over, rubbing his little hands on the words.

Expecting Miracles

Expecting Miracles

When it was finally time to go, he clung to me. Someone had to pry him off of me. And my heart just about broke right in two.

I don’t know his story. I don’t know the difficulties he experiences at home or if he has parents or if he lives in one of the many child-headed families in this area.

But my heart is grateful that he’s not alone. He’s part of a class at the Reagaboka Centre — an amazing center run by a dedicated staff who are committed to feeding, teaching, caring for, loving on, and providing a safe and clean environment for these very vulnerable kids to go to every day.

And I’m so grateful that he gets to go to a clean and cheery classroom everyday that you all helped to build.

Expecting Miracles

When we visited, the director of the Centre told us with tears in her eyes how the 2-classroom building is changing lives and how they had prayed and prayed for God to provide a building there. They had land given to them by the local chief, they had plans for a building, but they had no money.

Little did we know, when God brought me to South Africa back in January of 2015, that we were going to get to be a small part of that miracle!

Expecting Miracles

{photo from October’s trip when we unveiled this two-classroom building!}

First, you all banded together and bought my Make Over Your Mornings course and funded the two-classroom building — which we got to unveil on our last trip to South Africa (see all the pictures and read all about that unveiling here).
Expecting Miracles

And now, because you purchased Make Over Your Year and Make Over Your Evenings, you helped to almost finish funding a much larger Community Building (see the unfinished building in the background in the photo above).

{You can see the progress that has happened on this building since the beginning of the year with this photo.}

This building is going to serve a HUGE need in this community. Plus, this Centre will be able to receive a lot more monthly income from government grants and stipends because of having the building — which will allow them to be able to make a difference in even more children’s lives.

Expecting Miracles

Jesse and I stood in the almost-finished building together and there were tears in our eyes and a lump in our throats to think that God would use us as part of the conduits for this long-prayed-for building.

God worked out so many crazy details for that to happen. As we stood in on that ground that day, we realized afresh that He is a miracle-working God.

I want to go through life living in faith and obedience… Expecting miracles! Because, as I witnessed so clearly in South Africa, God is still in the miracle-working business!

Expecting Miracles

Read the Rest of My South Africa Posts Here:

Why We Stepped Off the Crazy Train & Are Taking the Slow Lane

screenshot-2016-09-08-21-05-56

Slow. It’s a word that has come to describe our family’s pace of life (most days) and I love it.

We had to fight for it. We had to cut back and streamline and let go and say “no” a thousand times over the last 6 months to make it happen.

And we’re all happier for it.

It means we have time to talk. Time to hang out. Time to enjoy the smells, sights, sounds, and tastes of life. Time to really listen. Time to notice the little things. Time to breathe. Time to plan ahead and prep ahead and think about further ahead than just the next fire we need to put out.

It means that we’re able to really savor those things that we say “yes” to, we’re able to go deeper in relationships, we’re able to love more sincerely, we able to sleep more peacefully, we’re able to take time to feel pain so we can heal from pain, and we’re able to live more purposefully.

We don’t always do it perfectly and sometimes we get sucked back into the rush… And we use those times as warning signs that we need to step back and re-adjust. Because crazy busy is exhausting and unfulfilling to me now.

This Year of Rest has been a wild journey and it’s forever changed my productivity addictions in powerful ways. And I’m grateful. And deeply happy.

P.S. The book shown is a new release by my friend, Monica, and I’ve been loving reading it! You can get a copy here

3 Recipes I Made Recently Using What We Had on Hand

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

Now that I’m back to doing most of the menu-planning, grocery shopping, and cooking again, I’m having fun being creative in the kitchen and making do with what we have on hand.

To me, it’s like a game: to see what yummy recipes I can concoct using mostly ingredients we already have on hand or that I was able to get marked down. When you approach it like it’s an exciting adventure, it makes it much more fun and enjoyable.

{As I often say, your attitude makes or breaks every situation. And guess what? You get to choose your attitude! You can choose to embrace your life and make the most of right where you are or you can choose to hate your life and be miserable where you are. It’s your choice.}

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

When I’m planning our menu each week, I ask myself a few questions:

  1. What do we already have on hand? I look through the cupboards, pantry, and fridge and freezer and see what we already have on hand — maybe items I got on a great sale or got marked down or items we didn’t use the week before.
  2. What’s on sale at the store? Most stores post their sales on their websites or send their fliers in the mail. Look for what is advertised on the homepage especially as these are usually the best deals.
  3. What recipes do I feel inspired to make based upon those ingredients? Need some help? Check out RecipeMatcher.com, SuperCook.com, and MyFridgeFood.com.
  4. What can I substitute? Over the years, learning how to substitute ingredients has saved so much money and extra trips to the store. Here’s a great list of recipe substitutions. You can often Google for ingredient substitutions and get some great ideas.

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

3 Recipes I Made Recently Using What We Had on Hand

You can see last week’s menu plan here. (Next week’s menu plan is coming on Monday. We were in Arkansas on a family vacation with my extended family this week so I didn’t make a menu plan because my sister made the menu and we all pitched in on the cooking and clean up together).

Here are three recipes I made that were classic examples of “using what you have on hand” to feed your family:

French Toast Bake — I had gotten a bunch of eggs marked down and bread and hot dog buns marked down, so I used those as the inspiration to make two pans of this.

I made a lot of substitutions: I used almond milk instead of regular milk, half almond milk/half half & half instead of cream, the marked down bread and hamburger buns, coconut sugar + brown sugar (because I didn’t have much brown sugar), and coconut oil instead of butter (because we were out of butter). The final result was still really yummy!

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

Sweet Potato Hash — I had gotten sausage marked down and had some sweet potatoes and onions that needed to be used up. So I turned it into a Sweet Potato/Sausage Hash and it was SO good! I’m a big fan of hash — it’s basically some kind of meat (ground beef or sausage), some kind of veggies (peppers, onions, or even squash), and potatoes or sweet potatoes.

I brown the meat first (if it’s meat that’s not already pre-cooked, like some sausage is) and then throw in the chopped up veggies and potatoes and fry until done. We sometimes serve it with ketchup or hot sauce, depending upon what kind of hash it was. (You can also do all sorts of variations of this: Ground Beef/Peas/Potatoes, Sausage/Sweet Potatoes/Onions, Ground Beef/Onions/Potatoes/Corn, etc. The possibilities are pretty endless!)

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

Berry Cream Muffins — When I was planning our menu, I saw that blueberries were on sale for $0.99 and I looked in the fridge and saw we had some leftover sour cream from a taco night we’d had with friends. So I knew I should make these muffins!

I substituted coconut oil for butter since we didn’t have any butter on hand and I used coconut sugar instead of sucanat because that’s what I had on hand.

As I expected, these were incredibly delicious!

Have you concocted any recipes with what you had on hand? What are your favorite things to make when you feel like you “have nothing on hand”? I’d love to hear!

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

Related Menu-Planning Posts: