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Cluttered countertops

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Perhaps the most obvious sign of a messy kitchen, cluttered countertops are anything but cozy. Worse, they make it hard – or even impossible – to prepare food or clean up satisfactorily after cooking. Sometimes clutter is due to a lack of storage and sometimes it’s down to poor housekeeping. Working out why your kitchen is cluttered is halfway to clearing it!

Disorganized shelves

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Whether your kitchen shelves are open or hidden behind a cabinet door, cluttered shelves are impractical and dispiriting. They make it hard to find what you need, especially if you’re in a hurry. They also definitely don’t help make you kitchen feel like a place where you want to spend time. Working out a storage system for your shelves, cleaning them regularly and lining them with attractive lining paper can make all the difference.

Not enough storage

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It’s a common bugbear, especially of smaller kitchens: there’s nowhere to put anything. This problem frequently goes one of two ways: either the kitchen ends up uncomfortably cluttered or it contains so little that it’s difficult to use it for its intended purpose. Either way, the result isn’t cozy! Ikea and Home Depot are great places to look for ingenious storage solutions for smaller spaces.

Pet beds

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Of course pets have to sleep somewhere. However, pet beds in the kitchen rarely enhance the room’s appeal. What’s worse, unless they’re kept very clean, they can also be smelly and somewhat unsanitary. If at all possible, find somewhere else to keep your pet’s bed. If the kitchen is the only spot, consider choosing a rigid, easy-to-clean bed, with a soft liner that’s quickly laundered.


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If you’re not lucky enough to have a separate laundry room or space elsewhere to locate your washing machine, it may end up in the kitchen. As well as making the kitchen look messy, washing clothes near food preparation areas isn’t always hygienic. The same issues arise if you use the kitchen to dry laundry – with the added risk that your clean clothes will smell of last night’s dinner.

Dirty dishes

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Very few people enjoy doing dishes. However, even fewer enjoy doing dishes that have spent days (or longer) sitting in a sink or on a countertop. If your kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher, washing dishes by hand is a necessary evil. Try to stick to a routine – for instance, washing up straight after a meal. And do make sure that everyone in the household lends a hand.

The wrong window dressings

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Window dressings can make or break a room – at least from an aesthetic perspective. If you want blinds or curtains for your kitchen windows, make sure you choose something that suits the room and easy to keep clean. Remember that it may be harder to remove grease from fabric blinds or curtains. Remember, too, that some styles can look very utilitarian, which may not be the overall look that you’re aiming at.

The wrong lighting

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Obviously, a kitchen needs good lighting. This may mean spotlights, especially over food preparation areas. However, beware of picking anything too stark or too reminiscent of either a theatre spotlight or operating theater lights. Very bright lighting will highlight any dirt or mess, making it much harder to imbue the room with a cozy vibe.

Multi-purpose room

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Although beloved by many families, especially those with young children, a multi-purpose or open-plan room that includes a kitchen easily appears messy. Any clutter or piles of dishes instantly affect the ambience of the whole space in a depressingly negative way. Additionally, the sheer size of the space makes it harder to give it a cozy, relaxing feel. Using furniture to demarcate different zones – for eating, watching TV, and so on – can help.

Refrigerator magnets

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They’re so easy to buy! Small and usually inexpensive, a refrigerator magnet is a perfect souvenir of a fun day out or a reminder of someone you love or something you enjoy. Before you eknow it, though, your refrigerator is completely covered in magnets! It’s definitely a quirky look and not necessarily unappealing but it’s also more likely to make your kitchen seem untidy.

Small appliances left out

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Toasters, hand blenders, air fryers, food mixers, bread makers: they’re all so easily acquired. And even if you use them (and, be honest, do you really use all of your small appliances?), they still have to go somewhere when not in use. And, frequently, that “somewhere” is one of your countertops or perhaps an open shelf. Like it or not, the result looks messy.

Dirty floors

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There’s no denying that some kitchens get dirtier quicker than others. If your kitchen floor ensures a progression of pets and kids with muddy sneakers, it’s bound to attract the dirt faster than a home with two adults, no children and no pets. However, there’s no way to beautify a dirty floor. It’s simply dirty. And dirty equals messy.

Shabby paintwork

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It’s one of those periodic chores that’s so easy to put off. If you’re not a fan of painting, you probably find all sorts of excuses to delay sprucing up your kitchen walls. However, no matter what you tell yourself, people do notice the grubby, chipped and blistered paintwork. And while they won’t necessarily judge you for it, they’re very unlikely to regard your kitchen as a cozy place.

No pictures or other décor

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If you’re not a fan of clutter or “stuff” in general, you might find yourself with a kitchen that looks rather like corporate housing provided for employees living away from home. Functional, yes. High quality, possibly. Clean, almost certainly. But cozy? No. Unfortunately, in such a stark environment, even a single mug or misplaced dishtowel can give the whole room an unfairly messy feel.

Mismatched appliances

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Appliances are expensive. Unless you’re remodelling your kitchen from scratch, there’s no earthly reason why you’d go out and replace perfectly good stoves, refrigerators and the like simply for the sake of ensuring that they match. This is the sensible, pragmatic and environmentally-responsible approach. Unfortunately it’s also one that requires you to accept a mildly uncoordinated space.

Greasy under-cabinet hoods

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If you cook a lot (or even if you cook only infrequently but clean even less often), chances are that you’ll have to deal with a greasy under-cabinet hood. Or, at least, you’ll have to deal with the hood if you don’t want to see visitors recoil in horror when they catch sight of it. After all, little about a kitchen says “mess” more emphatically than a grimy, grease-splattered hood that no-one has bothered to clean.

Short backsplash

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Install too short a backsplash and not only is it impractical, it also looks mean, as if you’ve skimped on the cost of putting in a proper one. However, even what other people think doesn’t bother you (and, really, why should it), you may struggle with the mess that a backsplash is meant to help contain. Food splatters from the stove and greasy dishwater can mark paintwork or, at least, prove time-consuming to remove.

Poor quality worktops

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It might be a cost issue but, unfortunately, there’s no getting away from the fact that a poor quality worktop will do nothing for the overall aesthetic appeal of your kitchen. Worse, if it’s the sort of low quality item that’s hard or impossible to keep clean, you may find you’ve ended up with a worktop that always looks dirty, stained or just plain messy.

Too many decorations

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While no one is forcing you to Marie Kondo your kitchen, it’s perhaps worth remembering that a kitchen is, primarily, a workplace. Sure, some carefully chosen decor can help it look cozy and inviting. However, go too far and you’ll end up with a cluttered, messy space that’s not ideally suited to its main purpose.

Floppy drawers

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Floppy drawers that droop whenever you pull them out are an annoyance at best and a hazard at worst. They’re also pretty easy to fix if you’re handy with a tool box. If you’re not, perhaps you know someone who can do the job for you but, if you don’t, you really should make the effort to find a suitable person. Left unfixed, they make your kitchen look messy and uncared for.

Ugly plates

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Another very specific type of souvenir, decorative plates can look great when hung on a wall or displayed in a glass-fronted dresser. However, it’s a find balancing exercise. Acquire – and try to display – too many of them and you’ll end up with a messy-looking kitchen that looks like a curio store, instead of a cozy, welcoming room.

Piles of plates

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Of course you need plates to eat off. And of course those plates require storage. However, are you being honest about exactly how many plates you need? If you’re a family of four and you occasionally feed ten at, say, Thanksgiving or Christmas, do you really need 45 plates? Are they all piled up in a leaning tower of crockery? This can just make your kitchen look industrial rather than cozy.

No regular cleaning routine

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Most kitchens get a lot of use – and frequently from different people with different approaches to tidying up as they go along or to cleaning in general. As a result, it’s only too easy for almost any kitchen to take on the appearance of somewhere that’s not seen a bottle of disinfectant or a mop in years. A regular cleaning routine, adhered to by everyone who uses the kitchen, is the best way of keeping that kitchen clean and cozy.

Not enough ventilation

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Cooking inevitably produces condensation. Without adequate ventilation, walls and windows can run with moisture, and glass can fog up. Longer-term, these levels of condensation pose health hazards, especially if the moisture results in black mould. Inadequate ventilation produces an uninviting room that even the person cooking probably isn’t going to want to spend time in.

Too many duplicate items

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Bulk-buying can definitely save money. However, watch out that Costco habit doesn’t cost you in other ways. For instance, all those duplicate items have to live somewhere until you’re ready to use them. That’s fine if you have a capacious pantry or watertight basement. However, if you’re cramming them into odd corners of your kitchen, you risk ending up with a messy room that’s too full for comfort.

Junk drawer

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A junk drawer is something of a two-edged sword. Don’t have one and, unless you are ruthless about getting rid of anything that doesn’t immediately have a use, you’ll end up with stuff all over the place. On the other hand, do have one and you’ll always know you have this “drawer of doom” sitting beneath a kitchen countertop. Even pulling it out can be enough to make your heart sink.

Unopened mail

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Whether it’s junk mail awaiting recycling, bills you can’t bear to open, or postcards from distant family members, it’s easy for mail to accumulate even in an era of mostly electronic communications. If your kitchen becomes a natural dumping ground for all this mail, not only will you end up with an always messy room, you’ll struggle to find the important envelopes amid all the rest.

Out-of-date food

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Just because fruit cake hauled up from the wreck of Titanic is allegedly still edible doesn’t mean you should give house space to out of date groceries. Aside from the potential health issues, storing four year-old frozen chickens and Y2K tinned spaghetti suggests that, just possibly, you’re not the most rigorous housekeeper and that your kitchen isn’t a cozy, reassuring place in which to enjoy a meal.

Over-buying groceries

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If you have a big family or regularly feed a lot of guests, you’ll need to buy a commensurate amount of groceries. However, buying more than you can store or more than you can use probably presents storage problems. As well as risking a messy kitchen with overfull cabinets, buying too many groceries – especially perishable items – encourages waste.

Too much Tupperware

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There can’t be many kitchens without a Tupperware drawer or cabinet – or both. However, if your Tupperware storage has reached the point at which opening it results in an avalanche of mismatched plastic containers, it’s probably time to reassess your stash and perhaps get rid of a few pieces.

Dirty dishwasher

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When they work effectively, a dishwasher is a glorious time and labor-saving appliance that helps you keep a cozy, welcoming kitchen. However, to keep them working efficiently, dishwashers require regular cleaning and refilling with salt and rinse aid. If washing up doesn’t scare you, go ahead and neglect these tasks. However, if dishpan hands leave you cold, take good care of your dishwasher.

You don’t clean as you go

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If you ever had cookery lessons at school, it’s a fair bet that your teacher expounded the virtue of tidying up as you go along. If you took that message to heart as an adult, you probably usually have a relatively clean and tidy kitchen. If, on the other hand, you prefer to leave the tidying up until “later”, there’s a fair chance you find yourself gloomily surveying a messy kitchen in the morning.

Dirty stove top

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If it’s not one of the rules of the universe, it ought to be: stovetops attract splashes, spillages and grease. And whether unfairly or not, leaving them to crust and congeal isn’t an option – or, at least, it isn’t if you want people to feel happy about eating food prepared in your kitchen or to spend time relaxing in the room.


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Hard water areas mean limescale. Of course, you could install a water-softener to deal with the problem. However, if this isn’t an option or if you simply haven’t yet got around to it, you’ll need to stay on top of limescale removal. Although limescale isn’t dirt, allowing it to build up will make your kitchen look messier than almost anything else.

Messy refrigerator

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Have you ever opened someone else’s refrigerator and found it so cluttered and crowded that you simply shut it again straightaway? An overcrowded and messy refrigerator is a dispiriting affair – especially if it’s in your own kitchen. Keeping it clean and well-organized is an easy way to help give your kitchen that cozy, “I want to be in here” vibe.

Too many towels

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Obviously towels are useful things, especially in a busy domestic kitchen. Provided they’re regularly laundered, stored sensibly and aren’t too numerous, they’re unlikely to cause any sort of problem. However too many towels can pose a storage issue or look as if they are a deliberate design feature.

Snarled cables and cords

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Although sockets can be hidden away, it’s hard to imagine a modern kitchen without a variety of cables and cords. If your kitchen hosts a charging station for cell phones, iPads, earbuds, smartwatches and so on, try to make use of a cable tidying device. This will make the cables look less messy and reduce the chance of devices being accidentally unplugged.

Over-ripe fruit

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It’s lovely to have a full fruit bowl in a kitchen. However, it’s only lovely if the fruit is fresh. Overripe or, worse, rotting fruit attracts fruit flies and wasps, can smell bad, and looks immensely unappealing. Try not to overbuy – and store bananas by themselves as they have a ripening effect on other fruit.


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A farmhouse-style kitchen with dogs running in and out, a cat curled up on a seat cushion, and perhaps even an orphaned lamb enjoying a bottle of milk is a cozy image that resonates with many people, no matter how urban their lives. Sadly, in reality, animals in a kitchen often mean mess, dirt and unappealing odors.

Slow-draining sink

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It’s another of those tasks that no-one really wants to tackle. However, a slow-draining sink is unlikely to cure itself. A sink that’s seemingly perpetually always half full of scummy water also won’t help you make your kitchen into the cozy, welcoming space of your dreams.