I often get asked, "how do you keep the kitchen counter neat, tidy and organised?"
A kitchen counter can get out of control very quickly because of all the different things happening, like children's papers, meal preparation, cooking, homework/ crafting, shopping, etc.
Because of this, I don't think you could ever just leave the kitchen and hope it would stay neat and organised!
However, here are a couple of tips to help you at least try:
1. have clearly designated areas for each activity
We have one little corner just as you enter our kitchen where we pack and unpack lunches, sort papers and so on.
The rest of my smallish kitchen is for meal preparation and cooking.
2. remove anything you don't use on a daily or weekly basis
The more stuff you have on the counter, the more you have to clean and wipe down those appliances.
If you only use your slow cooker once a month, then store it in your pantry and enjoy all that wonderful counter space.
3. keep things where you use them
When your utensils are stored far from your stove and you have a lot of back and forth, that's when your kitchen starts getting disorganised.
4. have a method of dealing with the paper
The more paper you throw away, the less you have to file ;) Use a plastic drawer system and clearly label the drawers. Once you have this set up, there should only be paper on your counter for a maximum of 5 minutes a day (only while you're sorting and checking you have all the notes from school, etc.).
This picture is from my study but I always suggest to clients with children that they have one of these in the kitchen and use a drawer per family member (mom and dad can also share a drawer).
5. maintain regularly
This will depend on how busy your kitchen is. When both of us are at home the whole day (like when we're on holiday), I do a quick 5-minute tidy and wipe-down of the counters after each meal and also before I prepare supper.
For more help organising your kitchen (and the rest of your home), check out the Organise your Home e-course.
For more great tips, visit Shannon at http://rocksinmydryer.net
Edited to answer Tami's question in the comments...No, Tami, the picture is from my study. I don't have space in my kitchen at all for paper, so I sort my paper as I walk in the door and throw the junk away right there and then. The rest goes straight to my study where I put it in my in-tray (which lives on top of those drawers, incidentally ;))I attend to my filing about once every week or two, depending on how much there is. Remember I'm ruthless about only keeping stuff I actually need, so there's never very much.