It’s as inevitable as the coming of winter: Despite our best intentions toward organization and cleanliness, most of us wind up with bathrooms that embody chaos—a riot of hair products, creams and lotions, magazines, and cleaning supplies everywhere you look.
But why? Organizing the loo should be a no-brainer since most of us have drawers and (maybe) a linen closet to hold all of our stuff.
And yet, this room contains myriad organizing hot spots, even for the experts who should know better.
Here’s what can go wrong, organizationally—and how to fix each fast.
1. A pile of hotel freebies
Who can resist those tiny rosemary mint shampoos from Aveda? You take them all—and even ask housekeeping for a few more.
Jamie Novak, author of “Keep This, Toss That,” admits to being a toiletry hoarder, which makes keeping them in line next to impossible. “They are so cute—and the hotel wanted me to take them, right?”
The fix: Think of all the plastic in the ocean! These one-use lotion bottles aren’t helping Mother Nature. If the guilt angle doesn’t work, at least promise yourself to use up the ones you have, even taking one hotel’s offerings with you the next time you travel so you’re not tempted to cart home new ones and perpetuate the cycle.
Watch: Does Your Bathroom Decor Stink? 5 Surprising Looks Home Buyers Hate
2. Old makeup
Photo by Roomscapes Cabinetry and Design Center
Novak’s main bathroom blind spot is her vanity drawer, which contains “a favorite lip gloss with one application left because they don’t make it anymore and the ‘good’ hand cream that I’m saving because it cost so much money.”
Also cluttering her space: dozens of hair elastics and a jar of fancy bath salts “that are so old, they’re clumped together.”
The fix: Weigh the sunk cost of what you’re saving with the time and energy you lay out moving these things around each time you’re getting ready for work—or trying to relax in the bathtub after a long day.
Make a point of finishing up the foot scrub or special cuticle balm, if only so you can get something new once in a while.
You might also want to install a few simple shelves over the toilet or on the wall opposite the sink. Line up all of these small items or store them in a good-looking set of boxes that’ll hide your supplies as well as double as decor.
3. Under-sink chaos
Photo by Kohler
Alas, the Windex and sink scrub are stuck behind all the toilet paper and tissues you stocked up on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Add to this the extra shampoo bottles, hair dryer, and flat iron, and you’ll know why most homeowners and even the pros find this area a big challenge to organize.
The fix: Order a few sectioned bins or small baskets to corral like items. If you put cleaning supplies in one and small appliances in another, you can easily reach for the container you need and then slide it back into place when you’re finished.
4. Random clothing
Photo by AGM Home Store, LLC
You strip down in the bathroom to hop in the shower fast, right? Draping your clothes on the sink ledge or the side of the tub is fairly normal, of course, but letting them linger can turn your bath into a cluttered mess.
The fix: A simple set of hooks, people! Or even a few tiny command-strip options that you can stick on temporarily while you search for better-looking permanent options. This way, at least your bathrobe and sleep shirt will have a place to live, rather than sadly sliding to the floor.
5. Jumbled towels and sheets
Photo by The Basket Photo by Lady
If you keep extra towels, sheets, and linens in the bathroom, you know they’re a pain to launder, fold, and put away, which is why lots of linen closets across America look like a cyclone just blew through.
“My biggest cop-out is this area—I put stuff away haphazardly, though I do so with purpose,” says Julie Coraccio of the organizational service Reawaken Your Brilliance. She even admits to “sucking at folding sheets,” though her husband can wrestle a fitted one into submission and he’s a pro at hospital corners.
The fix: If you don’t have an in-house sheet folder to clean up in your wake, assess your bathroom linen closet with a critical eye. Too many pillowcases and towels can make organizing this hot spot difficult. Move threadbare items to the rag bag for cleaning, or donate old linens to an animal shelter.
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