There are endless ways to freshen up a small bathroom – from changing the shower backsplash to updating the vanity, but sometimes the most simple projects are the ones that have the biggest effect... Like actually taking time out to organize a small bathroom like a professional would.
A tiny neglected washroom can feel claustrophobic at the best of times but throw in a ton of disorderly toiletries or maxed out, mediocre storage solutions and it's a recipe for disaster that will not help you get out the door quickly in the morning.
We spoke to organizational and decluttering experts to get their insights on the best ways to organize your bathroom, no matter how small, in order to create an optimal space that’ll serve you well day after day.
How to organize a tiny bathroom space
Whether you need to tame your toiletries to let your space shine or, if you want to give your small bathroom a fresh look but don’t want to take on a design project that you might not have the bandwidth or cash flow to finish once you get started, you’ll want to consider our tips.
'Most people don't finish what they start – especially when it comes to projects at home,' says Ben Soreff, Professional Organizer at House to Home Organizing. 'We have seen many bathrooms unfinished for years after DIY project stalls but one quick way to transform the bathroom is to declutter and organize.'
1. Start with your linen closet
Small bathroom organizing starts with the linen closet, says Soreff. 'Make space in your linen closet by removing old, stained, ripped or unused sheets, blankets and afghans. Then, use your new closet space to store runoff from the bathroom.' Investing in sound small bathroom storage items like the above from The Container Store will help make use of small and/or dead space.
You might assume that your stained linens are destined for the landfill, but Amy Bloomer, MA Organizational Psychology, Columbia University, suggests donating your ratted out towels and linens to local animal shelters and sanctuaries instead of throwing them out.
2. Toss any expired makeup of skincare
Before you even think about organizing, it's essential to declutter your toiletries, says Caroline Solomon, a home organizer based in New York City. Chances are there are expired products lurking in the crevices of your cabinets and drawers. Ditto for your makeup. This is especially important in small bathrooms, where even the tiniest amount of clutter is magnified.
Toss any expired makeup or skincare products. 'If the texture is off or has a strange smell, these are indicators that it might be time to toss,' explains Soloman. 'If you have a multitude of unused products that you won't get to before they expire (most unopened beauty and skincare products last two years), give them to friends and family, or donate them to your local homeless/women's shelter.'
3. Be careful with old nail polish
The U.S. EPA considers nail polish to be a household hazardous waste (HHW) due to the toxic chemicals swarming within that bottle, says Bloomer. So tossing the bottle into the trash or recycling bin isn’t an option. You’ll want to make sure that you take your old bottles to your nearest facility and these pros will lay them to rest safely.
4. Don’t overlook expired medicine
While some people feel that medicine doesn't really expire, the important thing to recognize is that expired medicine is now several years old – which should be an indicator of how often the item is used and if you really need to hold onto it.
According to Soreff, with all household items, we want to ask, how expensive is it? How hard is it to get? The challenge with thinking that you will need the old expired medicine someday is that when that day comes, years from now, it probably won’t even be effective.
5. Keep your daily drivers at the forefront
Once you’ve decluttered your small bathroom space, it’s time to organize it. If you have a medicine cabinet, place your most-frequently used skincare products on a shelf at eye level for easy access. Solomon suggests that you place disposable items like cotton rounds and q-tips on the bottom shelf in clear containers. Keep skincare duplicates and medicines you use less frequently on upper shelves. Consider placing everyday makeup in an acrylic organizer in your medicine cabinet, which keeps your sink free of clutter (especially important in small bathrooms!).
6. Create “zones” for each type of product
'When it comes to your skincare and makeup extras, creating zones is key,' says Solomon. 'Place like items together (e.g., hair care products, body care, travel products) and store them underneath your sink cabinet in clear, stackable drawers. If your bathroom doesn't have a sink cabinet, consider corralling items in a drawer solution.' Ensure you organize under the bathroom sink properly for even more gorgeous order.
7. Don’t stock up if you don’t have to
Overall, less is more when it comes to small bathroom organization. Resist the temptation to stock up on so many extra lotions and shampoos, as this creates clutter fast. 'I recommend keeping only one to two extras of each product,' says Solomon. 'By simply holding onto only what you need and streamlining your everyday essentials, this will invite flow and ease into your bathroom routine.'
8. Designate a place to hang towels
Where and how to store towels isn't always super clear but a decorative hook and/or a bar to hang wet towels, like the Skogsviken from IKEA is a must, says Bloomer. 'Depending on your wall space, your only option might be to place it on a door and/or the side of a cabinet to maximize overall space and flow.'
9. Consider additional storage cabinets
Finally, if storage is particularly tight, you might want to consider adding additional spots to store your essentials. 'Some modern bathrooms do not have a vanity, instead favoring a stand alone sink. A tall skinny corner shelf or open shelving above the toilet can fill that void,' says Soreff. Or, look into adding a fresh new bathroom vanity for an even more polished finished – it might give you more of an incentive to stay organized also.