How to organize bathroom shelves — 10 strategies straight from the pros

Get your space in order and learn how to organize bathroom shelves for good

Black two-tier shelving unit above black freestanding bath tub in brick-exposed industrial bathroom
(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Getting savvy about how to organize bathroom shelves can make all the difference to your morning and evening routines. Shelves that aren’t well ordered mean time wasted on hunting down what you need, and a messier-looking room.

We’ve called on the expertise of professional organizers for 10 tips on maximizing the storage bathroom shelves provide, and ensuring everything on them is easy to locate. Our panel of pros are experienced in catering to the needs of those living alone, with roommates and homes of all sizes.

When you’re organizing a small bathroom, shelves are valuable real estate and strategies from reusing containers to making more vertical and horizontal space are what’s necessary to keep them neat, tidy, functional, and stylish to boot.

How to organize bathroom shelves like a pro with these 10 tips

Shelves are a vital element of bathroom storage ideas, and a great use of wall space that would otherwise go to waste, but optimizing their surface area is a must and this is the expertise that’s vital. 

1. Reuse candle holders

A gold and glass bathroom shelf with candles and toiletries on on pearly tiles

(Image credit: Roper Rhodes)

Organizing bathroom shelves needn’t require buying new containers, and this tip will give new life to all the brilliant candles you've enjoyed. 

“One of my favorite ways to organize bathroom shelves is to repurpose beautiful vessels to hold the basics, like Q-tips, brushes, and pencils,” says Lara Duffy, owner of own Lennox & Co Organizing.

“Candles often come in gorgeous glass containers so once they've burned out, remove the wax (leave in the fridge overnight, then scrape it out) and, voila, you have a beautiful organizer.”

Lara Duffy is a woman with long blonde hair sitting on a side chair
Lara Duffy

Lara Duffy is owner of Lennox & Co Organizing, a professional organizing company serving the greater NYC area. Her passion for creating harmony from disorder ignited her path, and together with her team, Lara transforms cluttered areas into beautiful and functional spaces with systems that are easy to follow.

2. Repurpose vases

Bathroom storage vessels on gold tray with flowers and soap

(Image credit: Lennox & Co Organizing)

Bathroom shelves are typically neither deep nor particularly wide, so small space organization ideas are vital to fit everything neatly in place. But here again, you might not need to buy new to get what you need.

“I like to use pottery and small ceramic vases,” says Lara. “Reusing what you already have is a cost effective and aesthetic way to organize your bathroom essentials.” 

3. Focus on access

Bathroom with white and pink vertical metro tiles, round mirror and matt black hardware

(Image credit: Chris Snook)

To organize bathroom shelves, put the products you need to access regularly to hand, such as on a shower shelf, and store less frequently items on other shelves.

“Store items closest to where they are used, being sure that there is optimal space for movement and temporary surface area,” advises Kimberly Corey of Finely Sorted Virtual Organizing. 

Considering what needs to go near the bathroom mirror is a great starting point since you don’t want to be crossing the room to grab even well organized bathroom makeup.

Kimberly Corey, a woman with bobbed blonde hair and a white shirt standing in front of white shelve
Kimberly Corey

Kimberly Corey founded Finely Sorted Virtual Organizing in 2000 to provide mindful, fun, virtual home organizing to those seeking better productivity and visual relief in their home and work environments. She's a member of The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and featured in homes titles including Homes & Gardens.

4. Think cleaning

Clear bathroom storage containers from Orthex on shelf

(Image credit: Orthex Group)

When you’re choosing containers for organizing bathroom shelves, don’t ignore the fact they need to withstand a humid atmosphere and be easy to keep pristine.

“Because moisture is an issue in bathrooms, you may not want to use baskets or wood,” says Kimberly. “You might instead use plastic (such as these mDesign small plastic bathroom storage container bins from Amazon).

5. Fold towels well

A bathroom with a green wall and wooden shelves next to it with towels and toiletries on it

(Image credit: Crosswater)

Bathroom shelves can often prove the best place for the room’s linens but towel storage needs an expert twist if they’re to stay neat, accessible, and stylish.

“Consider folding them another way,” recommends certified professional organizer Amy Trager.  “Based on the size of the towel and the depth and width of the shelf, sometimes folding into a different size can make a huge difference. 

”Instead of folding in half, try thirds, or vice versa. If the towels don’t flop over the edge and can be stacked or rolled more readily, more shelf space may be created. Shelf dividers (such as these Fabulas acrylic clear shelf dividers from Walmart) can also be clipped to most solid shelves to help keep stacked towels stacked.”

Amy Trager
Amy Trager

Amy Trager is a certified professional organizer based in Chicago, a NAPO member, and past president of the Chicago chapter. Since 2006, she has been guiding individuals through the stress of their stuff by creating calm, enjoyable spaces.

6. Subdivide space

Bathroom shelves with stackable containers, glass bottles, towels and a plant above a bathroom counter from ORTHEX

(Image credit: Orthex Group)

To get the most out of shelves, or any other type of small bathroom wall storage, and therefore organize better, it’s sometimes preferable to subdivide the space you're working with. 

“Consider using stackable storage,” suggests Amy. “Maybe that’s individual plastic drawers (try these Vtopmart stackable acrylic drawers from Amazon) or maybe it’s using a stacking shelf (such as this Brightroom™ metal shelf from Target) to create another level of storage on the shelf. These can cheaply increase storage capacity without taking up more horizontal space."

7. Size containers cleverly

Jade colored tray on bathroom shelf with containers with hair accessories

(Image credit: Zen Organize Me)

To make items easy to find on bathroom shelves, just as you would when organizing bathroom drawers, choose containers of the right dimensions. 

“Stackable and labeled small-lidded containers are a great alternative to drawers,” says Reem Elkady, founder of Zen Organize Me. “You can store loose miscellaneous items like extra toothpaste, toothbrush attachments, and hair accessories. 

"Mason or glass jars and canisters are perfect for storing uniform items like cotton buds, Q-tips, or bobby pins. They provide functional storage and easy access and double as decor pieces.”

If shelves are generous enough, there’s room to keep bigger necessities on them. 

“Larger and bulkier items, like extra toilet paper, are better stored in open baskets – which minimizes visual clutter and saves you the effort of folding everything neatly,” Reem says.

Reem Elkady is a woman with long dark hair pictured sitting on a chair
Reem Elkady

Reem Elkady is an interior designer with a degree in architectural design, over 15 years of professional experience in residential interior design, retail merchandising and became a professional organizer in 2019. Reem is a member of Professional Organizers in Canada. 

8. Use trays

Oval white tray with containers with Q tips and cotton wool pads and closed vessel on white bathroom shelf

(Image credit: Zen Organize Me)

Before you organize bathroom shelves shelves, it’s important to declutter the bathroom. After that, on all but the slimmest of shelves, a tray can be a great choice to corral smaller items.

“When organizing multiple lotions, creams, and jars, a decorative tray is your best friend,” says Reem. “Grouping your miscellaneous jars and bottles onto a simple tray will give them a home, contain their spread, and look like an intentional design choice instead of a chaotic drugstore shelf.”

You can repurpose items you already have elsewhere, thrift cute trays or invest in a new one such as the gorgeous scalloped tray from Anthropologie.

9. Try different shelf types

Freestanding pyramid style bathroom shelving with towels, and baskets and container in small bathroom with green bath mat

(Image credit: Zen Organize Me)

Storage, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. Try mixing yours up for more fit-for-your-needs solutions.

“Don’t rely solely on the under-sink vanity storage, even if it seems spacious enough,” recommends Reem. “You can maximize your storage space by adding a freestanding shelf unit, or floating wall shelves. When choosing shelving units, ensure they suit high moisture/humid conditions,” she adds.

We love the renter-friendly nature of freestanding bathroom shelves. Try the Winston Porter Tarbes metal freestanding shelves from Wayfair for lovely cottagecore vibes.

The best bathroom shelving ideas can give a room individual style as well as providing maximum storage if they’re well organized. Wherever you need containers be sure to be a savvy buyer. 

“Measure the shelves before purchasing anything new so no time and money is wasted getting something that doesn’t fit the space,” advises Amy.

10. Mix storage types

Wooden bathroom ladder shelving with baskets, vases and containers in bathroom with wooden towel ladder and gray vanity

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Be flexible about what you use for storage for neat, tidy and practical bathroom shelves. 

“When organizing shelves, I prefer using a variety of products to focus on function,” says Rachel Rosenthal, organizational expert and Post-it brand ambassador. “Creativity is essential, especially since many bathroom shelves tend to lack depth.

“If space permits, I lean towards using transparent and durable drawers like these STORi Audrey stackable clear plastic organizer drawers from Amazon. I like to label them with Post-it Super Sticky Notes, making it simple to identify everything inside. 

“When it comes to cotton balls and cotton swabs, I typically transfer them into separate glass jars. This way, I can avoid keeping the entire pack out. Additionally, decanting them into individual jars allows you to easily monitor when you’re running low and need to restock.”

Rachel Rosenthal is a woman with long blonde hair and a blue rollneck sitting in fron to f a red desk and wall with blue patterned wallpaper
Rachel Rosenthal

Rachel Rosenthal is an organizing expert and founder of Rachel and Company, a Washington DC-based professional organizing firm. Since 2007, Rachel’s firm has worked with more than 8,000 clients. Rooted in the belief that organization can be achieved by all, Rachel emphasizes solutions that are easy to use and enhance a home's existing aesthetic. 

Making the most of your bathroom storage with well-organized shelving will transform the function of your space. Keep things clutter-free by brushing up on how to organize bathroom drawers next. 

Sarah Warwick
Freelance Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.