Most apartments don’t have fabulous bathrooms. Every one of them seems to have one quirk… or a bunch of them. The fan rattles the wall, the grout is some un-cleanable shade of black, the mirror’s relationship with the wall isn’t as close as it should be, the tub creaks and makes you worry about the downstairs neighbors, and most of all, there’s almost never enough storage space.
If you’re lucky enough to have a linen closet in your bathroom, it’s either too small to accommodate all bath and bed linens, in exchange for cabinets under the sink, or your linen closet is the under-sink cabinetry. That cabinetry is often rough on the bottom and suffers from a serious lack of shelving. And let’s not talk about the lack of space for hanging wet towels!
Are you finished shaking your head in frustration and nodding in agreement? Ok, let’s get to work! With a little creativity, some time, and maybe a few bucks, you can make that limited bathroom storage comfortable, tidy, and most of all: Enough.
1. Clean out the clutter. Get rid of expired cosmetics, lotions, medications, etc. Why make more work for yourself trying to make storage space for something that’s garbage? Did you buy a full set of new towels but keep all the old ones? Keep a few for dirty jobs (like washing pets or cars), and unload the rest. Do you have the face or body washes (or lotions) you tried once before discovering you hated them? Donate them to a shelter, YMCA, or YWCA. Give them a call and see what they’ll take. You might be surprised what doesn’t have to go to waste.
2. Get your medications and vitamins out of the bathroom completely. Unless you have a truly awesome fan in there and are consistent about turning it on before showering and leaving it on for 30 minutes afterward, your pills need to get out of the bathroom. Despite the miracle of plastic bottles, heat and moisture still get inside, shortening the lifespan and lessening the effectiveness of your medications. Find a place in the apartment to store them that’s not in the bathroom. And keep them away from the warmer and wetter areas of your kitchen, too.
3. Gather your cleaning supplies. There’s no sense in reorganizing a dirty room. Clean it as you work through it. While we’re on the subject of cleaning, start thinking about what basic cleaning supplies need to be kept in the bathroom for quick “Eek! I’m going to have company in half an hour” cleaning. Ponder where you’ll store that stuff while you work on step 4.
4. Take a quick visual inventory of all your bottles and potions, and go on an apartment-wide tour. You’re looking for unused and under-utilized shelf and drawer dividers, shelf raisers (those metal or plastic stands that let you make the most of vertical shelf space by giving you a raised shelf above the existing one), under-shelf baskets, shelf liners, small wire or plastic baskets, desktop-sized crates, drawers, and bins.
You started to get some ideas while you were digging around, didn’t you? Sometimes the right containers are already in your home, waiting to be re-assigned. That plastic pencil tray may have been designed for office use, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to store your makeup brushes instead. Now that you’ve got your equipment together, and are armed with a few ideas, it’s time to get to work.
Below are some more ideas for you to consider. I don’t expect you to use them all. Some of them will simply not work for your situation. Some will need to be adapted to suit your needs. Some of them blatantly contradict each other (to give you a wider list of options). Read over them and take what you need from them.
It’s my hope that when you’ve cherry-picked the Tip Sheets and spent a couple of hours hard at work, you’ll have an apartment bathroom that works for you: Tidy, functional, and organized.
Tip Sheet: Linen Closet and Under-Sink Cabinet
- Use those baskets, mini-drawers, and small containers you found around the house to sort and separate small items. Those items that aren’t often used should be in containers behind those that are used frequently.
- Consider reallocating your space. There is no rule that says your bed linens and towels must all be stored in the closet, nor do all toiletries and cleaning supplies have to live in the cabinet. Use the space according to your needs, not conventional standards. If what works best for your space and belongings is having the cleaning supplies and sheets in the linen closet and the toiletries and towels in the cabinet (or some other combination entirely), do it.
- Stack your sheets as efficiently as possible. Consider dividing the sets by size or frequency of use. Maybe you’ll get the most use of your shelf space by putting the pillowcases all in one stack, beside the stacks of sheets. If you have trouble keeping sheet sets together, the answer for you might be to stack each set neatly and slip it inside a pillowcase from that set.
- If you have drawer or shelf space in the bedrooms, keep the sheet sets in there. There are a lot more storage space options in a bedroom than there are in a bathroom.
- Keep the beach towels with the swimsuits if you can. Any little thing that can ease the workload of your closet and cabinets is a plus.
- If you have to spend money on bathroom storage shelving or containers, spend as little as possible and buy something that could easily convert to use in another room. Your next home’s bathroom may not have the same shortcomings.
Tip Sheet: Misc. Bathroom Storage
- Only leave on the countertop items that are used frequently.
- Use wire baskets to contain each household member’s countertop items. (This is a great use for that little wire or plastic shower caddy you used back in your dorm days.)
- Find a container to hold small quantities of cotton balls and cotton swabs, so you don’t have to dig out the box or bag on a daily basis.
- Invest in some kind of toothbrush holder. Even a $1.00 cheapie will make your countertop look tidier and stay cleaner than leaving your wet toothbrush sitting on the counter all the time.
- If you have no hooks or hardware mounted to the inside of the bathroom door, an over-the-door shoe rack could be a great tool for storing little items that’s nearly as accessible as the countertop, but much, much tidier. This may also work on the inside of your linen closet door.
Medicine Cabinet (if you’re lucky enough to have one):
- Tooth care items
- Haircare items
- Shaving supplies
Space Under a Pedestal Sink
- Laundry basket or hamper
- Wicker, wire or plastic shelves or drawers
- Create shelf space with a milk crate or two, flipped sideways. Paint them if you want to, or drape them with a colorful beach towel to mask their origins.
- A small 2-step step stool can act as shelving under the sink.
- A small end table that’s not needed elsewhere could slide under or beside the sink to hold bottles and cleaning supplies.
- Get the landlord’s permission to hang an extra towel bar, if you know-how, or ask them to have it done.
- See if you can mount a hook on the back of the bathroom door, or simply get a plastic one that hangs over the door -no hardware required!
- If you have hooks mounted on the back of your bedroom doors that aren’t in use, consider taking your towel to and from the bathroom with you.