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Spring Cleaning Day 11: Decluttering the Bathroom

A large modern bathroom with a clean and clutter free dual-vanity sink.

Even if you pride yourself on living a pretty clutter-free life, there’s just something about the bathroom that attracts it. Let’s kick off our week of deep cleaning the bathroom by getting the junk out.

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The kitchen might be the heart of the home, but we all start and end our day in the bathroom getting ready for the day and preparing for bed. So why not make the first and last space you use before bed pleasant?

Why Are Bathrooms Such Clutter Magnets?

There are a variety of reasons why we end up with clutter in our homes but, among them, two of the big reasons are a sense that we might need something (and will regret getting rid of it), and that we spent good money on something (and getting rid of it would be wasteful).

Using those two things as a point of reference, you can see how the bathroom becomes a prime spot for clutter. Not only do we use a variety of products and things in the bathrooms—which for most people is not a palatial space with tons of storage—but most of us hate waste so we don’t purge the bathroom of partially used and no longer useful products as much as we should.

Between our reluctance to get rid of stuff that’s “still good!” and the natural constraints of trying to keep too much stuff in the bathroom, it quickly becomes a cluttery mess that’s hard to clean because every surface has something on it. Let’s do something about that.

How to Declutter Your Bathroom

Decluttering your bathroom is really easy if you follow a simple routine that breaks you away from the analysis paralysis that often comes with decluttering. Here’s how to go from maximum clutter to a free and open space rather quickly.

Take Everything Out

One of the most powerful ways to declutter a space is to completely empty it out. For most of the rooms in our homes, this is a Herculean task that may not even be practical if we lack the extra space to upend a whole room into another one.

For the bathroom, however, it’s actually pretty easy—and it’s exactly how I always start a super-deep cleaning session of my bathroom.

Why? Because when you’re in the bathroom, handling each object one-by-one it’s way too easy to get caught up debating whether an item is worth keeping, what to do with it, or where to store it. Taking everything out of the room breaks the spell, if you will, and it’s much easier to evaluate what the real value and utility of each thing is once it is removed from its regular context.

  1. Remove every single item from your bathroom. Everything on the counter, everything in the medicine cabinet, all the little storage bins you may have on shelves, the stuff under the sink, the stuff sitting next to the toilet on the tile, everything sitting on ledges in the shower, the whole bit.
  2. Any obvious trash like an empty spool of dental floss or a razor handle for a razor cartridge system you don’t even use anymore should be immediately thrown away as you come across it.
  3. Place everything outside the bathroom on the floor of the hallway, a table, or even your bed if that’s a convenient surface near an ensuite bathroom. We highly recommend laying down some towels first, so that if any bottles or containers leak anything the towel is there to absorb it.
  4. Group everything together. Makeup goes with makeup, anything related to dental care gets grouped together, all your shaving stuff should be in one pile, and so on.

Evaluate Your Pile of Bathroom Clutter

Before you start evaluating your pile, here’s a gentle reminder. It’s OK to get rid of stuff. We’ve all bought products we didn’t use completely (or even at all) before they were old and expired. We’ve all bought a product that seemed like it would be useful or awesome, but it ended up being kind of junky. Don’t keep something that’s useless just because you feel bad you spent too much money on it.

With that in mind, here are some easy things to declutter from your bathroom:

  1. Expired makeup, styling products, and medication.
  2. Expired or not, any makeup or styling products you don’t use regularly.
  3. Duplicates of items—having extra items on hand is fine, but respect your storage limitations. If you have a tiny bathroom it is not the place to keep two extra bottles of shampoo.
  4. Excess or old grooming tools. You don’t need three handles for the same razor system or to keep that bikini line trimmer that never really worked very well.
  5. Travel and trial-size toiletries. Toss that little sample toothpaste your dentist gave you in your toiletry bag for your next trip, but get rid of all the other clutter. If you haven’t used that hair serum sample your stylist gave you two years ago, you’re probably never going to use it.
  6. Cleaning supplies. It’s one thing to keep the toilet brush in a caddy next to the toilet, but keeping all the cleaning supplies you might use in the bathroom within the bathroom itself leads to clutter very quickly.
  7. Beauty gadgets and appliances. Never fell in love with that tri-barrel rotating curling iron? Let it go. Gave up on that epilator because using it felt like torture? You know what to do.
  8. Decor items. Just because you put it in the bathroom doesn’t mean it has to stay there. Is that decorative bowl just a magnet for small clutter? Get rid of it. Hate how dusty that artificial plant gets? No sense keeping things around you don’t really love.

Return (and Organize) Your Things

For most people up to this point, it’s been a “so far, so good” experience. It’s here where most decluttering efforts fall apart.

Maybe you did a pretty solid job getting rid of some of the stuff you didn’t really need in your bathroom. Now comes the harsh reality that some of the stuff you want to keep probably doesn’t fit back into your bathroom—at least in a way that actually keeps surfaces free and clear and things stashed tidily out of sight.

It can feel challenging to get everything into your bathroom without overstuffing it, so look for places where you can make the most of the space you have. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles take up a significant amount of space (especially if you shop for enormous Costco-sized bottles). You can cut down on the clutter from all three items by switching to a wall-mounted dispenser. Instead of keeping half a gallon of shampoo in the shower, you can decant it as needed into the dispenser.

Better Living 3-Chamber Shower Dispenser

Who needs bottles tumbling everywhere? Store your shampoo, conditioner, and body wash right on the wall.

You can double up under-sink storage easily with an adjustable storage rack. There are a million and one of these on the market, but we ended up buying this particular model because it could fit in spaces as narrow as 16″—many of the under-sink shelves are made for wider spaces found under kitchen sinks and can’t fit under narrow bathroom vanities.

SimpleHouseware Undersink Organizer

It's sturdy, easy to wipe down, and adjustable to fit around any plumbing beneath your sink.

We’d encourage you to rethink exactly how much stuff you need to keep in the shower with you and cut back. When you really stop and ask “Do I actually use this every time I shower?” the answer is usually “no” or even “I never actually use this.”

But if you are crunched for space and want to squeeze some storage into the bath/shower area we’d discourage you from buying a generic shower-shelf tower for the corner. You can find them at practically any big box home goods store from Wal-Mart to Bed, Bath & Beyond, but the run-of-the-mill ones are almost always either rust-prone steel or overly fragile plastic. So you spend $40-50 and in a few years it’s a rusty (or cracked) mess, you throw it out, buy a new one, and repeat.

Instead, we’d strongly recommend biting the bullet and spending more upfront for something that won’t leave a rust streak across your shower and won’t need replacement every few years like the OXO Good Grips Aluminum Shower Caddy. It’s quite spendy, by comparison, but it’s sturdy, rust-proof, and about as good as it gets short of remodeling your shower to have built-in shelving.

OXO Good Grips Aluminum Shower Caddy

Consistent tension, well-designed shelves, and no-rust make this a great premium pick for shower organization.

However you decide to stash stuff back in your bathroom, though, we encourage you to be mindful of a simple question: “Does this make it more difficult to clean my bathroom?”

Because at the end of the day, difficult spaces don’t get cleaned. An empty counter is easy to wipe down, but a counter covered in bottles, brushes, decorative bowls, a candle, and a toothbrush holder doesn’t get wiped down because it’s a pain to move everything to do that.

The less friction there is between you and the cleaning task, the more often it will get done.

The first day of the bathroom cleaning week is behind us and, hopefully, you’re bathroom now has significantly less junk in it to get in the way. Be sure to follow along on our Spring Cleaning Challenge landing page or get the lessons, along with all our other great content, delivered right to your inbox!

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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