Having to completely empty my bathroom cabinets during a renovation was a revelation for me. How were there ripped hotel shower caps, old lotions that had transformed into new forms of matter, crusty eye shadows and six of the same self-tanners in there? I mean, I learned my orange-streaky lesson years ago and haven’t applied a self-tanner in at least a decade.
Chances are your situation isn’t nearly as bad as mine was, but you could still probably use some help organizing your bathroom cabinets and making them neat and tidy again. Here’s a good system for tackling the job.
Here are the basic steps to reorganizing your bathroom. We’ll go into each one in more detail:
Empty your cabinets, removing everything you don’t need or use, including expired items and damaged drawer liners.
Sort items by things you use, things to throw away or recycle, and things to donate.
Group your keepers by category.
With a vacuum hose, remove the lint and dirt from drawers and cabinets. Thoroughly wipe them down with your favorite cleaner.
Add new new shelf and drawer liners and any organizers you need to help corral your supplies.
Enjoy your clean, beautifully organized bathroom cabinets.
1. Empty Your Cabinets
In my case, my bathroom was being renovated and I had to empty all my cabinets before the project could begin. Having to take every single thing out of the room made for the most successful clean-out I’ve ever had. Seeing all of your stuff laid out in the open — and having totally empty cabinets to load up again — will help you come up with a better system for organizing your bathroom storage.
To get started, put everything from your bathroom vanity, shelves, medicine cabinets and countertops in boxes and move it to a comfy sorting spot — a cleared-off desk or table, the floor or your bed.
2. Pare Down
This step is about figuring out exactly which bathroom supplies you want to keep. Before you sit down and take this box by box, get a trash bag, a donation bin and a bag for anything that can be recycled. Find a place where you can sit comfortably with your toiletries and other supplies spread out. Queue up your favorite playlist, podcast or an audiobook you enjoy and settle in for the pitch/donate/recycle phase.
After putting your donations (unopened, unexpired items that shelters can use), trash and recyclables to the side, grab a handful of shoeboxes. As you put everything you’re keeping back in the boxes, group like items together:
Hair. Brushes, combs, products and appliances.
Teeth. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, whitening strips, floss, nightguard, retainer.
Shaving. Razors, shaving cream, refills, electric shavers, aftershave.
Skin care. Face wash, face wipes, creams, serums, masks, makeup remover, sunscreen — and let’s lump deodorant in here too.
Makeup. This can also include cotton swabs, cotton balls, brushes and applicators.
Samples. Hotel shampoos and lotions, sample sizes of cosmetics.
Backup shower items. Bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel; cans of shaving cream; bars of soap you like to have at the ready.
Cleaning supplies. Cleaning agents, sponges, paper towels or rags, that used toothbrush you use for cleaning (make sure it’s well marked), duster.
Eye stuff. Contact lens cases, extra contact lenses, saline solution, glasses cases, drops, cleaners for your glasses, eyeglass repair kit.
If your cabinets are overstuffed and something’s gotta give, think about which kinds of things don’t need to live in the bathroom and where their new home could be. For me, extra towels would wind up smooshed under the sink. I never felt it was a great place to let them breathe, and there were too many of them in there.
Use the vacuum hose to remove the lint and other loose crud that tends to collect in drawers and cabinets, then wipe them down with your favorite cleaner or wipes. You may want to add fresh drawer liners to the bottoms of the drawers and cabinets for some pattern.
Before you reload everything, pause and consider:
Have you gotten rid of enough stuff to allow for some breathing room? If not, what’s taking you over the brink to overstuffed (towels, toilet paper, Costco-size supplies)? What’s so crammed in the back behind the P-trap that you forget it’s there? Stay tuned for alternative storage for these things.
What do you reach for when you’re standing at the sink (toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, sunscreen, contact lens stuff, face wash, hand soap, lotion)? These things should live within easy reach in the medicine cabinet, top vanity drawer or on the countertop.
Which kinds of things do you need only for your travel kit or cosmetics bag? Place everything for your next trip in there. (We’ll deal with organizing extras in a moment.)
You may find that you simply don’t have room for certain items you used to stash in your cabinets.
This photo is a wonderful example of how a professional organizer helped a family get all its extras organized with simple baskets and labels. (Shoeboxes are a great alternative to store-bought baskets or fancier boxes, and you can wrap them all in the same paper if you want a pretty and cohesive look.) The next few captions address items that may need to be relocated from your bathroom cabinets and where you might find new homes for them.
Towels. Think about how many extra towels you truly need in the bathroom, because they are space hogs.
Towel storage solutions:
Pare down to the amount of towels you actually need. Donate the ones in good shape to charity, those in worse shape to animal shelters.
If needed, add new towel bars or over-the-door hooks.
Come up with another solution for towel storage within the bathroom. This could mean a train rack, which can hold a lot of folded towels on its shelf, or a basket for rolled-up extras.
Find space in another room. This could be in a dresser or armoire, an under-the-bed box or a shelf in the linen or bedroom closet.
Cleaning supplies. If you have room for all your cleaning supplies in the bathroom, that’s great. But if not, these don’t have to be stored there. (I recommend leaving a flat pack of bleach wipes somewhere in the bathroom for frequent toilet seat wipe-downs.)
Make a space for bathroom cleaning supplies in the laundry room, linen closet or kitchen. Regardless of where you keep them, corral the items together in a box, basket or bucket so you can grab all of them with ease on bathroom cleaning day.
6. Restock Your Bathroom Cabinets
You now have all your bathroom products organized by category and it’s time to restock. Take a look at which storage spaces will accommodate the sizes of items in these groupings, and think about what you need to have within easiest reach.
Here are some more tips for how to organize items within your bathroom cabinets:
Deep drawers are great for housing taller bottles and cans.
If you stash your toothbrush and toothpaste in a shallow drawer, find a small acrylic or melamine tray to keep them in — this will keep your toothbrush clean and your doors goop-free.
Loose items such as cotton swabs and cotton balls are easy to keep track of in cups and canisters. (I keep my cotton swabs in a vintage metal measuring cup and my cotton balls in a mason jar in a deep drawer.)
You can also use zip-close bags or open boxes to keep track of things that tend to get lost in the shuffle — plastic bags you use to line the trash can, bandage boxes and other first-aid supplies, vitamins, pain relievers.
Organize your everyday makeup in a shallow drawer or medicine cabinet. If that’s not available, put them in one container so you can grab it with ease and put it on the countertop.
Dedicate a deep drawer to hair products and appliances. If you don’t have room, try my trick: I keep all my hair stuff in a cute, stiff-weave market bag I had been using as a magazine basket. I found a place for it under the sink, and when I need to do my hair I simply grab the bag and everything I could possibly need is there — hair dryer, flat iron, curling iron, hot rollers, hairspray.
Similarly, dedicate a drawer, box or other organizer for all your shaving items.
Find room under the sink for some extra rolls of toilet paper.
Use a small cup to hold little tools such as nail clippers, tweezers, eyelash curlers and emery boards. A medicine cabinet is ideal for this, but if you don’t have one, keeping them together will make them easy to find in a drawer. If you need to keep them in a shallow drawer, put them in a small open box or drawer organizer.