Bathrooms have evolved over the centuries. In fact, there was no such thing as a bathroom until relatively recently in history. When people needed to eliminate bodily waste they used a chamber pot in their room or left the house entirely to use an outhouse. Washing hands and face was done with a pitcher of water and a basin. If they wanted or needed to bathe they might go swimming in a lake or river, or go to a public bathhouse, or they might just fill up the washtub and climb into it in the middle of the kitchen.
As municipal water supplies and sewer systems became more common our modern concept of the bathroom developed. Bathtubs, showers, toilets and sinks all got crammed into one small room, the water closet. Nowadays, if a bathroom has only a toilet and a sink it is referred to as a half-bath. In such a busy, multipurpose room it’s no wonder that things can get a little disorganized. Throw in a medicine chest and maybe a laundry hamper and it’s easy to see how most bathrooms get cluttered. Now make several people share that bathroom and it’s practically a miracle that they aren’t all disaster areas.
No one solution fits everyone, but here are some tips on how to get and keep things under control.
Showers and Bathtubs
Everything in the shower/tub area should be something that is being used on a very regular basis. This is not the place for tons of gadgets and junk that you only use once in a while, if you even do at all, or that you think you “should” use. Do you have products you no longer use? Do you have partially filled bottles? Make an effort to finish off the partial bottles or discard them.
Consider a shampoo dispenser to eliminate the falling bottles in the shower. They make models with three and four different reservoirs, more than enough to hold shampoo, conditioner and body wash. If everyone who uses the shower uses different products, or if you use a bunch of different “lotions and potions” then you may want to consider a corner shelf organizer. Multiple shelves allow you to organize the products in a way that makes sense to everyone, for example, one shelf for shampoos and one shelf for conditioners; or one shelf per person. The units with tension rods work well and when you want to clean them you can bring it down and move the whole assembly under the shower head.
People tend to leave things on the top of the toilet tank. It is also common for people to read in the bathroom. The top of the tank is a convenient flat surface that’s especially handy for leaving books and magazines. Unfortunately, glazed porcelain is very smooth and the tank lid may not be perfectly flat and is rarely level. Magazines are also smooth and tend to end up on the floor. Some people read in the bath so finding a place that’s convenient for both the bath and the toilet would be good. As it happens, the toilet is often placed next to the tub, so the space between them seems like an ideal spot for a magazine rack, at least if you keep the splashing to a minimum.
If you do not have a vanity cabinet under your sink, or any other obvious place to store extra toilet paper, then keeping the next roll on top of the tank makes sense. There are many decorative containers designed for individual rolls of toilet paper.
If you do need to keep things on top of the toilet tank then consider increasing friction so things stay on top of the tank. If you like such things, there are tank covers. If you don’t like those, then consider applying textured contact paper or shelf liner to the lid.
There is empty space behind and around a toilet. If you have a plunger, or a toilet brush, this is a fine place to keep it.
The Vanity and Sink
If you’re purchasing a vanity cabinet I have found that the best use of the space is drawers rather than big open sections. An exception to this is if you have pull-out trays installed so that you can maximize useable space. Trays and drawers that extend fully are your best friends here. The ones that only come ½ way out will frustrate you more than anything else.
If you cannot afford to retrofit your cabinets, you can put waterproof containers with lids in that big open space. Box items in groups, like hair supplies, makeup or shaving equipment. Keep in mind that you will be reaching for them in a low, dark location, so label them clearly in large print.
Purge your old, threadbare and scratchy towels. Also purge those towels that you just won’t use, like the pink paisleys your mom gave you when you left for school. Figure out how many towels of each category you need. There are bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths, among others. Keep in mind how often you use them, how many people use them, how often you do laundry, and guests.
If you do not have a vanity you may want to consider rolling up your clean towels and putting them in a decorative basket. You can also use baskets with lids for things like extra toilet paper and sanitary supplies.
You may want to keep some cleaning supplies in a container, preferably under the sink. This way, you can wipe down the mirror or the countertop as soon as you notice that it needs doing. You should still keep your regular supplies wherever you currently keep them, just have a small collection of them here, where you need them basis.
The top of the vanity, around the sink, is a good place for some of your everyday items. Not too many, and not scattered around or messy, but neatly. There are decorative soap dispensers, disposable cup dispensers and matching toothbrush holders. All of these things also come in wall mounted versions.
The Medicine Cabinet
Most medications should NOT be stored in the bathroom medicine cabinet. I know this flies in the face of common custom, but the heat and moisture are a real problem for medications. They should be stored in another room. A linen closet close to but outside of the bathroom might be a good place. Another good place is a kitchen cabinet since you would have water and glasses nearby.
Check the expiration dates on all medications, including the over-the-counter ones every 6 months. Put it on your calendar so you don’t forget. Discard anything that has expired. If you find you are regularly throwing out bottles that are still mostly full you may want to consider purchasing smaller quantities. It may be less expensive per pill to buy the big bottles but if you wind up throwing out most of them, you will actually be paying more per dose.
The medicine cabinet usually holds other things, too, like toothpaste and band-aids. Make sure everything has its own place. You should be able to know where every item belongs, so you will know immediately if something has been used up and needs to be replaced. Make a list of the stuff you use regularly, then you can just mark off the items that need to be replaced quickly and easily.
© 2016 Maria Spetalnik, CPO®