By Natalia Hook
How much bathroom storage space do you have? A common answer is “not enough!” Health and beauty aids, bath linens, and cleaning supplies all require room, making attempts to organize a small bathroom challenging. But, with these helpful hints, you can boost your space from “too little” to “just right” without breaking the bank.
When considering which small bathroom storage ideas will work for you, be methodical. Start by asking yourself these three questions:
1. What space do I already have?
2. What space can I add?
3. How can I best organize within that storage space?
Space You Already Have
The basic bathroom storage areas are the medicine cabinet and the vanity. If you’re starting with more than that, great! If you’re starting with less, don’t worry. There are creative ways to maximize space, and options for adding more storage areas, no matter how small your bathroom is.
1. Medicine Cabinet
The medicine cabinet is the most accessible storage in the bathroom. The best things to keep in it are those that are used frequently and store well vertically. For example, everyday health and beauty aids like deodorant, cologne, after shower spray and lotion. And, of course, medicine, such as ibuprofen, prescriptions, antacids, etc.
Small items that don’t stand up or stack well can also be kept in the medicine cabinet, but they need to be corralled.
The question: "How to organize bathroom cabinets?"
The answer: "With well-chosen containers." Square and rectangular selections with rigid sides store the most easily. Bobby pins, nail care, make up, etc. are easily located when kept neatly in specific containers.
2. Vanity Cabinet and Drawers
The vanity is basically the cabinet under the sink, as well as any drawers in the unit. Drawers are excellent for storing everyday items that don’t fit in the medicine cabinet. Zoning drawers can be helpful — assigning one specifically to hair care and another to facial care, such as makeup or shaving supplies. Soft sided storage, like nylon or vinyl pouches, can be used in drawers. Take one out, use what you need, plop it back in. Have a pedestal sink? Don’t panic. We’ll get to that later.
Remember as you organize that you look down into drawers, so a single layer of storage is best. Deep drawers can be used for large or oddly-shaped items, like hair styling tools. Bigger bottles, such as hand soap refills or back up shampoo, can stand upright in a deep drawer, as can a first aid kit, or larger packs of feminine hygiene products, cotton balls, etc.
If your vanity lacks drawers, step up your game when you organize the bathroom cabinet under the sink. I lived in three different apartments, and one small house in which the vanity space below the sink was pretty much the only bathroom storage area I started out with. It can be done.
When space is at a premium, reassess what you’re storing. Are you buying toilet paper in a sixteen pack? Cut down to six, or even four. Hanging onto things you never use like that old curling iron or bath salts you've never even opened? Toss 'em. They’re taking up valuable real estate.
To best use vertical cabinet space, consider shelves. Pre-packaged customizable under the sink units can be used in the bathroom. Check out The Container Store, or Bed Bath & Beyond. Using plastic totes is an easy alternative. Again, square or rectangle-shaped totes work best, and stackability is key. You can buy this storage option almost anywhere, including at dollar stores.
Using clear bins or labeling opaque containers lets you know exactly what’s in them. Cleaning supplies should be close at hand under the sink, in a bin, or small bucket. Keep in mind that to maximize small bathroom storage, items with decorative components, like bath linens and attractive bottles, can be stored creatively in the open. Ugly things like toilet bowl cleaner are best kept out of sight.
3. On the Sink
This is a space that you want to utilize conservatively. It can easily become cluttered. The go-to items are your toothbrush, toothpaste, and hand soap. If you have room for more, fantastic. If not, keep it simple. Put toothpaste and toothbrushes together in a single cup, glass, or mason jar. A soap dish or hand soap dispenser takes up only a small amount of space. You can always keep cotton balls and swabs in designated containers in your medicine cabinet or a drawer.
4. In Shower Storage
Whatever you use in the shower should be stored there. There’s no reason to tote things back and forth unless you have a lot of people sharing a single bathroom. In that case, a shower basket is your best option. Otherwise, your current soap or body wash, shampoo, and bath accessories (pouf, polishing cloth, etc.) should be living full time in the shower.
If your shower doesn’t have built-in shelves, or you’re wondering how to make the most of a small shower, there are numerous choices for shower storage that are inexpensive and simple to use. Over the shower head hanging racks, suction cup baskets, and tension pole corner shelf units are just a few of the options
Space You Can Add
OK. You’ve streamlined and organized, but things are still cramped. It’s time to look at additional options. A great way to add storage is to go vertical, where the most empty space is. You may be able to capitalize on as little one square foot of floor space as well.
There are a number of options to consider. A standing shelf or cabinet unit, hanging cabinets or shelves, and towel racks of different styles. Let’s start from the ground up.
With a decidedly small footprint, you can add a narrow storage unit with cabinets and/or shelves. The taller it is, the more space you add. If you have dead space of 10 inches or more between your sink and shower, or toilet and wall, chances are you can add a shelf unit. If you need to open up a few more inches to make it work, try a slimline wastebasket next to your toilet instead of a regular sized one next to the sink.
Check out over the toilet units too. They're a space saver’s dream. Measure before you shop to ensure a good fit. Bath linens, either rolled or folded, look fantastic on any of the above. Smaller items, such as health and beauty aids, can be stored on shelves in attractive baskets, totes, or trays, and still be close at hand. The addition of a decorative element like a candle can elevate the look.
Successful towel storage for small bathrooms means no single towel bars. If there’s space to hang a single bar, there’s space to hang at least a small rack. Whether bar or shelf style, it will hold a lot more. The tops of solid shelf towel racks also offer a place to keep a few lovelies, like shower spray and perfume, and a knick-knack or two.
Hanging Cabinets or Shelves
When you have literally no floor space available, remember that you do have wall space. Hanging cabinets are a bit more work to get in place, but can add the equivalent of a second medicine cabinet, or more. If financially feasible, consider having recessed shelves installed. If not, a hanging set of shelves can work. Just be sure they are deep enough to hold more than a few decorative odds and ends. A small bathroom is a working bathroom.
When push comes to shove and you’re fighting for inches, try these cheap and quick options. A bath tissue holder is low-profile and opens up storage in another place. Fit it next to, or even behind your toilet.
That pedestal sink may look lovely, but the storage space it offers is literally zero. Add a sink skirt, then use bins or totes to store things underneath. Use the same guidelines as you would for storing in and under the sink cabinet.
What’s on the back of your bathroom door? Hooks are easy to install, and a great place to hang towels and robes in a shared bathroom. Other hook hacks include storing your health & beauty products in a travel kit and keeping them behind the door for easy access and hanging your hairdryer out of the way.
Take it from a tiny bathroom veteran. Between organizing what you have, and integrating a few affordable storage additions, you can turn your small bathroom woes around. Select the strategies that work best with your space and budget, and you’ll be stretching out in luxury in no time. Or at least you’ll have some more wiggle room!
Images used with permission, courtesy of Natalia Hook