Decluttering is one of those things that’s easier said than done, especially when it comes to all the junk that accumulates in your bathroom. Of course, the goal is to achieve an organized, Marie Kondo–approved space. But when it comes time to get rid of our stuff and make it happen—well, you know how that goes.
If you’re having trouble getting motivated, you’ve come to the right place. In our latest installment of “Decluttering for Dummies,” we focus on tidying up the bathroom, from the medicine cabinet to the makeup drawers.
That countertop overflowing with half-used lotion bottles, 3-year-old shaving cream, and random cotton balls has been staring you in the face for far too long, but your piles of stuff are no match for our tips from professional organizers.
Ready to downsize your bathroom items to just the essentials? Here are five strategies to help you get organized now.
1. Gather all bathroom items
The first step in getting your bathroom items in order is to take inventory of everything you have. Get messy with it, and throw everything into a big pile; this step does not need to be done in an organized way!
“Gather everything [that belongs in the bathroom] from all over the home, inside cars, purses, etc.,” says Caroline Roberts of The Simplified Island. “By gathering the items from all locations, you’ll know exactly how many of something that you have. You may realize you have an abundance of something you rarely use, like Band-Aids, which can save you a trip to the pharmacy in the future.”
2. Divide items into categories
Once you have all of your bathroom stuff in one place, it’s time to start categorizing. There are a few ways to do this, and the method you pick will all depend on how many people you live with and what kinds of things you store in the bathroom.
Katy Winter of Katy’s Organized Home suggests organizing your items by use.
“Once everything is out, sort things into categories. Examples of categories are face, nails, lotions, hair, perfume, and makeup,” says Winter.
You might also consider categorizing by the owner of each item or by how often the item is used (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly).
3. Decide what to keep
Armed with a sense of your bathroom inventory, it’s time to decide what to keep and what to toss. For many people, this is the hardest part of decluttering. Getting rid of items, especially if you’re still holding on to them “just in case,” can be a real mental hurdle.
Professional organizer Danielle Della Pella, of Home Story, has her clients ask themselves the following questions: “Do I use this product? Has it expired? Is this a backstock item or an extra? Do I still like this item? If you bought it on sale, would you buy it again if you had the chance?”
Get your other household members involved in this step, and have them ask themselves these same questions.
“Anything that’s expired or hasn’t been used in a year is an automatic discard,” says Roberts. “For the other items that are being kept ‘just in case,’ weigh the cost of storing the item versus the cost of replacing it. This is especially important when space is at a premium.”
If the item is inexpensive and easy to replace, stick to this rule: When in doubt, toss it out.
4. Toss responsibly
Now that you know what stays and what goes, it’s time to start discarding the rejects. But when it comes to tossing medicines or other potentially harmful products, it’s important to do so responsibly.
To get started, grab a few garbage bags. One bag can be used for donations of unopened and nonexpired items—like samples or travel-size bottles—and the other bags can be for trash. Make a third pile for things that shouldn’t be thrown in the garbage—like expired medications.
“Many communities have medication drop events where prescription and nonprescription drugs can be taken,” says Roberts. “Walgreens has kiosks in many stores.”
If you don’t have a nearby drop-off and you’re unsure what to do with your old medications, familiarize yourself with these FDA guidelines. While some medications can be flushed down the toilet (as a last resort), others shouldn’t be. Do your part in keeping our water supply clean by learning how to get rid of your old medications and cosmetics the right way.
5. Organize your essentials
With all your bathroom clutter out of the picture, it’s time to organize everything you plan on keeping. If you don’t already own them, invest in a few baskets, boxes, jars, and drawer organizers.
The organizing products you use depend on the items you have, but some of our favorites are wicker baskets ($34.99-plus, Amazon), acrylic boxes ($20, Target), glass jars ($8.99-plus, Amazon), and plastic organizers ($12.99, The Container Store).
“For bathrooms with multiple users, I try to give each person a drawer and then have a communal space for shared items,” says Roberts.
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