In an ideal world, the bathroom should be the easiest place to keep organized. After all, you only need a few things in there, right? Shampoo, conditioner, a toothbrush. Maybe a few makeup items. Face wash. A razor. How can it be that difficult?
But between hair products, bath products, beauty items, medicine bottles, towels, and first aid items, most bathrooms feel like they’re one free sample away from a hot mess at all times. Here’s how I eliminate the worst of the mess and keep product creep at bay.
This post is the second installment in a new series where I talk through different strategies and tips to simplify (and enjoy) different areas of life. I’d love to know what area you want to see “simplified” next! Vote here for next week’s post!
I’ve found that the best strategy to simplify anything is to clean out everything at once, and then develop a plan to maintain. Bathrooms are no different, but they do tend to require a bit more maintenance than other spaces because of how many random items that seem to end up there.
This happens for two reasons: one, most of these products are small, so we rationalize keeping them because they don’t take up much space; and two, most of these products are cheap or come free in sample form, so we don’t feel bad about hanging onto them.
Here’s why that’s a problem: all that clutter is weighing on you, and taking up unnecessary space and time in your life. It’s stressing you out, and you didn’t even know it.
Here’s what I do to maintain order and return my bathroom to a place of calm:
The Initial De-Cluttering
1. Start in the shower, armed with a garbage bag.
Throw out any doubles of products that you have, and anything you haven’t used in the last week. When you run out, buy a new one. Until then, don’t. Only one of everything – I keep one shampoo, one conditioner, one body wash, one shaving gel, and one razor.
2. Take everything out of the cabinets and drawers, and identify what products you use every day.
This gives you an opportunity to wipe down the insides, as well as pull out the things that you use daily that will definitely be staying in your bathroom. Once you’ve separated your daily items, it’s easy to see what you have left in terms of clutter.
3. Then throw out the rest.
Seriously. If you don’t use it daily, or haven’t reached for it in the last few days, throw it out. Everyone always has a few items that they want to keep from this pile, so here’s the rule with that: you can keep it… for a week.
If you don’t use it in the next 7 days, then it’s probably time to think about dumping it for good. That means throwing out the samples that you never got around to using, or even throwing out the expensive eye cream that you never quite loved. You can give things away to friends if you’d like, but we’re operating on a use-it-or-lose-it policy here – and the reality is that it’s just taking up space and making you feel guilty for not using it.
4. Go through your towels, and get rid of any that are old, stained, or extra.
My guess is that you probably have more towels than you need. I know I definitely did! I now keep 4 sets of towels (one hand towel + one body towel), so I can use 2 per week and do laundry every other week (or every week, if I have guests in town and need to give them a set to use). See what works for you, and then get rid of anything that’s worn beyond use.
5. Check all dates, and throw out any medications that are expired.
For the longest time, I assumed Advil had the shelf life of a canned food item, so it came as a surprise when I realized I had been taking expired pills for over six months. Whoops. Advil and other scripts expire faster than you think they do – so be sure to check all labels, and note which ones need replacing.
6. Evaluate your counter and storage space.
All of your items need to have a place, and they should be easily accessible. If the only way you can make things fit is by stacking items on top of one another, then you need to look at freeing up more counter space or investing in an additional storage solution.
While I don’t buy many products these days, I still find that freebies from Sephora and random gifts seem to pile up, ruining an otherwise well-organized space. Every other week, I take a quick look through my cabinet to make sure that chaos isn’t about to descend.
1. Schedule a time to do a sweep, and put a reminder in your calendar.
I aim to look through things every other week or so. Depending on how much you buy, you might need to look through things more or less frequently.
2. Evaluate any new purchases (new since your last sweep).
Did you buy them more than 3 days ago? If yes, have you used them yet? If you haven’t used them, and bought them more than 3 days ago, then maybe it wasn’t such a great purchase. Can you return it? If not, maybe best to think of a friend that would like to have it instead.
3. Throw out any older products that you don’t use daily (including samples you haven’t tried yet).
This is your time to throw out any products that you don’t use daily. It’s also your time to throw away the products you held onto, hoping to try, but didn’t (think: sample products you never managed to open, that expensive eye cream you decided to hold onto because it was $$$, and so on). Time to toss anything that didn’t make it into daily-use status.
I used to hold onto samples for forever, assuming I’d use them eventually. What I realized was that if I don’t use it within a week of getting it, then I likely never will. So now I give myself 7 days to use a sample up, otherwise it’s going to a friend or into the garbage.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then just start when you’re in the shower tomorrow. What can you take out with you to throw away? From there, you’re already on your way towards a calm, simplified space.
Photos via Lubelso and Pinterest (unable to identify original).