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In the past few weeks several people have asked me for organizational advice. My super-organized mother instilled it in my upbringing, making it almost second nature to me. But one of my friends complained that she hadn’t been trained as I had, and needed to know how I did it, step by step. Over the next few weeks (or possibly longer), I will lay out how I organize various areas in my house to be effective and efficient.
I’m starting with the bathroom, because that was the most requested room.
Step 1: Know What You Have
In order to organize, you need to know what is in the space, or what belongs in the space. You would not, for instance, keep your toothpaste in the garage, or a leaf rake in the bathroom (I hope!). Go into your bathroom and look around. Open every cupboard, closet, drawer and box, and take a visual inventory of what is in there.
Step 2: Sort It All Out
Next you will take everything out and sort it. Some basic groups for the bathroom are:
You may even want to classify the groups a bit further: put toiletries together by groups, and put any unopened ones apart from the ones in use. I do recommend you pull everything out, because you will discover things that have “hidden” themselves among others.
Step 3: Purge
Good ol’ decluttering comes next. Start with the medicines. Dispose of anything that is expired. Do NOT flush these medicines, which will put them into our water stream. Contact a pharmacy if you are unsure, or your local hazardous waste disposal facility (yes, they are hazmat!) If all else fails, you can mix them up with either used coffee grounds or used kitty litter and put them in sealed containers. (See How to Dispose of Unused Medicines). If there are medicines you don’t use, treat them the same way. Do not share prescription medicine with anyone it was not prescribed for!
Next tackle your linens. We have four sets of towels for each bathroom (for each person: one bath towel, one hand towel and one washcloth in a set). This allows one set in the wash, and enough for guests as well. For each bed in the family we have four sets of sheets: two regular, and two flannel. We have two sets of sheets for the guest bed as well. Again, this allows us to wash one while the other is on the bed.
Toiletries are next. Dispose of anything you tried and didn’t like and won’t finish. Dispose of any expired cosmetics, as these are a breeding ground for bacteria. (See Shelf Life/Expiration Date) Also get rid of anything that is leaking, smells funky or has turned color.
Children’s toys often make their way into the bath area, and never come out again. If something is broken, moldy or unused, get rid of it.
Look at what else is left after these categories. Ask yourself if you really need it, or if it needs to be kept in the bathroom.
Step 4: Put It Back, or Organize
One of the reasons that bathrooms become disorganized is because there is too much stuff in them. If you look at your purged piles and see that there is no way all that stuff is going to fit, think about alternative storage places, or decluttering even further. For example, extra sheets can be stored between the box spring and mattress of the bed, particularly if they are out of season. Special use towels, like beach towels, can be stored out of the bathroom area as well.
Put your medicines back in your lockable medicine chest. If you don’t have one of these, get one. They can be inexpensive, and are easy to install. If you don’t have room for one in your bathroom, find another logical spot for it.
Put your linens back in their space, folded neatly. You may have to experiment with folding methods to get the best fit. (The only time this failed me is when I had a triangular closet in the bathroom. Nothing fit well there.)
Put toiletries away. If you can put them in boxes or baskets, this makes cleaning easier, and these can also be stored under the sink when not in use. If you don’t have a drawer for makeup, get a closeable makeup case that can be likewise stored under a sink. If you are have extra toiletries on hand, you can store those out of the bathroom as well if you need.
Corral the toys. I keep my daughter’s toys in a mesh bag in the bathtub. She puts them back when she is done with her bath, and the next person can simply lift them out. I hang them on the faucet to drip dry, which prevents a lot of mildew from attacking her toys.
By following these steps, you should be able to organize your bathroom. The best part: once organized, you can keep it that way with very little effort. Put things away when you are done, regularly purge, and don’t add more without taking something out. This will keep the room in great shape.
Photo by robad0b