How to banish clutter in the bathroom?

Even the most beautiful, spa-like bathroom can be defeated by a common enemy: the clutter created by bottles, soaps, washcloths, toothbrushes, cosmetics, and other toiletries left out on every available surface.

“The bathroom is a space that can make you succeed or fail during the day,” says Marissa Hagmeyer, founder of the home organizing company Neat Method. “When it’s a disaster, it’s hard to get ready for the day and you automatically go out the door in a rough mood.”

But if your bathroom is neat and tidy — and every object has its place — “you can quickly find what you need, do what you need to do, and move on to more important things,” Ms. Hagmeyer said. And at the end of the day, “Come in, take a deep breath and relax.”

We asked professional organizers and designers how they eliminate bathroom clutter.

If your vanity drawers and medicine cabinet aren’t neatly organized — and you just dump what you buy at the drugstore — you might be surprised at how much space you already have. The best way to tidy up a bathroom, Ms. Hagmeyer said, is to take everything out and get rid of everything you know you’ll never use.

“When we organize, people are really surprised by the number of samples and travel-sized things they collect,” she said, in addition to expired bottles of lotion, sunscreen, and medicines. Keep only a few products you actually use, she advised, and discard everything else.

Once the cleanup is complete, see how much storage space you have and consider whether the remaining items will fit in a fairly clutter-free manner.

If you come to the conclusion that you don’t have enough storage space in the bathroom to store everything, it is possible to create more.

During a renovation, it is possible to recess one or more cupboards in the cavity wall, between studs. “You capture small corners to create extra storage space,” says Monica Fried, an interior designer in New York.

Many medicine cabinets are designed to be built into the wall above a vanity, but that’s not the only option. Mrs. Fried sometimes recessed shallow cabinets in other bathroom walls, with mirrored or painted doors. “Sometimes it’s a flat panel, so it looks like part of the wall,” she said, but it opens up like a small cabinet to reveal toiletries.

Jessica Davis, the founder of Atelier Davis, a design studio with offices in Atlanta and South Orange, NJ, has added built-in closets to some bathrooms and semi-recessed cabinets that are only inches deep for others.

“Shampoo and hair products don’t take up a lot of space,” she said. “It’s not like keeping books on a shelf, where you need a foot of depth.” In the bathroom, three or four centimeters is usually sufficient.

If you’d rather not cut holes and mount cabinets on the wall, an easier option is to add a freestanding piece of furniture. In larger bathrooms, some designers install chests that look like they’ve been pulled from a bedroom.

In smaller bathrooms, you could buy a multi-tiered roll cart that can be tucked under a sink or in an unused corner, said Wendy Silberstein, the founder of New York’s Aesthetic Organizer who likes models from the Container Store. A rolling cart is “freestanding and you can put a set of towels on the bottom and everyday items on top,” she said.

For a really small bathroom with no available wall or floor space, Ms. Silberstein recommended an over-the-door Elfa rack of baskets.

When you’re ready to put your toiletries back in drawers and cabinets, grouping similar objects together can help keep things organized.

“You want to categorize everything, but think in broad categories,” Ms Hagmeyer said. “Face, everyday things, lotion, hair, teeth, travel, vitamins, medicines. The wider you go, the more likely you can actually keep up.”

Then use drawer dividers or small bins to keep each category separate. Ms. Silberstein likes to use clear plastic bins, which make it easy to see things stored in drawers and medicine cabinets. And she often takes products like cotton swabs, floss, bandages, and razors out of the packaging and puts them in containers to take up as little space as possible.

“It saves money because you can see everything you own,” she said. “Not only is it easier to use, but you don’t have to keep refilling when you don’t need to,” she added, just because the box of swabs has disappeared under the washcloths.

Larger items such as hair dryers, brushes, toiletry bags, and cleaning supplies can be stored in baskets that fit in a large drawer, cabinet, or cupboard, or stored under the sink.

It’s impractical to keep every last bottle in a drawer all the time. Products you use every day – hand soap, shampoo, conditioner – should stay where you need them: near the sink, shower, or bath.

If you plan to keep soap, a cup, some cosmetics, and maybe a bottle of perfume on the dressing table, you can easily keep them organized by placing them on an attractive tray. “That way, it’s all packed into a single, pretty little tray,” said Barbara Sallick, a founder and the senior vice president of design at Waterworks, whose latest book, “The Ultimate Bath,” will be published in September.

Some trays are sold specifically for bathroom use, but Mrs. Sallick likes to hunt for vintage trays and containers that would fit in any room.

There are a number of functional benefits to using a tray: “First, it’s easier to clean because you can pick up the whole thing,” said Ms. Davis. “But also from a water dispersion standpoint, when my kids and husband wash their hands and get water all over the counter, a tray keeps it from getting into the products.”

Next to the tub, a caddy, stool, or small side table can serve a similar purpose so you don’t have to balance bottles on the edge of the tub or set them on the floor.

For a step closer to aesthetic bliss, consider the bottles themselves: Leaving out a medley of bottles of various shapes, sizes, and colors creates visual clutter.

“The containers are very important,” said Ms. Sallick. Try to keep out only an essential selection of bottles and consider prioritizing products in attractive packaging. (There’s a reason Aesop bottles show up in so many professionally photographed bathrooms.)

Or do what Mrs. Sallick did. “Years ago I found really nice, clear, rectangular containers at Muji and bought a whole load of them,” she said. Now she pours all her soap and shampoo into it.

If you prefer a different style of container, you can find a wide variety of attractive refillable bottles on Etsy.

To keep your bathroom looking serene, you need to figure out where to put your towels and washcloths. A stack of clean, fluffy towels can be a beautiful thing, so if they’ve just been washed, fold them nicely and stack them in a closet or on a shelf. “They all need to be lined up whether you sort them by color, size or trim,” said Ms. Sallick.

Once that bedding is in use, you’ll need plenty of hanging space for every wet towel and washcloth — which isn’t always the case in busy households — to avoid leaving them on a doorknob or tossed on the floor.

“It’s essential to buy hooks and towel bars, sometimes in multiple sizes, so that you have a place for everything and everyone’s towel lives in one place,” Ms. Sallick said.

If you think you don’t have enough wall space, there are many options that can help. Wall-mounted towel rails can hold multiple towels. Freestanding racks can be placed on the floor. You may be able to mount short towel bars on the sides of your vanity. You can add hooks to short walls or to the back of a door. And if all else fails, you can drag a stool or side table into it.

“Sometimes when it’s a more modern aesthetic and there aren’t that many places for towel bars, we take a stool with folded towels on it,” said Ms. Fried. “It’s a piece of furniture that expands where people can hold a towel or drop one.”

Making sure there is a special place for everything will not only make your bathroom look better, but it will also feel more comfortable to use.

“Your bathroom should be a refuge,” Mrs. Silberstein said. “You deserve to have a tidy bathroom to be productive, to prepare yourself for the day and to look in the mirror and feel good.”

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