Cut Clutter in the Bathroom: Easy as A-B-C!

cut bathroom clutter

Busy school-day mornings bring new focus on the master bathroom. Home to grooming rituals and personal care chores--and heir to all sorts of oddments and obsessions--the master bathroom is your launch pad to an organized day.

What's the state of your private domain? Time to cut the clutter with a session of sorting, tossing and decision-making. A simple A-B-C concept will make short work of organizing the bathroom's limited space.

Tool time

As with any decluttering job, the declutterer assembles her tools. Three boxes and a black plastic garbage bag help make decisions about each decluttered item.

Remember the Four Box Rule: close your fingers around each out-of-place item, and open them only to deposit it in the appropriate container. Put Away Box, Storage Box, Garage Sale/Donate Box and a black plastic garbage bag (known as the Grim Reaper) await the spoils.

Our declutterer lines up her boxes and bag at Clutter Central, an unused stretch of floor along one wall. A note pad and planner, with pen, reside in the same location as standard declutter tools. Here she'll make notes, assign chores to future cleaning days, note shopping list items. The portable computer permits our declutterer to share her experience with cyberspace, up close and personal.

ABCs of storage

To a bathroom, however, the declutterer brings an additional concept: the ABCs of Storage. Bathrooms, like other activity-intensive rooms such as kitchens, need a refined, systematic plan for storage.

It's not enough just to stuff it all in there somewhere. Has anyone, anywhere ever had enough storage in a master bathroom? No, put stuff away according to the ABCs to make best use of that scarce domestic real estate:

  • "A" storage areas are active, accessible, and meant for daily use. In a bathroom, the "A" areas get the toothbrush and the blow dryer, the shampoo bottle and the razor. "A" storage areas should be user-friendly. They should welcome the groping hand with no hidden hazards, even before the poor blind showerer has inserted her contact lenses or found her glasses. The vanity countertop, the top drawer, a chrome mesh bucket in the shower area are all "A" storage areas.
  • "B" storage areas hold items used weekly to monthly. The box of nifty pore-unclogging strips, the collection of scrunchies for exercise-class ponytails, nail care equipment and the battery-operated beard trimmer are all consigned to "B" areas. "B" areas aren't so easy to reach. You'll stretch or bend to reach the middle drawer, the under-sink spaces, the toilet-top storage cupboard.
  • "C" storage areas require excessive bending, stretching or standing on tip-toe. They're where you stash the gold-flecked makeup for fancy nights out, the foot-massage machine, and the upper-lip wax cooker. If you use an item less than once a month but more than twice a year, it's a lowly "C". Put it where the sun doesn't shine.

Bring on the boxes

The declutterer has assembled her tools and reviewed the rules. Time to begin, with the vanity top. No surprises here: the countertop is covered with his-and-hers daily grooming clutter. First step: sort what stays on this "A"-level surface, decide where to consign the rest.

Spouse's side first. [Interesting how it's always easier to declutter someone else's stuff, our declutterer muses.] Sets of shaving brushes, an affectation in a bearded man. One is a keeper, entitled to "A" status, the others are demoted to "C" and storage. 

Our declutterer begins to pile the rejects in the Put Away box. Tooth care items are segregated for incarceration in a less-obvious "A" site, the top drawer. Pretty bottles of stinky aftershave stay if used often, are consigned to "C" land and storage if they sport a coat of dust.

Her side? Crumpled tissues go to Garbage Bag. Her tooth care items will join her husband's in the top drawer (separated by a modest divider), so they're put aside.

What's this? A chorus line of never-used, expensive skin care bottles (the ones that caused such a lovely rash).

Ignore that pang, declutterer! The bottles are nearly four years old. Who knows how contaminated their contents have become?

Into the maw of the garbage sack, and let that be a lesson to you. Anybody will buy anything after a wonderful scalp massage, so hang onto your wallet next time you're in the hairdresser's chair.

The huddled survivors raise their heads. Less-expensive skin care products that are used each day are keepers. Hey! Why are there two bottles of the same moisturizer on this counter? One goes to Put Away for future "B" storage.

Once again, the declutterer shakes her head at her giant Aveda hair spray can. Yes, it's earned it's place on the countertop. Yes, it's a great product. Yes, it's lasted over 18 months. But why did the can have to be nearly 15 inches long and shiny silver? Put it in a drawer and the sprayer won't work--but leaving it on the countertop does not enhance the decor!

Our declutterer shakes her head and reminds herself to complain about it at her next hair appointment. That'll be a welcome change from buying new skin care "systems."

Diving into drawers

Deep breath. Time to venture into more complex territory: the vanity drawers. Way, way back in the distant past, these drawers were divided between bathroom cohabitants. Bottom drawer for his "B" stuff, middle drawer for hers, with both sharing the "A" territory of the top drawer, split right down the middle.

Hmmm. Opening the top drawer, the plan has worked surprisingly well. Deodorant and cotton swabs, bottles of aspirin and decongestant are all more-or-less in their places. A quick setting to rights, and even the tooth care items have a new, less visible home.

Liberated from the top drawer? Hair doodles, straight to Put Away Box for "B" storage. The first of many small travel bottles of shampoo, mouthwash and shower gel. Our declutterer sighs. Her dear partner, while quite well-traveled, has not yet learned that it's gauche and tacky to strip each hotel room like a piranha before he checks out.

Fingers clasped around the bottle, she formulates a rule: unopened items will be kept in a drawer in the guest bathroom.Opened items meet the Hotel Bottle Grim Reaper. Using this standard, a nice little mound of guest room supplies begins to grow in a corner of the Storage box, while a smaller number fall silently into the black embrace of the garbage bag.

She sorts, she sorts

The declutterer's smugness over the travel bottle matter is short-lived. She opens her "B" drawer. Not easily. On casual inspection, it appears there's never been an electrical hair gadget that she didn't like. Colored elastic ponytail holders tangle in the stiff fingers of several curling irons. All the plastic detritus of earlier hair-growing-out periods look up in lurid disarray.

Wedged in, over, around and on the hair care contingent is our declutterer's makeup and nail care equipment. She puzzles, wondering how someone who wears makeup only for social occasions should have acquired this many dusty little compacts of this and that.

Our declutterer stiffens her backbone. Now possessed of a nice, chin-length bob, all bangs-growing-out props must go. Curling irons and intact hair doodles will brighten up the local Goodwill, so into Garage Sale/Donate they go.

Makeup that was purchased before last summer is thrown away. Eye makeup, in particular, can breed dangerous bacteria, and is not suitable for donation. Many cracked plastic cases of eyeshadow make friends with the hotel bottles in the bottom of the garbage bag. Be particularly careful with mascara, our declutterer reminds herself, as contaminated mascara can cause serious eye infections. She turns to her planner and schedules "buy mascara and dump the old wand" every two months.

That reminds her about tossing toothbrushes, so another note is in order. "Buy toothbrushes and toss old ones" is entered into the planner.

Brushes, brushes, brushes! Oh my, someone likes good natural bristle brushes, don't they? Round, half-round, ball-shaped, paddle-shaped, large and small. Make a mental note, please; somebody is much too soft a sell at the hairdressers.

The old, the bizarre, and the awful brushes (that terrible thing that always gets tangled in the hair) go to Hairbrush Heaven, aka garbage bag. The everyday brushes are retained along with a couple of special effects brushes and the blow-dryer. They rattle about next to the now stripped-down makeup organizer. New note: buy basket to corral brushes. The nail care basket fits into the remaining space in the drawer.

Whew! Enough wallowing in one's own appearance fetishes, on to his "B" drawer. Surprisingly, it's nearly empty, save for a few dozen more hotel bottles. They come out, his surplus and storage items are transferred from the Put Away box. Now our declutterer is cooking with gas!

Sinking bathroom clutter

Assuming a cross-legged position on the floor, the declutterer turns to her spouse's under sink area. Almost empty! Extra tissue boxes are stacked in one corner, next to a mega-pack of soap.

Only item requiring any discretion? A small box of old decorative items from another house's master bathroom. No thought required here. Donate them to someone with a green and yellow bathroom, and move on.

Her under sink area, by contrast, is a solid mass of stuff. Gallon jug of white vinegar for hair rinse--that's a "A", so push it to the side. Ditto the sprayer bottle of Clean Shower. Imagine! Nobody's cleaned that shower area since January, and it still looks great. Clean Shower bottle receives a fond little pat on its sprayer handle.

What else? Huge warehouse store box of feminine hygiene products. Hmmm. These should be stored in the commode area, where they're needed. Toss 'em into Put Away Box.

More evidence of hair equipment obsession. Another curling iron and a never-used set of "molecular curlers"? Our declutterer wavers. The curlers are four years old and never been used. Some Goodwill customer would be happy to have them. The wavering continues. What if they work the way the infomercial promised? Yes, but you've had them four years and never bothered to find out.

Match point occurs when our declutterer remembers that Dr. Weil recommends avoiding electromagnetic pollutants of this type. "Hmmm," thinks our declutterer, "I wonder what he'd say about the molecular part?" Out! Out! Into the Garage Sale/Donate box it goes!

Energies are flagging, but the end is in sight. Ferreting out old, half-empty bottles of hair products, a dust standard is used to sort them. Dust=outta here. Used within the last 6 months, the bottle earns a place at the back of the "C" shelf under the sink. Stray bars of soap go straight to the storage area in his under-sink compartment. Vinegar jug and Clean Shower sprayer, "A" products, have pride of place at the front of the cabinet.

Put away, pat back!

Turning to Clutter Central, the Put Away box heads into the guest bathroom, where an impressive assortment of hotel bottles now awaits the household's next guest. Jewelry is returned to the jewelry box, the few kitchen spoons and such delivered downstairs.

The Garbage Bag Grim Reaper goes straight to the garbage can without a second look.

Donated items are placed in the "To Goodwill" section of the garage, declutter boxes are collected and stashed for next time, the planner returned to the desk and the notepad returns to its friend, the telephone.

Decluttered! For a Master Bathroom, it's as easy as A, B, C!

Articles: