small bathroom ideas for organizing and storage

Bathroom shelves with bath towels and storage basket.

Most of us have small bathrooms. 

These small bathroom ideas for organizing and storage can help get you started making the most of this small space.

We'll start by dividing the bathroom into activity centers - the medicine cabinet, the sink area, the tub and shower area, the toilet area, the dressing area, and storage areas - and conquer each in turn.

Master the Medicine Cabinet

Small bathroom ideas for mastering the medicine cabinet. You'll be amazed at what you'll find in your medicine cabinet. (And maybe a bit scared, too.)

Really give thought to what you store here. Try to reserve that precious, accessible medicine cabinet space for items you use most frequently, not the Pepto-Bismol you only take on New Year's Day.

Otherwise, you're wasting your most convenient storage space. You'll be surprised at the number of items you can store elsewhere.

As you're looking at each item in your cabinet, check labels carefully.

Many of us treat medications much too casually. Some medicine labels specify storage in a cool dark place, not the bathroom, due to its inherent humidity. Light, heat, or humidity may damage medications. Humid bathrooms are not the ticket for these.

Consider placing these medicines in a secure drawer the kids can't reach in your bedroom closet, or on a high shelf in a hall closet.

Also, as you're going through the medicine cabinet, look carefully at expiration dates. Toss what's expired or no longer used. Expired medicines and vitamins lose their potency. (Ditto for sunscreens, by the way.)

Discard medications where children cannot find them. Store medications in their original containers. It's essential that you have the medication's original label so you can check dosages, expiration dates, and other safety information.

Small Bathroom Ideas for the Sink Area

The counter space around the sink is precious real estate. And the area in the cabinet under the sink is limited, too.

Most families have far too many potions and lotions here, and far too little space.

Bathroom sink area organized with clear plastic storage containers.

Since most bathrooms don't have much storage room, you'll need to use what you have to maximum effect.

Let's start with the counter area around the sink.

Look critically at what you have sitting here. If it isn't used often - several times a day - get ready to move it somewhere else.

Get rid of anything that's just decorative and serves no useful function for you or the kids.

Keeping bathroom sink clutter to a minimum will help you and the kids maximize time spent here in the morning's mad dash. Get rid of anything that doesn't truly belong on the sink counter.

Then, get a few attractive containers to organize what's left, such as Q-Tips, cotton balls, spare change, and that day's jewelry. Keep those to a minimum, too.

Small Bathroom Ideas for Tub & Shower Area

Bath essentials tend to overrun a tub or shower, especially when women are involved. Add a kid or three, and things can get messy. 

The key to keeping Barbies from overrunning the tub and Mom's scented body scrubs, facial cleansers, shampoo, and conditioner from drowning the shower in stuff is to divide and conquer.

Plastic dispensers in the shower for soap and shampoo eliminate a bottle or three. Racks or hooks for washcloths and the essential post-scrub wipedown of shower and tub surfaces keep these items from cluttering tight spaces.

A suction-cup net or plastic tray across the tub keeps toddlers' bath toys tidy.

Taming the Toilet  Area

The toilet area is pretty easy to organize - there's not much too it. The toilet itself being fixed in place you don't have much to find a home for here. If you have a potty chair for little ones, for cleanliness you'll want to keep the potty chair away from the big-person potty. 

You don't want your little one grabbing onto the big potty while sitting down, getting up, or whiling away the time on the pot.

And of course, you wouldn't want a big person tripping out the little potty and making a big mess if it should be full. By keeping the two separate, on opposing walls, say, you'll find it easier to keep each cleaner.

Keep extra rolls of toilet paper next to the toilet. I keep mine in a covered woven basket stashed between the wall and the porcelain potty so hands in need of a washing don't go wandering and contaminate cabinets beneath the sink and other surfaces.

Small Bathroom ideas for a Dressing Area

Since we not only bathe and pamper in the bathroom, but often dress there as well. It makes sense to carve out an area for clothing and make a hamper a part of the decor.

This is an especially good idea for kids' baths: It's the rare child indeed who needn't be reminded to deposit his peeled-off dirty duds into the dirty clothes hamper. 

Skip a nagging step by placing a small hamper near the tub or shower so kids taking off clothes can bypass the floor for the hamper.

Clothing hooks are a good investment for both grownups' and kids' bathrooms. If you've ever set the sheer top you were planning to wear on a wet counter (or worse, a dirty one), you know why.

A chair or stool is a nice accessory as well. It creates a relaxing nook on which to sit to put on socks or apply makeup. And it's a great place for kids to sit while doing their hair, or having Mom do it for them.

Small Bathroom Ideas for Spiffing Up Storage Areas

No matter how luxurious your bathroom is, the under-the-sink cabinet and medicine chest probably don't offer enough storage space.

Make the most of every inch of bathroom space with one or more of these accessories. They can dramatically increase your bathroom's storage power.

  • Use a wicker or wrought-iron wine rack to store rolled washcloths and towels. This not only a way to put extra storage and spare towels at the ready, but rolled towels can also provide a colorful accent, especially in a child's bathroom. Coordinate the towels to your decor.
  • Add over- and above-toilet shelving. Put wooden shelves along one wall or buy an over-the-commode unit with shelves. Here you can place those little knickknacks you can't live without and a small clock to keep you and the kids on schedule in the morning.
  • Near-sink shelving. If you're really short on space, single shelves hung near the sink provide perfect resting spots for soap, toothbrushes, and other daily essentials.
  • Towel bars with built-in shelving over the top. You can hang used towels on the bar and stack fresh replacements on the shelves for easy use. Or forgo the traditional towel bars all together in favor of antique or whimsical drawer pulls. You'll find these at flea markets or garage sales for a song. Connect them to the wall with screws. Two or three together give a collected look. Hang a towel through each of the pulls for a finished look.
  • Wicker storage units are an excellent choice for baths because they withstand humidity well. And most pieces come with drawers for more bathroom-stuff storage for you and the kids. 
  • Even antiques can add storage to bathrooms. Need to recycle a few pieces from other rooms in your home? An antique armoire, cupboard, chest, or table gives a bathroom more space as well as a delightfully elegant touch.

These small bathroom ideas are a starting place - customize them as needed to make your bath an organized, functional place.

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