If bathrooms could have poor health, they would probably have about a dozen diseases all at once. Soap scum, mirror smears, dusty decorator soaps, aging tubes and bottles, and expired medicine are some of the most common illnesses bathrooms suffer.

Can we discuss tub clutter and counter-top clutter too?  What about the dust bunnies and hair on the floor behind the toilet? Yikes! The bathroom gets high traffic from everyone in the household as well as guests and this takes its toll on clutter control and cleanliness. Here are my thoughts on how to lighten up, organize, and create storage for this high-use room.

Tips for keeping the bathroom clean—after clearing the clutter

  • Keep a glass cleaner or a multi-purpose cleaner, and a roll of paper towels right in the bathroom. If you have to leave to go get a product or a paper towel, you might not make it back to the bathroom!
  • Vacuum your bathroom floors when you vacuum your carpet. Check first to make sure the bottom of your vacuum cleaner won’t damage your flooring.
  • Squeegee the tub surround after every shower or have the last person who showers in the morning take care of it. This helps prevent soap scum build-up. Choose a squeegee design that doesn’t have any metal on it that could scratch walls.
  • Check out the disinfecting wipes made for quick touch-up cleaning. Regularly take a quick swipe at counter and sink and toilet and floor. In less than a minute, you can change your bathroom from fuzzy to presentable with one of these.
  • Train family members to wipe the sink area with their towel before leaving the bathroom.
  • Reduce decorating items and general bathroom clutter to make cleaning faster.

First, let’s clear the clutter. Start with some decoration elimination. Who uses those dusty decorator soaps and “company” towels any way?  Bathrooms may look better without these dust-collecting decorations. Consider tossing the dried silk flower arrangements and the dusty candles. If the sink area, the back of the toilet, and other horizontal surfaces are kept clutter-free, they are easier to clean.

Next, try to reduce the quantity of medicines, personal care, and cleaning products in the bathroom. Check the expiration dates on your over-the-counter remedies. I bet something in your bathroom has expired. Consider expired samples still hanging around too. Some expired medicines gradually lose their effectiveness. Others can actually become harmful. For information about specific products, contact your pharmacist. Or, better yet, dispose of them now!

How long have you been hanging onto that lipstick you never use because it isn’t your color?  Are you going to wake up one day, try it on, and suddenly decide you like it? Do you own any perfumes that you don’t like? What about dried up eye shadow, mascara, or eye pencils? Perfume samples? Did you hang onto the hotel’s cute miniature products? What about those pricey lotions you just didn’t care for? Feel bad once as you toss them, rather than every time you have to scrounge around them in the bathroom drawer.

The same advice applies to cleaning products. So…I had a coupon and thought I would try a new cleaner, but this new product never became part of my cleaning routine or maybe I tried it once and I didn’t like it. Rather than waiting until its container rotted away and it leaked on the floor of my cabinet, I could have properly disposed of it or found a friend who uses that brand.

Get rid of bathroom guilt. You could purge products you aren’t using to free up space and time in the bathroom. Maybe you made some unwise purchasing decisions. Admit the mistakes, free up space, get rid of the guilt, and move on. You can have more space for the items you use, and you may be able to find things you need faster because they won’t be mixed in with stuff you aren’t using. Why do we sometimes insist on storing our mistakes indefinitely?

After you lighten the bathroom load, the next step is to organize what’s left. Group items by general categories: medicines, personal care, hair care, and cleaning products are possibilities. Find containers that are the right size for each category. I like plastic baskets or bins that don’t have “holes” too large for smaller items to sneak out.

If you have drawers or shelves in the bathroom, you could designate a drawer or shelf for each of your categories. I still like to put things in containers either inside drawers or on shelves because it is easier to pull out a basket than to dig in a drawer or peer around a dark shelf to find something. Removable containers make it easier to weed out, inventory stuff, or just see what I have.

I like to use a nylon mesh bag to hold tub toys and a large shower caddy for soap and shampoo to reduce tub area clutter. It also helps if you can persuade everyone in the family, or almost everyone, to be happy with the same soap, shampoo, and conditioner…If you have teenage females in the house, I wish you good luck on that one.

When it comes to cleaning products and supplies, I learned the hard way to put them in a non-leaking basket on the floor of my bathroom cabinet. What do you need? Maybe no more than three products: a toilet-bowl cleaner, a soap scum remover, and a glass or multi-surface cleaner. When you have all your products together in a plastic basket, it is easy to pull out the basket when it is time to clean.

Do you have a small bathroom with limited storage space? (By the way, no one has EVER come up to me at one of my seminars and said, “Hi, Barb, I have a huge, perfectly clean and organized bathroom with extra storage space! I guess I am not alone in my bathroom clutter concerns.) Let’s talk about common complaints and options that may help.

No storage under the sink? Consider skirting it off to create some hidden storage below. Is stuff piled on the back of the toilet?  Consider investing in an over-john or putting open shelving up on the wall behind the toilet or find a basket that can sit on the back of the toilet.

Do you have an older bathroom without a closet?  Consider a freestanding cabinet, a small narrow unit between the toilet and the sink or tub, or try some freestanding shelving. Some people put a high shelf above the bathroom door on the inside. Others install towel bars on any available wall space or behind the bathroom door to hang mesh bags with bathroom items in them. Some hang plastic compartmentalized shoe holders behind the bathroom door for extra storage.

Do you really have no storage space in the bathroom itself? Another option is for family members to keep their towels on hooks or towel bars behind their bedroom doors and carry their personal care products into the bathroom in individual plastic caddies that they keep in their bedrooms. Medicines may even do better somewhere other than a humid bathroom.

The possibilities to reduce bathroom clutter and get organized are as endless as your creativity. Let your creativity be driven by your desire to simplify the care of this high-use high-maintenance room!

Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs.

Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at www.clutterclearingchoices.com.