Bathrooms are some of the most challenging rooms to keep clutter-free. Bottles and products seem to pile up and grow exponentially, whether it’s under the sink, in the medicine cabinet, taking up precious counter space, or along the bathtub ledge.
Even if you opt for a pedestal sink or explore medicine cabinet alternatives like open shelving or a wall niche, bathroom storage can take over a small room and quickly become cluttered and messy. Suddenly you can’t find your cosmetics and toiletries, while moisture, dust, and soap spills add a layer of grime.
A clean, tidy bathroom is crucial for home wellness. So, what are some of the best bathroom storage ideas, and how do you keep those medicine cabinet alternatives and bathroom wall niches clean and organized?
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
1. Declutter First
If you want a bathroom that looks cohesive, clean, and fresh, you’ll likely need to declutter and pare down to the bare bathroom necessities. Most of us have more beauty products than we realistically need or can handle. Buying scented lotions and potions becomes addictive (believe me, I understand!). We all love exploring new cosmetics and checking out fun new toiletries.
Then there are cleaning products. Bathroom cleaning products can pile up under the sink, overtaking all the bathroom cabinets before you know it. Many people opt to store their toilet brush next to the toilet, along with a trashcan, backup toilet paper rolls, and more. Some people use over-the-toilet metal shelving that can quickly rust, looking cheap and messy.
So, what are we to do? If we want a clean, organized bathroom, the first step is to declutter. Toss out what you don’t use regularly, then pare down your products to the things you love. See if you can store some items in a bathroom adjacent closet or even the pantry. Also, check expiration dates—many of those bottles you're holding onto might already be past their prime.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
2. Consider Medicine Cabinet Alternatives
Let’s face it, medicine cabinets do not offer terrific bathroom storage. Even the term medicine cabinet is a misnomer. We should generally avoid storing actual medications in the damp, warm bathroom. Instead, most medications should be kept cool and dry.
So instead of a spot for home healthcare, the medicine cabinet becomes a catch-all. Toothpaste, Band-Aids, and cosmetic products pile up on narrow, teeny tiny shelves. When we open the mirrored door, things fall out and into the sink. While there are beautiful medicine cabinets out there, there are also many unsightly options that detract from the rest of the bathroom.
If you’re designing the room and have the option to create a built-in niche—a recessed medicine cabinet design—it can offer a cleaner, more spacious look. Even if you keep the mirrored cabinet door, built-in shelving will be flush with the wall and more visually appealing. Open shelving above or below the mirror, installed in the shower, or as part of the bathroom wall offers a sleeker medicine cabinet alternative.
3. Repackage Your Toiletries
Do you know what gives clean, visually appealing bathrooms that high-end look? No commercial packaging! Let's face it, most products come in less-than-beautiful containers. So when possible, decant and rebottle your soaps, cotton swabs, Epsom salts, and other bathroom products in clear jars and more attractive containers.
Store your toothbrush, toothpaste, and items that can't be repackaged in a cupboard, drawer, or pretty countertop storage containers. There are many charming storage containers that can increase the visual appeal of your bathroom.
Consider a wall-mounted shower shampoo and soap container to declutter the built-in shower shelving or bathtub niche. Besides looking cluttered and crowded, bottles and containers in the tub or shower can lead to mildew and mold. Keep the atmosphere minimal and streamlined whenever possible.
Photography: Jennifer Lavelle
4. Look for Interesting Storage Containers
If you're making do with a bathroom that lacks storage options, consider bringing in an interesting cabinet or étagère. Look for something with drawers or adjustable shelves that fits the space and offers some coverage. Of course, open shelving and glass shelving are beautiful too (utilizing vertical storage is always a smart storage solution!), but you'll need someplace to store the more unsightly products. This can be a perfect opportunity to bring in a bit of character and charm to your space by utilizing vintage storage cabinets.
If you have the luxury of built-in cabinetry or shelving that’s already in place, you can keep your bathroom products organized with tiered shelving, lazy-susans, and other organizing tools that can maximize bathroom space.
Be sure to regularly wipe off lids and containers and address any spills immediately. In a bathroom, dust and moisture form a pasty residue that sticks to products and can leave a film behind. A simple rinse of water or a non-toxic natural vinegar-based spray can keep lids free of gunk and buildup.
5. Make Towel Storage Part of the Plan
Even if you hang towels on the wall, you'll need somewhere to keep your extra bathroom linens. Too many towels can make a bathroom feel cluttered. In a guest bathroom, towel placement can also confuse guests about where to wipe their hands after a wash.
Heated towel racks are a spa-like amenity that can improve your shower and bathroom experience, but again, most racks only leave room for one or two towels. Instead, consider folding the towels uniformly and storing them in an adjacent shelf or linen closet, a great way to utilize storage space outside of the bathroom. Once a towel is used, always hang it up to try—not only will towels dry quicker, but they won't smell or get mildewed.
Place a few neatly rolled towels, washcloths, and hand towels in a place accessible to guests. Rolled towels in a pretty basket or tray always look neat and appealing. Consider a sleek and minimal towel ladder for space-saving and stylish storage. Switch out hand towels regularly, as they tend to bear the brunt of handwashing.
6. Install Hooks Inside Cupboards and On the Back of Doors
The bathroom floor is perhaps one of the most germ-filled spots in your home. No matter how frequently we clean, bathrooms are home to the toilet and have plenty of moisture as well. It goes without saying that dropping a towel or clean clothing on the floor isn’t the most sanitary move.
Install hooks on the back of the door, near the shower, and any other spot where it will be convenient to hang clothing and items while you use facilities. Ideally, you should hang towels away from the toilet, but this can be tough if the bathroom or powder room is small. Do your best to keep them separate and tuck clean towels away from the fray.
Hooks on the back of the door also offer guests the great option to hang their toiletry bags or handbags when they enter the bathroom. It's a nice gesture and an amenity that everyone appreciates, especially if a guest bathroom doesn't have much space. (Pro-tip: Command Hooks are a great damage-free option!)
Photography: Jennifer Lavelle
7. Remove the Toilet Brush
If we're talking about bathroom storage and organization, there's no easy way to get around mentioning the toilet brush (and its counterpoint, the plunger). These items should always be tucked away from view in a utility closet, garage, or cleaning cabinet.
When you clean the toilet, thoroughly sanitize the toilet brush and allow it to dry before putting it away. As for the plunger, be sure to completely clean and sanitize it as well.
I've seen solutions like a built-in recessed cabinet next to the toilet that offers a simple, discrete way to hide these unsightly items if your small bathroom offers no other solutions. In most cases, it's best to store them out of sight and always once they've been cleaned.
Design + Image: The Grit and Polish
8. Consider a Bathtub Tray
Another great alternative bathroom storage solution for smaller bathrooms is to add a bathtub tray to your décor. Not only do these trays offer extra space to hold your soap, bath salts, and candles, but they are also quite stylish.
Look for trays made of naturally water-resistant wood like teak or Ipe. These woods will deter mold and mildew and hold up to the moist environment of the bath. Bath trays are perfect for reading during a long bath (or holding a glass of your favorite beverage). You can find one of my favorite bathtub trays here.
Antique trays made of stone, glass, or other materials can also look really lovely in the bathroom and offer a spot to hold jewelry, soap, or other small items while you soak. Even large, flat shells can be useful spots for soaps, sponges, and scrub brushes.
When you're looking for ways to organize your bathroom, go for the less traditional. You aren't limited to the standard bathroom medicine cabinet when so many great storage alternatives are available. Instead, make your bathroom storage uniquely your own with some chic and creative approaches.
What is your biggest bathroom storage challenge? Let me know in the comments below!