The Rules of Bathroom Storage

Bathrooms, like other activity-intensive rooms, need a refined, systematic plan for storage. Organize them according to the rules of bathroom storage, to make best use of that scarce domestic real estate.

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Bins Help Keep Personal Bathroom Items Organized DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley LimitedSharing bathrooms comes more easily if the room's users don't have to work around one another’s gear. Handled plastic baskets make it easy to tote personal-care products.

Spartan or spacious, all bathrooms have one thing in common: there's never enough storage space. Plumbing fixtures take center stage, leaving precious little room for lotions and potions. Factor in turf wars between family members competing for the same sink-and-mirror space, and you've got an organizational challenge.

1. "A" is for every day.
Active, accessible and meant for daily use — that's the definition of "A" storage areas. In a bathroom, the "A" areas get the toothbrush and the hairdryer, 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 shower-taker has inserted his or her contact lenses or found his or her glasses. The vanity countertops, the top drawer, a chrome mesh bucket or hanging organizer in the shower area are all "A" storage areas.

2. "B" is for occasional.
Items that are used weekly to monthly should be given homes in the "B" storage areas. The box of nifty, pore-unclogging strips, the collection of hair 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 and the toilet-top storage cupboard. "B" also stands for "box;" candidates for "B" storage can often be accommodated in labeled boxes underneath or behind their more popular "A" companions.

3. "C" is for seldom.
Storage areas that are designated "C"s are those that require excessive bending, stretching or standing on tiptoe — and home to those items that are seldom used. They're where you stash the gold-flecked makeup for fancy nights out, the foot-massage machine and the upper-lip mustache wax cooker. If you use an item less than once a month but more than twice a year, it belongs in the lowly "C" category, so put it where the sun doesn't shine.

Personal care centers
One creative solution to bathroom gridlock is to create "centers" for personal care items that will make it easier to outsource bathroom storage. Assign each member of the family a different-colored plastic organizer or basket to hold cosmetics and toiletries. Each person's "center" should hold it all — their toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, shower gel or soap, and any other essential or often-used products — and be stored in that person's bedroom when not in use.

Hang lighted makeup mirrors in bedrooms belonging to teenage girls. Assigning each daughter her own makeup center reduces early-morning squabbling and frees up space in the bathroom. Cosmetics benefit, too, because they stay fresh longer away from heat and steam.

Similarly, set up a health and first aid center in an accessible area away from the bathroom. Storing prescription medicines, over-the-counter remedies and vitamins elsewhere also protects them against the bathroom's harmful heat and moisture. Consider relocating heating pads, hot water bottles, feminine hygiene products and the first aid kit in a cool, dry storage location outside the bathroom. Laundry, too, can be outsourced in collection areas outside the bathroom. Dirty laundry can be collected in the laundry activity center or in individual hampers in family bedrooms.

Savings or Safety? Cutting Bathroom Clutter
For many families, bathroom storage areas are a magpie's nest of scent bottles, sample packets and throwaway cosmetics — but given the high prices for health and beauty products, it's hard to know when to keep, when to toss perfumes, cosmetics or grooming products. Keep more than money in mind when cutting bathroom clutter: Using outdated or stale products can be harmful to your health. To help cut ties to the cosmetics pileup, take to heart these issues of health and safety — and get decluttering!

  • Perfume loses its potency after 3 years.
  • Liquids can support bacterial growth. Liquid and cream foundations are fine to use for between 6 and 12 months, then throw them away.
  • Using stale eye-makeup or mascara can cause serious eye infections. Once opened, never keep mascara for longer than 3 months. Liquid eyeliner lasts for about 6 months; powder eyeshadow is usually fine for between 14 months and 2 years.
  • Wax-based products such as lipstick and lip balm harden and crumble if kept too long. Throw them away after a year.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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