Cleaning Tips Indoors & Out

Decluttering the Bathroom

Keep your bathroom clutter under control by sorting, tossing and organizing toiletries.

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Bins Help Keep Personal Bathroom Items OrganizedEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Bathrooms are dedicated areas set aside for grooming, health and hygiene, but have an unacknowledged purpose, too — as a repository for inner hopes, dreams and insecurities. Follow these tips to loosen the ties that bind you to bathroom clutter.

Decisions, Decisions

If you don't use it, lose it. In any bathroom cabinet, you'll find products that Simply Don't Work. The "rotary hair straightener" built around a power screwdriver that pulled your hair straight out from the roots. The brush-on nail treatment, guaranteed to grow long, strong nails in just seven days, that peeled like sun-damaged skin. Wonder products are sold on the basis of hope; if there's no hope for those in your cabinet, take their message to the landfill.

If you won't lose it, use it! Pricey salons know when we're ripe for a sale; tantalized by the lovely new look in the mirror, we can be suckers for expensive cosmetics. Once home, these products migrate to the recesses of the medicine chest, but memories of the high price tag keeps us from decluttering them. You may keep the luxury shower gel but on one condition: that you use it.

Knock down the number. Every bathroom-dweller has a secret grooming product obsession; they buy multiples of their fetish item. When faced with more than three of anything in the bathroom, invoke the Law of Numbers: Keep two favorites, declutter the rest.

Time to toss it. Let cosmetics languish too long, and bacterial growth can pose a danger to health. Call on safety concerns to toss those that are past safe storage intervals.

Ending the Clutter

In an average bathroom, expect to devote two to three stop clutter sessions to the task. Start at the bathroom sink area, and then move to nearby cabinets or drawers. Finish with the shower/bathtub area. Assemble your tools: timer, "Put Away" box, "Storage" box, "Sell/Donate" box and a garbage bag. Set the timer for 15 minutes.

First: Sort
Starting at the bathroom sink, sort items that belong into like piles. Place items that belong elsewhere in the "Put Away" box, and tuck any items for storage in the "Storage" box. Surplus items that are still useful go to "Sell/Donate."

Second: Toss
Toss any trash, broken or valueless items into the garbage bag. This being a bathroom, you'll find lots of the following: dried strings of dental floss, crumpled tissues, grimy makeup applicators, dried-out bars of soap. Let dust be your guide: any bottle with a dusty coating goes straight to the trash. Ditto for broken items: combs with missing teeth, fraying toothbrushes, the perfume mister that's missing the spray bulb. Out!

Third: Organize
Once the sink is cleared, organize the survivors in the cleared space. Shallow baskets, cosmetics organizer trays or bathroom totes bring order to countertops. Then move on to the rest of the room.

Fourth: Put Away
When the timer bell rings, stop the session and put away the items in the "Put Away" box. Store the timer and boxes for the next stop clutter session. Toss the garbage bag in the trash.

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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