How To Organize A Small Bathroom

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How To Organize A Small Bathroom

How To Organize A Small Bathroom

Remodeling or adding a bathroom can be a major expense. I remember when two bathrooms were considered a luxury and now a bathroom for every person is often thought to be a necessity. If you still happen to be in the dark ages like me and have only one bathroom, here are a few suggestions to help you make one bathroom work.

  • Place a vanity or table with a mirror in each of the bedrooms, especially the master bedroom and girls’ rooms. All hair curling and blow drying can be done in the bedrooms. This can free up a lot of bathroom time.
  • Add just a sink to a bedroom. My brother had three daughters so, needless to say, bathroom time could be a problem, so he added a sink to the bedroom with the wall that butted up to the main bathroom.
  • Stagger shower times. If you have four people all trying to take showers in the morning, it’s just not going to work. Instead, have different family members take showers at different times. For example:
    • Young children could take their baths at night.
    • Mom could take a soothing bath in the evening instead of a hurried shower in the morning.
    • Some family members can take their showers on Monday and others on Tuesday, taking turns. Before you have a heart attack about not showering every day, consider that most dermatologists will tell you that taking a shower every day is not good for you.

  • Have family members get dressed in their bedrooms and not the bathroom. Use a bathrobe to walk to the bathroom. Use the shower, put on your robe and go back to the bedroom to dress.
  • Limit shower times or limit the amount of time each person is allowed to use the bathroom in the morning when everyone needs the bathroom and things are especially hectic. Save those long soothing hot showers and baths for less hectic times of day.
  • Learn to put your make up on in five minutes if you must put your makeup on in the bathroom when others need it.
  • Not enough towel rods? Don’t panic. Hang an attractive rod behind the door in each person’s bedroom. When they are done with their showers, they can carry their damp towels with them to their rooms to hang them up. When it’s shower time again, they can grab the towels after they slip on their bathrobes and head for the bathroom. Later, when the dirty towel is dry, they can toss it in the hamper in their room.
  • If your bathroom is short on storage, keep extra supplies in another room. (Things like toilet paper, shampoos, and even your towels and washrags can be stored there if you’re desperate.) It is best if the room or closet where you store extras is close to the bathroom. I recommend keeping a couple of extra rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom, but not 12 rolls.
  • Keep your medicines in the kitchen. Most of us take them into the kitchen to take them with water anyway. You can even keep your first aid kit in the kitchen. Think about it — half the time when you get burned, it happens in the kitchen. When someone gets cut, they are very rarely in the bathroom when it happens. In our house, first aid moments usually happen at meal time when I’m trying to get dinner ready, so why go all the way into the bathroom when you are already in the kitchen?
  • Buy a makeup organizer or use a decorative box for your make up and keep it on the back of the toilet.
  • You could also get an organizer that hangs on the back of the door to hold all kinds of things.
  • Buy a shower curtain with pockets or put shelves in your shower.


Some of these suggestions may take time to get used to, but with a little practice, like many other things, they can become easy habits.



Small Bathroom Tips from readers:

From: Sandra

Regarding many people using the same bathroom and short showers, it keeps the humidity down, too. After a long leisurely shower, the wallpaper or paint just about comes off. Imagine four long showers in a row and pity the fourth person in the bathroom. Love your emails and blog…You keep me on track.


From: Jewel

I’d just like to add that the sink in the bedroom is an excellent idea. I don’t know why more people don’t think of it. Many years ago when our children, two boys and a girl, were young, we put a 3 foot vanity with cultured marble all in one sink top in our daughter’s room. In fact, this is something we had to special order at that time. This room is now used as a guest room. Ceramic floor tile was installed in front of the vanity, and the remainder of the room is carpeted. The upstairs small bath includes a vanity with a sink on one wall and a vanity with no sink but a mirror above it to accommodate our two sons. This arrangement saved many arguments among the kids. The daughter had her own domain so to speak, and the boys are close enough together in age that they had no problem sharing the bathroom. Two sinks could have been put in, but we opted for one because of space.

Even though I am retired and have no family at home, I really enjoy your newsletter.


From DD:

I always tried to keep a dresser in the bathroom, if possible. It holds lots of bathroom items, looks nice and doesn’t take up a lot of room. -dd


From Melanie:

What great ideas! Our family lived with a single bathroom and 4 children for 13 years– potty training, stomach bugs and all. I would add that in the event of the unpleasant (but inevitable) stomach bug, a deep bowl with a couple of paper towels in the bottom is just fine for throwing up… Hospitals use emesis basins all the time. Just flush it down the toilet and wipe clean with Lysol!

-Melanie from Alabama


From Janni:

Hello, I enjoy your newsletters. I am 49 but didn’t learn much growing up at home, and I still learn things from you. I am at the end of raising 6 children and we have had only one bathroom for almost 18 years now. Another tip I can add  is for Mom, and anyone else if they want. I keep a little caddy basket with my deodorant, hair combs and styling gels, and makeup bag in it in my bedroom closet and simply bring it into the bathroom when I shower.

Everything I need is in the caddy. But in those numerous cases when I don’t get to keep the bathroom to myself right after showering, I put on my robe and take my caddy with me to the bedroom to finish in front of the mirror there.

In the earlier years, it was frustrating when we all were getting ready in the morning and maybe I’d step out of the bathroom to get an item out of the dryer or do something quick, and someone else would step in there. Then I was left stuck for a few minutes trying to find something else to do and worrying about being late!

-Janni R.


I lost the email but one reader said that she had all her kids put their own stuff in a small tub like a baby wipes container. She said she gave them their own toothpaste and such and then they took care of it better. This is a great idea and I tried it! Spending $3 on extra tubes of toothpaste to start out would be worth not having the toothpaste mess all over!! You really wouldn’t be spending more in the long run. You’d just have the up front cost of a few dollars to get them started.



photo by: sitkaprojects


  1. Cindy says

    I like the idea of towel racks in the bedrooms, but I don’t know why they are referred to as “dirty” towels. If used to dry clean bodies, they can certainly be used again. Hanging them in the bedroom(s)can provide needed moisture in the air in winter. In summer, the towels could be hung on the line and re-used.
    We’ve always just had one bathroom for four people. Never seemed to be a problem.

    • says

      Cindy I too think you should use a towel more then once. What I meant by dirty towels was after I had used them so many times and I hang them up to dry before throwing them in the hamper to wash them.

  2. Judith Loebel says

    We have seven people—OK one IS 4 months old but!!!! we have one functional bathroom. One bath in the (finished) basement is not at this time in working order. We have a floor to ceiling spring tension rack in the tub—I would like this better if the sides of the shelves were actually functional but it does hold the shampoo etc. I hung and antique “Chimney Cabinet” (You could use any kind of shallow cabinet) to hold the odd stuff you don’t need every day—band aids. pet stuff, what have you—and I do not keep meds in the over the sink cabinet—you should kkeep them in the kitchen or a linen cabinet anyway the bathroom is too hot and humid and meds can get ruined. I also put two “cube” type cabinets from Target in there, one has two drawers and one has a textured “glass” door, these hold things like rubber gloves. travel stuff. extra things, hair clippers etc. We also have two garbage cans one lidded for tissues etc that dogs seem unable to leave alone.
    What do other people do about the day to day ANNOYING stuff like the endless shaving debris???????? No matter how often I wipe it down it seems never ending. One person here seems obsessed with shaving—and yet he always has one of those “three day beards”—and shaves IN THE TUB and at the sink with both electric and reg razors. UGH!!!!!

    This Old HOuse recommends that if you have more than one showering person that you have a timer put on your bathroom fan so you can set it to run for 30-45 minutes after the last shower so the humidity does not rot your house.

    Add to the small bathroom aspect—and this room has TWO doors and is long and narrow and has an odd sized out of date fiber/plastic tub and surround—impossible to get visually clean after 30 years—and impossible to replace without a huge outlay—I use the room as my “eBay Studio” and have two mannequins (flat back) hanging in there and often have clothing on the back of door racks and an assortment of different hangers to do photos—well it is slightly less hectic than you might think but way more crowded than I would prefer. Maybe I will do well enough on eBay to MOVE!!!!!!!! My goal anyways!

    • Mary S says

      I bought little screen strainers and put them in the sink.I told the guy’s to shave over the sink only and they wipe the counter down and then empty the strainer into the waste basket that sits beside of the sink.I keep a box of baby wipes on the shelf beside the sink to clean the counter because they pick up all the hair.I got my strainer’s at the Dollar Tree for 1$ each.The strainers catch everything and I’ve had no more clogged drains since I started using them.

  3. Judith Loebel says

    Oh almost forgot—-I also have a Toilet Paper Tower. This is a narrow cabinet that holds 5 rolls of TP and in theory it holds a small cube box of kleenex—I replaced the slotted top (where the kleenex would be popping up) with a decorative ceramic tile and it now holds 6 rolls and gives us a few extra inches of flat surface. These come in all sorts of styles (got mine at a yard sale) to match your decor—I do NOT know how I lived without this. I had a huge cabinet in another house set into the wall and I never realized how little storage you get in a “regular” bathroom. I buy TP in bulk at Sams or where ever it is on sale and store the excess in the basement.

    I have also seen where people have taken the plasterboard off the wall and set shelving in the cavities—use some paint or paneling on the back, paint or stain the shelves and get some molding for around the edges and you can have TONS of storage without re-modeling. Just make sure where your pipes and wires are FIRST. Wires can be moved IF you know how but pipes—not so much.

    I have also seen wires baskets hung for toys or shampoo etc. We corral the kids bath toys in plastic baskets and they can drain and get moved out of the tub later. Oh and did I mention that in my bathroom there is a handicapped tub seat????? This is for me but everyone else has to haul it in and out when they want to shower or give kids a bath!

    Another good invention—the FOLDING INFANT TUB. Like a bouncy seat—you can use it anywhere or set it in the tub and either use a washcloth or fill the tub for a bit older kid or if bathing more than one at a time.

    Great Holiday present this year—a TWO PIECE hand held shower!!!!! One piece stays mounted on the wall and streams water and one is a hand held—you can change to all hand held or hang the hand piece up; also the hand held has settings. Finally I can be WARM and have water like I used to have when I could stand to shower!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!

  4. says

    in my bathroom I have no medicine cabinet. We took it out and put a large flat mirror. one pine shelf sits over the sink for a basket of toothpaste and tweezers and a wall mounted electric toothbrush with 4 brushes on the other end of the shelf is a water pic thing for teeth.
    A pedestal sink since there is no room for a cabinet one.
    A toilet with a large closet that is so impractical I hate it but can’t do anything with it. I want to put stacking washer and drier but it is 1″ too narrow. Pipes would have to be cut and that is out of the question. The tub with a shower and hand held shower head is wonderful but we don’t have baths. I think it has been used 20 times in the 13 years we have been in the house and all but 6 of those times are when our grandchildren have been here for visits. Even they like to hold the shower and use that.
    I would love to get rid of the tub and just have a really large shower stall with a seat for when I can’t move too well.
    Oh yes a water fountain for our cats is under the sink as well. That is it and there is no room for anything else. The door doesn’t open fully since the sink blocks it.
    It is the only bathroom in the house so I am glad it is only the two of us.
    Someday I will have the kitchen of my dreams and possibly a bathroom I can live comfortably with.

    • says

      I have had a pedestal sink in all my homes which does make for a challenge of where to put things. In the house we remodeled we put the sink under the only window in the bathroom then replaced the window with a stain one with the very center having an oval mirror in it. On each side of the window/sink we cut into the wall between the 2×4’s and made 2 large medicine cabinets. With a glass shelf just over the faucets we seemed to do pretty well. The cabinets on each side were just as easy to reach as if they had been directly in front of us.

        • says

          Speaking of windows in bathrooms. We had a bathroom and the only place to put the sink was in front of the large window. We really needed a mirror above the sink so we ended up replacing the glass of the window with a stain glass window with an oval mirror in the center of the stain glass. People couldn’t see in, we had some nice natural light and a mirror.

  5. Kathy says

    The hanging shoe bags/organizers with the plastic pockets are great to hang on the back of a bathroom door or from a hook on the shower curtain rod, or towel bar for extra storage. Use them for things like makeup, brushes, curling irons, and hair accesories. It is also good for cleaning supplies, extra washcloths and handtowels, or by the shower to store shampoos, conditioners, bath gels, etc… Just be sure to place outside the shower curtain during showers so water doesn’t get down into the pockets.
    I also keep a pretty set of 3 stackable crystal candy dishes with a lid on the top one, on a back corner of the vanity. I use it to store small things I use everyday, my hair clips and pony tail elastics in the bottom, cotton balls in the middle part, and cotton swabs in the top.

  6. Leah says

    We have a half bath on the main level of our home that has a pedestal sink and toilet. Because it’s under the stairs, the ceiling over the toilet slopes and we can’t quite fit a cabinet in there. I needed a place to store TP and tampons so I pulled out an old picnic basket I’d gotten somewhere and put the TP in the bottom. There were elastic loops stapled to the underside of the lid that work great to hold my tampons! It’s pretty and functional all at the same time!

  7. Sheri says

    I have seen little curtains attached around the edge of pedestal sinks to hide things underneath. It can be cute.

    I don’t like shelves over the toilet. I guess I’m paranoid thinking that something is going to fall into the toilet.

    I think it is Don Asslet’s book that recommends that the mirror be over the plain floor so that the debris from hair brushing and shaving land on the floor where they can be swept up and not clogging the sink.

    I pity Daddy as we were growing up! He had to share the one bathroom with Mommy and four daughters!

    I think that towel rack over the bedroom door might work in our house. Those towels just don’t know how to stay off the floor. I sometimes do three loads of towels in one week! We only have seven people in our house. You would think we were running a motel! The motels even encourage reusing the towels!

    We also have a rule about sharing the bathroom. If someone is taking a shower, someone of the same gender can use the other parts of the bathroom. We can share!

  8. Sheila Smith says

    The”Any gender” share comes in because we have a Privacy (Not see through) curtain. Even when we had just a tub we had a curtain for privacy so someone could always make a quick trip in if necessary. Rules: #1. The door stays unlocked for emergency’s. #2.Knock and be sure they are behind the curtain before entering. #3. Let them know when you are leaving so they can exit in private. #4. Per son #3 – dad has to use a bit of spray and warning is nice. Got to love our family 😉

  9. Liz says

    We have a small bathroom and it’s our only one (for the past 25 1/2 years). Even with only 3 of us, the bathroom gets crowded in the mornings. I always take my shower at night. If my bed-hair is unmanageable in the morning, all I have to do is get it wet and re-dry. We took out the too big cabinet that held our sink and put in a small sink with a tall faucet. Who needs a large sink to brush their teeth and wash their hands? We added an over-the-toilet cabinet with several shelves and a small 6- drawer cabinet on the toilet. Lots of covered and open shelving and drawers! Since our toilet paper holder was on the sink cabinet, we purchased a free-standing one. For extra drawer space, we added a slim-line plastic two-drawer (deep drawers) unit between the sink and toilet. It seems like we have SO much more space than we originally did. The space under the sink by the hallway wall is where the trash can sits. I love your idea of an extra sink in a bedroom! That would free up a lot of time used in the bathroom!

  10. Nancy says

    The small bathroom off, of the master bedroom, in my house had a built in vanity with four narrow, deep drawers. It was made of cheap wood, and was not attractive. The drawers were cumbersome to open and hard to keep things organized.

    My very talented son, tore out the cabinet, and put in an antique dresser with big, wide drawers, in the opening. He reconfigured the drawers to allow for pipes. Cut an opening for a pretty ceramic sink, and installed it. The dresser takes up less space, has more storage, and looks amazing. An antique mirror above the dresser completes that area. I chose to paint the dresser with white, enamel paint, and have had no problems with water marks, etc., but do make sure no water remains splashed on it after use. The dresser was bought very inexpensively at an auction, because the finish was a mess. The antique mirror, that we hung above the dresser, was free. The room looks fantastic now. We also put in three shelves over the narrow area behind the toilet. They create a lot of storage space. The shelves were purchased at Home Depot and have white laminate on them. The wood brackets, that the shelves sit on, look vintage, but are inexpensive and also from Home Depot. The makeover was inexpensive and made a small, ugly space look great and added a lot of storage space.

  11. Linda says

    We too have 5 people in a 1 bathroom house. When we moved in a year ago from a 2 bathroom house, we layed down some pretty strict ‘bathroom rules’. I’m happy to say that after reading this post, I realize we have already implemented all of the suggestions, EXCEPT keeping the first aid supplies in another room. BRILLIANT! Oh that makes sooo much sense, but it’s one of those things almost everyone automatically does without realizing that there might be a better way. Who wants to be bleeding and needing a gauze pad or bandage, and have to wait until someone is done using the only bathroom?? Project for this week: find another space for the first aid supplies! Possibly in the garage (attached to house, off of kitchen) next to the utility sink? Water for cleaning the wound, AND supplies to treat it, without needing in the bathroom! :)

  12. Jessica says

    Our sink was ancient and falling apart so we bought a smaller vanity and sink. Since the depth of the vanity was much smaller, my very young children could actually reach the knobs (which saves some room of not needing a step stool in the bathroom). We then had room for a narrow trash can we squeezed between the toilet and sink. We don’t have a shower (this ties up space above our tub) I just attatched a shower head to our tub faucet to use to rinse our hair (it was like a rubber hose attatchment, pretty cheap) and I have a small cabinet above our tub for towels. Cabinet and vanity much cheaper than adding a new bathroom. We live near the woods, so my 2 boys can go #1 outside, and my daughter is still in a diaper. So, we will see how it goes in the future.

  13. Deb Vaughn says

    My dad didn’t allow us girls to hang out in the bathroom. We got out shower and got out. I’ve always had an old fashioned dressing table for makeup and drying my hair. When we let our daughter use her bathroom for makeup and hair styling, we started getting tons of clogged drains due to all the hair that went down the drain mixed with makeup, etc. Plus the bathroom was always a mess. I’ve always dressed and finished up in the bedroom. Great tips!

    • says

      It is so funny you would mention a vanity table Deb. I was telling everyone recently that I finally got my vanity table up and running and love using it. I can actually do my make up even faster but at the same time it is so relaxing sitting down doing my hair and everything. I have everything right in one drawer that I pull out, pick out what I need, use it and put it right back again. I have no messy counter top to deal with. This week I was telling my mom that my bathroom is staying spotless clean now that I am no longer getting ready in there. I thought maybe it was my imagination and here you are today reinforcing what I found to be true. The bathroom does stay cleaner.

      I tell you getting my vanity has been one of those things that has changed my life and made it easier. The only thing is I regret not having used it sooner. I so recommend everyone getting a vanity and start using it. I use to dread doing my hair and make up and now I really enjoy it.


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