You walk into the bathroom and see three near-empty shampoo bottles in the shower, several slivers of soap and enough body washes for each member of your family… times two. And even though you can see the trio of glittery eyeshadows and some caked-up mascara that first saw daylight in the 80s, you still can’t find your eyeliner. You know you need to do something, but you have no idea how to even get started. Luckily for you, tackling the bathroom is one of my favourite decluttering jobs!
But before we begin, there’s one thing to keep in mind. When it comes to decluttering, we’ve all seen things like “fifteen minutes to clutter-free freedom” but the truth is, a thorough and complete job will take longer than that. However, you can break it down into chunks (see my point at the beginning of Step 2). Importantly, if time is limited, don’t, whatever you do, Marie Kondo it and pull everything out from every space in the bathroom and put it on the floor. If you don’t get it all sorted in one go, you’ll feel even more overwhelmed by the mess.
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So let’s get started.
Step 1: Get ready
Like all things, preparation is key. It’s super important to look at the big picture before you get into the nitty gritty, and to think about how you use your bathroom spaces. So even if you’re tempted, don’t skip this step.
- Determine the spaces that you have available for storage in your ensuite or bathroom. What products are you keeping in them? How does it work for you at the moment? Don’t forget to look at what is by the bath or shower. Take some pictures of the state of things for your before and after shots!
- Decide what would be your ideal allocation of space. For example, we have four large drawers in the ensuite. One drawer is for my husband, two are for myself (that’s fair, right?), though there is enough space in the second to also store spare rolls of toilet paper. In the fourth drawer, we keep top-ups of things like shampoo and conditioner, all medicines, and products like sunscreen.
- Now decide how things will work within each one of these spaces. I have the following in my main drawer.
- Make up
- Skin care
- Hair care
- Oral care
Step 2: Sort
Now you’ve got your plan, you’re ready to start sorting out. Begin with one small section at a time- as I said before, nothing you can’t stop after 15 minutes. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck into a job that gets interrupted and you feel like you have even more of a mess to deal with.
- Gather up the things you’re going to need to do this. These include:
- Your written notes from Step 1.
- A sponge / cloth and “spray and wipe” or other cleaner
- A basket (or similar) for items you will take somewhere else
- A basket (or similar) for items you will give away
- Plastic bags for rubbish
- Open the first drawer or cupboard. Pick the one that you use the most every day.
- Take everything out of the cupboard / drawer and put it on the floor.
- Wipe out the cupboard / drawer
- Start to sort your items as follows:
- Items that you are going to keep in this space. They should fit at least one, preferably two of the following categories: items you use, items you need and items you like (really like. Not just my mother-in-law bought me this perfume and it smells okay, and I feel bad about getting rid of it).
- Items that, according to your list, do not belong in this space. Put these in the basket (include here items that will go into another space in this room as well as ones that need to go somewhere else in the house).
- Items that are okay but you don’t like or use. Put these in the give-away basket.
- Expired items. Throw these straight in the rubbish.
Note: If you have a lot of toiletries, and have never done a sort out before, you are going to find some parts of this really hard. So here are some further guidelines:
- If you are one of those people who take toiletries from hotels etc, stop this habit. Unless you have actually used these items in the last six months, put them in your rubbish bag OR the give-away basket, where they can go to a shelter or food bank.
- If you have a lot of spares, you need to be confronted about how much you have. Keep them all together in one space where you see them often. Make a decision how many you can have at one time, and don’t let yourself buy any more until you go under that number. If you have an extreme amount (eg. 20 toothbrushes!) consider putting some in your give-away basket. Try think about why you have so many as well. For example, if you get a lot of emails about specials you don’t feel you can pass up, consider unsubscribing from those particular emails.
- If you have a lot of makeup, look to discard along the following guidelines:
- Opened mascara: 3 months
- Opened liquid foundation, bronzer etc: 6 months
- Opened powder products including blusher and eyeshadow: 2 years
- Opened lipsticks: 2 years
- Opened nailpolish: 2 years or when it gets gluggy
- Unopened products: If you’ve had it for more than a year and haven’t opened it, go back and apply the “need, use, and like” test again, and throw away if it doesn’t meet any of these criteria. If you don’t know when you bought it, write today’s date on the back for next time.
- For skincare, check for expiry dates, or search for the product online- pictures of the product often have a number like “30 months” on the base which is how long you can use it after opening it.
- Consolidate opened bottles of the same product (such as shampoo) into the same bottle.
Step 3: Return
Now you’ve finished sorting, you’re heading for the finish line!
- Wipe down products and return your “keep” items to your drawer. Group them by your predetermined categories. Check your house to see if you have any existing containers you can use to store them in (you could even use something like ice cream containers). Once you have actually finished, I suggest treating yourself by buying some fit-for-purpose containers. Something that looks good is the following:
- Take the basket with things that belong somewhere else and take them to that place.
- Sort the “give away” basket into two sections: to donate now, or to put in a box in the cupboard for re-gifting. Know yourself when you do this– if you know you won’t actually get around to donating your extras, just put them in the rubbish. Otherwise, all you are doing is shifting your mess from one place to another.
- Put the rubbish in the bin.
It’s super important to do this slowly and to be able to complete one section per session. Of course, you can do more, but it needs to be manageable. I recommend spending 15 minutes doing Step 1. The next day, do Steps 2 and 3, one small area such as a drawer or countertop) at a time, based on how long you have available.
As well as making yourself smile with pleasure when you open the drawer and see that pristine organisation, it will also be a lot easier to spot things you need or are close to running out of.
Good luck and happy decluttering!
PS: If you want to try another decluttering project, check out How to organize your fridge.
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