The bathroom is one of the most purely functional rooms in the home, but for many people, their bathroom doesn’t function well at all — especially if it’s very small. If you’re struggling to make a small bathroom work for you, or if you’ve got space but no built-in storage features like drawers, cabinets or an under-sink area, these tips and product recommendations from professional organizers can help you get the bathroom of your dreams…or at least close to it!
“As always, the number one suggestions for living in small spaces of all sorts is to get rid of everything you no longer need, use, want or love,” Ann Lightfoot, a professional organizer and co-founder of Done and Done Home, says. She notes that nothing should be stored in a bathroom that won’t be used this year, and takes a hard line with her clients when it comes to casting off things that are taking up valuable space. “The minute someone finds themselves saying, ‘Yeah, but…it’s really good, it was expensive, I might use it…’ they’re going wrong,” she says.
When eliminating items, Lightfoot looks for what she calls “space hogs” — especially things like hairstyling tools that haven’t been used in years but that were expensive and therefore can be hard to part with. “The question to ask yourself is what do I want more, a functioning bathroom today or a chance that I’ll curl my hair in the unknown future?” she says.
Both Lightfoot and Nonnahs Driskill, a professional organizer and founder of Get Organized Already, say the most common mistake people make when setting up their small bathroom is not utilizing vertical space. Driskill also encourages people with limited bathroom space to “break with traditional rules about what goes in the bathroom. Store bathroom items you don’t use every day somewhere else in the house.”
She suggests assembling a “pampering kit” made up of items you use only once a month or so, like sheet masks and soothing foot balms, that can be stashed in the bedroom. Store cough syrup, aspirin, antihistamine and other over-the-counter medications in a travel bag or small container in a bedroom drawer, hallway cabinet or in the kitchen.
Lightfoot explains that pedestal sinks, which offer no under-sink storage and limited ledge space for things like hand soap and lotion, can easily and fairly inexpensively be replaced with a vanity — even in rentals. “I know it seems like a big investment for a rental, but if you plan to stay a couple years and get approval from your landlord, you can have a bathroom that actually works for the years you’re there,” she says.
Style Selections Euro Single Sink Bathroom Vanity ($159; lowes.com)
Ahead, Lightfoot and Driskill suggest some of their favorite products and hacks for maximizing space in a small bathroom, including ones they recommend to their clients over and over again — and ones they use in their own homes.
Almost every bathroom includes a mirrored medicine cabinet over the sink — but not all of them are created equally. “Even though it can be pricey to do so, get rid of that ridiculously small medicine cabinet and replace it with a taller, deeper one,” Lightfoot advises.
Kohler Verdera Aluminum Medicine Cabinet ($358.50, originally $478; wayfair.com)
Tangkula Wall-Mounted Medicine Cabinet With Mirror (starting at $89.99; amazon.com)
Vasagle Mirror Cabinet ($45.99; amazon.com)
Kohler Archer Frameless Aluminum Bathroom Medicine Cabinet ($107.10; amazon.com)
Without a dedicated linen closet or cabinet, storing towels — both clean ones and ones in use — can present a challenge. Look to your vertical space and seek out storage options that allow you to hang towels between uses and to store clean, folded towels. Lightfoot suggests a wall-mounted luggage-style rack for towels, and Driskill says to store extra towels on over-the-door rods.
Moen Hotel-Style Towel Shelf With Towel Bar ($93.90, originally $176.45; amazon.com)
Honey Can Do Over-the-Door Towel Rack ($25.99; wayfair.com)
Threshold Expandable Over-the-Door Towel Rack ($25.99; target.com)
If installing a new vanity is out of the question, but your small bathroom has open, unused space, a floor cabinet can provide a lot of space for toiletries, cleaning supplies and extra toilet paper.
Vasagle Bathroom Floor Cabinet With Drawer and Adjustable Shelf ($75.99; amazon.com)
Dotted Line Ivan Cabinet ($97.99, originally $142.99; wayfair.com)
Vasagle Bathroom Floor Cabinet Storage Organizer Set ($69.99; amazon.com)
The airspace over the toilet is another vertical area that can be used for storage. Look for an over-toilet tower that offers a mix of rods, open shelving and closed-front cabinets.
Utex 3-Shelf Over-the-Toilet Bathroom Organizer ($65.95; amazon.com)
Rebrilliant Over-the-Toilet Storage ($59.99, originally $89.95; wayfair.com)
Driskill says another common small-bathroom mistake people make is storing all their bathroom cleaning supplies under the bathroom sink. Instead, she suggests keeping one bottle of all-purpose cleaning spray on hand and moving other cleaning supplies out of the bathroom to open up more room under the sink for items like hair dryers that you use often.
Simple Houseware Cabinet Door Organizer ($12.87, originally $13.87; amazon.com)
She also suggests maximizing under-sink storage space with a stacking drawer system or other specialized organizer. Lightfoot likes this “kit” from The Container Store, but buyers should always be wary of bundled products that may leave you with one or two unusable pieces in a set.
Like-It Under the Sink Starter Kit ($87.93; containerstore.com)
Driskill has a solution for bathrooms that are lacking in drawer space. “Install small shelves and use containers on those shelves for your supplies,” she says.
Americanflat 14-Inch Floating Wall Shelves ($26.95, originally $28.95; amazon.com)
JackCubeDesign Bathroom Shelf With Towel Bar ($29.90; amazon.com)
Lightfoot uses tall, narrow tower-style shelving in her own small bathroom. To keep things tidy, she outfitted some of the shelves with bins to store small, oddly shaped or personal items.
Honey-Can-Do 6-Tier Metal Tower Bathroom Shelf ($22.99, originally $52.99; amazon.com)
Elegant Home Fashions Adriana Linen Tower ($110.99, originally $189.99; amazon.com)
MDesign Metal Bathroom Storage Basket ($19.99; amazon.com)
Countertop storage is another area where using vertical space can give you extra room; Driskill says to look for two-tier storage towers to double your countertop space and to keep small items contained and tidy-looking.
2-Tier Acrylic Tower ($49.99; containerstore.com)
Utility Narrow Stackable Plastic Bins (starting at $3.99, originally starting at $4.99; containerstore.com)
White 2-Drawer Mesh Organizer ($24.99; containerstore.com)