Now that the holidays are over, many people are hitting an organizing and cleaning groove. I have to say, I love January for this reason.
With that said, I am going to showcase for you an actual project of my own that I just tackled. To be totally honest, I had no idea that my bathroom closet was even that bad. But the other day I went to find something and took a step back. It wasn't until then that I realized I had a crazy closet and could not find anything in there. Because I wasn't planning on posting this until after I started, I don't have a "before" photo. But you'll get to see all of the details here, don't worry.
Let's break this down into manageable steps. You can plan on going through a typical closet in one day. Depending on the size of the closet and its contents, you can probably get things done in a few hours, especially if you don't take a lot of breaks and can stay focused.
1 >> Step one: take everything out. To begin, for any closet you are working on, go ahead and take everything out. And I mean everything. You may be surprised what you find in there. If you like, you can use empty laundry baskets to help sort the contents or just pull it out and pile everything together on the floor. Here are the contents of my closet. I couldn't believe it all fit in there (including that fan).
If you have the time and energy, you may want to paint the walls in the closet and any shelving with everything out. I find that white works well in closets so that light will bounce around in there and it will be easier to see and find things in the smaller enclosed space. If it is already in good condition, just wipe down the shelves well to make sure you get any spills, dust or stains that may have accumulated. Even get that top shelf. For my closet, I had already painted the inside walls when I moved in, so I just had to wipe down all of the shelves.
I also quickly found that I had a pile of things that didn't need to be in the closet all together and things that needed to be thrown out or given away. Including a huge pile of medications that we are no longer using but had not disposed of. Be sure to look up how to properly dispose of medications in your area. I was thinking that the pharmacy I bought them from would take them back, but as it turns out, I had to make a trip to the sheriff's office (seriously) and put all of these into a deposit slot in the wall. Even though it is tempting to just throw stuff in the garbage, consider Mother Nature and your water supply before doing it. You can check with your pharmacy as a first step since some do take back prescriptions and they will properly dispose of them for you.
Not surprisingly, I found some containers and bins that I wasn't using or didn't fit the space well. I brought some of these to the Good Will and repurposed the wood box for art supplies.
2 >> Step two: sort by person, activity or zone. Because there are three people currently using this closet and one of them is a lot shorter than the other two, I needed to consider height and usage when repopulating the shelves. I wanted the things that my daughter needs to access at a lower height, but wanted to keep like things together and keep them sorted by activity, usage or person. My daughter doesn't have that much stuff, so I was able to keep her things on the same shelf as the general items that everyone else needs to access. The other shelves are dedicated to me and my husband with a few exceptions.
My things are on the top shelf. I sorted them into like piles and got rid of anything that I wasn't using frequently. So in my clear, easy-to-see-through containers, I have from left to right, bin 1: hair related items like brushes, hair binders, product. Bin 2: miscellaneous things like extra contacts, glasses cleaner, feminine care. Bin 3: make-up and lotions I use every day. Bin 4: oral care-toothpaste and toothbrush. There are things like bobby pins and hair binders that are too little to just have floating around in the hair bin, so I put them in their own smaller container so I can easily grab them when needed. On my shelf I also have some cleaning supplies and some things I use to make my own salves.
Go shelf by shelf. I always like the idea of top to bottom, left to right.
The second shelf is for my husband. He likes to keep his things in a travel bag. He also has a spot for his toothbrush and toothpaste. I also have shoe cleaning items on this shelf along with a glass jar for Q-tips and small tools like tweezers. These are things he likes to access so it made sense to keep them on this shelf. We also needed a space for nail polish and cotton balls. Since we didn't have space on any other shelf, they ended up here so my daughter can access them without having them mixed in with the other cold and flu type products.
Shoe polish, weatherproofing, brush and extra shoe laces all together in one place.
Nail polish, files, cotton balls for nail painting girls night.
I also installed a few simple hooks for things like a mirror, cleaning brush and shower brush.
The third shelf is for all of the other things we use and need. Because my daughter is old enough to not open or eat medicines or the contents of bottles and tubes, I feel comfortable having them at this lower shelf. She also needs to be able to reach the lotion, mouthwash etc so I wanted all of these things to live together. However, if you have little ones in the house, always think of their safety first and put things they should not access up higher and out of reach. From left to right I have: a cloth bin that holds the heating pad, hair dryer, curling iron and hair straightener. Next a few of my daughter's things: toothbrush and toothpaste, hair brush in travel bag, face wipes. As it turns out we all use our own type of toothpaste, so it makes sense for us to store them with our toothbrushes separately. I bought the metal bins at Axe Man, but you can use any type of container that works best for you. The first bin is for things we use every day: mouthwash, lint roller etc. The second bin is for cold and flu related things: Advil, thermometer, cold medicine. The third bin is for skin irritation remedies like bug bites: Band-aids, witch hazel etc. And finally some extras like a huge bottle of conditioner that is too large for my shower shelf. (They didn't have a smaller bottle at the store). So I fill a smaller travel bottle and keep it in the shower so my daughter can use it without dropping the large bottle when it gets slippery in the shower. I like to have smaller containers to group lots of smaller things. That way if you are sick and need the stuff for it, you can just grab that container and bring it to the sink or another room if needed.
One of my pet peeves is that for these types of bottles and tubes, I can never find the expiration dates. So I started a habit of writing the expiration date in large black Sharpie marker on the top so I can easily see with a quick scan if something needs to be thrown out or replaced. I usually go through these items at the beginning of the summer. This is when we start using bug spray and sun screen. I know when school is out, I have a little more time to go through this on a weekend to replenish anything we may need from this area. Most of the time these things last for a year. So when cold and flu season hits in the fall, I know everything is already stocked and I'm ready for the first cold or fever.
The last shelf was saved for towels because everyone needs to access them. I am a bit of a stickler for not having a bunch of extra towels. We have three people in the house so we have 4 bath towels, 4 hand towels, 8 washcloths and 4 beach towels. We have a few old towels in the basement for accidents, spills or painting. But so far, this amount of towels works for us and my laundry routine is much easier for it. I just do one load of towels every weekend when I do laundry and it is clean and ready for the next week.
This is the final organized closet. Including a metal basket for toilet paper storage on the floor under the bottom shelf. Of course I still don't like the bath flooring and it is not my ideal set up as I have not remodeled my bathroom...yet! But I can feel good about keeping this closet clean and organized.
Making sure we have what we need when we need it, makes my life easier. It saves me time and energy by not having to run around looking for things. If anyone can't find what they need, I can direct them to the shelf it should be on. And if I find things around the house, like my daughter's hair brush, I can have her put it back on her shelf so we always know where it will be when she needs it. Because I can easily see everything at a glance, I am saving money by not buying duplicates and only replenishing when something is used up.
Good luck organizing your first closet and let me know what funny things you find in there!