Housekeeping realization: put your toiletries in baskets to keep your bathroom organized

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Adorable pastel rainbow basket by LoveIndiLou

Have you ever noticed how some people just seem to have things figured out? Or maybe you ARE one of those people and sometimes the rest of us make you go, “What is WRONG with you? This is so EASY.”

I ask because my housemate Darby and I — we’re very similar — seem to be constantly figuring out really simple things, like what people use baskets for. Sometimes we feel like our brains just don’t work, especially when it comes to putting things away.

Because of this, we admire our friend Dani’s organization. Darby once told me she sometimes stands in Dani’s bathroom, marveling at how tidy it all is. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

She was searching for the difference between her own bathroom’s disaster state and Dani’s crazy neatness when Dani told her, “Darby. You can do that, too. Just buy some baskets.”

Darby’s mind exploded.

BASKETS!! Why didn’t I think of that!

And my confession is: I’d had the same conversation with Dani.

So now this is household shorthand. When Darby and I have a stupid-simple lifehack (“Use CONTAINERS to CONTAIN things!” “If you PICK UP SHIT then things WON’T BE MESSY!”) we say it’s a Baskets Moment.

As in, “….Oh, baskets!” It’s made my life lots easier to be able to share Baskets Moment with her — but think how much more I could learn with the whole Internet telling me what I should already know!

I know there are people out there who understood what I meant when I said I was long confused by how my shove-everything-in-the-cupboards style didn’t compare to Dani’s Container Store showroom — so this is the place to write up the dirt-simple realizations you’ve had about keeping house. We’ll be so much smarter after this!

What are YOUR Basket Moment realizations?

Comments on Housekeeping realization: put your toiletries in baskets to keep your bathroom organized

  1. I learned one of my favorite tips from a big family I lived with. When the dishes overran into two loads, my friend would simply rinse the leftover dishes and neatly stack and organize them in the sink and counter. It blows my mind every time how taking five seconds to stack and organize a mess still leaves you some lazy wiggle room while your kitchen doesn’t feel like a disaster zone that just suffered Dishnobyl.

  2. ha! wonderful description!

    we figured out about baskets in the bathroom cabinet a while ago…but it was a total failure. my ocd sorted everything by looks (so: pills in bottles, pills in blisterpacks, creams, liquids, etc.). well, then you had to dig through *everything* to find the damn aspirin, which turned it into a disaster-mess again.
    solution: sort by *use* (like: pain meds, allergy meds, fever meds, topical stuff). it seems to be working well, because duh.

    or you could just have less shit, but my honey has more of a boy scout mentality…

  3. Ok, so you know how often you only have a limited amount of cabinet space, meaning you have to store your bowls on top of your plates in one shelf, or little plates on top of large plates, and then whenever you want a large plate you have to either lift everything on top of them up first, or risk breaking it all? Well apparently there are these amazing little devices that basically add and extra shelf for just this purpose – so you can have big plates on the bottom and your bowls on this little extra shelf. It really is brilliant and after years of being annoyed by the stupid lack of shelfspace, it was definitely a baskets moment for me to find one of these. (I found them at Bed Bath and Beyond, but I bet they’re actually everywhere.)

  4. I just realized the value of small baskets around the house. I bought a couple of three-pack small narrow baskets for $1.99 from Walmart for a project that didn’t work out, but instead of letting them go to waste, I started using them around the apartment. A couple are being used in the kitchen holding measuring spoons, small gadgets, small bottles (vanilla, food coloring, etc) and receipts. And the rest went into the bathroom for hair ties, nail clippers, and makeup. I love them!

  5. Containers are great. My house is covered in containers. But the number one thing that will make your home neat and organized is to purge it of stuff! Do you really need those old college papers? Should you keep the bulk package of paper towels taking up precious storage space or will a few rags that you can rinse and reuse do the trick? Everyone’s needs are different but I guarantee nearly all of us have stuff (and a lot of it) in our homes that we don’t need and is only contributing to clutter. If you get rid of that stuff first, which you will need to do periodically as it somehow keeps coming back, it will be soooo much easier to organize the rest of the stuff without feeling overwhelmed.

  6. Under the bed storage containers! i couldnt figure out how a friend of mine was living so organized in one bedroom, and then one day she pulled like four containers from under her bed for our scrap booking party. Genius.

  7. I have a ton of plastic baskets/containers for inside drawers. They make it so much easier to organize the drawers instead of just having it all thrown in there! Example!

    They’re awesome for the bathroom, too. I also use one on the kitchen counter to hold a line of frequently-used bottles (oil, soy sauce, etc.). In the pantry I do the same only with cardboard boxes.

    Also, I don’t know if these would qualify, but when we moved to this house (a few months ago) I realized there isn’t enough room in the laundry room to set up the folding drying rack I use. So instead, I put it in the master bathroom tub, since we never use that! Perfect. And I was having trouble organizing my closet until I had an epiphany about putting in a small bookcase sideways to make more storage space.

  8. I just moved across the country and did a MASSIVE purge of stuff that I didn’t need or want…and then when I got to where I am living now, I filled two big storage containers of stuff I (have been told by my mother) can’t get rid of and stored it off site. But I still find I have stuff EVERYWHERE. I love the IDEA of organization, but it’s not my strong suit. I love the idea of under-the-bed storage and cute boxes of stuff. Keep the comments coming! I apparently need help too!

  9. I need to do the bathroom baskets dealie BAD. My helpful hack was getting simple IKEA boxes (like these, but with stripes for fun and visual excitement) and putting old letters and nostalgic items in them. Now, instead of six or seven miscellaneous boxes of crap lying around my house, random things like that have a home. Sorting them into the boxes also helped me throw a healthy amount out.

    Boxes. Just do it.

  10. Due to the configuration of my bedroom, my dresser fits either on top of the heating vent or right in front of the window we put the air conditioner in when it gets hot out. This means moving the dresser twice a year. At first I was frustrated, especially because my dresser drawers don’t come out (thanks a lot, IKEA) so I have to take ALL MY CLOTHES out every single time. But now I see that as an excellent time to get all my seasonal stuff switched over, and–wait for it–there is ACTUALLY ROOM for all my clothes now! Holy crap!

    And while I’m talking about my dresser and clothes storage. Where it lives in the summer, there isn’t room for a laundry basket next to it, and I just have some sort of mental block when it comes to leaning over three feet to use my boyfriend’s. Now that it’s cold, I have room for my laundry bucket to be *right* where I get dressed, and there is no pile of dirty clothes taking over our floor anymore. Win! (Eventually I’ll have a big walk-in closet to take care of this.)

    I am now trying to figure out where I could use baskets in my home. Maybe on my desk.

    • seriously, walking to the laundry basket seems to be an insurmountable hurdle. in that vein i keep a mini laundry hamper in the bathroom where so much of the undressing happens. it takes up a bit of room in our teensy bathroom, but it is awesome to not have mountains of clothing on the bathroom floor.

      • When we bought our house I was jazzed we’d have a closet where BOTH of our clothes would fit with room for all my shoes and a laundry hamper *swoon*. I bought the laundry hamper and was happy. It was exciting to get undressed in the closet where all our clothes are and throw the dirties in the laundry hamper. Then there are the nights when you just want to strip and get in bed. The days when you take off your clothes in the bedroom on the way to the shower. By laundry day, both sides of our bed have clothes islands because we’re too lazy to walk a little further to the closet hamper. Oh well, I tried. πŸ™‚

      • Ours was the hallway outside the bathroom. My partner is the worst for it, but I admit I d it too–he’d kick towels, underwear, etc. Into the hallway outside the bathroom door. No problem, right? That meant a mountain of laundry piling up outside our roommate’s bedroom door. NOT COOL. I compromised: there is a hamper in that spot. At least if he’s going to do it, it can be a contained mountain. (Shhh don’t tell him, but now that he’s learned to put it all in the hamper, I’m going to move the hamper around the corner. It’s a little more of a reach, but I hope it will work.)

        Really, my partner is the one making a lot of Basket Moments since I moved in with him. We’ve definitely made a few together though, I just don’t remember what they were!

    • I use the bottom drawer of my dresser for dirty clothes instead of a hamper. All my dirty underpants are out of sight and contained. I just transfer them to the laundry basket on laundry day.

  11. I have somewhat limited counter and cabinet space in my kitchen. When we moved into this house (combining two households of stuff), I put a sturdy set of shelves in an empty area of my kitchen and I use it to store/display all my kitchen appliances (blender, dehydrator, food processor, vacuum-sealer, etc). On the eye-level shelf are two deep plastic containers my mom gave me which hold the handheld blender, mandolin, immersion blender, and other small stuff. Nice thing is this keeps the cabinet space open for other things, while also forcing me to use the appliances I paid so dearly for, as they’re right there and visible.

    I also have one of the rolling kitchen carts/islands in my kitchen. These are great if you rent as you can take them with you when you move, and can be used up against the wall or in the center of the room. Mine holds extra cooking utensils in the drawers, and the trash can in the cabinet on one side.

    • Oh, and one more! My house has tiny closets and I use rolling racks to help us have a place to hang everything. Personally, I don’t like keeping my clothes in drawers (other than pjs, underthings, and work clothes), because I only ever end up wearing the top layer of clothes if I do so. Hanging is the way to go!

      • An old roommate showed me to fold t-shirts so that they are stacked from the back of the drawer to the front of the drawer, rather than bottom to top. That way, you can see them all at once, they don’t get as messy from digging through them, and more fit!

          • I keep my PJs like this. Once you fold the t-shirt, fold it in half again so it’s half the size of normal.

            I fold sleeves back, shirt in half hot dog style (by the length), in half hamburger style (by the width), then in half burger again, and stack. That way instead of stacking them vertically you can stack them horizontally and they take up less room in the drawer.

        • This is amazing! I did this today for ALL of our shirts (though, from left to right instead of back to front). When I showed my husband, he was thrilled and told me how brilliant I was. Thanks, OBH friends!

    • I’m planning to get a rolling cart to get some of our frequently used appliances off the bench, giving us more room for cooking, and meaning that we can have them all nice and close to the power point, rather than spread out across the kitchen to wear the power points are.

      I love the idea of rolling storage inside cabinets. We have little cupboard space (except in the kitchen where it’s all cabinets with only one drawer!). I hate with deep cupboards how you can never get to things at the back, which halves the room you can use. Rolling/sliding storage to make use of all the space we have is definitely on the agenda.

  12. I totally had a basket moment the other day when I realized not only do baskets contain my bathroom clutter, but shallow baskets placed in my underwear drawer keep it from being a tangled mess.

  13. My boy and I were blessed with a surprisingly large kitchen in our apt but have somewhat limited counter/cabinet space. We “splurged” on two cheap Target bookshelves (the 3-shelf size) and lined them up side-by-side against one wall. Now we have the top of them that acts as extra counter space; we turned one top into our “breakfast nook” where we keep cereal, dried fruit, bread, fruit, coffee and the other side has our blender, coffee maker, and coffee grinder. This freed up a bunch of my space and on the shelves we have a weird combo of potatoes/onions/Buffy S1-7 and graphic novels. I sure helped us organize the space better!

  14. When I read the article I was thinking I really didn’t get it. How would piling all the stuff in the bathroom into baskets make it more organised? Wouldn’t it just take up more space? Couldn’t you just line up the bottles?

    Then I read the comments and realised people keep a whole load of things in their bathrooms that have always been in other rooms in my house. Medicines are in the kitchen for example and nail clippers, hair ties etc. are in a draw in the bedroom.

    Suddenly it made a lot more sense because all those little bits and pieces would be easy to loose in a bathroom cupboard. And I definately second the idea for hair ties (I keep mine in a make-up bag I was given) because they can get everywhere.

    But it’s also funny to realise how easy it is to assume somethings always done the way you do it (like keeping medicine in the kitchen the way my parents do) when in reality there’s no real reason to do it that way and other people probably have very different ideas.

    • I have such trouble with hair ties! About once a month I can’t find any and they are always ALL in the cushions of our sofa because I like to take my hair down when I’m snuggled up. So now I keep a little box on our coffee table and immediatly put everything I take off in it–hair ties, earrings (normally only the one from my right ear) etc.

      • I actually keep my hair ties on the front doorknob-easy to find and remember. A lot of them are also on the floor, but that’s because they’re my cat’s favorite toy.

        • My cat loves playing with my hair ties too. If I want one and don’t feel like walking to the bathroom, I just look on the floor and invariably there’s one I can pick up and use.

          • (a year later, but oh well) – i use two of those 3M removeable hooks for my hair ties. One in my bedroom and one in the bathroom beside the mirror. That way, whichever place i want one, i have them.

            (also, i have all my necklaces hanging on these on the side of my wardrobe beside my dresser – so they are right there when i look in my mirror in the morning and debating which to wear.)

      • I try to keep spare hair elastics and clips in the car – elastics on my shifter, clips on the rearview mirror (on the stand part, not where you look). It’s helpful when I take my hair down on long drives, or when I’m running late and forget a clip.

        Unfortunately, that’s about the only organizational tip I have.

        EDIT: Wait, I do have one more! I keep an old label-less prescription bottle in my purse with small amounts of various meds we might need – Advil, Tylenol, allergy meds, my anxiety meds, etc. I just have to remember to take it out if I ever need to cross the border.

        • ZOMG I do that thing with the purse bottle too. I used to have terrible toothaches all the time and headaches to boot, and before I figured out the tiny purse bottle thing, I used to just stick Advil in my pockets loose (gross, I know.) My friends laughed at me, and then they’d come up to me later on, asking for ‘pocket Advil’. Ah, how I laughed. πŸ˜›

          To this day, I’m the only one who carries around painkillers, antacids, AND allergy meds. So useful!

      • I wrap all of mine on the handle of my hairbrush! And then all the brand new ones are kept wrapped around the piece of cardboard they came with in the bathroom drawer. Eventually, when I’ve lost/thrown out the old ones, I just fill up the handle again. πŸ™‚

      • i use a cotton ball jar (or q-tip jar? one of those bathroom jars that are so fun, but i am never sure what to do with them) in the bathroom for my hair ties and bobby pins. it keeps them contained and hidden. then i have a little box in the living room where i inevitably decide my hair needs to either go up or come down and the bathroom is too far away. and then there is the pretty little dish on the dresser which collects hair ties, earrings, coins, etc. it seemed silly to me at first (why can’t i just put the hair ties back in the bathroom??) but why fight it? just keep designated area in various rooms.

        • Yep – I have a little dish in the hallway that’s really for my keys and chapstick (that are always in my pocket when I’m outside the house), but it also serves as a kind of halfway house for things that belong in the bathroom. It’s pretty central so if I’m too lazy to take, say, my earrings to the bathroom, but I’m afraid they’ll accidentally fall on the floor and get vacuumed in the bedroom, I put them on the dish and the next time I’m going to the bathroom I take them with.

    • Our bathroom has one small cabinet in it, so we don’t keep anything in the bathroom unless it absolutely has to be there. I love not having to worry about a bunch of crap in the bathroom… don’t bathrooms have enough crap to worry about?

    • What rooms things belong in changes with every place I live. I don’t always have a linen closet, but if I do then that’s where the medicines live. Unless I live with “roommates” (i.e. not just a partner) in which case mine live in my room. A pantry might hold baking dishes or food, but only sometimes both, and of course only if I have one. A couple places, everything had to live in my bedroom–including the toilet paper. Weird. So I’ve had to learn some flexibility with the question, “where does this go?”

  15. Love the basket idea! I’ve been using baskets (with handles) for storing my cleaning supplies in. When it comes time to deep clean the apartment, carrying around all the supplies in a basket makes it very easy.

    Also, I like to tear off the label, wash out and re-use various jars (pickle jars, spaghetti sauce jars, etc) and use them for storing art supplies. It looks pretty to sit on a desk and works out great for keeping pens, paint brushes, colored pencils, etc separate.

    • basket for cleaning supplies? GENIUS. i need to do this – all of our cleaning stuff is in a cupboard that’s just a bit too high for me but if everything’s in a basket it means that i can bring the whole lot down… derp. thank you!

      • I actually keep all of my bathroom and kitchen cleaning supplies in a plastic bucket that I can use to mop/wash out the shower after scrubbing/various other buckety needs. It makes everything easy to carry AND it’s useful!

        • i have TWO buckets that sit inside each other under the sink. The top one is full of supplies, the bottom one is for using for cleaning. The top bucket is really just a ‘basket’ that doesn’t take up any more room because it fits inside the cleaning one. And, if i really need a second bucket, i have one.

      • Get one of those molded plastic tool boxes that have a handle in the middle for your cleaning supplies. They cost about $8. Just grab the handle and go! I read this in a how-to cleaning book; apparently that’s how a lot of professional cleaners take things from job to job. Now I have a house and instead of that, I just have one of everything I clean with under the sink on each floor. I don’t haul things around anymore (except the vacuum — too expensive to have three of those!). This way, the cleaners, sponges, etc. are always close by.

  16. I used to have this problem with clutter. As in, “Everything in its place, but what about this pile of stuff that has no place?”
    I asked my super organized, always has a clean house friend, and she BLEW MY MIND. She said, “What doesn’t have a place? Anything you use or like has a place. If it doesn’t have a place, why do you have it?”
    I went home and looked at every homeless objects, and I considered carefully why I was keeping each, and as it turned out, I didn’t actually need a single one of them.
    “What doesn’t have a place?” So simple!

    • see, I subscribe to your friend’s theory. But I have a husband who is all “DON’T THROW THAT AWAY, it’ll be useful if we never use it!”


    • I just recently started trying to live by the “everything in its place” motto after spending my whole life as a “piles of crap everywhere” type person, too.

      My trick for converting the apt into an “everything in its place” space without getting overwhelmed (and one of my cleaning tricks in general) is to just do one task or one area at a time. My whole apt needs cleaning right now, but thinking about that just makes me exhausted before I even begin – so every day off I just pick one small task or one area to clean and I do just that thing and nothing else. Last week I cleaned our bathroom counter. This week I cleaned and organized our entryway. Next week I’ll probably do the kitchen.

      In each area I go to there are the inevitable piles of random stuff. My method with these has been to put the things that have a place to go where they should be, and to take the rest of the stuff that doesn’t have a place to go and add it to the pile of random stuff in the next room.

      By the time I’m done with the whole apartment, I’ll just have one huge random pile, all of stuff that doesn’t have a place – and at that point I can sit down and think about what I want to MAKE a place for, and what just isn’t worth keeping.

      Doing it this way has proved to be SO much less overwhelming than every other time I have tried and failed to get control of the crazy piles in our home.

    • WORD.

      I have finally, in the last 3 months, been able to admit my deep, dark secret: I HATE DRESSERS. Hate them. I WANT to like them. I want to have a place where things can be hidden from prying eyes. But let’s face it, it just makes a mess, and I hate prying through it and ruining T-shirts and socks and forgetting things existed.

      Problem is, I hate hanging things too.

      So I finally gave in for the 4th time and switched to using shelving for my clothes, and baskets for socks/underwear/etc. But this time, I’m being honest: I hate dressers, and I don’t want one. Since my partner hangs up most everything, this works out nicely.

  17. I have a ton of those make-up bags from Clinique, because my sister always gets them and gives me what she doesn’t want. They are so fabulous! One is full of hair ties and hair pins and hair screws. (All my pretty hair things are in a basket. I have hip-length hair, so lots of hair things.) Another make-up bag is for my Weight Watchers stuff – tracker, pocket guide, calculator, pen. It’s nice to have it all ready to grab whenever.

    I inherited a lot of baskets from my grandmother, many of which are in a closet as we organize our new place. But a wide one with low sides would be perfect for my collection of teas, to be put on the counter next to the electric kettle. Thereby freeing up space in the cabinet for all the mugs and teacups and such! (I have lots of tea-making supplies, too.)

    My mother gave us a lovely bench with storage in the seat. It’s the perfect size to go next to the door. I have hats and scarves inside, and four pairs of shoes fit underneath. (Three pairs of mine and one of my husband’s, which seems fair as he only has three pairs of shoes and I have about fifteen.) It’s convenient to be able to sit and put on shoes, as we always take them off when we come in, and I like that it has a second, storage purpose.

    I expect I’ll be getting some under-the-bed storage bins for my yarn collection, too, once we have a bed. Yarn sitting three boxes in a closet, unorganized and inaccessible, makes me sad. (I also have a lot of yarn. And books. If I like it, I collect to excess.)

  18. Most valuable basket moment: Labeled banker boxes for papers that need to be saved. I can’t tell you how many years we just had piles of paper, kid-art, notebooks, etc that we kept transferring from place to place.

  19. The problem with this and being a parent is people have to actually use the system. I create new organization every few months but no one ever puts anything where it goes and we are back to piles…..

    • That’s true. I almost ripped my husband’s face off for putting unfolded socks into a drawer with folded socks, and he said, “Well, why not just keep them all in one place?” So I realized that just because a system makes sense to me and saves me time doesn’t mean that the rest of the household will just intuit that random socks in the folded sock drawer will leave you needing a face replacement. Before, I would have thought that explaining the sock drawer to my partner would be so patronizing, but hey, if it is enough to piss me off that much, it shouldn’t be silly to talk about why things go where.

    • If you can, try doing it one thing at a time. One of my organization projects was putting a coat rack by the door. For some reason, my partner has no problem putting his coat there, and I have no problem putting my purse there, but the problem was his backpack and my hoodies–not “coats”, just hoodies, and Seattle is hoodie weather 10 months a year. (Our roommate had a problem with following it but she’s gone now so whatever.) It took about a month, but he finally started getting his backpack there with his coat, and my hoodies land there most of the time. At the very least, having a system means that if I move someone’s object, they know where to look if it’s not where they left it.

      • Uh yeah, where I was going with that was to say: Now that we have the coat/backpack system down, I’ve started on the blankets that seem to get covered in cat hair all the time. I got a quilt rack* and put it in the living room right next to the couch, and every night before bed we check the blankets.

        Dishes has been a running commentary for oh, my whole life. But really, we’re all starting to learn and appreciate that if everyone makes a point of checking the dishwasher before they put dishes in the sink, cleaning as they cook, blah blah blah–but doing dishes daily and regularly, we’re all much happier. Mostly because I can eat breakfast/lunch/dinner right away if my blood sugar starts crashing, which results in a much less cranky roommate who might bite your head off. All the way around, that’s a win.

        • * Quilt rack: It’s an old loft/bunk bed ladder! Leans on the wall, and the top two rungs are tall enough to keep the cats from rubbing as they walk by, and not comfy enough to cuddle up on (apparently). The third one is either a blanket I don’t mind getting hairy, or pillows that get shoved in behind the blankets in a mad dash of cleaning.

      • Yes – the battle of the hoodies. It seems like our coat hanger/hooks thingy will never be big enough for our seemingly endless collection of hoodies. πŸ˜€

        I haven’t lived in Seattle for years, but that just sticks with you… πŸ˜‰

  20. I fold my t-shirts an extra time, so that I can store them upright in my drawers. It makes it MUCH easier to see them, so I can make sure I’m wearing everything. Pictures on my blog, if that didn’t make sense.

  21. Definitely an idea I am going to consider. Keeping thing put up and away is easily my biggest house keeping challenge. I tend to be a hoarder with magazines and the like. Not good when the basket by the couch starts to overfill…

  22. I hang most of my clothes. T-shirts, dressy tank tops, and pants included. I did this when I first lived on my own and didn’t have a dresser, but a sizeable enough closet. I’ve stuck to it- clothes are almost never wrinkled, t shirts don’t end up in a jumble in a drawer and my pants are easy to get to. I do keep pajamas, underwear and tank tops in drawers, and I hardly bother to fold them at all, just toss them in the right drawers.

    It took some time to get my husband to see that he didn’t have to fold his t-shirts, and now he’s converted- so much easier to get dressed in the morning

    • I do this, too. I hang everything hangable, and even a few things unhangable. It’s much easier to find things, I get away with fewer pieces of large furniture, and I deal with fewer shuffled drawers.

      • Seriously- for bathing suits, lingerie, belts, scarves, gloves and other random things, I hung them up by hanging up canvas bags (the kinds you get from boring work conventions, or the thrift store) or resuable grocery bags, and throwing them in there.

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