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Ask Maeve: My bathroom cabinet is a black hole

The following ‘Ask Maeve’ was featured as part of the Good Housekeeping Spring Cleaning Challenge. Hometalk bloggers from across the country used Maeve’s Method to tackle their most challenging trouble spots at home, with ‘before’ and ‘after’ results featured in this awesome 11 Unbelievable Spring Cleaning Transformations article.

Check out Ashley’s amazing bathroom cabinet transformation below or on her blog, Hello Nature: Before & After: Bathroom Cabinet Organization Renovation. Ashley, what an enormous change, amazing work!

UntitledWe bought a house a few years ago and I thought that I would love this massive cabinet in our tiny bathroom for the storage. I remember telling my husband how much I loved the two drawers and the giant, deep shelves. Unfortunately it’s turned into a black hole of products, tools, towels and jewelry. The drawers are so deep that I can hardly get to anything in the back and the shelves are equally as deep which means I have to layer items in the front and dig out items in the back. And we have a baby on the way and I’d love to dedicate a shelf to them. It would be amazing to be able to open it up and know exactly where to go for everything without it turning into a disaster. Can you help? – Ashley in Wisconsin

Hi Ashley!

I hear you – that is indeed an amazing and massive bathroom cabinet. And I get how frustrating it must be that things get lost repeatedly because it is so deep. I’ve got a few quick and easy ideas for you to try out. I hope these help. I’m excited to hear how it goes!


Ashley's 'before' - a deep, dark cabinet that needs some help

Step 1. Introduce Trays or Sliding Drawers

Before we get to organizing, I want to address the depth of this cabinet. As we can’t work around it, let’s work with it.

Since a major challenge is not being able to see or access items in the back, I suggest you introduce organization tools designed specifically to deal with this issue. This 2-Tier Pull-Out Cabinet Organizer is a great solution. As you can see it slides out, giving easy access to items in the back. This bamboo sliding tray is nice as well. Or, you can use a simple tray. I love trays as they leave room for both short and tall items. And, they are long so they make good use of deep space. I prefer serving trays (like these) for a situation like yours as they have walls and handles, so things won’t tumble out. And you can easily grab a handle and drag it partially or fully out. A combination of pull-out organizers and trays are the ideal way to work with your deep shelf issue. 

As for the drawers, a layer of plastic tubs inside will organize this space (and keep things from floating about). Tubs like these from Target work great. Lose the lid (tuck it under, or use it as a tray). Line three to four side-by-side, two layers deep, then place in towels, bath supplies, whatever you wish. Double-sided tape under the tubs will keep them from sliding around. Keep in mind, both trays and tubs come in great colors, so if you go in this direction use pops of color (like this) to brighten your day. You can even use colors to help you organize (i.e. green for your things, blue for your husband’s).

Step 2: Like Things Live Together

First, let’s have you clear a workspace. You are about to remove everything from the shelves and drawers, one item and one section at a time. A great spot is right there on the bathroom floor, so you can set up shop there.

Next, empty the contents of one shelf or drawer into your workspace. Then pick up one item from the workspace at a time and ask yourself, “What is this?” Your answer should tell a story. So less this is hair spray and more, this is a beauty product I like to have around but rarely ever use, so I’d like to keep it but I don’t need it up front it can get tucked a bit in the back. Work to find the story that tells the purpose for each item, not the what the item is technically. Essentially, you are looking for the “why” this item lives in your bathroom cabinet.

As you work, make piles of ‘like things’ in your workspace in what I call ‘categories according to you’. For example, you might have a pile called, ‘beauty products I bought to try but never got around to using’, another called ‘first aid stuff that my entire family uses’, and another called ‘bulk bathroom supplies’ or ‘going-out jewelry’. The goal is to get specific about how these items function in your life. Be honest, and have fun as you sort. Each item has a story to tell about why it is in your life.

Do this shelf by shelf then drawer by drawer until you’ve cleared the entire cabinet. Don’t be afraid to toss items you no longer need, or that are old. Once cleared, make a list of your categories. This is important, as what you have determines where you put it back.

Step 3: Dedicated Shelves & Drawers

With your entire cabinet cleared, give it a deep clean. Then look at the empty space and ask yourself, how do I want to set this back up? A good rule of thumb is: active and frequently used items on middle shelves, less active and bulk items on the floor (for quick access) or way up high and tucked out of the way. Basically, put items back according to frequency of use. Since you want a baby shelfthis is a perfect time to implement this. I’d say choose the shelf that is easiest to reach (I’m guessing the second), then mentally name that ‘baby shelf’ – and there you go!

Ashley's 'after' - bright, friendly and ready for action!

Step 4: Inner Storage

With so many tiny items, it’s time to break things down even further. Above I recommended trays or sliding drawers. With those in place, tuck smaller ‘like items’ inside grouped in their own inner storage. For example, if you make a ‘hair products’ tray you can then put all hair ties on that tray in one little container or bowl, and all lipsticks and makeup in another. The more inner containers you use in a large tray, the better. Inner containers keep items from rolling around and shifting about. And make finding things – and putting them back – so much easier. Here are are few inner containers you can try (this plastic one or these colorful ones). Or, raid your kitchen for cups, mugs, ice cube trays and tiny serving dishes to personalize – they work great too!

Step 5: Let There Be Light

As a final step, install small battery operated lights or strip lighting inside your cabinet. This will make it easier to see and also draw the eye in, making it feel like an exciting place to be, and no longer a black hole. But before you do, go for fresh start by putting a coat of new paint on the cabinet, inside and out. With dedicated sorting and organizing work, the introduction of colorful storage tubs and trays, fresh paint, and inside cabinet lighting, this bathroom cabinet will no longer be a black hole – but a bright and cheerful place to be. Enjoy – and best of luck with the baby!

Check out Ashley’s amazing bathroom transformation on her blog, Hello Nature: Before & After: Bathroom Cabinet Organization Renovation

Before & After: Bathroom Cabinet Organization Renovation – Hello Nature

This page may contain affiliate links. Clicking them pays for my ice cream and Netflix binges. Need some inspiration for your bathroom? Check out our bathroom cabinet organization renovation! Simple and easy tricks to end the clutter! The longer I’m pregnant, the more nesting I feel like doing.

Photo Credits:

Maeve Richmond is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization system based in New York City. She specializes in parents & kids, couples, small space solutions, space planning and decorative elements for the home. Contact her at [email protected] or @MaeveRichmond.

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