Bathroom Clutter: The 9 Worst Offenders - Christine Kane

In most homes, bathrooms are the smallest spaces. They are also the most cluttered. So, I’ve taken a poll. I’ve talked with several people about bathroom clutter, why it happens, and what the worst culprits are. This post is the result of lots of laughter and discussion. We’ve all been guilty of one or more of these at one time or another.

Here’s a little hint: If you have an under-the-sink cabinet, AND a medicine chest – AND you have one of those rolling carts from Bed, Bath & Beyond crammed full of things, then you might have too much stuff.

Is it time to let go? Only you can decide. See if you are prone to any of these…

1 – Mostly-Used hair gunk

Mostly-used hair gunk. Mostly-used toothpaste. Mostly-used soap, shower gel, and all tubes that you’ve twisted to the point they could be in a Salvador Dali painting – these can go into the trash or recycling. If you have shampoos precariously standing on their heads waiting for that last drop to fall — and if those bottles all go tumbling into the tub with that annoying plastic clockety-clock sound every time you step into the shower — then it’s time to let go. Hanging on so you can save that extra 12 cents is most likely taking up too much energy.

2 – Soap

Here’s a math problem:

Let’s be optimistic and say you’re going to live to be 112. Now, take that number, and write it on a piece of paper. Write your current age under that number. Now subtract.

If the final number is less than the number of bars of soap that are in your bathroom, then you will most likely never use all of those soaps.

Organization Tip: Soaps are a great gift item and great to give away to facilities that need them. If you like to have some around, then store no more than three extra bars in one space under the sink.

3 – Gifts with Purchase

I rarely go to the mall. But every time I do, some cosmetic counter lady is making an announcement about a free remarkable Gift with any purchase of $24. We all rush to the counter to get the gift! “Hooray!” we think. “Free stuff for me!”

But is it really a gift?

Perhaps here’s what the announcement should say:

“Ladies…. [Brand Name] is offering a free gift with any purchase this month only at [Department Store Name]. That means that you can get YET ANOTHER little zippy flowered tote that will sit under your sink from now until the day you die. In this zippy bag, we’ve included a free sample of our new fragrance called [Dysfunctional Emotional State]. One spritz will give you an instant headache! You’ll put it under your sink next to the zippy bag in hopes that you’ll remember to give it to some poor unsuspecting in-law. You also get YOUR CHOICE of lipstick! Choose between “Does this Make Me Look Like a Hooker?” Deep Pink, or “Didn’t I Wear this in My 8th Grade Class Photo?” Frosty Pink. You’ll carry this lipstick in your purse for a while, but then it will end up in your medicine chest. It will roll out into the sink every time your husband (or lover) opens it. He (or she) will swear loudly and slam it back into the medicine chest. This’ll do wonders for your romantic life…”

Note: If you haven’t used a Gift with Purchase since you got your Gift with Purchase, then you probably won’t ever use your Gift with Purchase. Hanging onto it won’t make you regret the purchase any less. Hanging onto it is a punishment. The next time you are about to get a Gift with Purchase, ask yourself, “Will I actually use any of this?”

Organization Tip: If you like having sample sizes of toiletries or cosmetics for travel, and you know you will actually and truly use these items, create a box and label it “Travel.” That way, each time you’re packing for a trip, you can grab what you need. Be sure to go through this box at least once a year and purge.

4 – Single earrings

If there are single earrings, barrettes, or hairpins in your medicine chest or on any flat surface leaving rust stains or turning blue, it’s time to put them away or let them go.

Organization Tip: If you must hang on to these things, put single items back into a jewelry case where they can wait among their supportive metal friends for their missing partners to return. They need that. Create a box for hair pins, etc. Label it. Put them away once a week.

5 – Old prescriptions, medicines, etc.

I know someone who kept powerful pain-killers around for over ten years “in case something happened again.” (His words.) I also know someone who kept extra patches around (years after she had quit) just in case she started smoking again and needed to quit again. (Besides, she said, the patches were expensive.)

Okay, children, let’s talk Law of Attraction. If you hang on to these things, you’re telling the universe (and your subconscious) that you fully expect “something” to happen again. And that there will be no resources when it happens. AND that you’ll be so broke that you’ll have to use an expired product with zero effectiveness. Not good messages for the universe.

Organization Tip: If you don’t have it now, then don’t keep products around that remind you that you ever did have it. If you need to keep things around like Caladryl for poison ivy, or Aloe Gel for sunburn – then create a box and label it “Medicines and First Aid.” Purge that box once a year.

6 – Kitty Litter

I love cats. I have three of them. I am all about the cats. But bathrooms with kitty litter all over the place make some people want to upchuck. I totally understand that lots of us live in small places and we have to put the litter boxes somewhere, but keeping it clean makes your life cleaner, and it makes your cat happier. (Cats are known to get stressed out at dirty litter boxes.)

Organization Tip: Keep a dustpan and brush under the sink or near the litter box. Make it part of your morning routine to do some litter clean up on the floor and in the box. Create a schedule for changing the litter. Seriously, dude. It gets gross in there.

7 – Too many cleaning products

We don’t need half of the stuff that marketers convince us that we need. Again, you can take extra items to a charity or an organization that can actually use the items in their facilities. (Toilet brushes behind the toilet can get pretty gross, too. Store them somewhere else. Or change them often!)

8 – Sea shells and beads and little smelly candles

If bathrooms are the smallest spaces in our homes, why do we feel the need to put lots of small decorating thingees into them that create even more clutter? Shells are great. Especially the way Pier 1 arranges them on the glass trays with sand and beads. However, most of us can’t pull this off in our bathrooms. They’re already too small. And if you have to push shells and beads and candles out of the way just so you can wash your face, you’re making your life more difficult.

Organization Tip: Get rid of shells and beads, and dust the surfaces where they used to be. Have a designated candle box for luxurious bath moments. However, if the candles get dusty or gross or weird in any way, then replace them with thoughts of abundance and love.

9 – Old Magazines and Damp Wrinkled Books

Stacks of Oprah magazines from 2002. Wrinkled copies of Women Who Do Too Much and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. When was the last time anyone read these items? If have books or magazines in a basket on the floor, or if they’re laying on top of a shelf, try removing them (and the baskets) and see if that space doesn’t allow you to breathe a little bit. If you like to have a book in the bathroom, then pick one book. Change it every now and then so that the dampness doesn’t ruin it.

Finally, to motivate you, here’s a quote from Bruce Lee, who, I imagine, had very little clutter…

“One does not accumulate but eliminate.

It is not daily increase but daily decrease.

The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.”


  • Leo

    I only use my toothpaste at night and in the morning. Hate brushing my hair.

    So I suppose all the other stuff in my bathroom could go to the wastebin.
    That’s what my cleaning woman tells me anyway. What you do not use, you can hrow away.

    Thanks for sharing your opinion,

  • exsmoker

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  • Michelle

    I think I need to purge – my bathroom – my closests – my “mystery” drawer but I am going to take your advice and just do the bathroom this week. The old medicine “just in case” had me laughing out loud….can I keep the snoopy nightlight that SOMEHOW has moved with me since I was 3 (I am 35 now)…I can’t find my keys most days but I know where that nightlight is!

  • Belladonna

    This was really helpful! I’ve been on a major junk purge in all my closets of late, but the bathrooms come next!

  • Christine Kane

    that’s a great thought seventh sister! i’ll be you’re right on! i hope everyone reads that!

  • seventh sister

    I wonder if women’s shelters could use some of those little zippy bags if they still look like new. A lot of their residents leave home with little or nothing in the way of personal items. All those samples might be useful to them.

  • Leah

    Too funny! I’m guilty of the free gift thing, although i tend to see a free gift I actually want and then buy something I don’t really need so I can get the sample-sized product I will use…and then I’m stuck with another cute cosmetic bag…

  • m

    After I did The Artists Way I realised one of my ‘luxuries’ is good soap. I’d rather go upmarket and have one lovely soap than several cheap bars. And one of my favourite brands all organic with essential oils is only Β£1.49 so its a little bit of luxury on a cheap scale.

  • Kathy

    oops, guilty again! particularly those zippy little cases that stay with you until the end of time and too many soaps in COSTCO size quantity. with our latest moves, I did throw out lots of partially used potions – bags and bags full as I am quite a pack rat. Things have improved as I am no longer taking home partially used hotel potions – mostly due to the new flying rules….but those free gifts are just too tempting.

    I just updated our blog with a new Thursday 13 by the way…..our favorite kid sayings. I think you’ll be amused πŸ˜€

  • Christine Kane

    hey anna – yea, i felt so duty-bound after i wrote this blog that i went into the bathroom and did a major re-clean-up!

    amystery – great thought. i’ve had lots of off-the-grid friends, and it’s definitely the quickest path to simplicity!

    thanks suz! i look forward to it!

    thanks pam – you have a great organic approach to this. (as you seem to have with everything.)

    oo! brad! that made my stomach turn! i’ll go check your clutter blog out..

    caren – i loved that book. especially as a great listen!

  • Caren

    The author of “Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love” had a *wonderful* idea to help create world peace. tee-hee-hee It’s a family blog, so I won’t delve into detail… ask a friend who’s read it, if you haven’t. πŸ™‚

  • Brad

    We must be on the same wavelength! My last post was about clutter as well. You’re reference to kitty litter in the bathroom gave me a good old fashioned belly laugh. Based mostly on staying the night with a friend and finding the cat on the bathroom counter, then looking down and seeing the litter box. I put two and two together and decided not to leave my toothbrush out!!!

  • chickiepam

    Hi Christine!
    I don’t take hotel samples or any samples really. Most of that stuff just rashes my sensitive skin, so I don’t even have to think about it. I don’t shop much at the mall, so I don’t buy gifts with purchase either. I’m very low maintenance…unless you count my massage needs! (Massages are definitely NOT discretionary but definitely necessary for me!) My daughter is another story, however! She loves all that free stuff! (I’m so grateful that I’m no longer 12 and am now approaching 40….uuuhhh….50…..oh well!)

    My method of cleaning the bathroom is to do something every day. Tuesday, I cleaned the sink. Today, I cleaned out the top drawer. Tomorrow I’ll probably clean the toilet cuz that’s easy and Thursday is a busy day for me. I have to admit that I do have some hair thingees from the 80’s, but I also have a near teenager who is into acting/drama and uses that stuff.

    Yes, this article was a bit “out there” for a singer/songwriter, but that’s fine by me! I love your posts! They keep me thinking!

  • suz

    I will most certainly come and meet you. That would be great. Looking forward to hearing you on the 23rd.

  • amystery

    Or better yet, live in a cabin without running water (outhouse only). I definitely do not have bathroom clutter πŸ™‚

  • Anna

    Who knew there were all these people with all sorts of “hidden treasures” in their bathrooms! I’m no good at “30-day goals”, but I’m taking care of this “opportunity” next weekend…

  • Christine Kane

    i hear ya, seventh sister. i have one big one with a pull out drawer under my sink in the cabinet of each bathroom. and that’s about it!

  • seventh sister

    Now if I can just figure out where to put all these well organized anad labeled boxes……

  • Christine Kane

    alright petra and elaine – it’s time for us to start a campaign. let’s gather all the unused little zippy bags in the world, and fill them with hooker pink lipsticks and create world peace. (there may have to be a few other tactics – but we’ll figure that out later.)

    hi suz! this is very cool to hear. please come up and introduce yourself – it’s always so cool to meet asheville people all over the country! thanks!

  • suz

    This is a totally random comment that has nothing to do with bathroom clutter from someone who has never commented on your blog before; albeit I do check it out from time to time and enjoy reading your insights and observations. Anyway, I have been a fan of yours since the first time I heard you at Bele Chere about 4 years ago shortly after I moved to Asheville from MN. Since that time, I have introduced a lot of my northern friends to your music. I am going to be in St. Paul the same weekend you are playing at the Ginko Coffeehouse and have gathered a small group of friends I will be visiting while there to hear you and can’t wait for them to get to experience hearing you live.

  • Petra

    Well, here I was feeling all smug as I was reading the list when I realized that I still have 4 or 5 of those “zippy bags”. The one with the butterfly on the zipper, the one with the strawberry design, the lime-green one, the red one–maybe I’m forgetting one!

    I do wish Clinique would offer a tube of “does this make me look like a hooker” pink, though. I’d probably use that one!

  • elaine1

    …great idea!!! off to find a photocopier!!!

  • Christine Kane

    elaine – you can fill the tote bags with kitty litter and give them as gifts with print outs of this blog. in fact, why don’t you stand outside of Harrods and give the world a Free Gift WithOUT Purchase…?

    thanks connie – yes, there’s nothing like procrastination to help you get some of these kinds of things done! πŸ™‚

  • elaine1

    P.s… I’m really good with kitty litter – always fresh & clean… does that make up for the tote bag obsession thing??!! – (see I told you I needed a mentor!! :-))

  • connie

    Hilarious but true post. I actually purged my bathroom last week as a way to avoid something else that needed doing! I did eventually get to “those things” as well. I’ve learned not to buy things just because they come with a gift. I would end up spending far more money just to get the “free” gift and then Never use it. I truly enjoy reading your thoughts, thanks for sharing them.

  • elaine1

    Oh yeh!! we have those free gifty things… and being a Brit… well, you just feel obliged to buy!!! (a polite thingey I think…. or could just be a girlie-shopping thingey?!).

    I currently have 7 free tote bags stuffed in my bedroom drawers…and one under my bed because I can’t get anymore in the drawers…(is that a record?!! – it’s certainly quite alarming!!! – I promise to take action!)BUT..I’ve stopped collecting hotel soaps, shoe-mits, sewing kits and shampoos though!!!

  • Christine Kane

    thanks susie! and i’m emailing you soon about the slc workshop thingee. i’ve gotten behind!

    hello elaine1 — no! you don’t! (and i’m happy to make you laugh…) do they have those free gifts with purchases in the UK — somehow i thought you brits would be cooler than us!

    wow katy jo – you are VERY resourceful there. great advice. (though your mind works in a MUCH more orderly fashion than mine!)

  • Katy Jo

    a little trick/way of thinking that’s pretty resourceful but keeps things from getting wasted is…

    before opening a new bottle of anything, use up the previous bottle 100%! pack away all the unopened refills and DONT TOUCH THEM until you’ve used up all the 1/2 filled bottles. that way you dont have to throw stuff away and can save a few nickels here and there. if it’s a bottle older than 2 years, well then, trash it.

    that has helped me keep my bathroom orderly πŸ™‚

  • elaine1

    I feel so liberated!!! So… you really don’t have to keep that free gift with purchase??!! I’m back home tomorrow and will empty approx 3 drawers full!!! I just thought that I needed to get a bigger house!! Great post!!! It really made me laugh!!

  • Nina

    is the fact that i laughed out loud to find that “are you leaking” is listed as an article related to one on bathroom purging any indication that i work with filthy-minded adolescents day in and day out?

    just wondering…

  • Susie

    Hi there Christine,
    This is just too funny of a post. My aunts LOVE to give me their “gifts with purchase.” Maybe because they still like to pretend that I’m 12 and would love to play dress-up with bright-red lipstick. I then pass those “gifts” onto my friends; it’s sorta become a joke. The gifts are give with good intentions, but no one really wants them…just like fruitcake πŸ˜‰

    P.S. I’ve quit smoking for 1.5 years now (yea for me!) and I still hold onto the last pack of cigarettes that I bought; not so much to have them incase I’ll need them, but as a reminder to look at them and say, “You’re right there and I’m so over you” But I thinkit might be time to just throw them out.

  • Christine Kane

    chrissie – your messages never fail to crack me up! i can totally see you getting all militant on your husband’s stuff! πŸ™‚

    debra – it always takes me a while to get back into home-y things when i return from a trip. the back and forth is weird. sorry to hear you got sick. just be nice to yourself. THEN decide what to clean!

    hi dave – i think i was 28 actually. (NOW, i’m 29!) πŸ™‚ so you won’t be there? well, damn! i haven’t been to stevens point in quite a while. i’m looking forward to it!

    thanks danny! i’m so glad that performers are using those posts. that makes me happy!

  • Danny

    Anna wrote: “I wish you would stop talking about me on this blog!!!”

    …And all this time, I thought you were talking about ME! That is what makes your blog such a great read, though. Many of the things you present and talk about are LIFE and experiences that we all have. It is great to make light of our situations while analyzing ways to be ever more positive, and you are a wonderful facilitator of that process.

    Many of your other blogs strike close to home for the performers and artists among us, and are cherished as quite valuable. I sat with a friend (also a singer and guitarist in my band) as she waited for her turn for a huge audition a few days ago. In the notebook that she carried were printouts of a few of your blogs that I had pointed her toward(How to play for 5000 people, being one of them). Your advice for aspiring (and even seasoned) artists is wonderful!


  • Dave Green

    Well this will be your first show in the greater Stevens Point,WI with out me. Its hard to believe its been 10 years. The first time and you stayed in Teri’s room. She was 9 and Chuck was 11 and I was 40. And you were 29. Now I’m 50 Teri is 19 and Chuck is 21 and your 29. All I know is absolutely nothing. Take care Dave Green

  • Debra

    So I’m home (still) with whatever bug was going around BlogHer. “Clean my desk” I thought. “It’s cluttered with brochures and business cards (and not one of yours. Sorry I missed saying hello!).” Write an email to every person whose card I got.

    Maybe clean the kitchen drawers. And now I’m thinking… bathrooms??

    So when I return, healthy and healed, to the world.. my life will also be more connected and uncluttered. But I’d better plan on being sick for a couple more days. (sigh)…

  • chrissie

    I just did these very things yesterday!! I hate HATE clutter and every so often go on these binges and purge stuff of my husband’s that’s been sitting around for years (he is a pack rat). It’s such a great feeling to pitch that old bottle of shampoo…go through boxes of old stuff and look at the expiration date and cringe and tell it Peace Out, to chuck magazines (these are heavy and go straight to the outside trash cans). Finally I went through all those little free gift purchases, remembered the days after my first “real” job when I had $$ to drop on swank cosmetics at the Bloomingdales at King of Prussia and embraced all my free gifts. That was 6 years ago. The best bags won out and are now in storage with travel necessities. The others went to Goodwill.

  • Christine Kane

    hi jer – hmmmm. i’ve never heard of it. as with all new venues and festivals and events – i guess they just have to go in with an open mind (and remember to laugh a lot if it’s bad!) πŸ™‚

  • Jer

    definitely don’t have any wild ladies luring me in for any reason, true.

    by the way christine, this is off subject, but i was curious if you’ve ever played at – or just heard of – an event/place called Wadestock, just outside of Asheville. My friends’ band is playing there next month, and i just wondered if you’d be able to shed some light on what to expect.

  • Christine Kane

    Colin – I have lots of great books – but not that one at this very moment!

    Thanks Susanne – great examples!

    hi cynthia – yes, of course, cleaning things out is a great way to avoid art. it’s also a good thing to do when you’re a little stuck on a phrase or an idea. it clears my head. only you can know if it’s an avoidance technique or not. hmmm — as for the towels issue. i’ve learned to give them away to goodwill. they can toss them if they want. i keep one in the car for when my dog jumps into streams. i keep a few extras in the house – but i rarely use them! maybe other people will have ideas for you…

    hi jer – i wasn’t aware that 31 is old…?? and you know, you’ve got the bachelor pad going (at least it SOUNDS like that.) you don’t have the wild ladies at the cosmetic counters luring you in at every turn!

  • Jer

    I think I’m kind of the opposite to this. There’s nothing I forget to buy more often than bathroom supplies. There’s probably stuff I need right now that I can’t think of. So it’s still a forgotten room, but not in the way that I let it get all cluttered up. I just end up not having shampoo or toothpaste to use, and *that’s* when I really realize that I need to make a special trip to the store just for those items. Otherwise, I’ll get to buying other stuff and forget the shampoo again.

    Of course, i’m 31, so I’m getting pretty old and losing my memory. πŸ™‚

  • Cynthia Morris

    This is great! This seems like the kind of thing we do when avoiding our art. (Writing about cluttered bathrooms or cleaning up bathrooms?!?!) I like to think that my bathroom is clutter-free. I take an inordinate amount of pleasure in tidying the bathroom and throwing away all those free samples. Maybe I’m doing this when avoiding my art.
    Okay, I need help. What to do with those old towels that I don’t want to use but don’t want to throw away? And don’t say rip them up for rags because they’d just go into another clutter zone.
    Christine, I think this post will go a long way in getting us into the bathroom and clearing out the junk. Yea!

  • Susanne

    So I might be heading to my bathroom right now, though I have a) no decorations there at all, and b) do regularly purge stuff I don’t use. But I do have: barrettes and glittery things for my hair that I bought about 10, or maybe 20 years ago and haven’t worn since, nail polish in colors that don’t suit me and have been sitting there for years, costly face masks that a friend gave me when I was pregnant (child is now almost 5), lotion for my feet (unused, same friend, she’s a beautician), glitter make up stuff for the stage (haven’t had a performance in years)… This I knew even without getting up from my computer.

    The only thing I’m good at is in saying, “Oh thank you, I don’t want a sample.” and when they ask why, because one clearly has to be insane to say no to free stuff, I tell them that I’m allergic and can’t use it. That’s much better than hoarding it and never using it or taking it home and putting it directly into the trash bin.

  • Colin

    OK, I’ll bite. Do you really have a copy of the Tao of Jeet Kune Do lying around your house? Great Bruce Lee quote!

  • Christine Kane

    kelsey, i don’t take the hotel samples anymore for that very reason. (except for last weekend when I stayed at the W hotel — and the stuff was by Bliss – which I love!) And I’m convinced that coupons make people buy things they don’t need – ultimately making them not save us any money!

  • Christine Kane

    hi anna. but i’ve never been to your bathroom! (and i don’t really even know why i chose to write about this topic. i think i’ve seen lots of bathrooms in my travels – and they seem to be the forgotten spaces in our homes. mine included at times!)

  • Kelsey

    This entry kind of made me giggle — I love the bathroom purge! The elementary school down the street from us has a “treats for troops” collection in the spring and one of the things they always request is toiletry items. It is a great motivator to sort through our stuff and get rid of all the samples we’ve collected, excess toothbrushes bought because they were on sale or my husband had coupons (there will be more extras next year, he can’t seem to help himself), hotel shampoos, etc.

    I find the bathroom cleaning out satisfying and not too emotional as I don’t tend to get attached bottles of lotion. Tell me to clean out my desk or closet and I may not be so enthusiastic!

  • Anna

    I wish you would stop talking about me on this blog!!! This is too funny (not really)…I have a tray on the bathroom counter that started out as a place to put earrings…it is about 8 in in diameter and about 2 inches deep at this point. I can never find the earrings I toss into it..they go too deep. OK, OK…I’ll clean it up now. And I don’t even want to discuss what’s under the sink πŸ™‚