Organizing a bathroom countertop – 10 ways to categorize in style

These tactics for organizing a bathroom countertop will keep necessities to hand without compromising its appearance

Organizing a bathroom countertop: bathroom counter by Beata Heuman
(Image credit: Simon Brown/Beata Heuman)

Organizing a bathroom countertop effectively ensures the room’s essentials are readily available. But bathroom countertop organization isn’t just about having items nearby. If the room’s appearance isn’t to be spoiled, the arrangements also need to ensure the space is both uncluttered and stylish.

Organizing a bathroom effectively is vital for hygiene reasons, too. A littered bathroom countertop is hard to keep thoroughly clean, while good order will make the task simple. Keeping track of products’ expiry dates is also easier if they’re well arranged.

Here, we’ve collected our favorite strategies for organizing a bathroom countertop and asked the experts to share their advice, too.

Organizing a bathroom countertop

Bathroom countertop ideas are considered part of any bathroom design and a chaotic collection of objects on their surface hides the beauty of the materials, as well as detracting from the room’s calm. But many of us want essentials immediately available, too, and organizing a bathroom countertop must take account of these factors.

1. Assess what should be located in the bathroom

Bathroom vanity with mirrors and lights above

(Image credit: John Granen)

Take a moment to consider everything that’s being stored in the bathroom, and what furniture you have to accommodate it, as the first step to organizing a bathroom countertop is ensuring good bathroom storage ideas. This will prevent the surface becoming the repository for everything that doesn’t have a home.

‘Whether it’s shampoo, toilet roll or contact lens cleaner, keep your everyday essentials within storage solutions to prevent their inevitable progression across the countertop,’ says Steven Jaques, national development manager for Pelipal at InHouse Inspired Room Design.

Think about whether some items, including the most bulky, should be kept elsewhere to keep countertops from accumulating clutter. That might be inside the bathroom by organizing a bathroom cabinet or organizing a bathroom closet neatly, or outside the room by organizing a linen closet elsewhere.

2. Be selective about what’s on display

An overcrowded countertop won’t do the bathroom any favors, but how to decide what should be located there? You need to think: decluttering first.

‘Keep out what you use on a daily basis,’ advises Juliette Thomas, founder and director, Juliettes Interiors.

‘Otherwise, put away other items. Bathrooms are at their best when decluttered giving more surface space to use and an overall tidy contemporary look to show off the bathroom rather than the clutter. Make sure there’s a home for everything so nothing gets left on the side.’

Sharing the bathroom with kids? ‘A bathroom countertop when children use the same bathroom should be as clear as possible with the exception of their tooth brush, child-friendly toothpaste and a hair brush,’ says home organizer Kathryn Lord of More To Organising.

‘Anything else should be stored away for safety but also, having those items listed within reach can help your child become more independent.’

3. Use trays on the countertop

Bathroom with wall hung vanity and mirror above and mirrored cabinets alongside with neutral floor and wall tiles and bath

(Image credit: Alexander James Interior Design)

As to the items that are to be located on the countertop, consider putting them together on a tray. This way, your most-used items can create an attractive vignette as well as being easily available, and it’s a tactic you might like to repeat when organizing bathroom shelves

The material you choose for the tray should complement the bathroom’s style. In this room by Alexander James Interior Design, designed by Marina Demarchuk, a marble tray was selected, and stylist Sophia Ivory explains: ‘The pale marble tray was chosen to complement the classical bathroom scheme.’ A metal tray, meanwhile, could add a soft highlight, while wood would complement an organic bathroom design.

4. Pay attention to dates for an uncluttered countertop

When organizing a bathroom countertop, be mindful that beauty products do have expiry dates, and you should avoid an accumulation of those you can no longer use on the countertop. 

‘The shelf life of cosmetics varies,’ explains Jacqueline McLeod, APDO’s communications director and founder of Bancrofts Organisation Services. ‘Eye shadow can last up to a year, lipstick up to two years, nail polish a year, mascara three to four months and concealer and foundation up to a year, body cream up to two years, perfume one to two years and make sure you get rid of your makeup sponges after four to six weeks.’ Bear these guidelines in mind for organizing a bathroom vanity, too, so it doesn’t fill up with out-of-date products.

5. Keep towels off the counter

Bathroom countertop with basin and storage below

(Image credit: Future)

Strewn towels will result in a disorganized bathroom countertop. To avoid the chaos, opt for a vanity with readily accessible space for storing fresh towels. Make sure there’s somewhere to hang out damp towels, too, with a rail or hooks immediately nearby.

6. Decant essentials

Small bathroom storage ideas

(Image credit: Future)

For an organized bathroom countertop, decant what you need to keep there into attractive vanity organizers. Small jars are ideal for stashing everything from cotton balls to bars of soap, and using them could also avoid a clash of finishes if you like to use a selection of brands, plus allow you to buy larger product sizes to cut down on waste.

You might choose a store-bought collection with an elegant finish, or you could put together shapely apothecary jars, or vintage pieces that will give the room character. Think about repurposing beautiful designs to give the room charm – a tiered cake stand can make for organized storage for small items on a countertop.

7. Provide a place for hair tools

Hair tools like dryers and flat irons as well as brush collections are often what’s left out on the bathroom countertop, compromising the room’s calm, uncluttered lines. 

To avoid the mess – and damage that can be caused by hot tools to a surface – ensure there’s a convenient place to tidy them by organizing under a bathroom sink to make room, or keeping them in another piece of bathroom furniture. Use a styling tool organizer, too, which which will prevent heat damage to surfaces, and tidy both tools and their cords to avoid a space-hogging trail of wire.

8. Use vertical space to get bathroom counters organized

Bathroom basin on countertop with wall mounted faucet

(Image credit: Future)

Particularly challenging is the task of organizing a bathroom countertop that’s small. If that’s the case, look to tiered storage solutions to accommodate daily essentials without cluttering the surface.

If there’s not even enough space for tiered storage, use the wall to make space for the items that are most used. A single shelf or, to fit more, a handsome set will solve bathroom countertop clutter problems. 

When selecting, make sure the width of any shelf or unit isn’t wider than the countertop’s width to maintain the room’s proportions.

9. Bring in drawer dividers

Bathroom vanity in neutral finish with open drawers

(Image credit: Future)

In order to organize a bathroom countertop, it’s essential that the room has other storage options in which items can be tidied away at below-countertop level. While some furniture includes drawer dividers, it’s worth adding these to those pieces that don’t.

‘Have separate sections for different uses, such as moisturizers, bath products, teeth cleaning, body wash etc,’ says Juliette Thomas. ‘Keep the top drawers for the items used the most and lower drawers for items not so often used.’

10. Add decorative detail

Bathroom with double vanity and mirror above, patterned floor tile and tub

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd Photograph: Mel Yates)

The items you select for the bathroom countertop organization – and their arrangement – will bring aesthetic benefits to the room, but contemplate also a few other pieces to style the countertop. Scented candles or reed diffusers are a good option, but think about displaying a few blooms in vase, or putting a houseplant there.

The rule to follow? Don’t overfill the countertop with decorative additions. Boutique-hotel style not maximalism should be the goal.

What do you put on a small bathroom counter?

If your bathroom counter is small – or you’re organizing a small bathroom generally – it’s important to edit what you put there as it’s very easy to overcrowd the space. Soap is a must and if it’s in bar form, a porcelain dish will help keep the countertop mess-free as well as looking elegant. Otherwise choose liquid soap from your favorite brand that already has a stylish dispenser, or decant it into a chic version if the packaging lets it down.

Aside from that our advice is to keep everything inside a vanity, on shelves, or on freestanding furniture unless there’s space for a vase in which to display blooms or foliage to add to the room’s decor.

How do you style bathroom countertop organization ideas?

To style a bathroom countertop, it’s important to consider the impact of each item you keep there, as well as the overall look of the surface. Both practical items such as storage jars and containers for soaps and lotions can be part of the selection of pieces, along with accessories such as candles in jars or holders, vases, trays, and even framed photos.

Think materials when selecting what you display. You might use glass for storage jars, vases, reed diffusers and so on, or select organic textures such as stone and wood for accessories, or echo the faucet with metallic details for trays or storage pieces. Objects might also be linked by color – soft pastel tones, accents of black, a pop of an energetic shade such as orange, and so on.

As in other parts of the home, groups of objects work well, particularly when you work with odd numbers, and a pyramid-shaped arrangement can make an attractive grouping.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.