5 tips to borrow from pro organizers to keep bathroom countertops clear

We've asked professional home organizers to tell us how to keep bathroom countertops clear. Here's what they recommend to keep yours free of clutter

bathroom with warm neutral tiles and countertops
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Keeping bathroom countertops clear of clutter can seem like an uphill struggle. Bottles of skincare products, electric toothbrushes, medications – the list of things we accumulate in our bathrooms can seem endless. 

And things get even more complicated if you share a bathroom with a partner or a whole family. If your bathroom countertops are so cluttered that you keep knocking things over or can’t find what you need, it’s time to give them a thorough decluttering. 

Making time to clear the countertops while organizing a bathroom will go a long way to creating a peaceful space that you enjoy – rather than dread – using every day.

How to keep bathroom countertops clear

Of course, simply throwing away all the things you keep in your bathroom isn’t an option. You need a better strategy, which is why we’ve asked professional home organizers to tell us how to keep bathroom countertops clear. Here’s what they told us.

concrete basin and countertop in bathroom with white metro tiles on wall

(Image credit: Kast)

1. Keep only what you need on your countertops

Sounds easier said than done? Well, there are a couple of ways you can declutter your bathroom countertops and organize a bathroom with too much stuff. Firstly, make an assessment of what physically cannot go in a drawer or storage basket. Janelle Azar, a professional organizer and the owner of A Meaningful Space, recommends focusing on ‘items that don’t work well in a drawer like a bottle of lotion, contact solution, face wash, or your favorite fragrance.’ Even fragrances sometimes come in compact bottles that don’t really need to sit on your countertop, so focus on items that are packaged in a way that means they really can’t be stored horizontally.

It’s also a good idea to thoroughly reassess what you have on your countertops and perform a Marie Kondo-style decluttering session. Carrie Ypma, owner of Clutter Keeper, advises keeping ‘only what you need, love, and use regularly on the countertops.’ You may need to be ruthless in terms of what counts as ‘regularly’ and only keep things you use every single day on your countertop. Less frequently used items and backups can go in a storage box (from Amazon, for example) or drawer.

2. Corral the clutter by using a vanity tray

granite countertop in bathroom with twin sinks and three mirrors on wall

(Image credit: Interior Impressions)

Vanity trays, at Anthropologie, are a great way to keep bathroom countertops clear. Janelle Azar believes that a tray ‘keeps your items neat, tidy, and in one location, and it also adds a nice visual element to your counter.’

The great thing about vanity trays is that they are much more appealing aesthetically than other bathroom storage solutions, such as boxes, while achieving the same result of grouping things together. You’re much less likely to knock things over when they sit snugly in a tray.

They also make it easier to keep your bathroom countertops clean, because any spillages from face washes and soaps will be caught in the tray, which can easily be rinsed. Just don’t go for anything made out of wood, unless it’s specifically designed for a bathroom.

Top tip: If you're short on space or sharing a counter, Azar recommends looking for a two-tier vanity tray, available at Wayfair.

Janelle Azar
Janelle Azar

Janelle Azar is the owner of A Meaningful Space, a professional organizing company that serves the metro Detroit area.  Her company specializes in residential organizing services for moms and families that are tailored to each client’s home, routine, and lifestyle.  She is also the creator of Simplifying & Organizing with Kids, a digital course that teaches busy parents how to keep their homes clutter-free while getting their kids involved in the process.

3. Use the power of drawer organizers

green tiled countertop with freestanding basin and art deco wallpaper

(Image credit: Tile Mountain)

Drawers are your biggest friends in a bathroom. They allow you to keep most things out of sight. However, many bathroom drawers, including vanity drawers, are too big to contain all the smaller items from your countertops. What you can end up with is a bathroom drawer that’s full of items of different types and sizes that all get jumbled together. Carrie Ypma recommends solving this issue by using drawer organizers; these will ‘contain bathroom items, allowing you to keep the countertops clear.’ 

There is an impressive choice of bathroom drawer organizers, at Amazon and at The Container Store; look for ones in different widths and shapes, so that you can group every type of item together.

4. Take advantage of vertical space

bathroom with tub and cabinet space

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you have free wall space in your bathroom, you have an opportunity to clear your bathroom countertops. Janelle Azar advises that by ‘using shelves, hooks, and wall-mounted organizers or cabinets you can keep your counters clutter-free and still have items within easy reach.’

Many bathroom shelf ideas don’t involve drilling into your bathroom walls. Consider getting a leaning shelf unit, for example. Or, if you are doing a complete bathroom remodel, you may consider adding built-in bathroom shelves – these always look great and are unobtrusive.

5. Keep medication away from the bathroom

Many people keep their medications on their bathroom countertops. This is actually not a great idea, and not just because of bathroom clutter. Bathrooms are humid spaces, and the humidity and high temperatures can make your medications ineffective or even spoil them. The best place for your medications is in a cool, dry place in your bedroom or living room, in a dedicated cabinet that’s out of reach of children and pets. Or even better, invest in an airtight medication storage box with a lock on it.

Carrie Ypma
Carrie Ypma

Carrie is an expert organizer and founder of home organization company Clutter Keeper.


How do you organize a cluttered vanity?

If you’ve opted for a bathroom decluttering session, you may be wondering where to start. Janelle Azar proposes the following steps:

  1. Start with a clean slate.  Clear everything off your vanity and start fresh. Only add back in the items that you use on a regular basis.  Toss anything expired or that you didn’t like or don’t use. 
  2.  Select your MVPs…Most Valuable Products. The daily things that you have to have at your fingertips get your prime real estate on your vanity. 
  3. Swap out items on a regular basis. The 'one in, one out' rule applies to anywhere in the home including your vanity. If you buy one new product then one should make an exit.  Also, having routine maintenance every season or a few times a year will keep your area neat and clutter-free.

    This mindful approach to organizing your vanity should prevent further clutter in the future. It will also save you a ton of money. If you only keep the products you actually enjoy using and make sure you use them us before replacing them, you’re less likely to spend unnecessarily on yet more skincare, makeup and bath products.

How do you declutter your bathroom countertops without getting rid of everything?

‘But I’ve already decluttered as much as I can!’, you may be thinking. You don’t want to get to a point where you’ve got rid of the things you actually do need and enjoy using. If this is your case, then there are still a couple of things you can do to minimize what’s on your countertop. 

Janelle Azar recommends adopting a seasonal approach: you only keep what you are using right now, say, this summer. Then, ‘keep a designated backstock or off-season area in another section of your bathroom or linen closet. This allows you to maximize your bathroom countertop space and also keeps your excess items together in a designated area for easy retrieval.’

If you are organizing a small bathroom, then the space under your sink may come in handy. Acrylic stacking containers, at Amazon, can go a long way to keep the items you don’t need immediately within easy reach. 

Top tip: You can also try dating items, so that you don’t accumulate skincare and makeup that’s past its expiration date. Get a permanent marker and date your items when you purchase them. Makeup especially should only be used within the recommended six or twelve-month window, but this is also true of sunscreen and other items you may have in your bathroom.

These easy-to-follow pro tips should help you keep your bathroom countertops clear. The beauty of this approach is that you can reassess what you have in your bathroom whenever it starts looking cluttered again. Perform these steps about every year and never suffer a cluttered bathroom countertop again. 

Anna K. Cottrell is now a freelance writer, having previously been a Content Editor for Future's homes titles. She writes about interior design, property, and gardening. On H&G, she specialized in writing about property – buying, selling, renting – sustainability and eco issues.