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  Space program

Storage systems help free up room in the bathroom

January 15, 2006

The Skinny Stand slips into narrow bathroom spaces. Storage includes space for magazines and rolls of toilet paper. $33, Comfort House.
Dear Sir, I am in the smallest room of the house and your letter is before me. Very soon it will be behind me.


Ah, wouldn't it be nice if we could simply flush away all the clutter in our bathrooms? But alas, our commodes generally are not well-suited to this task.

Perhaps the real problem is that "the smallest room of the house" often lacks sufficient space for storing bathroom necessities such as spare toilet tissue rolls, towels, toiletries and tub toys (not to mention reading materials).

But larger lavatories are not immune to creeping clutter, either.

Although it's easy to point to an overabundance of supplies, a cluttered bathroom isn't always a result of excess products and/or disorganized habits.

The real chaos culprit may be a crucial lack of efficient, well-placed storage systems.

Luckily, help – and toilet paper – is finally within reach, thanks to new products designed to make the most of every square inch of your bathroom. From medicine-cabinet maximizers to toilet-tank towers, space-saving solutions for even the tiniest powder room are readily available and far more affordable than a remodel.


This space-saving In Wall Bathroom Cabinet holds toilet paper and reading material that can be hidden behind a latching door. $100, Improvements Catalog.
Here is a new year's roundup of the best resources for banishing bathroom clutter.


Cabinet cures

What's hidden behind cabinet doors is often what causes clutter to migrate onto vanity counters and sink areas.

Medicine cabinet shelves are hard to keep organized because they're too shallow, while under-sink cabinet space is too inaccessible. That's why sooner or later, despite your best efforts, whatever you store in these areas ends up chaotically jumbled or precariously piled.

Making these odd spaces work more effectively used to require custom-made solutions. But now there are well-designed organizing products created specifically for each type of bathroom cabinet.

To curb medicine-cabinet mayhem, there's the Tidy Tray Bathroom Cabinet Organizer ($10). Designed to fit inside most medicine cabinets, the Tidy Tray (10-¼ inches across by 2-¼ inches deep by 1-½ inches high) holds "everything that does not have a wide-enough base to stand on its own." The tray's slots will accommodate tube dispensers of all sizes (such as ointments and toothpaste, both new and rolled up) either by the base or the cap lid, as well as lip balms, scissors, tweezers, razors and other typical medicine-cabinet items.


The Umbra Flipper Shower Caddy hangs over the shower head and has flip-down shelves to accommodate taller bottles. $20, Bed Bath & Beyond.
SOURCE: Simply Brilliant Products –; (860) 928-4770.

A different type of medicine-cabinet solution is offered by a tandem set of products: the Toothpaste Shelf and Under-Shelf Drawer ($8 each). The Toothpaste Shelf (2¼ inches deep by 6¾ inches wide) attaches to the back wall of your medicine cabinet, allowing you to store even a jumbo tube above items on the shelf below. The Under-Shelf Drawer (8 inches wide by 3 inches high by 1 inch deep) hangs down from a shelf and slides out, providing hideaway storage for combs, dental floss, loose Band-aids and other small essentials. Both of these products attach with double-stick mounting tape (included).

SOURCE: Home Focus Catalog –; (800) 221-6771.

The under-sink cabinet area presents another set of challenges, one of which is the drainpipe dilemma. Now to the rescue comes Under-Sink Adjustable Shelves ($25), a free-standing unit designed to fit around plumbing pipes and similar obstructions. The set of two shelves (11 inches front-to-back, 17½ inches tall; width adjusts from 18 inches to 33 inches) has five segments per shelf that slide on rails; segments can be easily rearranged or removed for a customized fit.

SOURCE: Home Focus Catalog (see above).


Two products that help reduced medicine-cabinet clutter are the Toothpaste Shelf (top), designed to hold a tube of toothpaste, and the Tidy Tray Bathroom Cabinet Organizer (above), that neatly holds a variety of grooming and medicinal aids. Toothpaste Shelf is $8 from Home Focus Catalog; the Bathroom Cabinet Organizer is $10 from Simply Brilliant.
Also useful for the under-sink area, the Chrome Shelf & Basket Set ($25-$30) addresses the challenge of how to make deep, hard-to-reach spaces more accessible. This adjustable-height system offers two levels of storage: a shelf above a sliding drawer-basket. The basket lifts out with a handle so it can be carried whenever and wherever you need to use the things stored inside, such as hair-care tools or cleaning products. The set is available in large and small sizes (both units are 17½ inches front-to-back and 10½ inches tall; small is 11¾ inches wide, large is 14¾ inches wide), with wedge-lock connectors that let you easily adjust shelf height in three-quarter-inch increments.

SOURCE: Improvements Catalog –; (800) 642-2112.

Surface stations

Having cabinets that are hard to use creates one type of bathroom storage problem. Perhaps more challenging, however, is the powder room with absolutely no cabinetry or counter areas.

When there's a pedestal sink with just a wall mirror over it, where do you store grooming products, beauty aids and cleaning supplies?

If standard, wall-mounted shelving isn't an option, don't despair – there are other space-saving alternatives worth exploring.

Brookstone's handsome and compact brass and chrome rack holds two rolls of toilet paper as well as magazines or books. $70, at Brookstone stores.
Designed to function as a rolling vanity outfitted with drawers and a six-plug electrical power-strip, the Style Station ($90) is a streamlined cart (13½ inches wide by 26 inches high) with compartments for almost every type of hair care, cosmetic and toiletry product. The cart is heat-resistant so it can accommodate hot rollers, blow dryers, curling irons and flat irons.

SOURCE: Comonsents –; (813) 417-7808.

A combination towel bar and shelf unit offers a crucial bit of storage space. The Hotel Towel Shelf with Bar ($35-50), available in several sizes and styles, is designed to hold extra towels but can also provide easy access to frequently used toiletries. (Use a shallow tray on top of the shelf to keep smaller items from slipping through the bars.)

SOURCE: Comfort House,; (800) 359-7701.

The back of a bathroom door can be used for storing everything from towels to toiletries, depending on which type of door rack you choose and, of course, how hard you slam your doors. There are now many styles of over-the-door storage systems available; you can find a good selection of door-mounted towel and clothes racks at The Container Store ( and Bed Bath & Beyond (

For corralling bulkier types of supplies, the Door-hanging Wicker Storage unit ($15) features three spacious rectangular baskets (13 inches wide by 9¼ inches deep) on a 40½-inch-long rack.

SOURCE: Collections Etc. –; (620) 584-8000.

Overlooked spaces

The areas closest to the commode contain some prime bathroom real estate that's often underutilized for storage.

Made of heat-resistant plastic, the Style Station is a rolling vanity with storage for all sorts of grooming products and equipment, including curling irons and hot rollers $90, Comonsents.
If you are already using the spaces above and adjacent to the toilet tank but would like more storage options for various necessities, here are a few space maximizers to consider.

Traditionally, an étagère (pronounced ay-tah-jare) is a cabinet with open shelves for displaying decorative items. But in recent years, this fancy-sounding furnishing has evolved into a space-efficient source of bathroom storage, becoming less hoity and more toity in the process.

Designed to tower above the toilet tank, the bathroom étagère may include cubbies, drawers and cabinet doors in addition to open shelving. This type of storage unit is convenient for storing extra rolls of toilet tissue, personal hygiene items, towels, soaps and cleaning supplies.

A wide variety of over-the-toilet étagères can be found at Target ( and via online catalogs such as Prices range from $55 to more than $200. (Note: Target and other discount retailers have replaced the term étagère with "spacesaver.")

Storage that's easy to access from a seated position can be found in the Skinny Stand ($33), named for the slender dimensions (7½ inches wide by 16 inches long by 29½ inches high) that allow it to fit in the typically narrow space between toilet and wall. The stand has casters and includes two metal mesh shelves, a drawer thoughtfully designed to hold three toilet tissue rolls, and a cotton canvas "magazine sling."

SOURCE: Comfort House –; (800) 359-7701.

If your restroom doubles as a reading room, consider the Wall Rack/Bath Tissue Holder ($70), which promises to keep your lavatory library in order. This classy brass/chrome rack actually does triple duty: It takes the place of a toilet-paper dispenser on your wall while providing storage for an extra roll plus reading material (12 inches wide by 4 inches deep by 13 inches tall).

SOURCE: Brookstone –; (800) 846-3000.

A similar product, the Magazine/Toilet Paper Rack ($40), is made of oak and measures 13½ inches wide by 4½ inches deep by 13 inches tall. It's available from The Old Road Woodshop at or by calling (269) 683-8573.

An even sleeker option is the In-Wall Bathroom Cabinet ($100), which keeps magazines and catalogs discreetly tucked away behind a drop-down panel located below an attached toilet tissue dispenser. The unit fits flush to the wall (pardon the pun) and measures 15 7/8 inches wide by 21¾ inches tall by 5¼ inchesdeep, with the depth disguised by the in-wall design. Improvements Catalog (see above).

Even the lowly toilet brush holder has been transformed into an exceptionally efficient source of storage. The Letten Bathroom Organizer & Toilet Brush (approx. $13) is like a mini-cart (5 7/8 inches wide by 18 1/8 inches deep by 20½ inches high) with a removable toilet brush holder cup; a lidded compartment for storing cleaners, newspapers, etc.; casters; and a brush that's replaceable.

SOURCE: IKEA –; (619) 563-4532.

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Harriet Schechter is founder of The Miracle Worker Organizing Service and author of three books, including "Let Go of Clutter." Her online advice column is at




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