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There is one corner of a woman’s home that tends to be a nightmare of high maintenance overspending and clutter: the bathroom. The beauty industry spends billions of dollars to convince you that your natural self is unacceptable and you need to buy X, Y, and Z to bring yourself up to social presentability and desirability.
Don’t buy into (figuratively or literally).
Instead, your bathroom can be a sanctuary of self-care and self-love that supports nurturing morning and evening routines. The products therein can proactively meet your needs and enhance your well-being.
And the process itself, minimizing a small space with little to no sentimentality, can be an easy and inspiring win. So let’s get started already.
Make a list of the self-care tools you need.
Turn to a fresh page in your journal, settle into a cozy spot, and take a slow, deep breath with me. Now close your eyes and imagine you’re rising from bed on a beautiful morning, feeling well rested and at peace. You walk to an empty bathroom with a relaxed smile on your face to begin the bathroom portion of the morning routine that you know will nourish you for a lovely day as your best self, living your best life. As you need something, it appears.
What’s the first thing you do? What tools help you do it?
If the first thing you do is pee, then you probably need toilet paper, then hand soap, then a towel. What happens next? Maybe you brush your teeth: toothbrush and toothpaste. What kind of toothbrush? What flavor toothpaste? Do you take a morning shower? Imagine walking through your full shower routine. What things do you use? What does each item feel like in your hands and smell like in the steam of the hot shower?
Get specific here as you allow yourself to imagine exactly what you need and jot it down. Once you’ve moved through your entire ideal morning routine (you can do the same in reverse, walking through your ideal evening routine) you’ll have a list of the tools that will help support that routine. Those, and only those, are the items we want to hold space for in your bathroom.
If you feel the need or desire for a little extra inspiration here, listen to episode 10 of the Sage Family Podcast on Beauty.
Toileting: toilet paper, flushable wipes, hand soap
Teeth: toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, retainers, mouthwash
Shower: shampoo, conditioner, comb, hair gel, body wash, razor, face wash, bath salt, washcloth, towel, microfiber hair towel (I’m presently enjoying the Curly Girl Method for nurturing my natural waves by washing with lo poo, combing while conditioning, scrunching gel in while wet, and plopping into the microfiber hair towel.)
Body: deodorant, coconut oil, tweezers, nail clippers, essential oils
Hair: brush, comb, hair dryer, flat iron, curling iron, ponytail elastics, braid elastics, bobby pins, snap clips, jaw clips (My daily routine presently includes the use of none of these tools, but there are special occasions that warrant their inclusion like a big hike or a photo shoot, for both myself and my teenage daughter.)
Makeup: concealer, foundation, bronzer, highlighter, eye shadow, finishing powder, mascara, lipstick, lip gloss, foundation brush, bronzer brush, highlighter brush, eye shadow brush, finishing powder brush, eyelash curler, makeup remover (click here to read about my make up with makeup).
Shop your stash.
Now the real fun begins! Pull every single item out of your drawers, cupboards, cabinets, and shower—everything—and lay them all on the floor.
That list you made is your shopping list and you are going to shop your favorites from your own stash. If body wash is on your list and you’re staring down a pile of body washes, choose your one favorite and leave the rest. By the end of this step, you should have a minimal collection of items in a keep pile—only favorites and only things on the list.
One additional note for this shopping your stash step is to be mindful of expiration dates! Nothing expired gets invited into the keep pile (you are going to be shocked at how much you have that is expired—ew).
Release the rest—let go of it all. Normally I would be encouraging you to donate the things that are no longer serving you, but in the bathroom, we have sanitation to consider—trash it.
Shop for any remaining needs.
If there is anything on your list that wasn’t available in your stash, now is the time to get it. The heart of this process is minimizing, meaning you’re doing more releasing than acquiring, but you may have discovered something essential to be expired or missing.
This is not the time to “treat yo’ self” to the $400 face cream of the stars. You still have half a bottle of your favorite “good enough” cream. Your need is satisfied. But maybe your best self is a flosser and you are ready to nurture your mouth with elevated oral hygiene, but you don’t own floss. You have my permission to get some. Maybe you realized that your mascara is rancid at 2 years past its expiration date. Please, for the love of eyes without bacterial infections, replace it.
You’re likely feeling a little panic rising up inside you having released all that clutter. But you want to keep that space clear and open—resist the urge to fill it!
Organize your keepers.
Sort the items into the zones you categorized in your list (shower, makeup, etc.) and create a home for each item in its zone.
My top bathroom drawer contains everything non-shower related for my hair and the bottom drawer contains my menstrual cup, flushable wipes, and my makeup bag. Shower supplies are in the shower and teeth and body supplies are in my mirrored cabinet.
No one loves a perfect glass or natural fiber container more than me (it’s what my wet dreams are made of), but less really is more. Mother Earth asked me to tell you that you don’t need to contain every object in a clear plastic box. The less you have, the less containment you need. And for the record, my best organizer for the bathroom is a clear glass mason jar (of which I have ample supply in my kitchen).
If organization is your jam, you will totally dig episode 43 of the Sage Family Podcast on Organization with Shira Gill.
Upgrade over time.
Since I walked you through the start and end of a dream day, it’s likely that you have a fair number of things on your list that are aspirational. I know I do when I move through this exercise and even though we haven’t run out to buy all the new things, that list is still valuable. As products are used up and broken down, replace them with these higher-quality, more consciously chosen, aspirational items.
For example, I needed a face soap, so I chose the best one that I already owned to start. Then when my chemical-filled plastic bottle of face soap ran out, I replaced it with a charcoal cleansing bar that I love. When my plastic hair brush broke, I replaced it with a wooden one. Overhauling every product you own in one fell swoop, while doable when you only own a handful of products, requires an overwhelming amount of research and money. But one product at a time as they run out or break down—totally doable.
But again, don’t fill in all the open space you created! Stick to a one in-one out rule and you’ll keep your space calm and centered on the self-care routine that meets your needs.
The bathroom is my favorite place to start decluttering because it can be a quick yet profound win. Women tend to accumulate an obscene amount of expensive beauty products that clutter up our bathrooms and clog up our morning and evening routines right along with our pores. But it does not have to be that way. You can let all that go and embrace a home and life of intentionality, one that proactively meets your needs, leaves you feeling nurtured, and enhances your well-being. Yes, all that from a bathroom.
Ready to extend minimalism beyond your bathroom? Move into the curation of your own minimalist wardrobe here.