How to organize bathroom countertops for style and function

Whether you’re looking to spruce up your guest bathroom or hoping to create a more zen-like environment in your en-suite, we spoke to a handful of interior design and decluttering experts to learn their favorite ways to organize bathroom countertops for both style and function.

The countertop can really make or break your bathroom organization—you want something that is aesthetically pleasing to look at and leaves your daily products at arms reach. At the same time, you don’t want to accidentally turn your bathroom into a fancy cosmetics museum...

How to style and organize bathroom countertops like a pro

From ensuring your non-essential essentials have a proper home to adding only the most minimal decorative accents, here’s what you need to know about decluttering and styling a bathroom countertop—and the steps you’ll want to take to make sure you get it right.

1. Keep surfaces clear

When it comes to organizing a bathroom countertop, less is more. Especially if it is a shared bathroom or a main bathroom that guests use, decluttering the surface will make it feel much cleaner and it will be easier to maintain in general.

Whether it’s the master bath or not, you really don’t need to have too many items in plain sight on your countertop. Decluttering anything you don’t use on a regular basis will help—as will making space for those occasional items.

2. Put top drawers to good use

Making space in the top drawer will help you rid your countertop of non-essential essentials and leave room for a more curated bathroom look overall. This will instantly make your bathroom countertop feel more open and airy.

How to organize bathroom countertops for style and function

'Clear out the top drawers and the medicine cabinet and leave those open for essential items,' suggests Shawna Percival, founder of Styleberry Creative Interiors. 'Not that eyeshadow you use every other weekend–but the daily essentials. Rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t pack it to go on a trip, it likely isn’t essential!'

Once you’ve cleaned everything, other than the bare essentials, try to keep your bathroom clutter-free. To maximize space, any accessories that you use on a day to day basis can be stored in trays under the sink, in your best bathroom vanity or in drawers which will keep the room tidy and cleaner for longer.

3. Get creative with cosmetics and essentials

Here are a few key bathroom storage solutions that can help extend the tidiness of your bathroom countertop:

Apothecary jars for bathroom essentials.

For a more organized approach to storing your bathroom essentials like soap bars and cotton balls, apothecary jars are the way to go. They add to the overall aesthetic element of the bathroom, says Miller. Try it out and see for yourself.

Use a decanter for your mouthwash.

Looking for beautiful items that double as practical storage solutions will help promote character and whimsy in your bathroom—without heading too far into kitsch territory. 'Just like how you’d store your whiskey or brandy, your mouthwash can also use a decanter treatment,' says Miller. 'That should add some sophistication to your bathroom counter.'

Upcyle old jars.

Mason jars are the most common way of storing makeup brushes, toothbrushes, etc. 'A great tip here is to use white pearls, vase fillers or even rice, in order to keep your brushes upright,' suggests Windleton. 'Upcycled old flower pods could be a great addition to your organizing system, as they could be customized to your taste and aesthetic preferences.'

Consider a cosmetic carousel.

Cosmetic carousels and Lazy Susans are great for counter space organizing and decorating as they keep all your essentials neat and tidy without being cramped or hard to reach. 'Cosmetic carousel designs are endless or you could even try and DIY your own tiered tray from old plates and cocktail glasses,' suggests decluttering expert Kate Windleton.

4. Use vertical space for storage

It would look much more cluttered to utilize the horizontal space, so why not go vertical? 'By using tiered storage bins, you not only make your countertops less cluttered, but you also get to store more things at once,' says Jack Miller, founder of How I Get Rid Of.

Another easy way to declutter a bathroom countertop is to fill empty space with shelving. In other words: go up. 'Adding shelves higher on the walls or making use of an etagere can increase your storage without taking up valuable counter space,' says Andre Kazimierski, CEO, Improovy. 'This is especially important for those working with small bathrooms that don’t have much in the way of storage.'

5. Don’t forget decor

Organizing your bathroom countertop will naturally help style the space too, but that's not to say that you shouldn't pay attention to the finer details. The decorative pieces should be simple items, like a good reed diffuser or a small piece of art, says Windleton. In fact, think of your bathroom countertop as you would a hotel. Keep only the essentials with very sparse decor. 'For your personal bathroom that most others don’t use, you can have a few more items on top if you’d like, but still try to keep it decluttered.'

What should I leave on my bathroom counter?

You can keep some lotions, perfumes, and a toothbrush holder on your countertop, but you should still try to still keep most of your items in your cabinets and drawers, pulling them out only when needed.

Keep in mind that the bathroom countertop can also be a humid place most of the time, which makes it conducive to bacteria. Keeping your countertop sparse and airy makes it easy to clean up and disinfect the space on a regular basis.

That said, if you are keen on adding an extra dose of personality, a bathroom-friendly houseplant should do it. 'Houseplants like bamboo not only give your bathroom an exotic and fresh feel but also thrive in humid places which make them the perfect accessories for the bathroom,' says Richard Petrie, home expert at Thomas Sanderson. 'Also, scented candles can help you relax and turn your space into a tranquil spa-like escape.'