life in a tiny apartment.

July 11, 2012

Tip #21: Limit your grooming supplies.

jessie wrote last week with a question about how we handle our bathroom storage, so i decided i would indulge, heinous photograph and all.

i really wish that what i had to show you was prettier. getting to use this toothpaste regularly, for example, would help things. if someone could start a contact solution company a la common good, that’d be perfect, and prettier packaging on floss wouldn’t hurt either (bring back the tins)! but painfully, not ever square inch of my life is yet perfectly polished, and so, here they are, our motley crew of bathroom supplies.

here’s the thing about bathroom storage solutions: it’s hard to write universally about them.  in every bathroom that we’ve lived in, we’ve had to work around different challenges. in some apartments there have been bathroom mirrors with shelves tucked inside, in others we’ve nearly ripped the mirror off the wall searching for them. there have been towel hooks and no towel hooks, shower heads that accomodated a shower caddy, and others where the thing slid right off. there have been tubs with corners for stashing conditioner, and tubs of the clawfoot variety, where bottles slipped out and over when we were fool hardy enough to attempt a balancing act. in all of these places, i’ve found the number one most useful tip is to simply limit what we need to store. (watch this film about single-use plastic and you’ll start mourning every shampoo bottle you’ve ever purchased, promise).

but seriously.  some people have bathrooms that more nearly resemble the local duane reade. i say, choose your shampoo carefully and stick with it ’til it’s empty. if you’re up for it, try your hand at solid shampoo. and please tell me that you’re already using bar soap.


in case you’ve already limited your personal grooming supplies to a jar of baking soda and a good washcloth, and you’d like actual storage solutions for other sorts of bathroom-y things, here are a few other tips that have consistently worked well for us:

1. towel bars on the back of the door. two of them, one toward the top, one toward the middle. towel hooks don’t work. also, pretty towels make all the difference.

2. a basket perched on the back of the toilet. it feels a bit ’90s, but as long as it doesn’t include a stenciled duck, it’ll work. thermometers, ibuprofen, extra contacts, band-aids, tampons, shove those in there. neatly, for heaven’s sake.

3.  hand towels as bath mats.

4. keeping everyday things (if you’re me that’s mascara and lip balm and if my skin’s lucky, moisturizer) in the same bag you use to travel (i use one of these). i’d rather pop creams and potions into one neat spot than seeing them strewn about. plus, this makes for super speedy packing (and unpacking).


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  • Reply rebecca July 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    the post!?! get out. *high five*

    • Reply Erin July 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      ha! thanks, friend. purty funny.

  • Reply Isabel Marques July 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    thank you for this post!
    I think the photo says it all: if 2 people live in a house, then there should only be 2 toothbrushes! We don't live in a tiny apartment, but it's as though we do. We keep everything the a minimum, and only buy what we really really need. The trick is using stuff until they are finished. You have no idea how pissed off I get when I go to someone's home and see 5 different shampoos, 6 toothbrushes, creams, lotions, etc, etc. So much plastic and so little eco-conscious.

    • Reply Txell July 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      Yeap, I visited a bathroom where there was like 10 bottles of shampoos.. It was in a girl apartment of 4, where each one was using more than one shampoo at the same time…

    • Reply Adriana F July 14, 2012 at 7:26 pm

      I'm with you. I just don't understand why some people need more than one bottle of shampoo at a time.

  • Reply Jessie Ammons July 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    thank you! basket for back of my toilet has just been added to my list …

  • Reply Carrie | acookgrowsinbrooklyn July 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    If you think this is heinous, you should see our bathroom shelves. The photos of your bathroom shelves could be a work of art hanging in my bathroom. 🙂

  • Reply J+H @ Beyond The Stoop July 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    love the post… now i need to finish ALL the lotions i have until they are DONE before getting more. even though it's SO tempting 😉

  • Reply Txell July 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I way to start waiting the bottle is finished is buying a good quality (and more expensive) shampoo , so you'll use less quantity, and you will obviously wait until is finished.
    I will see the documentary you talked about.

    Only a question, where do you keep your clothes?? I can't see any closet !

    • Reply Erin July 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      hey, there! we have two dressers, one upstairs, one down and the closet under the stairs. we also have a fancy pad-locked closet in the hall where we can keep winter coats, etc!

  • Reply Julia July 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    i have never understood why people's tubs are strewn with multiple soaps and shampoos. don't you just need the ones you use each day?
    we stack large tupperwares, organized by toiletry type (one for first aid, one for prescriptions, etc) in the cabinet under sink. if you've got that cabinet, it's a good way of compactly organizing things out of sight.

  • Reply Alexa July 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    as a <400 sq footer myself, i am really benefiting from seeing how you make it work. i, too, keep a basket of miscellany and find it totally useful. thanks so much for these posts 🙂

    also, may i ask what's in the jar? i am fascinated by the products others use!

    • Reply Erin July 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      ha! it's a scented geranium salt scrub! just scented geranium, grapeseed oil and sea salt!

  • Reply Daniella July 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I was wondering what was in that jar! lol… how long does a sea salt scrub like that last for? I'm thinking of making a lavender one.

    Great tips as always though! And so true about the multiple shampoos!

  • Reply sarah e. July 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I am definitely guilty of being a toiletry hoarder, especially when my hair kept changing texture and i ended up with a ton of half empty bottles. i've heard that women's shelters will often take things even if they're not completely full so i'm probably headed there next.

    and congrats on the post! so awesome!

  • Reply hannah July 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    can you tell us about the cork in the bottom of your cabinet? my bathroom cabinet is all rust on the bottom and I'd love to cover it up with something that could handle a bit of damp…..

  • Reply Rachel July 11, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Oh, I love the article! For some reason it gave me an even better sense of your apartment set up than the AT one. You guys are amazing.

  • Reply Karen - Quilts...etc. July 11, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    I just found your blog and love the little space that you have. Off and on throughout the year my husband and I travel in our little 25 foot motor home. No slide outs – what you see is what you get. We gave up a table for a permanent bed in our little home, we have a tiny kitchen, bathroom and a tiny living space. Tv pulls out from the wall. Of course we do not live in it like you do full time, but we are in it normally for 4 to 8 weeks at a time. We do spend a lot of time outside when we travel – but I understand about packing only what you need.

  • Reply Anonymous July 11, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    You are on the front page of Yahoo!!!!!!!!!! CONGRATS!!!!! Now thousands of new readers will benefit from your wonderful blog! 🙂

  • Reply LARY @InspirationNook July 11, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    You guys are really inspiring! Just found you through Yahoo! Love your photography too.

  • Reply 312east5th July 12, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Wow. I am so inspired by your simple (yet beautiful) life! I am excited to see the rest of your little space!

  • Reply Joan July 12, 2012 at 12:17 am

    I just went to Yahoo. Needed to fill out some appointments in mail. I saw and smiled and giggled. Yay! Very cool. You are the second story listed.
    Loved this/squeezy article too!

  • Reply Elisa B. July 12, 2012 at 2:03 am

    I love solid shampoo – I use "NEW" and don't even condition. To cut out on product, I use a hair oil before blow drying. No other hair product needed.

  • Reply Jessie July 12, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Here is a behind the door towel rack we use in out not so small home (we bought it in our last house where the bathroom was tiny, though) It works great!

  • Reply Anonymous July 12, 2012 at 2:24 am

    I got a dental floss holder once. It looks like a piranha. It's one of my funnest investment for my teeth! I LOVE flossing, and I can get rid of the dental floss packaging FAST–because it's easy to reload! The company still makes it: Koziol (they make fun stuff). AND it's not that big!

  • Reply caroline July 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    less is more in a 250 sq foot home!

  • Reply Amanda (Dear Frances) July 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Congrats on the recognition! I actually first saw this reposted on Daily Mail last night when my husband was doing his bedtime catch up on fun and crazy news tidbits. Way to go!

  • Reply Jessica Butler July 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Tea tins make the perfect storage box for things like floss and contact holders.

  • Reply Lexie, Little Boat July 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    it's amazing how much good design can improve QOL!

  • Reply NICOMADE July 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    love this post! such great tips and helpful links. just saw that bag it video which gave me instant anxiety – oof. here's to using less plastic!

  • Reply Anonymous July 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I am really glad you are happy but the thing I take away from this is that America is really fucked up. Somewhere, some rich landlord is probably laughing at the fact that he can get $1,500 a month for a 240 sq. foot apartment. Things should not be this way.

  • Reply onesilentwinter July 12, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    saw your tiny apt around the web today!

  • Reply Kelsey July 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    a. we use those toothbrushes! b. the article in the post was so so so cool. surfboard in the shower? you guys are beyond cool, and i'm totally completely inspired.

  • Reply Debbie July 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    love the efficiency, your writing is cute and quip-ful!

  • Reply Amielle July 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    I love this! I already use my travel bag for my cosmetics on my counter, which does save a ton of space. And pretty towels make everything better.

  • Reply Altitude Lou McNally-The Weather Man July 17, 2012 at 4:19 am

    I have to hand it to you Erin, great blog. Well done on your apartment segment. I say: 'Live life to the fullest James & Erin'. You've moved into a whole new space [metaphorically & physically] and by doing so, have been enlightened. You never really know what you might learn by doing something necessary, like setting up a home. Challenges keep us sharp and in tune; In tune to many things. You just need to be in the moment to fully appreciate what's really going on.
    And it really is all good …. We just can't comprehend WHY.

    Peace, Louis. [email protected]

  • Reply Altitude Lou McNally-The Weather Man July 17, 2012 at 4:48 am

    These two people Erin & James are really living. Probably freer than most. Because most of us have clutter, clutter that becomes a ball & chain on our collective ankles, that slows us down. By learning to un-attach ourselves from "things / possessions" we free ourselves, and open up the real happiness inside each & every one of us. Lesson: The less we say that 'that is mine', the less attached we are to something. And if we are not attached to anything, we don't own it and we cannot lose it. Therefore your less likely to be bumbed out if your bicycle gets stolen. It really wasn't yours to start with, your just using it for awhile until the next person uses it or until it turns back into the Earth in the form of rust and other organic compounds. Another example is: The car you drive may have cost you money and you may even have the title but again, if you look at it that you are just renting it for awhile until the next person uses (as opposed to saying "it's mine) it then you don't necessarily equate yourself and your happiness to material items. Stuff may make you happy…temporarily. And when that temporary moment ends what are you left with ? Emptiness. You would need a "refill" to make you feel good and happy; to fill the emptiness that eventually comes with all material items.
    The point is Happiness and feeling good has been and will always be within you. And that Feeling of Happiness is NOT predicated upon having something material, like a car or bike. That Happiness & Goodness is actually who and what you REALLY are.
    Peace, Love & Bliss is the true human condition.
    Altitude The Weather Man.

  • Reply liidiiia July 17, 2012 at 11:09 am

    hello, I got here thru the yahoo article, thanks for sharing your very inspiring blog /life. I live in a bit (but not that much) bigger appartment in Budapest (Hungary), and also keep a clever limit to the amount of objects we have, it's very peaceful this way, I love the "taste" of time that living light gives. all the best to you

  • Reply April July 18, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    You're inspiring me to post some about how we're using our space in our tiny house – especially the bathroom, though it's unfinished. I have a bag that holds my make up in the medicine cabinet, but haven't figured out quite where to put the taller items like hairspray. Well, it's unfinished, so I imagine I'll figure that out. And my husband and I share a Sonicare toothbrush, so that saves a little space. 🙂 Am I the only one who wants my products to color coordinate? 🙂

  • Reply Annie February 25, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Erin! Is there a particular reason why you suggest using bar soap?

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