Living with Less: In the Bathroom


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I’d venture to guess that one of the rooms in an American house that is most overrun with unused, partially used, and never-will-be-used stuff is the bathroom.  Somehow one of the smallest rooms attracts the biggest amount of junk.  Quite frankly, we have enough to think about when it comes to keeping the bathroom clean.  We don’t need to add stuff that’s just taking up space.  Well, we’re going to weed through that scented, powdery goop right now.

Whether your bathroom is big or small, most people would admit that we have too much stuff. Every space is filled - under the sink, on the counter, and all the drawers - and our DIY storage ideas just aren't cutting it.

Lotions, Gels & Sprays… oh my!

Growing up, the place to be at the mall was Bath & Body Works.  The smell of it lured us in like a siren’s song.  I was in love with the Cucumber Melon everything.  Today I stay away from anything with fragrance.  I’ve begun to appreciate the smell of clean over heavily scented perfumed lotions, and, as a teacher, I am cautious about possible student allergies and breathing issues strong odors can bring on.  However, those ubiquitous gift packages of coordinated body wash and lotion are still a go-to gift for those for whom we can’t figure out what to get, and we’ve all gotten our share of them.

I know it feels bad to get rid of something that someone gave you – after all, they spent their hard-earned money on it – but if the gift is just sitting there, taking up space, maybe even stinking up your bathroom, it’s time to let it go.  Gather up all the unopened or half-used lotions and put them into 2 piles; donate or toss.  Rule of thumb, if it’s opened, just toss it.

Shampoo & Conditioner

Every few months there’s a new thing that’s just what your tired, sad hair needs to be gorgeously silky.  Jojoba, keratin, coconut oil, sulfate free, organic… you get the idea.  And we, especially women, are happy to plunk down $6.99 a bottle to see if it lives up to the hype.  (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.  Ever.)  As such we have a collection of half-used shampoo and conditioner products that Paul Mitchell himself would be envious of (if it wasn’t all crap).  Well, it’s time for all those underwhelming hair products to say bye bye.  Again, if it’s open, toss it.

Make-up

My make-up drawer looks like a time machine.  Seriously.  I have everything from the Cover Girl I used to wear in high school and college, to the Merle Norman I wore when I thought it made me look sophisticated, to the Lancome I wore when I figured out all my skin issues (mostly), to the tinted CC Cream moisturizer I now use.  It’s all there.  And do you know what it’s good for?  My 6-year-old likes to get into it and make a mess.  It’s long past expiration and way past fashionable, so why is it there?  It was freakin’ expensive, for one thing.  And make-up more than anything else in my bathroom vanity is something I keep around “just in case”.  What if I need full make up for a wedding or something?  What if I want to get headshots and need some heavier foundation?  What if I want to dress up as a ridiculously overly-made-up street walker for parent-teacher night?  You never know!

Guess what.  Bye, Felicia!  Almost all of my makeup is WAY past its expiration and probably harboring some sort of plague.  So it’s gone.  Do not donate used make up.  Ever. But you can donate it if it’s unopened and within the expiration date.

Meds

Speaking of expired, when’s the last time you checked expiration date on that bottle of Advil in your cabinet?  A couple of years ago my response would have been, “You mean medicine expires?”  Ummmm, yes.  Now if I’m totally honest I have to say that for things like ibuprofen I’ll let it hang out past the expiration date.  (Don’t do that just because I do.  I’m wild and like to live on the edge.) But for prescription meds, you need to let that stuff go!  Besides the fact that expired prescription meds could pose a serious health threat, you don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands, like your kids’.

What to do with bathroom items

Many standard charities will not accept things like lotions and shampoos, even unopened.  For these items you might want to reach out to a local church or shelter to find families in need.  Believe it or not, many food pantries will take these items, too, so you can tuck it in the bag with the canned peas and call it a day.  Remember that all bathroom items must be unopened and within their expiration date to donate.  If they’re not, the charity is just going to throw them away, and really, you could have saved them the effort.

Prescription meds are a different animal.  No reputable charity will accept prescription meds and you don’t want to simply toss them away – all those chemicals seep into our ground water.  I recommend bringing unused meds back to a pharmacy.  Most of them have safe disposal programs and will take them off your hands.

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