My Minimalist Bathroom

Earlier this year, when we were living in a hotel, we had a TV for the first time in two years. We rarely turned it on, except for a few days when sidelined with the flu—at which time we managed to catch some episodes of House Hunters on HGTV.

I’m always amused when buyers on such shows complain that a bathroom doesn’t have double sinks or a Jacuzzi tub. As a renter, I’m just happy if it’s clean, the toilet flushes, and hot water comes out of the taps. It’s a special bonus if it’s not covered in garish-colored tiles, or sporting fake wood cabinets.

So anyway, I thought I’d share photos of my minimalist bathroom with you today. Not because it’s particularly special, but because it isn’t particularly ugly—and I know you guys always like pictures. Few of us will ever have the kind of spa-like retreats pictured in design magazines, so I thought it’d be fun to show a real life example. A minimalist bathroom doesn’t have to have marble tile, fancy fixtures, or an orchid on the countertop. By keeping things simple and clutter-free, even a basic bathroom can be serene and soothing.

I know someone will add “sterile”—but hey, it’s a rental! :) We’re forbidden to paint or hang stuff on the walls, so there’s little opportunity for personalization. Looking at these photos, I think a small bowl of flowers on top of the cabinet would look lovely; however, it’s the only work surface in the entire room, and a decorative object would compete with more practical things (like hairbrushes, toothbrushes, etc.) when the space is in use. In my opinion, a bathroom is first and foremost a functional space, so bare it shall likely remain.

Since I’ve been moving around so much, this is my fifth bathroom in less than a year. Here’s a few things I commonly do in my quick and cheap makeovers:

1. Pretty shower curtain. Actually, this is our first place in the past year that didn’t have a glass screen. In this case we replaced a dingy yellow curtain, and it’s amazing how this simple aesthetic change makes me smile every morning. My personal preference is something white or translucent, and PVC-free.

2. Adequate storage. We have a small cabinet to keep things off the floor and sink. Inside, there are two shelves: one for my toiletries, the other for my husband’s.

3. White towels. They’re not visible in the above shots, but they’re there.

4. Little touch of color. I chose an aqua bath rug because I love the color (it also matches my Dr. Bronner’s over there in the tub!). Alternatively, you may choose to add color with your towels or shower curtain.

5. Multi-purpose products. I became accustomed to using soap/shampoo combos while traveling, and love how they prevent a hodgepodge of items from gathering in the bath.

6. Clutter-free surfaces. Keeping things tucked away means more maneuverability in a small space—in other words, no worries about knocking a bottle onto the floor or a toothbrush into the toilet. Clear surfaces are also more hygienic, and easier to clean.

7. Clean, clean, clean. In my opinion, fresh and sparkling trumps fancy and expensive any day. Consider using natural cleansers like baking soda and vinegar—they’re kinder to the environment, and save you from having to buy (and store) a variety of specialty products.

Certainly, my humble bathroom will never grace the pages of a shelter magazine. However, I hope it provides a little inspiration to clear out the clutter, and make the best of what you have!

What are your techniques for keeping clutter out of the bathroom?

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Minimalist Beauty: 11 Ways to Look Gorgeous without Chemicals

Last week’s post on The Story of Cosmetics inspired a lively discussion on natural beauty alternatives. Many thanks to everyone who commented! I’ve decided to gather up the information that was shared, plus a few extras, and consolidate it into a Minimalist Beauty post.

So here you have it: eleven ways to minimize the chemicals in your beauty routine (and still look gorgeous!).

1. Wash your face with honey. Used as a facial wash, honey tightens pores, moisturizes skin, and is believed to help treat and control acne. Simply wet your face with warm water, massage with a tablespoon of raw, unprocessed honey, and rinse well. Or, apply it as a mask, and let it sit 15-20 minutes before washing it off. I’ve been doing this for some time, and have been quite pleased with the results.

2. Use witch hazel as a toner. It’s natural, gentle, and alcohol-free, and won’t dry out skin like chemical-based formulas. Witch hazel refreshes your skin, and removes excess oils and impurities. I tried this a while back, and was perfectly happy with it — just too lazy to keep it up. Although I don’t currently feel the need for this extra step in my beauty routine, I would use witch hazel if I did.

3. Moisturize with olive oil. Other suggestions from the Comments included coconut oil, almond oil, and jojoba oil. I’m a little nervous to try this, as I’m afraid to break out or look greasy; when I work up the courage to give this a whirl, I’ll let you know.

4. Shampoo with baking soda, and rinse with apple cider vinegar. This natural combo is a popular alternative to shampoo. First, dilute a tablespoon of baking soda with enough water to make a loose paste, then massage it into your scalp. After rinsing it out, pour an apple cider vinegar and water solution over the ends. (See Nature Moms No ‘Poo post for complete instructions.)

5. Make a facial with oatmeal. I’m not really a facial kind of gal, but if I ever fancy one, I like the idea of oatmeal. The simplicity of it appeals to me: just mix dry oatmeal and water into a paste and spread it on your face. Let it dry, then rinse with warm water. It’s supposed to have a wonderful calming effect on the skin, reducing irritation and inflammation.

6. Use tea tree oil for blemishes. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that kills bacteria without chemicals – simply dab a bit on the inflamed spot morning and night. It’s a great way to avoid the harsh ingredients in acne creams (which can further irritate skin).

7. Use one natural bar soap for body, hair, and teeth. This tip was mentioned a few times in the Comments; and while I was aware that one could use the same bar soap for hair and body, I would have never considered brushing my teeth with it! Cool idea!

8. DIY. Search the internet, and you’ll find plenty of recipes for making your own soap, lotions, shampoos, facials, and cosmetics from natural (and edible) ingredients. Check out Tammy’s (Rowdy Kittens) recent post on How to Make Your Own Cosmetics.

9. Choose products with natural ingredients. If you don’t want to cook up your own potions, start reading labels more carefully. Dawn Michelle lists chemicals to avoid in this post on her Minimalist Beauty blog, and the Skin Deep cosmetics database provides safety ratings for thousands of personal care products. “Natural” brands recommended in the Comments include Dr. Bronner’s, Fresh Line, Giovanni, Dr. Hauschka, Suki, and Aubrey’s Organics.

10. Drink plenty of water. Drinking eight to ten glasses of water per day hydrates your skin, helps it maintain its elasticity, and gives it a healthy, natural glow. An added bonus: it’s also good for the rest of your body, helping to lubricate joints and flush out toxins and impurities.

11. Get your beauty sleep. Sounds simple, but this can be a tough one for night owls like me (I do my best work at night!). Lately, however, I’ve been making a real effort to get the recommended eight hours of sleep. I’ve noticed that when I do, my skin looks smoother and more radiant. It’s also a great way to avoid dark, under-eye circles (and the concealer or makeup needed to cover them up!).

Keep the tips coming! I’d love to hear more about your natural (and minimal) beauty routines.

The Story of Cosmetics

My main reason for pursuing a minimalist lifestyle is that I enjoy an uncluttered environment. Nothing makes me happier than a sparse, open space with little visual distraction. I also love the freedom that results when you don’t have a lot of stuff to worry about, care for, and move around.

However, I also have a second reason for practicing minimalism: I’m worried about the impact of all that stuff on the world and its people. I’m concerned about how the manufacture and disposal of material goods affect the environment, and how the chemicals contained in them affect our health.

With the latter point in mind, I was thrilled to discover Annie Leonard’s latest addition to her Story of Stuff series: The Story of Cosmetics.


The video was just released yesterday, and is well worth the 5-10 minutes it takes to view it. In a nutshell: it explains that many of the personal care products (creams, lotions, shampoos, cosmetics) we use each day contain toxic ingredients, which are in large part unregulated by the FDA. The chemicals are present in small amounts, but the long term effects of smearing them on our heads, faces, and bodies every day are unknown.

Since I first read about such issues a few years ago, I’ve drastically cut back on the products I use – eliminating things like perfume, nail polish, mascara, and fancy skin creams. I generally stick to a sunscreen/moisturizer combo, lip balm, and minimal makeup (light powder, lipstick, and occasional eyeshadow) when I need to look professional. I’ve also been seeking less-toxic alternatives to my favorite shampoo, body wash, and deodorant, with the help of the Skin Deep cosmetic database.

In the process, I’ve found that being mindful of the products I use has made me even more of a minimalist. Questioning the ingredients in my lotions and potions has not only decreased the chemicals I put on my skin — it’s cleared my bathroom shelves, streamlined my morning routine, and made it that much easier to travel light. :-)

I encourage all of you to take a look at Annie’s illuminating video; and if you’d like to see more regulation of the chemicals in our personal care products, please ask your local representative to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010.

{If you’d like to read more about minimalist living, please consider buying my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

How to Create a Minimalist Bathroom

a(Photo: Agape Design)

How wonderful it would be to have a bathroom like this one (by Agape Design)! Simple lines, gleaming white surfaces, not a toiletry in sight…ahh…

Seem out of reach? Don’t despair! You can achieve a similar “clean and serene” look in your own home—even if designer Italian fixtures aren’t in the budget.

Just follow these ten tips for creating a minimalist bathroom, and you’ll have a space that soothes your soul while you brush your teeth.

The basics:

1. Empty all the (moveable) contents out of the bathroom. Yes, really. You’ll be surprised how many things you’ll find that don’t really need to be there: that moisturizer that made you break out, the hotel samples you brought home from your last vacation, the curling iron you haven’t used in a decade.

2. Go through your daily routine, and put back only those items you use on an everyday basis. If you don’t touch it at least once a day, it doesn’t belong in your bathroom. Keep those seldom-used items in a box in your linen closet instead.

3. Create ample storage. Make sure you have enough storage to keep all items hidden (preferably behind opaque, mirrored, or frosted doors), even if this means adding a cabinet to the space. It’s important that everything have a place.

4. Keep surfaces clear. If you follow only one tip in this article, make it this one. Clear surfaces are the key to a minimalist bathroom. Do whatever’s necessary to keep your hairbrush, deodorant, razor, eye shadow, and other sundries off the countertop.

5. Keep it clean. Basic cleanliness goes a long way towards making your space more serene. Give surfaces a quick wipe down once a day to maintain that spotless look.

The extras: (if you want to go a step beyond…)

6. Paint the walls white (or a very light color). White walls make a small space feel larger and airier, and create a sense of uniformity. To achieve a minimalist look, you want the walls to “disappear;” the less obtrusive you can make them, the better.

7. Replace old-fashioned fixtures with modern ones. This doesn’t mean you have to spend big money on a designer faucet. Simple, streamlined fixtures can be obtained at reasonable prices from home improvement centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

8. Replace the shower curtain with a glass or acrylic door. If this isn’t an option, choose a simple clear or white curtain.

9. Use white towels for a luxurious, spa look. Nothing will ruin your minimalist look faster than a hodgepodge of mismatched towels.

10. Accessorize with one decorative item like a single candle, orchid, or glass bowl of pebbles.