If you've ever shared an apartment with a few people, you know the drill: You wake up in the morning and have to get to work or class, but one of your roommates is taking his or her sweet time in the shower. Then, when you finally get into the shared bathroom, everything's filthy and disorganized.
How do you handle a shared bathroom?
Let's be honest, that's not the way anyone wants to start the day. A shared bathroom arrangement can be frustrating, but there are a few simple solutions that can reduce the tension and messiness between you and your roommates.
1. Set a schedule and keep it clean
There's cleaning yourself up and cleaning up after yourself. One person alone shouldn't have to do all the cleaning, especially when it comes to wiping down the toilet, sink and shower. Instead of pinning all of the cleaning on one roommate, set a regular schedule so that the bathroom gets cleaned once a week. Pin it up on the fridge so everyone can see it and be reminded of their responsibilities.
That not only includes spraying down the shower with the cleaning spray of your choice. It also means cleaning the mirror (because there's nothing grosser than a bathroom selfie in a dirty mirror). Don't forget the vanity and the sink. And yes, it also means cleaning the toilet (inside and outside) and the floors.
Don't forget to wash towels, hand towels and bathmats regularly. Just because hand towels are used for drying clean hands, that doesn't mean that they can skip laundry day. Hand towels and bath mats aren't cleaned as often as bath towels and washcloths and can grow mildew if not cleaned regularly.
2. Maximize your time
Sure, there are certain things that can only be accomplished in the bathroom, including brushing your teeth, showering and “doing your business." But if bathroom space is limited and time is a factor, you can do some of your grooming in your room, freeing up a shared bathroom for your roommate or guest.
Things like blow-drying your hair, putting on makeup, getting dressed and taking a series of selfies on Snapchat don't have to be done in the bathroom. If it's time in the mirror you crave, try installing a full-length mirror somewhere in your bedroom or on the back of your door.
And remember you're not the only one who likes hot showers. So, don't use up all the hot water! Enjoy the time you're in there. It's your time to get ready for your day or relax and unwind from it. But other people need to clean up, too. And no one wants to take a cold shower.
3. Invest in a shower caddy
Instead of storing all of your bathroom essentials like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream and more all in that small space, consider breaking out the shower caddy you had in your freshman dorm. Store your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, etc. in your caddy and keep it in your room. This takes lots of clutter out of your communal bathroom space (and ensures that nobody will use that expensive shampoo you bought).
If everyone agrees to keep their grooming supplies in their room instead of the bathroom, that frees up counter space for communal items like hand soap and room under the sink for spare toilet paper and cleaning supplies.
4. Use the drawers
If you use a curling iron, flat iron or electric razor, it's also a good idea to either store it in a drawer or under the sink when you're not using it. Unplugging your bathroom accessories is a good way to reduce clutter — and ensure safety — when both you and your roommate are out.
5. Utilize towel hooks
Towels won't get dry if you leave them in a bunched up mess on your floor. Hang them up! Put a few overhead hooks on the back of the bathroom door to hang towels. Not only will it keep your shared bathroom space looking neat and tidy, but it will also be easier to determine whose towel is whose. And that's important because no matter how much you like your roommate, you don't want to dry your face with the towel they used to dry their — ahem — “other side."
Each roommate should have a separate colored towel and hang it on removable hooks. A double hook can hold both a bath towel and a washcloth. By removing towels from the floor or bathroom sink, you'll have much more room to do other things.
6. Clean up after yourself
Living with roommates can be a mess. If you come into the bathroom and see hair scattered on the shower wall and toothpaste residue all over the mirror, you're probably not going to be too happy. So, if you're the one that makes this mess, take the extra minute to tidy it up. Clean the drain when you're done showering and wipe any excess toothpaste from the sink and mirror.
When you get out of the shower, make sure to clean up any water drops that might have strayed from the bathmat. That way, you or your roommate won't get unexpected wet socks when trying to get out the door.
Pro tip: Keep a bottle of multi-purpose cleaner under the sink along with a roll of paper towels or cleaning rags. When your cleaning supplies are literally inches away, you have no excuse to not clean up.
7. Replace the toilet paper
There's nothing more inconvenient than going to use the restroom, only to find that the toilet paper roll is empty. And it's even worse if you didn't notice the absent TP until after you did your business. Always be courteous and replace the roll if you use the last of the toilet paper. And don't leave one or two sheets, either. That's almost worse than leaving none at all.
When there's toilet paper, the inevitable conversation follows about which way to set the roll: the paper coming over the top or hanging below. That conversation can be fraught. Approach it at your own risk.
8. Close the shower curtain properly
The first thing you should know about your shower curtain is that you should close it when you're not in the shower. Not only does no one want to see inside your shower when they're in your bathroom, but the water clinging to the curtain needs to drain so the curtain can dry. If you push your curtain to the side when you get out of the shower and leave it there until you get back the next day, you run the risk of growing mildew in your shower.
You should also know what exactly you have in your bathroom. If you have a plastic shower curtain and nothing else, that belongs on the inside of your tub to prevent water from splashing out and soaking your floors. The curtain can go on the outside if you have a liner on the inside of the tub. Liners are usually white or clear and should go inside the tub when you're using the shower. If you have a fabric shower curtain, then you should also have a shower curtain liner. The liner hangs inside the tub, and the fabric curtain hangs on the outside.
Fabric shower curtains can be cleaned in your washing machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. And the shower curtain liner can be cleaned by filling your tub with cold water and two cups of bleach. Use just enough water to cover the liner. It will float, so you may need to stir it around a little. The bleach will clean the liner and destroy any mildew. And as an added bonus, you'll be cleaning your tub in the process.
Remember to use cold water with bleach and not steaming hot water. Hot water weakens bleach more than simply diluting it. So, if you're using bleach to clean, keep the water cold.
9. Invest in a nice-smelling scent
Whether it's a candle, diffuser, plug-in air freshener or a bottle of room spray, a pleasant scent can make a world of difference in making your bathroom feel clean and peaceful. Make sure you select a scent that you and your roommate both like but is strong enough to do its job. Also, consider leaving a small fan in the bathroom to air out any undesirable smells.
A shared bathroom doesn't have to stress you out
Living with another person is an important part of life. Sharing your space with someone for a lifetime or a semester is a big step and it shows you a lot about yourself as an individual.
Remember that you both use this space and it must be shared. But with some simple additions to your shared bathroom setup and a little communication with each other, your bathroom can be a peaceful respite for the long run. But don't forget to knock!