Last updated on October 11th, 2021 at 12:33 am
With #vanlife/vandwelling and tiny houses all the rage right now, advice on how to make the most of small spaces is everywhere. RV bathrooms, however, are a challenge in and of themselves, especially those in the more affordable travel trailers and Class B categories – small camper vans. While Class A rigs (usually built on large, heavy-duty commercial bus or truck chassis) give you room to roam, the smaller RV bathrooms put the “tiny” in “tiny.”
Regardless of the size of the space, RVers’ bathroom needs are still pretty much the same: towels, washcloths, soap, shampoo, makeup, hair tools, tissue, cleaning products, etc. The good news is that most RVers will stick with only the necessities, not several almost-the-same-but-slightly-different items to match the mood of the day.
Here are a few ideas you can use to make your RV bathroom as livable as possible while you’re on the road (or in the woods, or by the beach, or…). We’ll assume that the bathroom in question has the three essential elements: toilet, shower, sink. We’ll also consider the walls and door in play, though both can be quite thin and unable to hold much weight.
RV Bathroom Storage Ideas
The shower area –
This is prime real estate for things that hang, and there are ingenious ways to do so depending on how much space there is to work with. First, look up. Unless you or your fellow travelers are quite tall, the space between the shower wall and the ceiling can host several different types of baskets, bins, buckets, and bags. If the wall can handle it, attach a horizontal bar there, and dangle any type of lightweight storage container that suits your fancy — plastic flowerpots in whimsical colors; wire baskets for a modern, farmhouse or rustic vibe, depending on the finish; hanging shoe racks turned sideways to create cubbyholes; photo clips or clothes pins to clasp washcloths, lotions, or scrubbies instead of images; and mesh or clear bags for all sorts of items. If you can find something lightweight that holds essentials and dangles (or can be rigged to do so), it’s fair game. For those with larger showers, standard shower caddies that hang from the shower head or that attach with adhesive to the shower wall are good options too.
The back of the door –
Jackpot! This is one of the most useful areas for storage because it’s a big surface and it’s (for the most part) out of the way. Over-the-door shoe organizers can hold pretty much anything, from blow dryers and beard oil to room spray, linens, and toilet paper rolls. For a rustic look, try small buckets from the craft store tied at intervals to a sturdy rope attached to an over-the-door hook. Go shabby chic by dangling a weathered window frame from over-the-door hooks then attaching containers to it, or simply folding items like washcloths over the wood. If you don’t want to use the entire vertical surface, one-, two- or three-layer wire baskets with over-the-door mounts work well. Hooks are great for towels, robes, pajamas, swimsuits, etc. Clear acrylic storage cubes can be attached to over-the-door shelves or racks with handy hook-and-loop closures for a more modular look.
In the medicine cabinet –
Some RVs come with medicine cabinets. Some don’t. If yours does, organizing it well can make a big difference, especially if several people share the RV. Again, clear acrylic boxes can be used like mini-drawers to hold first-aid items, makeup, medicines, and other small items that tend to get jumbled up otherwise. Longer horizontal containers can be used to wrangle toothbrushes, combs, cords, etc.
Above the sink –
If your RV bathroom doesn’t come with a medicine cabinet, you’ve got a wall of possibilities above the sink. If it does, there’s usually some space between the sink and the cabinet, or in corner setups on the wall to the side of the sink, to affix storage containers or shelves. Before you decide what you want, do two tests: 1) the “bang your head” test to ensure your noggin doesn’t smack into anything when you lean forward; and 2) the “can I get to the water” test because after all, that’s what a sink is for. If all systems are go, and if the walls are sturdy enough (test number three), take advantage of the space, but keep the profile slim.
Under the sink –
In most RVs, there is some space in a small cabinet beneath the sink. Not much—the bottom of the sink tends to take up where a top shelf would be—but enough to tuck away some bathroom essentials. Down there, simple, easy-to-get-to storage containers are your best bet. You don’t want anything lost in the dark recesses. This is a good spot for cleaning supplies, full-size containers of soap, lotion, shampoo, etc., toilet paper or extra linens. You can go posh with handmade birch baskets or utilitarian with plastic baskets from the dollar store. Play around with sizes—there’s no need to leave space unused between containers when it’s at such a premium.
Above the toilet –
If you can sit on the toilet seat and still have room between your head and the wall, this is another great option for storage with lots of vertical space to play with. A lightweight, handwoven basket, its bottom affixed to the wall, makes a nice place to put rolled towels. If you have a toilet tank, store items atop it. If not (and again, if the wall can handle it), mount shelves like acrylic trays, hooks, dangle bars, etc. Any type of shelving with feet or cubbyholes can perch atop the tank, but it’s best if the bottom can be secured to the tank lid to keep things from falling where you don’t want to fish them out of. You can also go the single container route, lining them up or grouping them attractively as if your RV bathroom was being featured in Architectural Digest. Whatever you choose to put there, remember, Velcro™ (or hook-and-loop fasteners) is your friend.
There are storage options for every budget and type of décor, and the more you have of them the more conjubilant moments you’re likely to share with your RV-mates. Thrift stores, dollar stores, RV specialty shops, estate sales, antique stores, high-end décor showrooms, online craft sites, and display stores—the list of places you can find containers, racks, bars, and more is pretty much endless. One thing to remember: at some point, the RV will be in motion, and so will all your stuff. If you choose bathroom storage with open fronts or unsecured containers, bring along a larger container that you can put it all in that will sit securely on the floor while you’re driving. Cleaning up a broken bottle’s worth of shampoo off a floor is probably not what you want to be doing on vacation.
Ray Ko has been creating effective visual merchandising and interior design strategies for retailers for more than 20 years. Today, he is the senior ecommerce manager for shopPOPdisplays, a leading designer and manufacturer of stock and custom acrylic product.