By Jennifer Kelly Geddes

Nov 20, 2023

(Getty Images)

With interest rates still on the wrong side of affordability, many homeowners with growing families aren’t able to trade up for a bigger abode right now. Instead, they’re making do with the tight square footage in the too-small homes they already own.

And for some folks, this means putting up with a single full bath for four (or more!) people. Sure, some of these dwellings also have a half-bath with a sink and toilet, but this isn’t always the case.

Alas, if your house often has a line outside the bathroom door in the morning before work or school—and is stuffed to the rafters with products and wet towels—we’ve got some savvy advice to share.

Read on for the best ways to make one bathroom work for your family—without yelling or pounding on the door. We’re here to help!

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Adam Graham, an industry analyst with Fixr, suggests putting each family member’s name on a section of a shelf or cubby.

“Try assigning personalized cubbies to each person in the home, so they can keep their items organized,” Graham says. “This will reduce clutter in a single bath and also make sure everything’s visible and accessible.”

As shown above, a row of nooks in a built-in should do the trick. You can continue this method in the shower stall with caddies or a set of hanging baskets.

“Each individual can store their essentials so they don’t get mixed up or used by others, because there’s nothing more frustrating than finding your expensive shampoo open with water seeping in,” adds Graham.

Another idea? Each person can store their caddy in their room, ensuring the bathroom isn’t overflowing with products.

Set up a schedule

Photo by MasterBrand Cabinets

Got little ones? Or worse—teens? Kids who need to get to swim practice before school or fix their hair just so can clog up the bathroom, leaving others to tap their toes in the hallway?

The fix, says Amanda Wiss, genius organizer at Urban Clarity, is to set up a bathroom schedule.

“Now is the ideal time to enforce your kids’ bedtimes and daily schedules so that if one child leaves an hour before the other in the morning, he or she shouldn’t dawdle in bed,” she advises.

Wiss notes that a schedule can work at night, too, since “you can vary the shower times, so that two people use it in the morning and two others have a slot in the evening.”

Graham acknowledges that a schedule might not be popular at first but insists “it’ll help develop a routine that everyone can eventually stick to.”

Create more storage

Photo by Jessica Flamos Interior Design

“Maximize your wall space with extra shelves,” urges Graham. Or divide the space under your sink with separate baskets or wire containers for each person. And, of course, if your vanity has drawers—clean them out and give one to each family member.

Don’t forget that spot on the wall above the sink, either.

“Swap a plain mirror for a concealed medicine cabinet; this adds extra space for everyone to store smaller things inside,” Graham points out.

Add a second sink

Photo by – Houzz

There are two schools of thought regarding adding a second sink in a family bathroom. Wiss believes more space is fine, but it’s not necessarily a good fix.

“You may be saving yourself teeth-brushing fights, but you’re also creating another drop zone for bathroom clutter,” she notes.

Instead, she’s a fan of better storage options (please see: bins and cubbies), because they’ll make the room feel bigger and calmer.

Graham, however, contends that if you have the space and budget, adding that second sink is probably a good move.

“Installing an extra sink will cost around $600 and significantly increase the bathroom’s functionality, if you have to share it with other people,” he says.

After all, two people can shave and wash at once, and there should be fewer fights during blow-dry sessions.

Choose hooks over rails

Photo by Hendel Homes

In the race between towel bars and wall hooks, hooks win every time.

“Towel rails are great for quick drying, but hooks are more efficient when it comes to space,” Graham says. “So add as many as there are people using the bathroom.”

Just be sure to hang them at the appropriate height for each family member, both the tall and the small.

Consider a tankless water heater

Photo by ID by Gwen

With several people clamoring for a single shower, you know someone will get stuck with cold water by the time their turn rolls around.

If you’re always last to the stall, Graham recommends investing in a tankless water heater (though you’ll have to pony up around $2,800).

“With this device, the water is heated up as it’s used, rather than storing it in the tank,” he explains.

The result: near-endless hot water, no matter how many people are in line ahead of you.