Refrigerator, bathroom cabinets, the small storage real estate in the shower — they're tough enough spots to deal with in small homes when you're using them solo. Combine with another person living in the space, a roommate or a spouse, and you've doubled the trouble of trying to keep your small storage spaces functional. But, there are some rules anyone can stick to when it comes to making sharing these tight spots easier.
Decide on — and lay out — ground rules before sharing begins
Do you really, really hate when people use your lotion or dip into your shredded cheese? Let your roommate or partner know that before you guys start storing toiletries together in the bathroom cabinet or your groceries in the fridge. Designating shelves and sides is a good way of organizing small spaces shared by more than one person, but laying out your preferences is important (because some people are a little more casual with using shared items than others).
If you don't designate shelves or sides (and maybe even if you do), you might consider labeling items. Not so much so that the people sharing the space know the difference, but so that guests who visit your space know the difference (I've definitely had a roommate's boyfriend dig into my food not realizing it was mine and not his girlfriend's!). You don't have to pull out a label maker every time you want to put leftovers in the fridge, but a sharpie on take-out containers can help.
Use proper containers
You might consider covering this in the rule-determining phase, but "improper" containers, for food especially, can be a spot of contention between people sharing small storage spaces. Throwing half-open to-go containers or open cans of vegetables in the fridge without any cover can lead to food spoiling quicker as well as making the fridge smell. Respecting the sanctity of the small storage space means taking the extra step of making sure what you put in your small space is properly stored.
Don’t leave bottles open
I once had a roommate who never closed any of the shower product bottles. They'd leave the flip-tops open and any screw tops just barely balancing on top. The result? I'd knock over every container each shower, inevitably spilling half the contents down the drain before I was able to grab it up off the bottom of the shower and re-close. If you've got a bad habit of doing the same — whether in the shower, in the bathroom cabinets or in the fridge, consider closing your containers a little more securely before tucking away.
Ask permission before re-organizing
Got bit by the organization or cleaning bug? Your roommate or spouse will no doubt appreciate your efforts, but they'll appreciate even more a head's up if you decide on dramatically rearranging the locations of products and objects they use often. Since many people have a routine and even a preferred way in which they get ready in the morning, cook, etc., you could really be messing with the way storage functions for someone.
Keep your part clean and regularly decluttered
You know how sometimes you're digging through the back of the fridge and you come across something unidentifiable that is definitely way past its expiration date? Yeah, don't be the person who does that to a shared fridge. But also don't let a string of late work-mornings clutter up the shared bathroom counters, cabinets and drawers, making it harder for whoever shares that space to use and get ready in. Like all parts of the home, keep your area as decluttered as you can regularly.
What else would you add to this list? Do you have any lessons you've learned from sharing small storage spaces that you would like to share with Apartment Therapy readers?