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Organizing Toothbrushes in a Large Family

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Being a large family makes it tough to organize toothbrushes.

I'm not quite sure what it is about the toothbrushes or the kids, but we are constantly looking for toothbrushes, or hearing complaints about Sister X using Sister Y's toothbrush, or picking up toothbrushes off the floor that the toddler has scattered.

My friend Lynn was so disturbed by my admission that I sometimes tell the kids to just use my toothbrush that she brought me a whole bag of brand new toothbrushes when I met her at Blissdom, earlier this year.

I thought I had a great idea a while back when I bought everyone a cup, labeled it with a Sharpie, and put a brand new (labeled) toothbrush and a little (labeled) tube of toothpaste in each one.

That worked for about a week before the 2 year old climbed on the bathroom counter and knocked all the cups and their contents all over the bathroom floor. Pandemonium ensued.

That's why when I went to visit my friend with 11 children, one of the issues I wanted to discuss with her is organizing toothbrushes in a large family.

She told me that their family has the same problems with toothbrushes, and they recently tried something that seems to be working.

I was all ears and this is what she shared.

  • Use the small plastic drawers and label them.
  • Each child keeps his or her personal toiletry items in the drawer.  (Don't ask me why there are 2 toothbrushes in this drawer. One for ... her ... dentures?)
  • No one is to touch anyone else's drawer!
  • Do you hear me?!
  • Don't make me come in there!

So far, it's working for me!

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  1. I think that’s a good idea, Connie. Toothbrushes and personal “stuff” is the bane of a mother’s existence…coupling teenagers and toddlers can result in deoderant with a bite out of it. Ask me how I know. Go on. Ask. :)

    This summer I made all of the kids drawstring bags. (All kids 11 and up.) I doubled fabric of their choosing (1/2 yard), stitched thick bias tape to the top (outside, down about an inch) then laced cording through the tape, knotted it, and voila’ – a bathroom bag per child. Toothbrushes (with little caps), toothpaste, deodorant, razors, etc…all go in the bag. They are washable, and grabbable when they are headed out the door to Grandma’s or to camp or what have you. We put up a rack with pegs outside the bathroom door – that way, if the bathroom is occupied (likely…we have one shower but two bathrooms with sinks) the kid doesn’t have to pound the door down to get his toothbrush or to get ready to head to church. He/she can always brush in the kitchen if it is an emergency…PLUS, if people KEEP their bag UP HIGH where it belongs, the toddler can’t drag their toothbrush on the floor nor can she shave her legs or “mustache” with the older sibling’s razor. (Yes…sadly, we have experience with that as well…..)

    Anyway…if the pegs/bags stop working I’ll try the drawer idea. :) I love seeing how other mothers cope.

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @Holly, That is a great idea! I like the portability of the bags.

      About the deodorant… I know! What is it about that white oval that looks so… so… edible?!

  2. Hee hee Toothbrushes & kids. I have 4 kids. All I can say is that I regularly throw the toothbrushes in with the flatware in the dishwasher & let them get sanitized. They are generally committed to their own toothbrush & don’t use each others, but my girls can’t be trusted not to “play” with their own toothbrushes. Hence, the dishwasher. I also have toothbrushes that are only used (by them) for travel…I sanitize before & after vacations.

  3. My question, as a mom of 7, is if you put all things together, how do you keep the tooth brush from tasting like deodorant? We have tooth brush issues too. and toddlers…and everyone thinks tooth brushes are there fore the grabbing when they are cleaning things other than teeth…but brushing w/ deodorant is not an option! I like the bag idea…I think we will try that…but maybe 2 pockets?

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @Joy, I’m not sure how deodorant tastes. Hold on and I’ll ask the 2yo…


    • @Joy,

      Joy, I use toothbrush covers. Plus, the deoderant has a lid on it. Usually.

    • @Joy, toothbrush covers would work, But in my experience, the deodorant gets a film on the container…below the lid. if a tooth brush rubs that residue, it tastes gross, and just rinsing the brush before use doesn’t always get the deodorant off.
      So, I’d do 2 pockets, or make sure the tooth brushes were covered.
      Thanks for the ideas tho…I really hope to try them as soon as we get in out new house.

      • Penny Vander Pol says:

        We are family of nine. Tooth brushes and toddlers… I now use pencil boxes and poke holes in them to keep them from molding . Label and now the older ones can keep them in there dresser or stack them in the medicine cabinet .they each have tooth paste and mouth wash and toothbrush . D.o they keep with there hair stuff. Some hang in pockets in the shower. The younger have them in the drawer . Dish washing sounds like a good idea.

  4. I have racked my brain over this issue this year, and finally found a solution that works for us, for now. We have seven little ones, eight and under. Wal-mart carries a toothbrush holder that mounts with suction cups and has spots for four brushes. Now, you can only use the skinny brushes with this- no battery-powered ones will work. There is also a spot for the tube of toothpaste. We have one for our girls and one for our boys that are suctioned to the top of the bathroom mirror. This keeps it out of reach for our two-year-old, who also likes to pick up any available toothbrush and walk around the house with it, dropping it wherever he desires!

  5. You know what? I have been searching for a solution… we have a lot of toothbrushes as well!

    Think I might try this.

    So everyone has their own tube of paste? We have adult and kid paste… and that is about as far as it goes. Might have to really give this a try!

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      @Crystal & Co, We had some strep throat a while back and I decided to try to limit the spread of it by buying everyone her OWN toothpaste. I figured that everyone rubbing her toothbrush on the same tube of toothpaste wasn’t helping with containing the germs.

  6. The drawers are exactly what we do. I also used to label the travel sized toothpaste. I have found that a sharpie on duct tape works best.
    Isn’t it amazing what we learn from other large families?! I love to get and share ideas, you never know what you can come up with.
    Hope the drawers keep working for you!

  7. We have this problem, too. ATM, I’ve just got everyone’s in one little toothbrush caddy, but they all look different. Except to my 1 yr old monkey, who likes to climb up and grab his brother’s to play in the toilet with. EWWWWW!

  8. What a great idea!!! I only have five boys but the toothbrush issue is the same and boy does it get old! I will be trying this one!

  9. EVERYTIME we have little friends over the toothbrushes end up on the bathroom floor behind the toilet ..really? ..and why exactly?

  10. That is so funny! I just implemented this same system yesterday in our house, and I’m so proud of it! I got the idea from 2 of my friends, with 6 and 7 children, respectively, and thought, “Hey, if it works for them, it might work for us!”

    I used my Brother P-Touch labeler to put the names on the drawers, and everyone has their own toothpaste in the drawer.

  11. I only have 3 kids and I think I’m LOVING the drawer idea. I have to go to Target today to return the binder my 13 y.o. decided he didn’t like (argh!) so I’m going to look for cute bins while I’m there! Love it!

  12. Oh Connie, this is brilliant. We have #5 on the way and the tooth brush tooth paste thing is way beyond getting old. Now if you can help with them using and loosing my brush, I would be so happy.

  13. Love this idea! I only have three kids and it’s not that they use the wrong brush, but they are all in a cup and they touch each other and I have been at a loss as to how better to store them. Thanks for this!

  14. Cindy in GA says:

    This is a good idea – I’ll have to check to see whether those little drawer units would fit on the kids’ bathroom counter; it’s pretty small. I’ve been thinking of putting up a high shelf or two on the wall in there so that the older kids’ things can be truly out of reach of our little one.

  15. This is FABULOUS!!! Going to do this T-O-D-A-Y!!! Yahoo for easy, simple and do-able solutions:) Thank you for the inspiration!

  16. i need HELP! i have tried all these things and none of them work! i have 7 kids and usually only 3 toothbrushes (plus mine that i hide!) argh!!!

  17. I like the idea very much, but I’m just wondering whether the brushes get opportunity to dry out. I imagine a great collection of water/spit/dribble in that drawer!! Maybe the dishwasher every now & then to sterilise. (Thanks to the commentor who mentioned placing them in the dishwasher – I’d never thought of that!)

  18. oh no! I only have 2 kids, but recently I found the baby’s toothbrush floating in the toilet……

  19. I am writing it on my Wal-Mart shopping list RIGHT NOW! Oh the pain of toothbrush organization in our home. UGH.

    But now, it will be lovely and organized.

    P.S. I am loving the spray deoderant this pregnancy. Thankyouverymuch.

  20. We use the exact same system and I used my label maker for their names. Since my kids are all little right now (soon to be 6 that are 6 or 7, depending on when the baby is born, and under)…the drawers only house their dental stuff but once they get bigger I’m sure we’ll add to it. :)

  21. Such a great idea. I’m glad it’s working for your family. I’m hosting We’re Organized Wednesday this week and would love for you to join the party. There’a a fun giveaway too. Hope to see you there.

  22. Thanks so much for this idea. I found you through Org. Junkie. This is going to make my families life SOOO much easier.

  23. This was a delightful article to read – it made me smile – we have been there – more than once. This is a great idea that we use. However, we keep the drawers outside the bathroom in the linen closet. Everyone (all 10 of us) has their own toothpaste, brush, floss/flossers, deodorant, razors, comb, brush, etc. – way to much for me to keep up with anymore. My grand idea was to buy each of the older children their own travel kit (like from LL Bean/Lands End) so that they would have it before they went to college.
    NOW – for the EWWW tidbit – my husband read that the most germ infested article in the house is the bathroom toothbrush holder rack. It was full of fecal matter that “floats in the air” – Isn’t that lovely?
    That is why we keep our items in the linen closet outside the bathroom.

  24. We did this when I had emergency custody of my neice and 2 nephews. We went from 5 to 8 overnight.

    One recommendation- Every week take the drawers out and run them through the dishwasher. Also, popping a small TINY bowl of baking soda (I used the fold your own oragami bowl) helps with moisture,smell,etc. I also added a few drops of peppermint oil to the baking soda to help kill off bacteria and other nasties. If someone became sick I’d simply grab their toothbrushes and wash them every night. I now since the kids are back with their mom keep the same organizing system. But, now…I pop toothbrushes into the dishwasher and spray peppermint oil water into the drawers and wipe them out once a week.

    I put everyone’s name on the bins with a labeler so that if our needs change I can simply peel it off and relabel!


  25. Just wanted to add for those who homeschool Colgate has a teacher kit that provides 30 toothbrusher with sample packets of toothpaste for free. The send you videos, games, ect each yr to add to the kit. Helps to have a stock to fall back on:)

  26. Great post! We have 8 kids! I love the drawers. We use Norwex toothbrushes that have silver in the brush so no worries on germs and we use the Norwex Crystal Deodorant so no worries on toothbrush getting any of the yucky deodorant on the toothbrushes! Definitely gonna get the drawers! Thank you!

  27. So it’s not just me. Good to know.

    I happened upon your site while researching monogrammed toothbrushes, or some sort of toothbrush name tag (found that, but they aren’t for sale yet!).

    I don’t know what it is about kids and oral hygiene. My youngest is almost nine – no more toddlers for me! And I really thought it would get better.

    In all other areas, they’re great kids. Kind-hearted, good at living each other. Respectful. Great kids! So I just need someone to explain to me how the toothpaste ends up on the wall (or cupboard, or carpet, or sister…). Why do they not know where their toothbrush is? They brush their teeth in their bathroom! Leave it in there!

    I think because there are millions of them all sharing a tiiiiny bathroom, they bring their stuff back to their rooms. And that’s the last anyone sees if their toiletries.

    I don’t have any room to put those drawers, but I sure tried to make it work. I don’t think there is anything I haven’t tried, so I’ve just decided to make peace with the fact that my house is coated with Crest, and we just allow extra time each day for the Big Hunt.

    Any tips for a large family in a tiny home are appreciated. Not just with toothbrushes. I’m always looking to streamline!

    Now that my oldest has moved out, it’s me and my husband, and five kids. 1300sf of dirty-carpeted (learning to make my peace…) living space.

    Looking forward to exploring your site!

  28. ismail says:

    We ve an orphanage will 80 small ones n the toothbrush issue is a nightmare!
    We ve opted for a stainless tiletrim screwed into a thin flat wall unit inthe bath area. Just above reach of the kids.the tiletrim already has holesfor the brush.We drill a hole in thehandle of each brush fit in a cable tie with childs personal no attached. Walla! Problem sorted.


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