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How Do You Organize Your Beauty Samples?

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Organizing Beauty Samples

Lately, I’ve been getting a few requests to do a post about tips for storing beauty samples. While I am an expert in acquiring beauty samples (AKA subscribing to a lot of boxes), I’m not sure I’m the best expert at organization. So I thought I’d share how I manage the flow of subscription box beauty samples and ask anyone who is interested to send me a photo of their beauty sample organization along with any tips they might have. I’d love to see how everyone else manages their subscription box samples!

Just email me pictures and tips ([email protected]) and if I include your photo in the upcoming second post about organization, I’ll send you a little MSA gift too!

My process:

When I’m reviewing a beauty box, I try to test out all the items. When I’m doing that, if there’s a product that definitely isn’t for me, I toss it. (If I come across something that I know isn’t for me, and I don’t need to try it either, I’ll save it for swaps/gifting. A good example of this might be a shampoo that isn’t safe for color treated hair.).

I keep the makeup I use on a daily basis out on the top of my vanity. I’ll typically swap in new makeup products I receive throughout the month (mascara is an item I swap out a lot).

If I get items I like but don’t need just yet, I put them in one of my two drawers and sort according to category:


(I need to do a better job of keep things in order!)

I try to go through these drawers and clear things out every 6 months or so – if I haven’t used an item yet, and it seems like I won’t, it’s time to pass it on to someone else while it is still useable!

I also keep a separate box on my desk to keep track of new products I want to remember to try soon – things like masks, serums, eye gels, etc.

So that’s my current system. I’m always looking to improve it though! How do you manage your subscription box samples?


Written by Liz Cadman

Liz Cadman

Liz is the founder of My Subscription Addiction. She’s been hooked on subscription boxes since 2011 thanks to Birchbox, and she now subscribes to over 100 boxes. Her favorites include POPSUGAR Must Have, FabFitFun, and any box that features natural beauty products!

All views in this review are the opinion of the author. My Subscription Addiction will never accept payment in exchange for a review, but will accept a box at no cost to provide honest opinions on the box. This post may contain affiliate/referral links. Read the complete My Subscription Addiction disclosure.


  1. This isn’t exactly a storage option, but here is another idea for some of your extra samples you may have. I recently made Spa in a Jar gifts. I don’t have as many extra samples as some of you, so I needed to purchase several things, but this would be perfect if you have a lot of extra items you didn’t need. I filled wide mouth mason jars with lots of little travel size beauty items. (You can use make up, a little candle, lotion, nail polish, shampoo, face mask, nail file….) I put on the Mason jar lid and added a tag to the top that said “Spa in a Jar”. I tied a ribbon around it and gave them as gifts. They were a big hit. Just another idea if you have an abundance of little items. (I also loved that so many people donate their extra samples. I think woman’s shelters and even some food pantries are happy to have these items.)

    • Thanks for the Spa In a Jar idea! Could be good for teacher’s gifts with teacher appreciation week right around the corner.

  2. OH MY GOD CHRISTINE! You just saved my sanity with that cosmetic shelf life website. I have so much stuff that I know is older but still useable, but I don’t really use. This tells my hoarding self that I SHOULD throw it away. Thank you.

  3. I have a big, plastic 3 drawer chest I got from Walmart. I use mostly make up bags to seperate things. I also have 2 Caboodles and one other tackle box looking thing. Some bigger things like full sized shampoos or bodywash go straight to the bathroom. My boxes sit for awhile before I empty them into their proper places. I am also saving Glossyboxes, Sample Society boxes, and Birchboxes for storage when I get my desk my boyfriend has promised me. I also bought some smaller plastic drawers from Walmart which I will set up on the desk. I made an organizer from glass candy jars from the dollar store that I can store lip gloss, mascara, eyeliners, etc in. It’s hot glued in a pyramid shape.

  4. I keep my favorite makeup on my dresser on a tray. I have 2 of those plastic drawer organizers that I use for makeup and hair / face / body samples from boxes.

    In the one I use for makeup I have bins to separate all the different types of products.

    In the one for everything else I just have it grouped by drawer.

    It works out very well for me!

  5. I’m fairly new to subscription boxes but this month I received 4 regular subscriptions, the L’Occitane box, a huge sample bag from Ulta, the Walmart beauty box and the Target beauty box. I find that if I don’t sort the items early on then I don’t ever use them.

    The first thing I do is sort the makeup I want to keep into my makeup collection and then sort out all of the items I want to gift to my SIL, sister and nieces into the empty boxes and bags. I try not to keep too much.

    Then I try all the bath products, lotions and facial care as quickly as I can. Some of the trial size lotions, shampoos and conditioners that I tried before go into my travel drawer, which quickly becomes overflowing. When drawer gets full, I donate the toiletries. There are a lot women’s shelters and organizations that send to soldiers overseas that are very happy to have travel sized items.

    For me the hardest thing to get rid of are the empty boxes. The packaging is so nice for most of these subscriptions that I hate to toss/recycle but if I need it I don’t keep it.

  6. I group my samples by type then store them in my ipsy bags!

  7. Gentle reminder that if you get samples you won’t use, women’s shelters will more than appreciate them. To us, it’s trash because we have such an abundance of products. To them it’s a luxury.

    • I have been doing this regularly for quite some time. Ipsy bags, colors, products and other things I will never use. I keep a box near my vanity to make it easy. If it is a duplicate, or something I will never try or use it goes in the box. I have supplemented my HUGE box w/ products I got w/ coupons and then I had an A-HAA moment. There are kids involved too. So now I buy and add sale/clearance kids/toddler/baby items in my box. These women and children leave EVERYTHING behind in order to be safe. We are so lucky to have the boxes to sample w/o fear of abuse. It is great to help someone feel pretty and pampered while going through Hell!

  8. Love this! I’m always interested to see how everyone else stores their samples!

    I picked up a bunch of those plain white photo storage boxes from Hobby Lobby and I use those to store my samples. I keep hair products, makeup, and facial cleansers/serums in separate boxes for easy access.

  9. Yay! Thanks for this post, Liz! I can’t wait to see everyone’s pictures for inspiration!

  10. I am interested in seeing people’s pictures too! It’s funny, I found this site last fall, just as I was getting frustrated with my Birchbox samples for various reasons, but one of those reasons was that even with only that sub, I felt like I couldn’t keep track of what I recieved and what I liked well enough to buy, etc. At that point, I was just using anything that looked interesting (and that I had a slot for in my routine) right away. Pretty much everything else either went in a box for travel or in the trash if I couldn’t pass it along and had already tried it.

    Funnily enough, I feel more organized now that I have added a few more subs, including re-subbing to Birchbox. My main strategy is I try to use sample sizes immediately. That way I have just read about them and I can make a note of whether if like the product enough to buy when I need it later. This also increases my happiness with birchbox exponentially because I feel like I’m getting an immediate perk to my beauty routine, rather than just tossing stuff directly into a “use sometime later” box.

    I organize full sized stuff by category, and use my birch boxes as drawer dividers. I don’t have a ton though. Birchbox is still really my main beauty sub.

    I’d like to hear more about how people figure out and label with expiration dates. I don’t see any on most of the samples I have, some have numbers on the bottom, but I can’t figure out what dates they might represent.

    • I was thinking the same thing! I was thinking where are people seeing these expiration dates on products!?

      • Here is a website where you can put in the batch number (which is what you are referring to) and it will tell you the date of manufacture and shelf life. It does not have every manufacturer but it has a lot.

    • Here is a website where you can put in the batch number (which is what you are referring to) and it will tell you the date of manufacture and shelf life. It does not have every manufacturer but it has a lot.

    • I label each item with a sticky tab with the box I got it from and the date received and I NEVER open anything until I use it and I only open when I run out of something else I would use (I.e. Similar products are never opened at the same time) that way I don’t waste anything because once you open something the clock starts ticking and this is why I have enough items to last my lifetime. I am jazzed to show how I organize, but I want to make sure I am able to most thoroughly share my process. I actually love to organize (it’s SOOOOOO cathartic) and know I oodles of fab tips from fixing up boxes (Glossybox & Birchbox) to labeling and overall strategies. So… Is there a deadline for submissions, Liz?

  11. First and foremost my biggest organizing secret is avoiding the accumulation of more than can fit in my current storage system. When it starts to get too full, I purge and get rid of anything that I’m not feeling anymore, or is now expired.

    Makeup on bathroom counter: an acrylic organizer with my prettiest makeup and brushes on display, which sits on top of 6 small sterilite drawers holding makeup in 6 categories: primers and bb creams; concealers and powders; blushes, bronzers and highlighters; eyeliners, mascaras and eyelash curler; eyeshadows; lipsticks and balms.

    Skincare in medicine cabinet: this is where all of my moisturizers, eye creams, zit zappers and face washes go.

    Hair & body stuff in bathroom vanity drawer: A tall but narrow drawer, perfect for all the hair oils, gels, potions and sprays, plus body lotions, stored upright.

    Travel stuff in linen closet: Anything I’m saving for travel is sorted by category in ziplock bags within a clear plastic shoe box from the container store. I travel at least once per month so this has to be kept tidy.

    Swap stuff in my office: there’s a drawer near my shipping supplies for all the stuff I put up for swap, and I use birchboxes as the dividers.

    Sterilite drawers:

    Somewhat similar acrylic organizer:

    Clear shoe box:

  12. I have a 3 drawer storage bin in my bathroom where I store all my samples. They are sorted by hair, face, and body. It’s super simple!

  13. I sent you pictures. I’m really looking forward to seeing what other people do- I love organization. I had a roof leak once that ruined some of my stuff that was in cardboard boxes, so now I have a house filled with pretty plastic containers.

  14. For the longest time, I stored my stuff in a cute lil’ 6 drawer shelving unit that absolutely nothing else would fit in {it’s 32x13x7}…since my subscription habit has multiplied, I started using a larger 6 drawer unit {the kind that hangs from your closet rod…it’s in my walk in closet now}. It actually works perfect, I can label each pull out drawer {hair stuff, make-up, accessories, gifts, swaps, etc.}. I found mine at IKEA, it makes everything easily accessible & it’s so cute in my closet!!

    • Keeping everything out of my bathroom tends to minimize my already cluttered vanity/sink area since I’m a product junkie…

      Also, I don’t have to worry about the products being exposed to weird temperatures {i.e. possibly melting from my long showers}.

    • The Beauty station is nice.

  15. Here’s the problem I see with having so many samples. They’re going to eventually age out before you even try them. I try to share the wealth; I give bunches to friends and family. I have a small box where I keep the absolute MUST tries. Then a second box with the “definitely maybe must tries.” The rest are in a big box for giveaways.

  16. So, a year ago, my brother and sister in law sent me a HUGE acrylic beauty organizer for Christmas. 😉 It’s literally a clear acrylic cube with six drawers that is about 1.5 feet cubed. This is a giant sucker! It took me a little bit to accept it and the level of my beauty/subscription addiction, but almost everything fits in and is beautifully organized. The overflow/larger items I keep in neatly labeled and stacked PS Must Have boxes. (the post it note labels allow me to label everything clearly, and relabel when I periodically reorganize.) In addition, I also use clear hanging jewelry organizers in my closet for tiny samples, and clear hanging shoe organizers for larger sizes). – – – Clearly I need an intervention for my sub habit. Will try to upload pics when I can

    • I love this, where did they get it or where can I get it?

  17. I bought 2 organizers that look like this one on ebay and labeled each pouch. Mine are sorted eye cream, day cream, night cream, masks, treatment (like acne) and makeup.

    Things like nail polish and shampoos I put in with my regular items.

    Samples I can’t use, I bring into work right away and give to coworkers. I had tried collecting them a bin to take to the women shelter but half of them ended up expired by the time I had a decent amount to drop off.

  18. I invested in one of those Lori Grenier makeup organizer. They have them on QVC, and in Bed, Bath, and Beyond, it is amazing, and worth the money. That’s where I put what I am currently using. Everything else goes into photo boxes. They are $1-$2 at Walmart. I organized all my stuff, and my hubby’s. They are perfect, because they have those little metal brackets on the front to put labels in, and they are a good size. So, I have travel samples, shampoo, facial items, nail polish, etc. I just pull out the box of what I want when I need it, because it’s easily marked, and it was so cheap to do. I’ll send pics tomorrow.

    • I just looked at the wooden deluxe one. So beautiful and practical, I may have put money aside for one. As for me, I keep the majority of my samples in the prettier Birchboxes, and I use the bottom parts of the plain ones are drawer organizers. Anything I won’t use I either put up for swap, or give to my sister. I do like the idea of giving to women’s shelters, many times those women have nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

    • I’m so glad you shared about this makeup organizer…i want one so bad now!!!

    • I’m glad you ladies like it. It’s totally worth it. I had baskets everywhere originally on my dresser. The organizer really cleaned it up. 🙂

  19. I keep mine in Birchboxes, lately I’ve been having to use my husband’s as my collection grows! It isn’t worth it to me to swap, so I either use it or give to my girls to use. They are 4, 6, and 8 and love the makeup samples to play with, I don’t wear much so I have lots to pass on! Anything really nice I save for my mom’s Christmas stocking. I haven’t had to actually toss anything yet, but if I find myself with too many samples I am planning on making up bags for the womens shelter here in town a couple times a year.

  20. I’ll be sendings couple of photos pretty soon, but thought I’d share my organising efforts.
    In a corner of the den I have a stack of pretty storage boxes, handy for my swaps. There’s also containers for my polish collection, Julep and others.
    Upstairs, everything is sorted and labelled by type, mostly opinion Glossyboxes with the addition of a few larger photo boxes for hairspray and

    • Oops, somehow it uploaded before I finished. I was trying to get rid of the word ‘opinion’ which auto correct decided I needed but makes no sense of my sentence, lol.
      I just wanted to add that I find a home for everything the day it arrives, just to prevent a backlog of ‘stuff’ building up.

  21. OK this is strange but check that white/red lotion from Welda. It may be expired if it was from Yuzen a few boxes ago. I know mine was expired 12/14…Use it up first 🙂 As far as organizing, I keep unopened things I plan on keeping in a cabinet and things I plan on gifting or swapping in a 3 tier plastic drawer organizer.

    • I don’t even like that lotion. I got it somewhere else and I thought it smelled like wallpaper glue. (I probably still have the one from Yuzen. But I would use expired body lotion if it wasn’t rancid-smelling. The dates on some of those things are not hard and fast. Though the dates are more important in products that don’t contain preservatives.)

  22. I send pictures just now, too. I am a big fan of acrylic racks from Amazon for lip products and nailpolish. I also have about 20 Glossyboxes/Sample Society boxes/Birchboxes with sorted skincare and makeup items (categories like brows, serum, hair foils, liquid eyeliner, masks, etc.), and another 3 small sets of plastic drawers with more stuff (categories like blush, bronzer), plus a big set of plastic drawers for body lotions, hair masks, etc., and about 10 shoeboxes for stuff I tend to get more of or that comes in larger containers, like non-polish nail care, shampoo, moisturizers, etc.).

    The boxes are not organized at all right now. But I am moving in July into a house with a massive master bathroom and I can’t wait to fill that up with ORGANIZED beauty products.

  23. I’m so unorganized – I try and keep everything in the same area, yet most the time for swaps I can find all but one item, that 1 item is considered cleaning time since it will take me up to 2 hours to find that item. Items that are close to expiration date I donate, items i have had to long I ad as extras to swaps. Figure someone else might use them, or might have more luck swapping them.

    • You could try what I do, and what others have suggested. I keep one big box from a PSMH limited edition and put all of my swap items in there. Every time I get something I want to swap I post it on the swap site and stick it in the box immediately. It keeps me from using or losing the swap stuff.

  24. I never thought of organizing by date before, but I guess I really should do that. I have a shelf in my bedroom with leftover boxes stacked up (usually Frenchbox or Glossybox boxes since they’re well made and hold up well, but also some pretty Birchbox boxes). I label each box with what is inside and keep them separated by category, i.e. hair products, face creams, nail polish, hand lotion, eye creams. When I run out of one item, I pull another put of its box to replace it.

  25. Just sent email and pic on how I color-code them by date. Looking forward to seeing how everyone stays organized.

  26. I sort…
    1. Anything I don’t want to try, I list right away then it goes into (an old FabFitFun) box of items to swap that I keep in a drawer of my desk. (for example – eyeshadow since I don’t wear any, or products I know I don’t like) To stay organized, I never put anything in this box unless I have already listed it for swap.

    2. Anything I want to try right away I put in the correct area in my bathroom. (example – shampoo in my shower)

    3. For samples that I want try later, I reuse my Birchboxes, one for each type of product. (example – mascaras in one, shampoos in another) I stick a piece of tape or sticky note, with expiration dates, on everything. If the box gets too full, I figure I have to much, and put some up for swap or give it away. (I’ve donated lots to local battered women’s shelter). I keep these boxes in the bathroom cabinet.

    4. If I have a back-up to something I already use and love, it goes in my linen closet along with our extra toothpaste and toilet paper, for my family to use. (example – I swapped for lots of sunscreen for summer)

    Good luck!

    • Comment

      • here’s more…
        5. I have a little crystal bowl on my vanity where I keep all the purfume vials.

        6. We travel a lot. Right after a trip I restock our dopp kits with travel sized essentials.

  27. I have a drawer in my dresser that I put stuff that I’m going to use soon.

    Swap/gift stuff goes into a tote and it’s organized.

    Luxe Box/Loose button sends these long boxes that are really sturdy that I have items organized with

    I also have repurposed a DVD wooden dresser for items hair in one drawer, nails in another etc

  28. I put the date (ex. 4/15) in permanent marker on all beauty samples/items I get that I want to keep. This way I use up the older items and nothing goes bad. I starting doing this year’s ago with my lancome & clinique gift with purchase items.

  29. I’m a lot messier than you guys. I have two big Fab Fit Fun boxes that I throw most of them into. I don’t like to use all my favorite things at once, so I take the favorites out and put them one of two places—into a yogi surprise box to be used first or into a filing cabinet drawer to be used when I want to feel a little special. Although my method isn’t scientific, I like to root through my boxes frequently to see the breadth of what I have and to choose new favorites. Anyway, all of mine fit into two Fab Fit Fun boxes, a yogi surprise box and a Julep box (which is only for my julep polishes). Even typing this, I feel like a total sample junkie. 😀 Reality is that I will probably never use half of these things.

    • lol I do the same as you, I have mine sorted into big boxes. Unfortunately my habit is growing a lot faster than I can use the samples. Last I counted I had over 320 lip products lol, lip products are my favorite and I use a ton, but 320 will last me a few years. I broke mine down into skin care, cleansers, perfumes, makeup, hair products. Then a box of stuff I want to try soon, it’s definitely not organized, just boxes. I’m thinking of buying a pantry or storage cabinet to get it sorted a little better.

  30. I tear the tops off all my boxycharm boxes and put them in drawers (as many that will fit) then I separate the samples by type (makeup,hair,skin). Never more than one kind in each! Then I separate them again by type. Primers in one. Moisturizers in one. I have a lot of those Boxycharm boxes! lol I use them for everything!

  31. Thank you for sharing Liz! That is interesting, it’s wonderful to get ideas from each other. I organize my items a little bit differently. I assess my items right away and start sorting. I have a pile for gifts and store those separately. If I know I’m excited to use an item soon, I’ll put it in my every day makeup bag. All my lip products are stored on my vanity. All my hair products are in the bathroom. All my skin products are also sorted didferently, either in my bathroom or on my vanity. I also have another makeup bag with new items I have a duplicate of and will swap out other items once I am running low. I store all of the rest my other products in a box that I will look at when I am looking for a specific product which I don’t use too often (ie. Fake eyelashes). Hopefully this all made sense!

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