I don’t know about all of you, but when it comes to beauty and makeup, I have quite the collection. Variety is the spice of life, right? With such a collection comes with some arguably fun challenges, some math to consider, and sometimes, tough choices to make. A few weeks ago I decided to tackle what has developed into a huge beauty mess, and really organize what I wanted to keep and what needed to be gifted or donated. I also wanted to be able to take super cute shelfie shots and feel good about my collection.
Take Stock of What You Have
The last time I checked my collection, I had over 100 makeup brushes, 25+ night creams, at least 50 eyeshadow palettes, and countless serums. My house isn’t tiny, but sometimes, well, my collection feels like A LOT. Since we have been in WFH mode (for over a year now, wow!), I have converted one of my extra bedrooms into a combination art studio + office. For months all of my stash was basically dumped into milkcrates, left in their original boxes, or even scattered across my little office chaise. I am in no way an organizational expert, and I don’t actually enjoy organizing, but something had to give.
Admittedly, as a disorganized and utterly chaotic person, the first thing I did was try to organize my items into piles by product type. Then I could totally focus on what I had, what I used, and what I wanted to keep. Dealing with all of the eyeshadow palettes at once was much easier than dealing with all of the eyeshadow palettes mixed in with every other product imaginable. It is very easy to realize you don’t need that many palettes when you see how many you actually have! It also made it easier to split that assortment of palettes into two piles: keep and don’t keep.
Know When to Say Goodbye
Expiration Dates and a Dating System
I know, I know. Expiration dates are really easy to ignore. And when you are in my line of work, or you are just a beauty product enthusiast, actual empties can be exceedingly rare. Between the items I received in my boxes and the skincare samples sent to me at my studio, it all begins to feel like more than a lot. Even so, there is nothing I hate more than discovering a product I really loved has expired before I got a chance to use most of it. The majority of skincare and beauty products will have a little icon on the back that looks like an open pot, and there will be a month indicator inside the design. Others will have very clear expiration dates. Here are a few examples:
This is a great indicator of how long you should be keeping your product before the ingredients lose potency or start to oxidize. I have found that cleaner beauty products will often have shorter shelf lives because they are often preservative-free. My system is taking a sharpie and writing the date that I open each product on the bottom or on the side label. This way I can keep an eye on how old any cute little bottle is without ruining the look on my shelf. I have found that putting a little tape over this date keeps it in place if you keep your items in a humid area (like a bathroom).
One of the drawbacks of adorable bottles is that sometimes you know there is more in there, but you just can’t get to it. I recommend ordering some little spatulas designed to make sure you get all of the product you can out of your favorites.
Sometimes you come across a product that isn’t right for your skin or your preferences when it comes to color, texture, or whatever. Sometimes you receive the same product and just know you aren’t into it. I have found that there are three really good ways to rehome products that aren’t expired:
Donate Unopened/Unused Items
Most charities will not accept open or used products, and for good reason. But sometimes you just know a product isn’t for you without even opening it and finding a local women’s shelter or donation option is a great way to get beauty and skincare into the hands of someone who could really use and enjoy it. Dress for Sucess is one of my personal favorites and this organization usually has local chapters you can reach out to.
One of the best perks of my job is always having the perfect gift for someone for literally any reason or no reason at all. I truly love showering my friends and family (especially my mom!) with fun beauty products that they would never buy for themselves. My mom actually never treated herself to anything fancier than drugstore products before I joined MSA in 2018, and since then she has really become a brand and ingredient expert who knows exactly what works for her and what she likes. It also makes her feel super fancy which is adorable. Close friends are always reaching out to me for recommendations, and when I can, I recommend a product that I also can pass along to them. For someone who loves gift-giving more than receiving, it feels pretty darn great.
Many of you also know that MSA has a really cool Swaps section that allows you to search for products and swap them with other MSA readers. This is a really fun way to engage others in our community and make sure your items go to someone who will love them, while getting something you might have missed out on in return. Basically, Swaps are the antidote to FOMO.
Organize in a Way that Works for YOU.
Ok, so we finally whittled down our massive collection. Now how to organize it? Again, I am kind of a human disaster when it comes to this sort of thing. I think I could unintentionally make Marie Kondo cry (which would then make me cry and we would get nothing done). I generally keep my skincare on a vanity in my bedroom and my makeup in a vintage marble side table in my office, so my first step was dividing my items into these two piles.
Here is a look at the top of my office storage table. I have my brushes split between larger and smaller ones in two pots, my lipsticks in their own Boxwalla box, and my perfumes in a glass display case because they are essentially art to me.
Inside the table is space for unopened product, extras, or anything else I am hanging onto for a gift for someone.
And on the ground underneath the table are more boxes for eyeshadow palettes, blushes, highlighters, and more. I use all of the Boxwalla boxes I have kept for literally years and organize specific types of items in their own box. Typically, if all of the items won’t fit into one box, I try to edit down more.
Lipsticks are an exception to this rule because I love them and I can’t help myself.
My Two Bag System
Last year was super weird because I quickly started wearing less makeup on a daily basis. That didn’t mean I wanted to have less in my arsenal though! A system that has worked for me is having two bags on hand: a smaller basics bag and a larger bag for when I actually feel like trying.
My basics bag is filled with, well, basics. A BB cream tester I love, mini hand cream, brow gel, mascara, tinted balm, and a lipstick. I can easily toss this in my purse or car on-the-go, and I usually just leave it downstairs in my living room to toss a quick face on when heading out the door.
My larger holographic bag holds some extras, like a full-palette, high-shine gloss, blush, highlighter, and a handful of brushes. I can easily dump the basics bag into the larger bag if I need to take more with me. This system allows me to always have what I use most each day on hand quickly and without digging through my entire collection each time I need something.
Make It Pretty
One of the really fun things about beauty and makeup is how unique and pretty the packaging is. If an item makes my face look better and is also gorgeous to look at, I am in love. In my bedroom I have an antique $25 vanity where most of my perfumes and skincare items live. I tend to use those items in my bedroom, so it seemed right to put them there, and I get to gaze at them before bed.
I bought myself a pretty mirrored riser for my fragrant treasures. It makes selecting one each day feel extra fancy.
And my skincare is an assortment of old favorites combined with whatever I am testing from my current boxes. This is honestly the hardest section to choose from each day and night.
- Down from 56 eyeshadow palettes to a more reasonable 18.
- Donated 34 unopened products.
- Tossed 18 expired products.
- Gifted 65+ products (in addition to those palettes).
- Made absolutely zero progress on lipsticks and perfumes (hey, I’m not perfect).
I still have a milk crate to finish organizing, but I already feel much better about my newfound and significantly more reasonable collection.
Are you planning to spring clean through your beauty stash? What systems work for you? Seriously, I need to know. I am a mess.