Photo: Franziska Krug/Getty Images for Douglas Make-Up
How to organize beauty products: the eternal question that every beauty lover asks themselves. It’s practically a universal experience; one day you wake up and realize that your beauty products have taken over your entire home: nail polish cluttering up the kitchen table, lipsticks by the front door, lotions scattered all over the bedside table. When you can’t sit at your kitchen table without first moving a shoebox full of eye makeup palettes, though, the time has come to do some serious decluttering.
But therein lies the rub: it’s hard enough to actually sit down and go through all of your stuff…how do you know what to keep and what to toss. Don’t worry, we’ve broken the process down for you. If you’re looking to organize, streamline and minimize your beauty life, you can do it in one day by following these 10 easy steps.
Step 1: Gather up your stash.
First things first: go around your home and gather up all of your beauty products and tools. Yes, all of it. Most people have items scattered all over the place, which can make it hard to be thorough and efficient when eliminating clutter. Unless you already have a very minimal beauty stash, it will probably make the most sense to tackle one category at a time: lipstick, then makeup brushes, then hair products, and so on. Once you have each and every category gathered, separated and piled together, you can go through them.
Step 2: Check expiration dates.
This is the next step, and a very important one. It’s really the first question you should ask yourself when culling products: Is this expired? If there’s no expiration date, follow these rough guidelines: Mascara goes “bad” three months after opening, lipstick after 2 to 3 years, concealer and foundation after six months to a year, moisturizer after 6 months to a year, cleansers after a year, and powder products after 2 to 3 years. And if you’ve had any kind of eye infection, you should get rid of all of your eye makeup—no matter when you got it.
If you can’t remember when you purchased the item or you’re not sure if it’s expired yet, examine it for any change in smell, texture, or color. Be especially careful with skin care products, and even more so with those packaged in jars; they are exposed to light and air so often, and that can break down ingredients. Organic products often expire faster as well, so keep that in mind.
Step 3: Ask yourself, “When was the last time I used this?”
If you can’t remember the last time you used a product, it might be an indication that you don’t really need it. Time to throw it away. Sometimes you might realize you haven’t used a particular lipstick in months but that you still really like it—you just forgot you had it. If this is the case, put it in a prominent place and resolve to use it. If you still don’t end up using it, it’s time to toss it.
Step 4: Ask yourself, “Can I see myself using this again soon?”
This question should be asked in conjunction with the previous one. Everyone has seldom-used items (like self-tanner) left over from the previous summer. If it’s a product that won’t expire, it makes sense to hold onto it till you need it again. However, if there’s a good chance you’ll never use it within the next year (or like, ever again) then give it to someone who will use it and free up some storage space.
Step 5: Ask yourself, “Does this work for ME?”
Your beauty products need to fit your life, not the other way around. So if you have dry skin and a particular product makes you feel scabbier than an average lizard, get rid of it! If a product or tool requires a lot of time and patience that you don’t have or doesn’t mesh with your lifestyle (i.e. you own three red lipsticks but never wear red lipstick), then get rid of it. Life is too short to waste time on products that don’t actually work for you.
Step 6: Ask yourself “Can I fix this?”
Everyone has at least one too-dark or too-light foundation that they spent too much money on, or an unflattering lipstick that they can’t return for some reason. Figuring our clever ways to hack these purchases can be lifesavers. Mixing concealer with mismatched foundation, for example, can help match it to your skin tone.
Step 7: Ask yourself, “Is there someone else who would get more use out of this than me?”
This is a great question to ask when you’re hesitating over getting rid of something. Maybe you don’t use it but it seems like a waste to toss it. Ask your friends and family if anyone needs a certain beauty item, and if you have one that you’re not using or enjoying you can feel good about passing it along. Make sure you clean and sanitize anything you’re giving away, though, and use your good judgement—giving your best friend a used mascara is a recipe for angry texts and an eye infection.
Step 8: Ask yourself, “Do I have duplicates of this item?”
We admit it: it’s easy to fall into beauty ruts, and you may not even realize that you have several different products that are essentially the same. This is why it’s important to gather everything together in one place and evaluate it. Suddenly you notice that you have five million pale pink nail polishes, or a stack of warm red lip glosses. You probably only need one or two at the most. Keeping just your favorites and ditching the rest will both save you space and ensure that you use your favorite more often. Ideally, after this you will also be more mindful of what you already own, keeping you from accidentally repurchasing dupes in the future.
Step 9: Ask yourself, “Would I buy this again?”
This is a very effective question that speaks to how much you love a product. If you never use an item or you’re struggling to finish it, ask yourself, “If this was all used up, would I go out and repurchase it?” The only beauty items you should keep are the ones that you use over and over again until they’re depleted—and then you immediately rush out to replace them. By keeping items that you don’t love, the products you do want to use can get lost amongst the clutter (and seriously, who wants that?).
Step 10: Ask yourself, “Do I have a place for this? Can I make one?”
Finally, if you love a product but you don’t have a place to store it, it’s time to make a decision. Either you toss the product because it’s just going to take up space, or you create a storage solution for it. If you take this path, however, you need to REALLY COMMIT—otherwise clutter will just pop up again and again. Luckily, there are a million creative and gorgeous makeup storage solutions that will get you—and keep you—organized.
Once you follow this last step, your beauty collection will be decluttered, sorted, and put away. Clutter will officially be a thing of the past; now doesn’t that feel better?