How to Spring Clean Your Beauty Stash

Can you imagine being paid to play with makeup, skincare, and hair products? The dream is very real for beauty editors, and while it’s a lot of fun, it also creates an ever-growing stash of pretty paraphernalia to manage in one’s bathroom and vanity. So, how do these makeup mavens streamline their stashes? We caught up with some of the best in the business to share their tricks to narrowing it down to the essentials—despite the siren song of co-opting all the new confections flooding their desks on a daily basis.

Lindsey Unterberger, Beauty Director

Lindsey’s Tips:

One In, One Out

“I have a one-in, one-out policy when it comes to the makeup I keep in my bathroom. I use acrylic boxes and organizers from Muji and The Container Store, and each drawer has its own category, so to speak. For instance, one drawer is for highlighters, another for bronzers, and another for concealers. Lipsticks get broken down even further—by color. I have a drawer for pinks and a drawer for reds. When I add a new lipstick to my rotation, one of the existing ones in the coordinating drawer gets tossed. This means that I never have to do a massive ‘clean-out,’ because things are constantly being assessed. It’s especially helpful for my mascaras, which I tend to keep well past their recommended three-month expiration date. This forces me to rotate them regularly.”

Play Lipstick Roulette

“I keep a lipstick organizer right by my front door, and I put all of the colors I’m not sure about in it. (This also gets the one-in, one-out treatment when I bring new colors home.) When I’m running out the door and haven’t already applied a lip color, I’ll pick one at random from the organizer and force myself to put on whatever I chose. It’s a great way to break out of a beauty rut and not let products sit untested. Now, if you see me with a green matte lip, you’ll know why.”

Have Travel Cases at the Ready

“Whenever I return from a trip, I restock my clear, zippered travel cases. I have one for all of my essentials (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, face wash, etc.), and another that is solely for bug spray—I have an irrational fear of mosquito bites—and sunscreen. It’s one less thing to worry about the next time I’m packing for a trip, and also ensures I don’t have little bottles laying around collecting dust.”

The Extras

“Closet space is at a minimum in my studio apartment, so I use closed shelving to conceal clear plastic bins that contain extra products I can’t bring myself to part with just yet. Do you know how hard it is to get rid of a Chanel eyeshadow, even if you don’t use it? These get cleaned out and given away to friends and family once a season.”

Carolyn Hsu, New Beauty Site Director

Carolyn’s Tips:  

The KonMari Method

“My general rule is applying Marie Kondo’s rule of cleaning to all opened/tested beauty products. My house is full of barely-used skincare and swatched makeup. I gather every product that isn’t sealed on the kitchen table, and go through them one by one. I discard anything that I’m not in love with.”

Share the Wealth

“I repeat the same cleaning system with the products that aren’t open, and sort them into various bags as gifts for people. If it isn’t something that I’m dying to try, into the bags it goes. I learned my lesson about hoarding beauty products a couple of years ago. I saved up a whole ton of Chanel in my beauty closet to use ‘one day,’ and when that one day came, all I got was a bunch of crusty, expired Chanel.”

Do a Medicine Cabinet Re-Org

“I reorganized my bathroom medicine cabinet (where all the action happens) so that reaching for one product didn’t cause five surrounding products to fall off the shelf. Nothing like having one cream buried under three others to ensure that you’ll never actually use that cream.”

Color Coordination: Not Just for Books

“I color coordinated the vanity into a gradient: pink, peach, then white. Pretty shelves full of my favorite beauty products—what could be happier than that?”

Heather Muir Maffei, Real Simple and Health Beauty Director

“Being a beauty director has amazing perks—I still pinch myself over the fact that I get to test products for a living. But it also constantly challenges the neat freak inside of me. Getting dozens of bags of the latest makeup and hair launches delivered to my desk every day makes for more clutter than I can take (and I live in a house; not an NYC apartment!). So, in a way, I feel like I’m constantly ‘spring cleaning‘ my beauty loot.

Doing so is 1) sanitary—yay and 2) gets me excited and motivated to actually take care of myself (do a fancy nighttime skincare ritual and paint on a full face of makeup). I find when my beauty products are clean and in order, using them is a lot more fun. And even when I’m crunched for time (aka, every morning), when my products and tools are organized, it’s easier to get out of the door faster.”

Heather’s Tips:

Deep Clean Makeup Tools

“For me, spring cleaning my beauty stash entails deep cleaning my makeup brushes/BeautyBlender. I commute five-plus hours every day (yes, you read that right), so I do my makeup on the train. My brushes are housed in my makeup bag, so they can get grimey. In addition to washing them (I use a few pumps of my favorite cleanser and hot water), I recently got a slim, mesh bag to keep them in so they’re protected inside my makeup bag—it’s such a small tweak, but it’s made a huge difference (my skin and conscience are much happier).”

Organize Beauty Backups

“I also weed through my home beauty stash and organize my backup products—shaving cream, shampoo, deodorant, serums, etc.—into categories, toss any expired products (if I’ve had them for more than a year or they look or smell funky, I trash them—RIP that James Read self-tanner), and put them in clean bins with handles (a TJ Maxx score). Now, when I’m out of body wash, I head to my linen closet and know exactly where I can grab an up-to-par replacement. When it comes to makeup that I love but don’t carry in my everyday case, I recently organized them in a clear acrylic makeup organizer.”

Toss Old Products

“I chuck old products (paying special attention to mascara and eyeliner), and use a face wipe to clean the outside of messy liners and palettes. Instead of searching in a sea of products under my sink, I can easily find exactly what I’m looking for because everything is displayed neatly. I also just did a quick edit of my perfume tray, which had gotten totally out of control (oops). I had over 25 fragrances—a few of which didn’t smell like they should anymore. So I tossed the oldies, ranked them, and then only kept my top five on my dresser. The streamlining has made spritzing on my scent in the am feel way more glamourous.”

Cheryl Wischhover, Racked Senior Beauty Reporter

“Because my job is to constantly test products, I don’t do any seasonal organizing. The reality is that weekly culling happens, but ultimately hoarding outpaces the culling, and I’m left with horrifying piles of forgotten serums, prompting huge purges. But I’ve recently made a few changes to my home stash that have improved my life.”

Cheryl’s Tips:

Use a Tray

“Before I bought this cheap metal tray at Target, the new products I was actively testing were spread all over my sink, getting splattered with toothpaste, and getting knocked over with regularity. It was also so annoying to try to clean the sink when I had to move 15 bottles out of the way. So, this tray just makes everything look more organized, and it also makes it super easy to clean the sink, since you just pick the whole thing up.”

Add Under-the-Vanity Drawers

“Overflow is a constant problem. The area under my sink is packed with makeup and hair products (and that annoying pipe right in the middle), and things were literally falling out every time I opened the door. Another Target run yielded a three-drawer box, which I keep under my vanity next to my (never used) scale. It holds extra hair brushes, shaving supplies, and other beauty odds and ends.”

The Desperate DIY Option

“My husband hates clutter of any kind, so my being a beauty freelancer for two years was a serious test for him—since samples got sent to my apartment, and I had to store them at home instead of in an office beauty closet, which I have now. I have two boys who have outgrown all their large toys and Lego sets, so I inherited a few shelves in a common closet. My husband, who is pretty handy and highly motivated to keep everything hidden, took some Fresh Direct boxes and cut them up into trays, complete with dividers. They were meant to be a temporary stopgap until I could get to the Container Store for proper storage but, uh, a year later, I’m still using them.”

Kristin Limoges, Domino Lifestyle Editor

Kristin’s Tips: 

Ikea It

When in doubt, turn to Ikea. My tiny Williamsburg apartment has very little space (shocking, I know…). The single shelf in my closet was kind of wasted space, so I got six stackable containers, putting two on top of each other. I store all my extra products I want to try out in them. Each one is labeled and organized based on categories: hair, body, makeup, skincare, travel, and face masks (yep, a whole one dedicated to face masks). The Kuggis box is the absolute perfect size, inexpensive, and looks very chic. It’s easy to grab a speciality shampoo, body lotion, mascara, etc., while leaving my vanity clutter-free.

Cups Runneth Over

As Cheryl mentioned above, trays (or gorgeous plates if you prefer) are a saving grace for organizing. Run through your displayed products every few weeks to make sure you’re using them frequently. If they are more once-in-a-while products, you can put them up in your Ikea storage to make more room for your faves. But don’t overlook cups, mugs, and glasses for organization, too. I collect cups from all over the world, and use a few for various things on my vanity. A tall glass is the perfect vessel for makeup brushes. A shorter, wider, mint julep-like glass is great for eyelash curlers and miscellaneous makeup tools. And a mug from Japan is on my bedside table, holding all my nighttime lip balms, hand creams, and sleep sprays in one spot.

This story was originally published April 2017. Updated with new information March 2018.

Read more about organizing your home:

Your Ultimate Home Spring Cleaning Guide
Of Course Marie Kondo Has the Best Packing Tips
How to Organize a Pantry, If You Don’t Have One

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