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How to Better Organize Your Makeup – 5 Essential Tips

When you’re totally obsessed with beauty products, buying and sampling the latest goods isn’t the problem – it’s trying to store them all. My makeup drawer is overrun with beauty products, from old standby favorites to impulse buys I don’t even like anymore. Sound familiar?

Though it’s just a short, afternoon project, organizing your makeup drawer can result in major benefits. Not only can it help you save time when searching for your favorite lipstick, it can also save you money: When you know what you have on-hand, you can avoid purchasing duplicates.

How to Organize Your Makeup Drawer

Give yourself an hour and grab a garbage bag and some empty containers. Then, try some of these simple tips to get rid of old clutter, have an easier time finding what you really need when digging around, and gain control over your makeup drawer.

1. Get Rid of the Old

Dump all of your makeup and beauty products onto a flat surface. You need to be able to clearly see what you have, and digging through a messy drawer won’t give you the opportunity. Once your products are all visible, start picking out the old and unusable stuff.

In general, you should discard anything that fits into any of the three following categories:

  • Broken and Cannot Be Repaired. Have a powder compact that’s cracked? It might still be usable. If you have a broken bronzer, eyeshadow, or powder you love, gather it into the compact and then add enough rubbing alcohol so that the powder becomes a paste. Use a butter knife to smooth it back into the compact and leave it to dry overnight. However, broken pencils, cracked and leaking containers, and smashed lipsticks should be thrown away. These aren’t as easy to salvage as powder, and broken makeup can make a mess of your makeup drawer.
  • Old and Expired. Although there are various ways to make your makeup last longer, in general, open mascara lasts for about three months, foundation can last anywhere from six months to a year, and powders are typically good for a year. If your makeup is dried out or beginning to separate, it’s time to toss it.
  • Outdated or Unflattering. If you have products you haven’t used in more than six months, it’s safe to say that it’s time to get rid of them. That also goes for stuff you bought that just doesn’t look good on you. Whether it was an ill-advised lipstick shade the beauty counter associate swore was perfect for you, or “brightening” formula that is too heavy on the glitter, you can either find it a new home with a friend, or throw it out to make room for items you really love.

Take this time to wipe out the inside of your makeup drawer or cupboard too, since smudged makeup and eyeliner pencil shavings can find their ways into the corners and make it messy. Once you’ve purged the makeup that is unusable, you can have space for the stuff you use on a regular basis.

2. Categorize Your Products

If you were on a desert island, which makeup could you simply not survive without? These products are the ones you use again and again, so they should be placed in a prominent area. Then, separate out your special occasion or “once in a while” products like false eyelashes, colored eyeshadow, bright lipsticks, and anything else you don’t really use for your daily routine. This is also a good time to check for duplicates, since you probably have a couple of products that have similar colors or formulas. When you put your makeup back into your drawer, you can then organize each category (everyday, special occasion, and duplicates) by makeup type (eyes, lips, cheeks, etc.).

Categorize Each Products

3. Set Up Dividers

Containers and dividers are a must if you plan on having an organized makeup drawer. If you check online, you can find a huge assortment of drawers and dividers – makeup artists prefer acrylic dividers, such as those available at IKEA, since they’re clear and make it easy to see all the products.

However, you don’t have to purchase pricey acrylic dividers to get organized. Anything that allows you to effectively create divided spaces in your drawer or cabinet work well. Here are several effective storage ideas:

  • A Kitchen Utensil Divider. If you’re all about the brushes, you should love using a kitchen utensil divider as a way to keep them separate and neat. The divider is already made to fit shallow spaces and has tons of different spots for brushes, applicators, lipsticks, and even small compacts.
  • A Pencil or Toothbrush Holder. A pencil holder is a must-have for my countertop. It’s a cute way to store brushes upright, which can make them last longer and stay cleaner. It’s also perfect for eyeliners and brow pencils.
  • Dollar Store Baskets. Head to your local dollar or discount store to find tons of baskets and containers that work perfectly for makeup organization. I keep a few in my makeup drawer and one out on the counter as a catch-all for stuff that needs to be put back in its right spot. When I’m in a rush, I toss a lipstick in the catch-all and then put it back in its rightful home later that day.
  • Hanging Organizers. If you’re short on space in your makeup drawer, try an over-the-door hanging organizer (typically used for shoes and other accessories) for larger compacts and powders. Each compact has its own spot and can be easily accessed without taking up space in a tiny bathroom.

By making sure everything has a proper place, you can cut down on mess and the time it takes to locate your lip gloss. Look for dividers that are clear, so you can easily see what’s in each. Solid baskets can look cute, but might require digging to find the products at the bottom.

And be creative with your divider solutions – there’s a chance you already have some unused baskets and dividers hanging around your house for quick organization.

4. Arrange Your Makeup

A well-organized makeup drawer should be arranged based on frequency of use. I actually prefer to have my everyday stuff out on my counter, so I keep a small bag designated for my daily use makeup. The stuff I’m less likely to use every day (such as colored eyeshadow or waterproof mascara) then gets stashed neatly in my makeup drawer.

This is where your dividers really come in handy. I like to separate my makeup based on type, so I keep all of my mascaras in one basket, and lip glosses in another. Eyeshadow palettes and other flat makeup products (such as face powder) should not be stacked. If possible, always lay them flat in your drawer or cabinet. While stacking might look nice at first, you need to move items out of the way to find certain colors, and you’re likely to end up with a messy, disorganized makeup drawer.

Place your makeup with the labels facing outward so you can clearly see each product. Some packaging for different products can be remarkably similar, like that of mascara and liquid eyeliner. Save time and frustration by making sure you can read the label.

If you’re not into dividing your products by type, you can also group color families to take some of the guess-work out of applying your makeup. I like to keep my black eyeliner, mascara, and gray eyeshadow together. That way, when I’m in a hurry, I can quickly grab all the products from a color family and know that everything will coordinate flawlessly.

Think about how you’re most likely to apply your makeup. Do you like mixing and matching different products? Then you may want to divide by makeup type. If you tend to apply your makeup based on color (and use the same products together repeatedly), group them that way.

Don’t forget to make a space for your duplicates. If you can’t bear to part with them, putting them in a basket in your linen closet can help stop you from buying more of the stuff you already have. If you run out of lipstick, you can check your duplicate basket before heading out to buy a new one.

And while you’re at it, keep samples. They may seem like they clutter up your makeup drawer, but sample size products are ideal for traveling. I just keep a separate makeup bag where I drop the samples I get from beauty stores, magazines, and sample subscription services. Then, when I’m packing for a trip, I can choose smaller sizes from my sample bag and save suitcase space.

Setup Makeup Arrangements

5. Clean Your Brushes and Applicators

Finally, take the time to make sure that your brushes and applicators are properly maintained as part of the organization process. Doing so gives your brushes longer life, but also reduces the spread of bacteria from your face to your brushes, and back to your face again.

In a perfect world, you’d wash your brushes once a week – but you might not be so diligent. That’s why maintaining brushes and applicators should always be part of your drawer cleanup process.

Moisten your brush under warm water, and add a drop of baby shampoo to your palm. Gently circulate the brush around your palm, and you should start to see pigment leach out of the fibers. Rinse and repeat until no pigment comes out of the brush anymore. Lay the brush flat on a clean towel overnight before using it again. This is a simple process that can keep your brushes newer longer – just remember to replace them when the fibers begin falling out.

Clean your brushes once per week. It should only take about three to five minutes, plus drying time. I like to do it before bed so they’re clean and dry by morning.

Final Word

There’s not much sense in having a prized makeup collection if it’s all stuffed into a messy drawer. By taking an hour to clean, separate, and organize your cosmetics, you can spend less time searching for products during your morning routine, and spend less money buying makeup you already have. Committing an hour a month to making the most of your makeup collection can have you sitting pretty.

How do you keep your cosmetics organized? Do you have any additional tips to suggest?

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.

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