How to Declutter Makeup & Cosmetics to Simplify Your Routine

small collection of makeup in bathroom, well organized in acrylic trays

Makeup is fun and relatively affordable, which makes it so easy to accumulate. If you’re tired of rummaging through caked palettes, blusher, and funky colours you never wear, here are some tips to declutter your cosmetics and streamline your beauty routine.

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From the kohl-lined eyes of ancient Egyptian queens to the red ochre cheeks of classical Greek women, the art of beautifying oneself with makeup has been a timeless pursuit across cultures and eras, symbolising both personal expression and adherence to current beauty ideals.

This age-old fascination has certainly found new dimensions in the era of Instagram and social media-induced consumerism, where picture-perfect images and beauty influencers have amplified overall enthusiasm for makeup. It’s become more than a tool for self-expression, but also a means to participate in global beauty trends and digital communities. In sort, when it comes to makeup, we’re hooked.

The result? Many of us can hardly pass by a Sephora without popping in. We’ve accumulated drawers upon drawers full of products and cosmetics. Palettes, serums, highlighters, nail varnish, contouring kits, hair care, creams… specific products for every different square millimetre of our face, neck and body. Some even unopened, unused, or expired.

I’m guilty, too, with no less than six eyebrow pencils in my stash as I write this. Why, when I only have two eyebrows? 🤦🏻‍♀️

If it’s time for a more mindful approach to keeping your makeup organised, or if you just need some tips on how to declutter makeup so you can simplify your daily routine and get back to using the basics you love, this mini guide to decluttering your makeup is for you. Whether you’re a makeup enthusiast or a minimalist, let’s walk through some easy steps and top tips to declutter, organise, and refresh your makeup drawer.

Why Declutter Your Makeup and Toiletry Collection?

Decluttering your makeup and toiletries obviously frees up space in the bathroom cabinet or vanity and it can also actually help redefine your beauty routine. When you declutter, you prioritise products that you like using, and this in turn makes your routine more efficient and tailored to your real needs.

It also gives you the opportunity to eliminate expired products from your collection, so that it’s easier finding your favourite items when you’re doing your face. Taken one step further, that can significantly shorten your preparation time in the mornings. You just won’t be wasting time sifting through stuff, nor will you be reaching for an expired foundation that could cause a breakout.

Beyond the practical aspects, decluttering generally also brings a bit of psychological relief and sense of accomplishment. A clutter-free environment helps reduce stress. When your makeup and beauty products are well-organised, you’re more likely to enjoy using them and feel more relaxed while you’re getting ready. It’s a simple yet effective step towards a more mindful and enjoyable approach to self-care.

Identifying What to Keep and What to Throw Away

The biggest challenge when it comes to decluttering makeup is deciding what stays and what goes. I like to start by separating all my makeup into categories like lipsticks, eyeliners, face palettes, etc.

Then, evaluate each product based on its condition and smell, how often you use it, and its expiration date. If you haven’t used a product in over six or so months, it might be time to say goodbye. This process of assessing each item helps you focus on the makeup products and tools that are essential to your routine, ensuring that everything in your collection serves a purpose.

Be critical with makeup you don’t use but have held onto for sentimental reasons or because it was expensive. We often keep things thinking we might use them someday, yet that day often never comes. Just be honest with yourself about what you actually use and enjoy, that’s all this exercise comes down to. It can be a liberating process! It allows you to let go of items that no longer serve you and make room for things that do.

Expiration Dates & Expired Products: When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

The mantra here is to keep the products that you use daily within easy reach and get rid of expired stuff. Yup, makeup and skincare products have a shelf life just like food.

Mascara, for example, should be replaced every three months, while lipsticks can last up to two years. Look for the symbol of a little open jar with a number on your products – this indicates how many months the product is good for once opened. Decluttering expired makeup reduces the risk of skin irritation and infection, so when you’re looking through your stash, check those expiration dates and dispose of old products that have surpassed their lifespan.

Symbols for beauty product expiration dates.
Look for a little symbol like this on your cosmetics – it indicates the number of months your product is good for after opening.

Understanding the expiration date of products is particularly important for things like eyeliners and mascaras, which are used close to the eyes and can harbour harmful bacteria. It’s not just about the product’s performance; it’s also a health precaution. When it comes to decluttering makeup, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t remember when you bought it, it’s probably time for it to go. 

Infographic by tidymalism of common makeup expiration dates.
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If you’re looking for an even more comprehensive guide to expiry dates, be sure to check out my article on decluttering all of your bath, beauty and cleaning supplies. You might be shocked to learn that even things like condoms, tampons, and bleach have expiry dates!

Hard to Declutter: Unopened Products That You Don’t Use

We probably all have some unopened or rarely used products in our makeup collection. If you’re really serious about downsizing lots of makeup, you’ll want to be realistic about whether you will ever use these items.

For items that have been opened but are still good (maybe they just weren’t your colour, for example), you could consider giving them to a friend or family member. You can also try donating unused and unexpired items to a charity such as your local women’s shelter.

Also, for those products you’ve had a long time but never use, I’d make a quick mental note about why you bought them in the first place. This just helps you become more intentional about your spending over the long run. Maybe it was stint of retail therapy, or a salesperson had talked you into it. Or maybe it was because someone on TikTok was raving about it and you got the ‘ole FOMO.

Are those valid reasons to let stuff hog up your space? If not, it’s time to let them go.

How to Declutter Makeup for Special Occasions

When it comes to your beauty stash, you might also find you have many makeup products reserved for special events. While it’s okay to keep these, assess how much space they take up versus how often you use them. In the long scheme of things, it’s so much easier to keep a small selection of versatile products for these events, and declutter the rest. Special makeup, like bold lipsticks or glitter eyelashes, can be a fun addition to your collection, but only if it’s something you’re actually going to wear.

Consider the frequency of events you attend, or the variety of looks you want to be able to create at a moment’s notice. It might be more practical to have a few multi-purpose items that can be dressed up or down, rather than a large number of rarely used products. This not only saves space but also ensures that your special occasion makeup is fresh and in good condition when you do need it.

Keeping Your Makeup Clean and Hygienic

Speaking of fresh, regularly cleaning your makeup tools is crucial for maintaining hygiene. Take the opportunity to clean your makeup brushes, sponges, and utensils when you’re decluttering. This not only prevents the buildup of germs but also helps keep the makeup itself clean. In turn, that just keeps your skin looking better.

If things are caking, crumbling, becoming gooey, or starting to smell weird, it’s time to bin them.

Be on the lookout for lipstick that’s changed colour or texture, or nail varnish that’s separating in the bottle or getting clumpy.

Similarly, brushes that are losing bristles or sponges that are falling apart should be replaced. Keeping your makeup supplies clean and in good condition is not just about aesthetics; it helps keep your skin healthy.

Maximising Space with Efficient Makeup Storage

Once you’re good to go on the how to declutter makeup front and have weeded things out and cleaned up, the last step is to organise it all again. At the end of your decluttering session, you’ll want to tidy up the things you know you want to keep and rearrange everything.

If you don’t have a system in place yet, opting for a good makeup organiser can help two-fold: it makes it easier to find stuff, and it saves space. Whether it’s a drawer organiser, a countertop display, or a portable makeup bag, pick a storage solution that helps you keep your collection neat and handy. This makes it much easier to grab what you need and can even help keep the exterior of your products in good condition.

Organisers come in a wide variety of sizes, materials and styles and there’s something out there even for tiny bathrooms that lack storage. But you might not need to buy anything new at all! I’m a big fan of eco-friendly organising and always say: have a look around your house first to see if you already have things you can repurpose to tidy up your makeup storage space. Maybe a fancy box from a luxury purchase can be used, or perhaps you have some little trays in the dining room cabinet that never see the light of day. They could work nicely in your vanity or makeup cart.

If you are going to buy new organising containers, I always recommend finishing with decluttering first so that you can see how much makeup you’re definitely keeping, and what types.

For instance, if you’ve got a lot of brushes, look for an organiser with adequate brush holders. Drawer dividers are great for separating different types of products like lippies and eyeliners. The key is to store your makeup so there’s a place for everything and you can easily see what you have, and access them without hassle. I also like to leave a wee bit of empty room in case I buy a new product or two.

A Streamlined and Decluttered Daily Makeup Routine

Keeping your daily essentials in an easily accessible spot can streamline your morning cosmetic routine. You don’t have to think about much when everything’s in reach to do your face. So having a dedicated space for your daily makeup, like a small tray or a mini makeup trolley, can make your morning routine smoother and more enjoyable.

Before and after organizing makeup in a small drawer.
My small makeup drawer in the bath, before and after organising. I like to use the stackable PP trays from Muji to organise small things.

Consider the products you want to use on most days and store them front and centre. This might include your foundation, mascara, and a favourite lippie. By having these items at the ready, you’ll find that your makeup routine becomes more efficient and less cluttered.

This approach also helps you to rotate products effectively, ensuring that nothing gets lost at the back of a drawer or goes unused for too long.

How Often to Declutter Your Makeup Collection

Once you have a routine down and know how to declutter makeup, it shouldn’t be a one-time event. Set a regular schedule, perhaps every six months or so, to reassess your products. This ensures your makeup collection remains manageable, up-to-date, clean, and reflects changes in your preferences and lifestyle.

Regular decluttering sessions also prevent the accumulation of expired or unused products.

Timing your decluttering sessions with seasonal changes can be a good strategy. As your skincare and makeup tend to change with the weather, it’s a natural time to evaluate what products you’ll need for the coming months. Doing a regular spot-check like this is one of the best ways to keep your collection in line and ensure that decluttering doesn’t become a mammoth task.

It can be hard to declutter some things, especially if they were expensive or have sentimental value. I like to remind myself though that decluttering is about prioritising what adds value to my life now. If makeup isn’t being used or a certain item doesn’t bring you joy, it’s okay to part with it. It’s important to recognise that the value of a product is not just in its price tag.

Assortment of cosmetics and makeup brushers organized in clear acrylic trays for an article on How to Declutter Makeup for a more simplified beauty routine.
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