Cull, categorise, clean: a step-by-step guide to organising your make-up and beauty collection

Now's the time to introduce some order to that jumble of products on your dressing table

detail of make up brushes and powder
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Is your dressing table or bathroom cabinet brimming with make-up, perfumes, skin creams and other beauty products that never get used but you refuse to throw away? Mine too. But now seems like a good time to sort through the mess.

This’ll be one of those jobs that feels like a chore beforehand, but will be oddly satisfying once you’re done – and, if you can keep things in order, it will pay off for weeks and months to come.

Make-up and beauty products are often treated as pick-me-up buys; little treats that don’t cost too much, so we end up overstocking. Also, in our constant quest to find exactly the right concealer / moisturiser / shade of red lipstick, there’s often a fair amount of collateral damage – products that were almost the right fit, but not quite, and now loiter in your bathroom cabinet.

Here's a step-by-step guide to reorganising that clutter.

with make-up sponge/beauty blender, eyelash adhesive and lip pencil
Lay all your items out so you can take stock of what you own. Getty

Get everything out in the open

Empty those drawers, tip out your make-up bag, rustle around in your handbags for those stray lipsticks. Get everything out where you can see it. It’ll give you some perspective on your buying habits. It may be that you are that rare woman who only buys what she needs, and only replaces a product once another is finished. Or, you may discover, once you have everything laid out in front of you, that you are a bit of a hoarder. This may be something to ruminate over moving forward.

Go for the cull 

Newsflash: that lipstick that you’ve been saving since the early 2000s needs to go. All make-up has a use-by date, and its shelf life is shorter than you might think.

Once opened, liquid products should generally be used within six months, while other beauty products shouldn’t, as a rule, be kept for longer than a year. Old products may potentially be harbouring germs, and that caked-up mascara and splodgy nail polish are of no use to anyone.

close up of makeup in salon
Store products in see-through containers so you can keep track of what you have. Getty

Be honest

What do you actually use – and what actually suits you? We know that palette looks lovely on the outside, but have you actually ever applied the emerald green eyeshadow that is housed within? Your tastes may also have changed since you last sorted through your make-up, so be realistic about what you’ll actually use, and put everything else to the side.

With things that you haven’t used yet, why not wait until our social distancing days are behind us and see if you have any friends that might benefit from the unused items you no longer need. A blusher that looks all wrong on you may be perfect for one of your pals.


Separate skincare, haircare and beauty products, and then create sub-categories that make sense to you. For make-up, you can divide things by skin, eyes and lips, for example. Or you might prefer to divide by day make-up and night make-up, or regular use and special occasion. Either way, have a dedicated container for each sub-category. If you are feeling particularly zealous, you can then organise products by colour – this is particularly useful for lipsticks, eyeshadows and nail polishes.


Take the time to disinfect brushes, sponges and the inside of your make-up and toiletry bags. A build-up of dirt and oils on your make-up brushes can cause breakouts, so you should be cleaning them regularly (aim for once a week).

An assortment of new makeup brushes in a makeup artist's kit.
Make-up brushes should be cleaned on a weekly basis. Getty

A foolproof method is to squeeze a dollop of shampoo or dishwasher liquid into a mug and then fill with warm water; swirl your brushes in the mixture and gentle massage the bristles, before cleaning with clean water and laying flat to dry. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean out plastic-lined make-up bags, and throw soft cloth ones straight into the washing machine.

Store properly

If you really want to get organised, invest in a set of clear containers, or a dedicated acrylic make-up box, with drawers and dividers. A transparent container will remind you what you have and so you’ll be more inclined to use it. Beauty bloggers swear by Glamboxes’s Glam Luxe Makeup Box, but you can also find similar items at the likes of Muji and Ikea.

You can also transform items you already have in your home into handy make-up containers. Once you’ve burnt that fancy scented candle to the bottom, reuse the container to store make-up brushes or eye pencils. Similarly, the boxes that sunglasses come in make excellent storage facilities for mascaras, and lip and eye pencils. Nail polishes can be kept in a glass biscuit jar. Just make sure to keep everything out of direct sunlight.

Waste not want not

Finally, why not make a vow to start using what you have before you buy anything new? It’ll be good for your wallet and good for the environment. Or at least promise that before your next purchase, you’ll stop and think about all the unused items you already have waiting for you (now tidily organised) in your bathroom?


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