We’ve all been there, right? You open your bathroom cabinet or drawer, and you think to yourself, “How did I acquire this much goo???” Moisturizers, serums, hair product, perfumes, it all just piles up as you find a thing here or there and add it to the cabinet.
Since I’m getting ready to move, it’s time for me to look at the parts of my life that tend to get cluttered. For me, that’s clothing and skin care products. I’m doing well on the clothing at the moment, because I put a moratorium on buying new seasonal clothes since we’re moving somewhere with a different climate. The only things I’ve added to the closet are wardrobe basics, and when I add something new, I put something old in the donation pile.
But I hadn’t really looked at my skin care in a bit, so I figured it was a good time to address that. There’s no point in shipping things I don’t need, and risking them leaking or breaking in transit.
Here are my favorite tips for keeping your goo-cabinet from getting out of hand.
- Use bins. They’re a life-saver. Whether it’s shoe boxes, cute bins you bought, or the smaller boxes from a Lush shipment, use some sort of containers to compartmentalize your things and help keep you in check. If everything is supposed to be in a container, then you know it’s time to throw things out when it doesn’t all fit in said container. The other great thing about using these is that I know exactly where my products are. One box is only hair and bath stuff, one box is only skin care, one box is only essential oils, etc. When I need to go rummaging, I pull down the appropriate box, find what I need, then put it all back in the box and re-shelve it. Even if it’s just tossed in there with no order to it, my products *look* organized when I look at the shelf, because they’re contained in boxes. Personally, I like to reuse small boxes that I get packages mailed in, so that I’m staying organized and creating less waste.
- Go through your goo periodically. A quarterly goo-purging is probably all you need. Set a reminder on your phone, or put a sticky note on your bathroom cabinet with the date on it. When it’s time, pull ALL your stuff out onto the counter, take it all out of the boxes, and survey your collection. Do you love and use every single one of these products? Chuck anything that you were underwhelmed with, that’s mostly empty and you’re not using anymore, or that you bought on a whim because it looked cool but realized you’re never going to use it. If you bought a new toner that’s the best thing ever, you can get rid of your old, less-awesome toners. When are you going to use the mediocre ones in place of your new fave? Is anything in that box broken or leaking? Toss it; you don’t need puddles of dried stuff all over your cabinet. If you have a friend who’s into skin care, see if they want to give those ‘good but not for me’ products a test run instead of throwing them out. It can be your good deed for the day.
- Try to use up a product before replacing. This is hard to do, but it will save you money and space. If you’ve got a cleanser that works well for you, use it up completely before trying a new cleanser. Sometimes, I’ll get overwhelmed with products and I’ll have to stop buying things until I can use up some of what I have. I hate to waste product, especially if it works well, so to regain control of my cabinet, I take buying breaks where I just use what I have for as long as I can. Sometimes it’ll take me several months to use things up to the point of needing a replacement. That’s several months of not spending money on new products, and several months of slowly freeing up space in my bathroom. The products you’re already using must be working – if they made you break out, you wouldn’t be using them – so keep using them until you get the full value of what you bought. Don’t throw good money away if you don’t have to.
- Shop with space in mind. If you’re trying out a product for the first time, especially if it’s an expensive one, get a travel size or sample first. It will take up less room in your cabinet, and if you hate it, you can throw it away without feeling like you wasted a ton of money on a full-sized product that turned out to be a bad fit. Probably 90% of my Sephora purchases come from the little stands of travel products, because unless I know for a fact that a given product is going to work great on my skin, I don’t want to pay full price for it. That’s a big gamble; some oil cleansers can cost $50 or so. I don’t want to realize that was a mistake.
- Take advantage of return policies. One of the many good things about Sephora is their return policy. You can open up and use a product, and if it doesn’t work for you or makes you break out, you can return it. Their policy says products have to be ‘new or gently used.’ So don’t try to return something you used half of, but if you tried it once and hated it, and you still have your receipt, you can take it back and get a refund. Check the return policies of other places you shop as well; don’t keep products sitting around that you don’t like.
- Know your skin type. Buying products that are made for skin like yours will save you a ton of grief and money. If you don’t know your skin type, you’re basically just guessing every time you buy a new product, and hoping it will work. That’s got to get expensive after a while, not to mention leaving you with a cabinet full of failed goo purchases. I just learned a great way to find your skin type: get a piece of blotting paper, and pat your face with it in the middle of the day, well after you’ve washed your face. If the paper comes away soaked with oil and almost completely translucent, you have oily skin. If you have a few translucent spots but not enough to cover the blotting paper, your skin is combination. And if the paper comes away from your face like you hardly did anything to the paper at all, then your skin is dry. How easy is that? You can also ask your local skin care store rep to help you suss out your skin type before you start spending money; they know their stuff and are usually happy to help.
As Alton Brown says, organization will set you free. Nobody wants to open their cabinets in the morning and deal with a crapalanche of old products – we need our mornings to be easy, because sleep is good and digging through a packed cabinet just starts our day off on a frustrating note. When your products are easy to find, appropriate for your skin, and have intact packaging, your morning routine will be infinitely easier to pull off, so that you can leave the house looking and feeling fab.