I used to have this fantasy of moving to rural Iowa and writing a book. I’d be sustained solely by farmer's market produce (physically) and the countryside’s natural wonders (emotionally), and the particular joy of my own solitude. I’d only pack brown clothes and wear my hair in one very long braid, and I’d just wear sunscreen, no makeup. In a few months I’d have made more progress on my life’s work than in several spent in New York, and I’d come back a minimalist with no ties to material objects. It would be great!
And then I went to Iowa, which… OK, no offense to Iowa, but it’s not exactly my speed. The truth of the matter is I’m not a minimalist any way you slice it, which is why keeping my stuff organized is easier said than done. Organizing is actually a very personal thing: everyone has their own method, and sometimes it looks like Joan Didion packing a suitcase, and sometimes it doesn’t! Maybe you just haven't found your perfect match yet. Below, four pro-approved suggestions for how to go about it that I’ve found helpful, because organizing should always be about feeling good, not feeling stressed. Why not try...
The Konmari Method
For thoughtful minimalists
The philosophy: Marie Kondo’s now-famous decluttering method is more about getting rid of things than getting organized, and it’s best for those who look at their beauty stash and don’t really see themselves in it anymore. Maybe the taupey eyeshadows you were really into four years ago don’t speak to the Euphoria makeup-loving person you are now. Or you’ve come to a reasonable conclusion that you only ever do four steps in your 10-step routine, and your skin likes the pared-back approach anyway. If a big beauty realization has recently rocked your world, it’ll feel good to get rid of all the stuff that seems stale.
What you’ll need: Mental clarity and a trash bag.
How you do it: First, commit yourself to a day of organizing (it’s a good way to keep busy!) and imagine your ideal lifestyle. How many products do you actually want to use in the morning? Does your routine include makeup, and if so, which kinds? Then, break your products down into categories: we’d suggest skincare, makeup, haircare, body, and tools. Pick one to start with and dump all your relevant products into one big heap. The next part, figuring out which products spark joy, is what Kondo is known for. Look at your beauty products through the lens of what you’d take on a permanent desert island vacation. If you haven’t used it recently and don’t want to use it any time soon, sincerely thank the item for serving its purpose and put it in a ‘Get Rid Of’ pile. Once everything is sorted, organize what you have left. It’s easier to organize five lipsticks than 20, and you might even realize you don’t need all those big acrylic boxes after all.
The Allison Bornstein Method
For work-with-what-you’ve-got pragmatists
The philosophy: Bornstein is a NY-based stylist whose clients include Katie Holmes, Violette, and you, if you’ve ever taken a look at her tips on Instagram. But her super helpful closet editing system can just as easily apply to your beauty routine as it does to your wardrobe. If you’re the kind of beauty hoarder for whom everything sparks joy, Bornstein’s method should be a bit more helpful. Basically, you’ll break what you have down into Regulars (stuff you use all the time) and Nevers (stuff you don’t get around to using much) and then figure out how to repurpose the Nevers or make them work in your routine.
What you’ll need: A few hours and a little ingenuity.
How to do it: First, take out everything you use all the time. That’s your staple cleanser, your favorite tinted moisturizer, the one mascara you keep coming back to—just the parts of your beauty routine you reach for every day. Then, make a separate pile of things you never use and divide those into three sub-categories: No (things you never use and never will), Not Now (your gel moisturizers in the winter and vampy lipsticks in the summer, for example), and How. The Hows are products that you bought but don’t use because you can’t quite figure ‘em out. They’ve still got potential! And the next step is all about reviving those products and giving them a place in your routine. That cobalt blue eyeshadow that inspires you so much in the pan? Try applying it close to the lash line, as an eyeliner. Or repurpose that expensive but too harsh chemical exfoliator as a bacne eliminator. Beauty is all about creativity, and this is a time to play. Once you’ve finished, organize your Hows amongst the Regulars—seeing them in a new light might make you more inclined to use them.
The Gretchen Rubin Method
For the realistically self-aware
The philosophy: Like Kondo, Rubin is a professional organizer who’s written a book on her approach. Don’t have the book? Let’s simplify. Getting down to brass tacks the method isn’t all that different from the Konmari one, but its core tenant is know thyself. It’s best for those who can look past what they think they like, to the truth of what they actually like. Because when it comes down to it, joy and inspiration don’t matter if you’re still a creature of habit.
What you’ll need: A glass of water (to help the inevitable bitter pills go down easier) and organizing tools that will help a pared-back routine still feel special.
How to do it: Rubin suggests that you first ask yourself the hard questions. Do you actually use product X? Have you used it five times or less? In regards to beauty specifically, you might also want to ask yourself if a product is still good: most things expire within a year or two, but you can easily check for shelf life by looking at the little jar image on the packaging. Then, reflect on your editing skills. Rubin highlights what she calls the ‘Someday Someone’ phenomenon, which is where you hang onto things in the unrealistic hopes of getting some use out of them in the vague future. Don’t fall into the trap! Throw the bait, and anything you’re being unrealistic about, in the trash. Finally, channel your energy into making your space feel beautiful. Maybe that’s with washi tape, or lipstick organizers, or the makeup mirror you’ve been putting off buying. Keep everything looking good by cultivating helpful habits that’ll hold you to your word. Anything you can tidy up in under a minute, you should pledge to do immediately.
The Makeup Artist Method
For the project-oriented maximalist
The philosophy: Look, we might as well just be real here. Not everyone wants to de-clutter! Some of us need lots of little things, like makeup artists, for example. Instead of reducing product quantity, their approach is to reduce product bulk—the smaller you can condense things to, the more stuff you’ll have room for. It’s an involved process for sure, but it’s still got ease at its heart.
What you’ll need: A thin metal spatula, small containers to de-pot into, and the focus and precision of a med student.
How to do it: There are a lot of YouTube tutorials on how to do this, but before you do, have a good look at your stash and be realistic about what you can and can’t condense. Liquid lipsticks and stains don’t de-pot well, and not all eyeshadows pop out and stick to magnetic palettes. Then, consider which packaging you might be able to upgrade. De-potted into squeeze containers, loose powders are easier to travel with and dispense and liquid products might be less messy in a container with a pump. Muji bottles, a Vueset palette, and empty magnetic eyeshadow palettes are all good to have on hand. Once you’ve de-potted, peel off the stickers from each product’s original packaging and use it to label the shades so you don’t lose track. You can also print new ones on a label maker or, in a pinch, write them out on paper and laminate them to the container with clear tape. Then, get rid of all the old packaging that was adding to clutter. You still have everything you need, but now it takes up less space. Continue as you were.
Photos via ITG