Off The Cuff: How Do I Downsize My Humongous Makeup Collection?

Dear Winona,

My makeup collection is approaching “Hoarders: Buried Alive” territory. I’m out of space in my bathroom cabinets, and it takes me forever to find specific products I’m looking for. I love makeup (obviously) but I’m ready to try a more minimalist approach, because my current setup isn’t working. Where do I start? How do I figure out what to keep and what to throw away? Is a makeup minimalist allowed to own glitter teal eyeshadow? Help!

Makeup Hoarder

Dear Makeup Hoarder,

A lot of people are getting cranky about minimalism becoming a trend, but I’m all for it, in every possible incarnation and intensity level. I’m happy for my friends who are using the Marie Kondo Method to declutter and posting before and after pics on Facebook. I’m happy for the bloggers who are trying to wear the same dress every day for a year. I’m happy for the people who are trying capsule wardrobes for a season to see if it works for them, and the people who gave away 90% of their wardrobe to commit to the capsule lifestyle forever. I’m happy for people who have strict shopping limits for new stuff and people who are just trying to be a little better.  

Who cares if you’re not abiding by someone else’s rules for what a “minimalist” can and can’t do. You’re thinking about it, and challenging yourself. 

Streamlining, simplifying, buying less, owning less — it’s all good. 

One of the best things that happened when I downsized my wardrobe was that I finally felt like my clothes were working for me, not vice versa. I wasn’t constantly stressed about the mess in my bedroom from clothes that didn’t fit in the dresser. I no longer had daily freakouts about what to wear while staring at an overstuffed closet. I had a nice selection of clothes that served me well. 

When I downsized my makeup bag a few months ago, I kept this idea in mind, and I advise you to do the same: create a collection of products that serve you. This will depend on what your personal priorities are when it comes to makeup. What products do you actually use every day? What products are worth keeping around for special occasions? What products bring you joy? What products stress you out? What products are taking up space and probably expired 6 years ago?

Here’s what made the cut in my streamlined makeup bag, the one I use every day:

SPF powder (I love this one from Eminence — expensive but worth it)
Eyelash curler
Eyeliner (dark brown pencil)
Peach lip balm

Your list might look very different, depending on what your day-to-day makeup routine entails, but this is what works for me.

A good way to figure out your VIP products, the ones you really truly use daily, is to take all the products off your counters/out of your makeup bag and put them in a big bin. Every day when you do your makeup, take the products you use out of this bin and put them in your makeup bag (or wherever you keep your easy access, most frequently used makeup). Chances are you use the same 3-6 products every day, and after a week, it will be pretty obvious which cosmetics are actually earning their spot in your daily makeup bag.

To keep organized and take the pressure off the idea that you have to throw away all your “fun” makeup for the sake of minimalism, I recommend creating a space (either a small bin or a second makeup bag) for special occasion products. Depending on your daily makeup look, this group would include things like glitter eyeshadow, black liquid eyeliner, red lipstick, highlighter, purple eyeliner, and heavier foundation. To avoid using your special occasion makeup as an excuse to not actually downsize your collection (“I might use this expired purple lipstick someday, better keep it!”!), choose a small-ish bag for your special occasion makeup and challenge yourself to only keep what you can fit in this bag.

Every month or two, go through your makeup collection and make sure it’s still serving you. Get rid of anything that’s expired or taking up space. And be thoughtful about new products that you buy, too. Next time you’re at Sephora, envision your streamlined makeup collection and ask yourself if a prospective new product truly deserves a coveted spot. Maybe that glitter teal eyeliner does. Maybe it doesn’t. As long as you’re staying within your personal parameters of minimalism, you get to decide. And how awesome is that?


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