Live with what you LOVE: Bathrooms & Beauty

Love is in the air this February and I have a new organizing blog series to go along. I work with clients everyday on the art of letting go but I also give them the push to dive in and add items that bring them joy. This series is called Live with what you LOVE. I encourage you to be inspired to identify what makes you happy, create goals of how you want to live, purge what you can live without and add what brings you joy.

Bathrooms and Beauty

Makeup and beauty products should be evaluated the same way as fresh food and pantry items in the kitchen. Makeup and perfume are considered a consumable which means they are meant to be used, not stored.  It’s not about how much something has cost, it’s about how much you love it and use it. Bathroom and vanity areas are often over organized and with the products being stored under utilized.  I urge you to have less because you’ll end up using MOVE! 

To keep beauty products in use and uncluttered in my bathroom I keep my favorites on a vintage cake stand on the bathroom vanity.  It took me awhile to get used to having this visible “clutter” out on display but over time I realized I was using more of what I owned which was my goal. Quantifying items in daily use on a 10 inch in diameter surface has really helped me curb my buying habits, there isn’t room for something new until something has been used up.   

I’m a huge fan of beauty samples but I found it was hard to keep them in use when they were stored in bins under my sink. I hunted for a product that could divide and contain all of the small packets and bottles and this clear organizer what the perfect solution, I love it! I keep the samples sorted by type and I use them up so fast that I don’t even have to bother with a labeling system.  It’s fun to try new things without the investment and I love traveling with these little samples instead of my full size products.


I once worked with a client named Roxanne who had a huge makeup collection. I’m calling it a collection because that’s all she really did with it… buy it, store it, and look at it. Containers of facial creme were opened and used once and then put back on the shelf.  She had samples galore and more tubes of mascara than person would need in a lifetime! She was hoping that an organizing session would help encourage her to use up what she owned but the reality was that she had SO much and most of it was SO old that she really needed to start fresh.

At this point we had been working together on other areas of her home so I felt comfortable making her an offer before we started. My proposal was that we scrap the whole “collection” and I’d go with her to the Nordstrom beauty counter and help her start over. She thought about it for a few minutes, we even did the math of how much it would cost to have me work with her for 8+ hours (which if you’ve worked with me you know it’s not cheap). During her pause I even sweetened the deal with a glass of wine, my treat, after the Nordstrom visit but in the end she decided she wanted to organize what she had. Ethically I hate to have a client spend money on a “solution” when I know it isn’t going to work, but since I tried my best to balance expectations and plead my case we got started.

I worked all day sorting throw the products while Roxanne told me how great everything would work if she used it, stories about the spas that she bought it at (on vacations 5+ years ago), and on and on.  After 6 hours together she was only able to purge 10% of the products which was disappointing but surprisingly more than I thought she would.  (I will note that I can typically organize a makeup vanity in 1-3 hours from start to finish and if you are looking for a step by step DIY guide check out this article by Real Simple).

Tips for keeping your bathrooms and beauty products organized:

  1. Keep a sharpie in your makeup drawer so you can date your products and better keep track how old they REALLY are.

  2. It’s tempting to pickup a few extra moisturizers during the Sephora 20% off sale but try to avoid the stock up! Products change so often that by the time you finish using your current moisturizer it may no longer be your favorite.  I mean, remember the days before BB creme and CC creme?

  3. Only invest in storage products to help keep this space organized that will promote visibility. Clear bins and drawer dividers can be miracle workers!

After sorting and purging I spent another 2 hours creating an organized system that would encourage her to use what she couldn’t part with.  Clients always worry that a space will look bare once it’s organized but the truth is it looks fuller than ever.  When items are perfectly placed, separated, and accessible they take up more room than when they are jammed into a cabinet. I knew that would be the case with Roxanne, that’s why she didn’t want to part with more than 10%. There was something about having all of those products that gave her comfort.  Once I was finished organizing and labeling the bins and shelving I revealed the new space to Roxanne.  I wasn’t expecting her to be thrilled, I was actually expecting her to say she wished that we had just started fresh which is exactly what happened.  I left her that day with homework to use up products and purge products and that’s exactly what she did.  The process wasn’t a waste because it helped her let go in other areas of her home in the future. Over the time we worked together my focus was to help change her mind set into keeping what she loved instead of focusing her energy on things she never used.

Side Story: This is the same client who always had a bag from TJMaxx for returns in her car.  She would return things to save money but during the process of going back in the store she would end up doing an exchange for more items and in turn spending more money.  She thought she was saving money because she was “returning” what she bought last time but she just kept perpetuating the cycle.  It was like a merry-go-round that she just couldn’t get off so I finally talked her into donating that darn bag of returns just to end it.  Over years and years she had put energy into the items that she “didn’t want” instead of just enjoying what she already owned.  If you are like Roxanne and have returns that turn into more purchases just stop the cycle and donate them.  Yep, donate them and get off the never ending merry-go-round of stuff in and stuff out.  

I can’t just cover beauty when it comes to bathrooms.  Linens and cleaning supplies can also clutter up those cabinets.  I have a rule in our bathroom that I only have enough towels to do one load of laundry.  That means I have 4 towels, 2 washcloths, and 2 hand towels. I do a load twice a week and it’s easy breezy to put everything away. I keep it simple and only buy white so I can use bleach here and there to keep them bright and fresh.

When it comes to cleaning supplies I urge my clients to keep all household cleaning supplies in one location, typically in the laundry room if there is room. By centralizing all of the supplies you will use more, buy less, and store less.  Keep areas in bathroom cabinets open for linen, beauty, and paper product storage.

As always, I’d love to hear from you with your comments and questions.  I’ll be back on Thursday with another installment from this series, until then Live with what you LOVE!

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0 Responses

  1. That’s good to know that cosmetics will have an expiration date. I tend to use things like hair gel pretty slowly, so I wouldn’t want it to dry out or anything. I’ll have to consider looking into a way to keep things like that fresh for longer.

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