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The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Makeup Organization and Storage

makeup displayed on a vanity table in a brightly lit room
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

From bookshelves to pantries, home organization is trending for every room in your home. However, while large items like books and boxes tend to be the most obvious candidates for organization, sometimes it’s the small stuff that really needs it most—like your makeup collection.

Tubes of lipstick, palettes galore, and those ever-multiplying tiny samples can quickly become chaotic on your vanity or in your bathroom. But as with all organization woes, there are solutions. From using specific containers to refining your storage strategies, you have ways to get your makeup collection under control without going minimalist.

Ready for a #shelfie-worthy makeup collection? Try this step-by-step plan.

Get Rid of Anything Expired

If you’ve been wearing the same makeup for more than a year or so, you almost certainly have a few expired products in your collection. Although you can revive some old makeup by disinfecting it, anything that’s well past its expiration date should go, for the health of your skin and eyes. This helpful guide breaks down the expiration dates of different products in detail.

Getting rid of expired makeup isn’t just good for your health—it also helps cull your collection, so you’re left with a more manageable selection to work with.

Take an Inventory

Next, pull all your products out of their secret stashes (yes, check your purses, too) and collect them in one place. Organize them by product type. This helps you see exactly how much makeup you have to work with, as well as how much of each item you have. You’ll be less likely to buy duplicates or things you don’t really need when you see your whole collection laid out.

Separate Daily-Wear Items

It’s now time to start the organization process.

First, collect all of the items you use on the daily, or most often. Keep these things in one place within easy reach. If this selection is relatively small, you might be able to store it in a single makeup bag. If it’s larger, you might need a different storage method (more on those later). Don’t forget to make space for your everyday brushes, too: Keep them displayed upright in a pretty glass, or hidden away in a nice portable brush holder.

Putting your daily items together will make it far easier to get ready quickly. Plus, you’ll know where all the essentials are if you need to pack for a trip or get ready at a friend’s house.

Plan Your Storage Area

Now, take a look at the spaces where you can store the rest of your makeup items—things you don’t wear often but want to keep.

Will you keep them on top of your vanity? In some drawers in your closet? In an unused corner of your bathroom? Try to find a single place that can hold your entire non-daily makeup collection if you can. Otherwise, separate items into no more than two or three places—any more than that, and you’ll lose track of them. Also, remember that makeup lasts longer when it’s stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight.

Find the Perfect Containers

acrylic containers on a vanity, holding neatly organized makeup and brushes
Ivan Marc/Shutterstock

Next, you can start picking out organization solutions that fit your chosen storage space. For example, if you’ll store everything on top of your vanity, look for small organizers that fit the space. Or, if your makeup needs to go in drawers, you might look for drawer inserts to separate different products.

Your local dollar store or Container Store will have some nice, affordable storage options. Clear plastic is always a safe bet, so you can see everything inside. However, you can also get more creative by looking for containers at the thrift store. For example, a cluster of mismatched vintage glasses on your vanity can look beautiful while keeping your stuff in order.

Here are a few other storage items that work surprisingly well for makeup:

  • Shoe organizers
  • Utensil holders
  • Bead cases
  • Jewelry organizers
  • Pillboxes
  • Ice cube trays
  • Glasses cases
  • Candleholders
  • Cookie jars

From kitchen storage to office supplies, don’t hesitate to look for unconventional solutions. You might even have some useful, makeup-friendly containers in your home already!

Add Labels as Needed

If your containers aren’t clear, or seeing inside them is difficult, label them, so you won’t have to dig through each one for a specific item. A label maker or a set of stickers can keep things pretty, but masking tape and a Sharpie also does the trick.

How you separate and label your collection is all up to you. Separating things by type often makes sense: Keep all your lipsticks in one container, all your eyeliners in another, and all your samples in a third. But you could also separate things by occasion, brand, or even color if that makes more sense to you.

Display Certain Items

While you can hide all your makeup away in drawers and containers, some items also work well as pretty displays.

For example, you could line up your large eyeshadow palettes like books on a bookshelf, using bookends to keep them in place. Your perfume bottles might look pretty on a tiered cake stand (just keep them away from light and heat, which will degrade the scent). A spice rack turns your nail polish collection into a decorative item.

Keep Cleaning Wipes Handy

Once you have your makeup tucked away or on display as suits your home best, you have one last thing to do: Keep it clean.

Even the prettiest organization system can quickly get marred by spilled powder and droplets of foundation. Keep some cleaning wipes nearby, or a cloth and a bottle of DIY cleaning solution, for quick and easy cleanup. Otherwise, your makeup collection will start to look grimy before you realize it.

While no rule says you have to organize your stuff, straightening out your makeup can help you enjoy your products more, and reduce the stress of scrambling to find a specific item. Plus, you can take pride in showing off a creative organization system that repurposes surprising containers.

Packing your favorite makeup for a trip? Check out our guide to preventing travel-bag leaks next.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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