How to Organize Your Makeup Collection + Best Makeup Storage Solutions (2018)

If you’ve started to feel like you’ve reached maximum saturation on makeup, or if your collection has started to overwhelm you, might I suggest diving into organizing your collection to get the most use out of it? A well-organized collection means you’ll be able to find the products you want when you want them, and ideally, you’ll have a much better big picture view of what you have currently. My own collection has evolved from personal to ever-growing to certainly one of the larger collections on the planet (surely, right??), and I’ve learned a lot about makeup organization over the years. Below, you’ll find my tips on how to organize your makeup collection along with the best makeup storage solutions (both vanities/desks, organizers, and more decorative options).

How to Start Organizing Your Makeup Collection

When you start an organization process, it’s important to assess what products you have, how much you expect you may add to your collection over time, where you’ll store everything, how you prefer to access or look for products, what you’ll use to keep everything sorted/organized, and so on.

How to Declutter Your Makeup Collection

The art of decluttering is really getting in touch with YOU and YOUR needs.  I can tell you why I declutter something, but it won’t necessarily apply to you.  Here are some questions to get you thinking about your needs, if you’re still figuring it out:

  1. Why do I use makeup? How do I use it?  Is it functional? Is it creative?
  2. What products do I use regularly? What products can I recall off the top of my head?  Which ones do I never use?
  3. Will I really wear something that is outside my “comfort zone” or do I just like the idea?
  4. If I never use X product, why am I keeping it? What purpose is it serving?

The easiest way to declutter is simply by getting rid of older products that are expired/turned/gone bad.  I highly recommend checking older products for viability and whether any of them have gone past their usability, like dried out eyeliners or old mascaras or lipsticks that have lost their scent.  Whether you follow the strict use-by guidelines or go by changes in smell, texture, etc., when you start to organize or reorganize, it’s a good time to make sure you’re putting away and keeping products that are still usable!

For some categories of gently used beauty products, you can donate them to places like Project Beauty Share, which accepts mailed in donations as well.  You can also call around to local non-profits, and it may take awhile to find one that will accept gently used (most require new products), but you never know.  You’ll want to donate products that can be sanitized (so not mascara, lipgloss, etc.) and are in good (almost new!) condition.  Donating is about passing something on to have a better life in someone else’s hands, not a way to dispose of trash.  If it can’t be donated, see if you’re able to remove any product to be able to recycle the packaging.

When it comes to the harder part of decluttering, a lot of it is learning to let go of products that you don’t use, whether it’s because you don’t like them, they’re poor quality, or you like other products better, and that can be an emotional journey, which can be harder for some.  Decluttering is important when the amount of products you have gives you negative feelings; it’s not about being a minimalist or using up everything you own–it’s about enjoying what you have.  Only you can decide how much is right for you, and it’s not a competition to see who can have the least or have the most.

If a product is poor quality and you have a better quality option, why are you keeping the poor one?  Why would you choose to use an inferior product when you have a great version at the ready?

If you never wear red lipstick, why do you have five of them?  Why not keep the best one for your coloring? (Maybe make a point to wear it, even if it’s just around the house!  Or try dabbing it on as a wash/light stain.)

I heartily recommend checking out r/MakeupRehab for more support if you’re struggling with your collection, buying habits, and/or letting things go.

Determine How You Use Your Makeup

Think through your makeup routine from the types of products you use most often to how you apply them to how you decide what to wear when you wear makeup.  It’s often easiest to organize your collection once you have an idea of how you think about products to look for.  If you have a great memory and remember products by name, then organizing by brand/formula/shade may make sense, but if your memory doesn’t keep space in it for names, it may make more sense to organize by something like color or finish or function.

Products you use more often should be the easiest to access at any given point, so that might mean making your go base products like primer, foundation, and powder nearest and altogether, rather than grouped by type (like all foundations together).  If you tend to have “everyday” or “work-safe” products and “weekend” products, having them separated in this fashion will make it easier to pull from for the occasion.  It’s not a bad way to organize one’s products by putting some “special occasion” colors together so that when the occasion occurs… easy!


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Sorting… sorting… ☺️

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For example, here’s how I think about my own use and how I have things setup on my end, which likely will not apply to you but may give you an idea of the thought process and what drives the how of organization!  As I spend the bulk of my time trying new products, there are only a limited number of basics that I keep ready, such as foundations that work well for me, a few lip colors that can go with a variety of cheek colors when I’m swatching 10 in a row, blush/highlighter shades that go well with a variety of lip colors when I’m swatching 30 in a row, and then some of my favorite products that I’ll wear if I get a moment.  I tend to remember formulas and some shades, so I organize most of the products I have (that aren’t as readily accessible) by brand and formula–I’ve found that I’m more apt to think “I want this one red shade by Bite…” or “I want to wear a Pat McGrath LuxeTrance…” Sorting by color, too, is likely impractical for me because 1) would take a decade to do, 2) makes it inefficient to store a bajillion products as I have.

Create the Space for Your Collection

Now that you’ve figured out what you’ll need to organize and a roadmap for how it should be organized, you’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate area for it all, whether that’s a new area or an existing area.  What types of organizers and what might be practical will usually be dictated largely by your space.  You might have to think vertical or outside-the-box to make smaller spaces work, but there are so many ways to organize one’s stash, regardless of space!


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So fresh and so clean! Just tidied up my vanity, wiped it down, reorganized my brushes…. too many or just enough? 😂

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Best Makeup Organizers for Your Space

I’ve used some organizers in the past, have moved on from them, have married others, and know some solutions that work well for others don’t work well for me, so with the experience of archiving and storing a mini-makeup library’s worth of products, I’ll break down the various ways I’ve found work well and for whom they’ll be more suited for!


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All clean!! 🎉 Back to disaster in 12 hours 😂

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Vanities, Desks, and More for Makeup Collections

If you’re fortunate enough to have more space and can create a dedicated area to house your collection in more furniture-like organizers, this section is for you. A vanity is really no more than a table top, which may include a built-in mirror and a drawer or set of drawers, but it is a lot like a desk, too.  I find that “vanity” is often like the word “wedding” and can just add an upcharge for being a “vanity.”  You can easily turn most desks into vanities by adding a mirror onto the wall or getting a standalone mirror to put on top of the desk.

There’s a reason why you see a lot of Ikea makeup storage solutions on YouTube… they’re cheap, effective, and fairly accessible (at least in the US).  I personally use Ikea’s Besta Burs (mine is wider than what’s sold these days), which has two drawers and a glossy finish (super easy to clean).  I love mine, and the only issue I’ve had is that the drawers could extend further out to make accessing the back of the drawers easier.  Here are thoughts on other Ikea desks that I think would work well for a makeup lover:

  • Ikea Micke ($49.99 to $99.99); the smaller version would work well for tighter spaces, maybe a corner in a bedroom, for getting ready. It will not offer tons of storage but should hold some of your basics like face products, brows, a few blushes, etc. within its drawer.  The larger version is just about double the size, so it’ll offer a lot of area to spread out, which works in larger spaces, but it will be a poorer choice if you still need to fit actual storage units or drawers with it.
  • Ikea Alex ($149.00) now comes in a desk-form with two pull-out drawers.  The Alex series is hugely popular for its drawer system, and if you like the look and feel of an Alex, you might actually prefer getting a standalone table top and laying it across two Alex drawer-units instead of the desk, which would work for smaller stashes and those with more space.
  • Ikea Linnmon / Alex ($126.99) is exactly as I mentioned: Alex drawers with a tabletop, though this system has two legs on the right side with the drawers on the left. I’ve seen many set-ups that have drawers on both sides.  I use an Ikea tabletop with legs as my photography table and find it has held up extremely well over the years (at least five).  This version would work well for someone with lots of space or who wants their vanity to double as their work space (as an actual desk).
  • Ikea Knotten ($159.00) is a standing desk, available in white and birch, with two open shelves and small drawers. This would work well for someone who prefers to stand and do their makeup and is tight on space. It is not going to be the most effective for storing all the products but would work well for someone who has less (or more storage space elsewhere) and wants to display their products.
  • CB2 Fullerton Modular Desk with 2 Drawers ($1,640.00) is a stunning option for those who have larger budgets and would work well for storing a mix of larger and smaller products in the drawer units (but pay attention to the larger bottom drawers and how they’d work for your purposes–good for hair dryers, body lotions but not so much for lipstick!).
  • CB2 Runway Acacia Wood Desk ($499.00) is very similar in look and feel to the Micke but is a more expensive option that may be more aesthetically pleasing to some.

Storage that Displays Your Makeup

If you’ve a very tidy individual or have some products you’ve love to display, whether limited edition boxes or packaging or uniquely-packaged products, you may want a solution that allows you to display some of your products while still offering storage for others.  I do not recommend having lots of open shelving/glass unless you’re willing to keep everything fairly tidy and organized!

I personally use Ikea for just about all of my makeup storage units, and I have owned them for a long time and they’ve made many moves.  Frankly, I’ve had some of my Ikea furniture hold up significantly better than furniture 3-5x more expensive, so I’m a fan.  The shelf units I have all over my home doesn’t seem to be offered in its original form any longer, but it looks like the Kallax shelf units replaced it (they look like twins).  I use plastic storage bins from The Container Store in these, which suits me, but it might not be the cleanest aesthetic for all involved.  You can often find cube-shaped storage inserts that can slide in and out (Ikea sells some for the Kallax system), which will keep everything hidden from view, too, while allowing for displaying of certain products in open cubes.  Here are some other shelving options:

  • Ikea Veberod (149.00) has a mix of open shelves and drawers (slightly open) with a smaller width and uses more vertical space.  You can just use one or set a few up side-by-side for greater storage.
  • Ikea Fjalkinge ($329.00) is a wide, tall solution with open space and two drawers.  What’s really neat about the design is you can adjust the shelves and drawers to suit your needs/height/use.
  • Ikea Besta (price varies on combination) is a very customizable storage solution, so you may want to visit an Ikea to plan (which is what I did).  I purchased three double bookcases and removed the shelves and put in 16 drawers instead.  They ran me about $600+ for high gloss black (drawer fronts made it pricey), but they don’t seem to offer that style as readily now.  This Besta frame ($56.00) is half the width of what I have.  This Besta combination ($470.00) shows a mix of glass and gray doors.
  • CB2 70″ Helix Bookcase ($219.00) is a gorgeous option for those who want lots of open shelving and don’t mind securing their bookshelf to a wall.
  • CB2 Piano White Wall Shelves ($24.95 to $49.95) come in 24″ and 48″ widths in glossy white and glossy black (CB2 also has several other wall shelves that come in different finishes with similar pricing/sizing).  I recently added the 24″ shelves above my larger Ikea Besta storage units for more display space and absolutely love them.  Just pay attention to the width of the shelf to make sure what you want to display will fit!

Generally, look for drawer units for office storage (sometimes scrapbook storage is a good term to lookup but can be too short to store much vertically, e.g. lipsticks standing up so check heights on drawers!) or bookshelves/bookcases for more open storage.

Makeup Organizers for Your Storage System

Now, let’s get into my favorite part: now that you’ve figured out the “system” that will hold your collection in general… how do we go about compartmentalizing everything in an organized fashion?  The best and worst part… storage for your storage.

On a budget? If you receive boxes from products you’ve purchased (any type), you can use them as bins.  This works well with empty shoeboxes, where you can keep or ditch the lid, or you can take a lipstick box and cut it in half, then glue all of them together to create little grids of lipstick holders.  You can decorate with scrapbook paper or the like for a different aesthetic, too.

Here are several options, some I’ve personally tried and others I’m just sharing in an effort not to indulge in (because I don’t need them!)…

  • The Container Store Linus Drawer Organizers ($2.99 to $9.99) are my personal go-to.  I use these everywhere in my home.  I use a combination of the Shallow Drawer Organizers and Deep Drawer Organizers.  My pro-tip: REALLY measure and figure out the sizes you need, and if you need a lot, wait for a coupon for 15% off one item and buy a box of the size you need.
  • The Container Store Clear Storage Boxes ($1.89 to $21.99) are another personal-go to for all things organizing throughout my home.  I use these for larger items, like skincare and hair care.  I think these are less practical for someone who a few items; I use these for more bulk organizing for something like “100 liquid lipsticks I have to swatch someday” and less for products I want to use one-by-one (like in a vanity).
  • The Container Store Clear Stackable Drawers ($12.99) come in a few sizes, and you can also purchase dividers (the best part about the system).  I like these for how they store product BUT I am not personally enthused over the feel and quality (they just feel very thin and squeak when I pull drawers out).  For The Container Store, I was ho-hum on them, but they are very functional.
  • byAlegory Makeup Organizers ($9.99 to $22.99) are for those who either have smaller collections where spending $20 on a holder for a dozen lipsticks is acceptable or for someone who has a big budget and wants to go all-in on acrylic organizers.  I find acrylic organizers just get to be very expensive and aren’t as space-efficient for my personal needs (since I have a metric ton) but are gorgeous for those who more edited stashes or aren’t looking to maximize every millimeter of storage space.  I reviewed their various organizers extensively here.
  • CB2 Shattered Glass Pencil Holder ($19.95) is just tall enough to house eyeliners, mascaras, and the like, and if you have small to medium-length brushes, it’ll work well for that.  If you have very long or more top-heavy brushes, they’ll only work well with glass beads poured into the glass (about 1/3 filled) or if the holder is pretty full.  I usually use pencil holder/mugs/short glasses for eyeliners.  There’s a coordinating “catchall” that would be excellent for storing foundations, primers, etc. that you want to keep on top of a table/desk.
  • CB Cement Pencil Cup ($5.95) is a more industrial look and feel that isn’t as commonly seen, so I wanted to share it as a suggestion!
  • Target Clarte Glass Tumblers ($9.99 for 4) are 16 oz. glass tumblers that work well for storing brushes (I have several from Target, but they were from  years ago, and I don’t recall the name/style… they look like these).  I use round, glass beads from (only place I’ve found them) and fill them about 1/3 of the way and use these to store my brushes.
  • Target Short Glass Tumblers ($0.99 each) are shorter but similar in look to the Clarte tumblers (4″, more like a pencil holder in height).  There are also taller, 13 oz. versions at the same price here.

These are just a few items I’ve tried and use and a few that I’m presently drooling over!  Anything that’s used to organize office supplies or kitchen utensils are often good places to start, whether desk/tray organizers, pencil holders, or paper organizers (for palettes).  I find glassware is a great place to look for more cylindrical holders (I like these for pencils, liners, mascaras, brushes, etc. that are more on display), and there are some gorgeous, more decorations out there. They’re also super easy to clean!

Helpful Posts from the Past

I reviewed and rounded up several acrylic storage makeup organizers/solutions previously here, which I highly recommend reading if that’s the direction you want to go in.

Here’s a write-up on organizing your makeup with additional tips and tricks using office and kitchen drawer organizers.

I love using glassware to organize my eyeliners and brushes, which I wrote about here.

The Container Store Luxe Acrylic Modular System | Read Review

The Container Store Luxe Acrylic Modular System | Read Review

The Container Store Luxe Acrylic Modular System | Read Review

The Container Store Luxe Acrylic Modular System | Read Review

The Container Store Luxe Acrylic Modular System | Read Review

Muji 5-Drawer / Read Review

Muji 5-Drawer / Read Review

Muji Acrylic Drawers / Read Review

Muji Acrylic Drawers / Read Review

Muji Acrylic Drawers / Read Review

Muji 5-Drawer / Read Review

byAlegory Makeup organizers | Read Review

byAlegory Makeup organizers | Read Review

byAlegory Makeup organizers | Read Review

byAlegory Makeup organizers | Read Review

byAlegory Makeup organizers | Read Review

byAlegory Makeup organizers | Read Review

byAlegory Makeup organizers | Read Review

byAlegory Makeup organizers | Read Review

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Oh goodness, this is ESSENTIAL reading! But it will have to wait till after Thanksgiving, when I have time to really concentrate on it. But thank you, thank you, thank you in advance! This is something I really need help with!!!

(P.S. I’ve been coveting the Ikea Alex drawers for a long time!)

Fascinating post! I’ve become merciless and I purge/gift/donate twice a year. I limit myself to my 1 Ikea Alex and the drawer in my makeup table. Your brush collection has me in awe.

Me too!! Seriously, when I think about having to put things away in more “long-term” storage, I just… don’t have the energy for it all.

This is an extremely useful blog post. Thank you!

I have the top acrylic container and I try to limit everything I use regularly to that container, although I have a few additional items that don’t fit into it. Your picture makes me realize that my makeup stash really does not compare to other people’s! I did declutter a bit recently, but it still is nothing compared to other folks, surely. Thanks for making me feel better about my collection! lol.

That’s a great way to do it, CK! I am similar – I have the storage solutions I have and I’m NOT buying any more units/furniture to store it.

Thank you! I am more than a little obsessive about storage after having downsized from suburbia to urban living. I have saved this to Pinterest and my Dropbox, and have clicked through and done the same with your various product reviews of these organizers. I love all the solutions you offered and could easily watch you do a drawer by drawer video, then go through all the acrylic/lucite items you detailed. I have something I don’t think you listed (how is that even possible?), but it holds about 30 palettes. For a normal person, one would be enough … I have two. 😱

This was extremely helpful and timely. The questions you presented for keeping vs discarding were indeed valid. My floor and dresser and bathroom look the same. I often buy things on sale (like now black friday) or trendy items that i rarely use and then feel guilty for wasting money and throwing them out. Im that way with nail polish too. Drug store lippies can cost $10 then I will find a prestige on sale for $12 then feel bad but i can definetly start to declutter and organize. I dont have many single eye pots but a lot of odd shaped masacaras and lip items. Thanks so much!

Try to frame it as a learning lesson: I spent $12 on this product I didn’t use – I need to not do that in the future, and here’s how I can prevent it _______. Depending on how many of those you have, just make sure you’re not letting them ruin your enjoyment, make it harder to find other things, etc. At the end of the day, there comes a point where you’ve spent the money and you’re not saving or getting it back by keeping it! Look forward 😀

As my makeup collection has grown I find that I am using less and less of my products past the honeymoon stage. I have a good storage system but I think it is a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” I also have a bit of the magpie effect and always want the latest and newest things. I have committed to shopping my stash after the new year and cutting back on my purchases. No one needs 300 lipsticks and while I have decluttered over the years, I haven’t been extreme enough in my letting go. I am really serious about this and want to get my collection back to a manageable size that fits in my storage system and then commit to getting rid of something before anything new is added or panning the product. I enjoy my makeup obsession but lately it has felt a bit out of control. I know this isn’t on topic for your post, Christine but it made me think about my collection and how I want to utilize it in the future. Thank you for all the great suggestions.

Thank you for taking the time to write such informative and detailed posts, Christine. I’m definitely going to look for some cylindrical glasses for my brushes and everything else that is skinny. Your perfume vanity is incredibly fabulous!

Great post! I’ll add that two things have literally changed my life when it comes to decluttering, buying less, and being happy with what I already have. One is the Konmari method of decluttering in which you go by category, all at once, instead of by room, and you decide what to keep, not what to discard. And you keep only those things that you truly LOVE.

Two is reading about the “Sunk Cost Fallacy.” Keeping crap you hate or no longer use will never make the money you spent on it magically reappear nor does it turn a bad buying decision into a good one. Also, get wise to marketing ploys — when a company prices, say, a palette at $150, is it really five times better than a dupe that costs $30, or are they tricking you into thinking you should spend that much?

A couple of years ago I found the glass beads at Hobby Lobby and they were available in an assortment of iridescent colors. They were in the floral department. I rotate my brushes from “clean” to “used” containers, so I know which brushes I need to wash on wash day!

I have a good selection of byAlegory, but everything is stored in my bathroom cabinetry, which was custom.
Unfortunately I live in one of the most $$$$ real estate cities in the world, where space is a premium. We’ve learned that everything has to be purchased with a place to put it, and storage systems: under beds, in coffee tables, and in ottomans… is a must.
So, the fact that I’m so limited has forced my buying to slow. Unless I make room by getting rid of stuff, I literally have no more space.
I think I’ll start with the stuff I thought was so cool, but is way out of my comfort zone. 😉

Wow, and my friend and daughter said they were going to have an intervention when I got up to 24 lipsticks!
I have more than that now–don’t tell them.

I saw Tammy Burtch’s setup on IG and she told me she got the containers at the container I got was really pretty but really expensive $99 and not real big. She then told me the ones she used were in the home office section..designed for papers. They are huge 4 drawers and around $27. I have 4 and I’m not getting any more. They are in my bathroom closet and a hands reach away from my vanity. I have a small container on my vanity for concealer, mascara, tweezers .. little stuff.

Adding stuff into my vanity was eye opening. I have so many glosses and lip products.

I’m gonna purge a bunch of stuff too..I love watching you tube but it makes me want to buy new stuff sometimes but the eye tutorials I can try to do with my own stash.

This is an awesome resource, Christine. Thank you! I wanted to mention that the Micke line at IKEA has rolling file/storage carts that are the same height as their desks. Someone could add a cart to either or both ends of their Micke desk to really maximize their worktop and drawer storage. I had been looking at them before purchasing my current desk but ended up with a desk from Poly + Bark. They have a lot of great affordable desk options too!

I’ve been trying something that has kind of helped, but has also caused its own problems: sorting items into categories and then making them visible.

This was a godsend with red lipsticks. I put them all in one (decorative-ish) box. It really brought home the fact that I have WAY TOO MANY of them!! They also looked kind of neat in the box.

It also helped with brown eyeshadow (my absolute least favorite color and somehow I still own a ton of them). I made a “table of shame” where all of my individual brown eyeshadows and palettes that are more than half brown live and then put plexi-glass over it so that it still functions as a table.

It’s worked a bit less well with palettes mostly because I’ve been stacking them up against the bathroom mirror and despite my best efforts, I keep having avalanches, so now I have a pile of stuff to repress which has added to my sense of doom rather than subtracting from it. I do really like seeing my collection out because it helps me remember what I own so I use it more and covet less, but I need something better than double sided tape because that eventually looses its stickiness. Maybe blue-tack?

Love this post. I got some acrylic clear shelves for some of my perfumes on the wall of my dressing room. People purchase them for books and to display…the clear is awesome. At two feet back, it just looks like the bottles are floating. I just ordered more that can fit my wider bottles. And got some extra for my Pat Macgrath palettes right next to my mirror. I have found by downsizing/destashing, I appreciate more what I have. I want to display the ones I use a lot and that are just pretty. I have some pretty mismatched crystal glasses for brushes and lip glosses. Then read this post and got inspired by it and the comments!

In my quest to curate my collection (thank you Christine for that term), I allocated my monthly allowance recently to a trip to Home Goods…plus hubby wanted better everyday knives. I glanced in the bathroom section….I found this gorgeous toothbrush holder…glass with a silver top. My always use brushes sit in there. I then moved the daybed in there downstairs in my office…perfect for guests or even us if we can’t do the stairs. Totally bookmarked, especially to see the new comments and ideas!

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