How to Organize Your Makeup Collection

With so many makeup releases these days, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by how much you’ve ended up with over time!  It’s important to know how to organize your makeup collection so that you can find what you’re looking for easily and get more use out of all of your products.

Organizing your collection makes sure that you’ll know what you have, and it should give you a better sense of what you love, what you like, and what hasn’t worked out for you (the latter being products you could declutter!).

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You don’t want this!

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.  The less organized I am, the messier everything gets, and even with as much organizing as I do, there’s still at least one makeup item in just about every room in my house.

1. Take Inventory of What You Have

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.

We highly recommend using our Vanity tool to do a full inventory of the products you own! It makes it easier to track what you have.

2. 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:

  • Why do I use makeup? How do I use it?  Is it functional? Is it creative?
  • What products do I use regularly? What products can I recall off the top of my head?  Which ones do I never use?
  • Will I really wear something that is outside my “comfort zone” or do I just like the idea?
  • 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. 

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Do you really use all the shades of lipstick you own? If you don’t, are there any you rarely use?

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.

3. Organize by How You Use It!

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.

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I like to organize my single eyeshadows by color and finish, so I separate matte eyeshadows from my shimmery ones as I know that when I’m building a look, I’ll think, “Hey, I want a matte blue for the crease” or “I need a pale green for the inner corner.”

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). 

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Keep what you use often most accessible and items you use less often can be more tucked away.

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!

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…”

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All of my Sephora Rouge Lacquers in a single organizer!

4. Create the Space for Your Collection

Now that you’ve figured out what you’ll need to organize and have 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. 

This can be a makeup traincase, for easy on-the-go storage, which was my preferred solution when 1) I had a smaller collection, and 2) when I was attending college, as it made it easy to take everything with me when I went home for holidays or summer vacation.

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My vanity set-up! This is where I sit down to apply makeup and keep my more basic/go-to products like foundations, brow gel, etc.

If you have more space, you might be able to create a dedicated space with your own vanity. A vanity is really a flat surface with a mirror, so it can timeshare as a work desk and vanity with a mirror mounted on the wall or a standalone mirror. You can use writing desks, vintage vanities, desks, dressers, bookshelves, and what have you.

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I have a bookshelf for organizing makeup that has just come in that I’m not reviewing immediately.

If you like to stand to do your makeup, I’d recommend using the top of a taller dresser or a tall bookcase with adjustable shelves.

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!

Next, we’ll tackle the best makeup storage solutions I’ve come across and why they work… stay tuned!

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Great post! I’ve been on the hunt for a non-acrylic organizer I like. I don’t actually like to “see” most of my makeup but want a nice container for it. So far what I’ve found is pretty cheap or pretty expensive. Le sigh

A train case! That might be just the…ticket. 😉 I wasn’t really familiar with the term and all my very generic ‘makeup organizer’ searches led to other types, but that looks promising and suitably old-timey. Thanks!

Ive been wondering about that too, I end up using antique wooden boxes that go with my 1910s vanity, yard sales and flea markets have furnished most of my organizational stuff

I know you don’t necessarily want to see all your makeup, and this option would leave at least some of it visible, but have you tried a desk organizer from an opaque material? I have a simple one from IKEA where I can pretty much fit all my collection – my Instagram is @ruostekukat if you’re interested in seeing pictures, as I’ve posted one recently. There’s bound to be enough different models for you to find one that will fit the size of your collection perfectly. I’m very happy with my own setup’s appearance as I’m not the biggest fan of those acrylic organizers either. I hope this suggestion can be helpful!

Thank you very much! :] As for IKEA, I just personally happened to get mine from there. I checked and they have discontinued the model, unfortunately, but my point is, I’m sure there are loads of other furniture and decor stores that will have desk organizers suited for makeup, so if looking into getting one is your plan for now, I’d recommend looking into other stores you have available in your area. Good luck with your search!

I’m curious; do you have a large collection of foundations (“large” relative to your other categories of color cosmetics that you are constantly reviewing), or just the ones that you keep on your vanity?

I only keep formulas I’d use, otherwise they get donated very quickly – that’s the rule, generally, for most liquids, creams, etc. outside of a few exceptions.

Thanks Christine, I always like posts on organization it motivates me and since I’m at home most of the time everything is slowly getting done and it’s a very good feeling.

Hi Christine, this article was very helpful ! I feel overwhelmed with too much makeup and like to go through it every so often, now seems like a good time!! On another note I just had an urge to check out your YouTube videos, it was a fun throwback to see your contour and eyeshadow videos from ten years ago! Really wish you would make new videos, not a lot because I know your busy but maybe one “get ready with me with current favorites” or just “current favorites” like every three or four months, which doesn’t seem too overwhelming. Your opinion on makeup really means a lot and I know you have thousands of other followers who would love a video from you❤️❤️❤️

I’ve gotten a lot better at organizing my makeup and making sure I’m using everything but I still struggle with eyeshadow. I have some palettes, some singles in their components, and a z palette with some depotted pans. So they’re all in different places and I just wish I could see all my eyeshadow shades at once but I don’t want to go on a depotting rampage. Some I really like the packaging (Burberry) and some I imagine would be really hard to deconstruct (Charlotte tilbury, Chanel). Doesn’t help that I prefer to do my makeup at the sink and have a tiny bathroom in which to store everything. I do love my Muji drawers though, they fit right inside my medicine cabinet. Looking forward to chapter two!

My best advice would be to sort by tone or vibe – e.g. keep all your neutrals together or label the edge of the quad/compact with shade name and color?

I’ve never done it that way—definitely worth a try! Work vibe, chill weekend vibe, night-out vibe could be good categories for me and just focus on the corresponding group when doing one of those things.

I have trouble with destashing. So everything I think I want to get rid of goes in a box, the box is sealed, and tucked away on the back of a drawer or cabinet, in a different room. After 30 or 60 days I can throw the box away. The key to this is to NOT open the box before I toss it.

I have a sort of hybrid system for my eye pencils. Most of them are sorted by color (I use the acrylic pencil holders). But then there’s a section that’s light/shimmer of all colors because I prefer those for under my eyes. I guess we could say they’re organized by the way I use them.

For extra drawer space, I have a couple of adjustable desk drawer organizers that sit on the top of the drawer so each drawer has two layers. It slides back so I can access the items underneath.

Great post! I need to take some of your advice to try and make my overflow makeup easier to find/grab when I need it.

I like to keep my everyday makeup on top of my bathroom counter in a wooden vanity organizer (Target’s brand Threshold makes some really nice ones) and the rest in a drawer. I also have some wooden cigar boxes that house my more special occasion makeup that I rarely use. I might be weird, but I love using cigar boxes to organize! (You can buy them at liquor stores that sell cigars like Total Wine, at least here in Arizona.)

I’ve recently gotten my makeup room back, and I’m further reorganizing and decluttering my large collection. You’ve given me some extra things to think about in regards to what to keep. It’s been a good year or so since I’ve done a big declutter, and it’s quite the daunting task.

I moved my loose glitters and pot eyeliners out of cardboard boxes into bead organizers, and that was definitely a good call on the organization front. It’s so much easier to see what I have…and actually remember to use it!

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