I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before (jk), but ya girl loves decluttering content. If you were to tally up how many hours I’ve spent watching beauty declutters on YouTube it would not be a number I’m proud of. Naturally, I’ve taken it into the real world and make it a point to regularly declutter my own beauty stash, and I can confidently say I’m much happier now that my collection only includes products that work for me.
I thought I’d put together some things that I’ve learned in my journey towards what I would call a streamlined beauty collection. It’s not “minimal” in the completely-pared-down sense, but everything has its place and it has most definitely been whittled down to products that I actually love and use. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your beauty products, or find it hard to let go of things even if you know you never reach for them, or if you just love decluttering content as much as I do, hopefully you enjoy this post.
Before I get started, I want to add a little disclaimer and say that I totally understand what a privilege it is to own so much makeup that it becomes clutter and that I can write a post about getting rid of things I don’t need. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be in this position, so if you’re reading this and can’t identify with what I’m saying, I just hope I don’t come across as spoiled or unappreciative of what I have, because that’s truly not the case. But this is one of the ways that I've tried to break the spell that our stuff seems to have over us and move towards a more minimal and considered lifestyle, and I think it’s worth writing about.
Less is More
This definitely comes down to your mindset around owning stuff, but for me there was a point where I switched from “collector” mode to feeling a little overwhelmed and like I really wanted to streamline what I had. I knew there was too much (in many areas of my life) and I did a lot of decluttering in an attempt to cut things down to an amount that felt right. This came from me taking more of an interest in minimalism as a lifestyle, and although I don’t identify with the typical “minimalist” style and haven’t cut everything in my life down to the bare necessities, to me the core of minimalism is to just not own things that don’t serve a purpose for you, whether it’s functional, aesthetic, or something in between. The actual number of things you own isn’t the important part as long as you know why you own each one. What feels right is different for everyone, but when it comes to makeup, for me it’s about knowing exactly what I have, how I feel about it, and actually using it. Whether that’s knowing how well a foundation performs, or how comfortable a piece of clothing is to wear, I don’t want to own things that I don’t reach for or that I don’t feel familiar with.
Speaking as someone who has been there, what I think people in collector mode don’t realise is that it takes a really long time to use up makeup. Like, a really long time. Let’s say one 30ml bottle of foundation lasts an average person 5 months of near-daily use. Obviously it depends how much you use each time you apply foundation, but I think that’s a pretty fair estimate. If you own 10 foundations, that’s over 4 years’ worth of product. If you didn’t buy a single new foundation for 4 years, you would still have enough. If you own 20 foundations that’s 8 years! If you have 30 blushes, you’ll only be able to use them once a month (if you wear makeup every day). So how long is it going to take you to use up a blush if you only use it 12 times a year? If you have 100 lipsticks, chances are you’ll only use them about 3 times each in a year, and that’s if you’re actively rotating through every one.
The fewer things you own, the more use you’re going to get out of them, and it’s much easier to rotate through your stash when you have a manageable amount of products that you feel like you’re actually using. No one likes that guilty feeling of buying something only to re-discover it a few months later, barely touched. We all want to feel like we’re getting our money’s worth out of the things we buy, so ask yourself if spending $45 on a luxury lipstick, wearing it approximately 9 times and then throwing it out when it goes bad in 3 years is good value.
The Sunk-Cost Fallacy
If I’m watching a declutter video, one of the last satisfying things to see is someone pick up say, a luxury lipstick, and say “I never wear this, but it was expensive so I’m keeping it.” As I said, no one likes that guilty feeling of wasting money, but once you’ve spent it, it’s gone. That’s all there is to it. You’re not going to squeeze more value out of something you don’t really like by keeping it because it looks pretty. It’s the same as clothes that still have the tags on – it doesn’t matter how expensive something was, you’re not getting your money back by hanging onto it. You’re better off cutting your losses and moving on by selling it, donating it, or giving it to a friend who will actually use it. Not only will someone else get to enjoy it, but you won't have to feel guilty every time you see it.
Make Yourself Make Decisions
I feel like a large collection that needs decluttering is always going to have a lot of products in there that the owner feels pretty indifferent about. The more you have, the less time you have to rotate through everything and really get to know each product and how well it suits your skin, lifestyle, colouring, etc. I found that when my collection was its most bloated, I owned a lot of products that were just “okay”. Not great, but not bad enough to get rid of immediately, so eventually I had to ask myself, are they good enough to keep? Do they deserve a place in my collection?
My skin is oily af, so there are a lot of base products that don’t work for me. I went through a phase where I literally tested out each one while keeping my other primer and powder consistent and decided whether or not they were working for me. I can’t stand getting to the end of the day and feeling greasy and looking like half my foundation has worn away, so if something doesn’t hold up on my skin then I don’t need it in my life, no matter how many other people love it. I also hate looking cakey, so if a powder is too heavy on my skin then I don’t want to own it either. Trying products you don’t like is all part of the process of learning about what you do like, but once you know something isn’t for you, just get rid of it. There’s no point shoving it to the back of your drawer to try again another day – make a decision and then act on it. We all deserve to have a good makeup day every day, so if something doesn’t make you feel great, then why use it?
A makeup collection is just like any other collection – there are always going to be items you’re more attached to than others, and certainly because makeup has a practical use there are going to be some things you actually like more than others. I personally find that a collection that’s been streamlined into the best of the best serves me better than one that’s big just for the sake of it. I love looking at my makeup stash and knowing that everything in there has earned its place, instead of loving a percentage of it and feeling unsure about the rest.
Get Rid of What
Doesn’t Inspire You
So this one is more about those products that work just fine, but perhaps you’ve gotten bored of them. Maybe it’s something you bought because of the hype but never really fell in love with, like an eyeshadow palette, or a too-nude liquid lipstick. If you have a bunch of things that you don’t really find yourself reaching for, in my eyes the best thing to do is to make yourself use them for at least a few days in a row and see how you feel. Sometimes we get an idea in our head that a certain blush is too bright, or a lipstick is too drying – if you want to do a declutter but don’t know where to start, test out all those products you never reach for and get rid of anything that’s not up to your standards, or that you don’t end up loving.
Maybe you’ll discover a new way of wearing that palette that you hadn’t thought of before, or maybe you found yourself reaching for the same shades 3 days in a row and you’ve struggled to come up with anything new. By paying attention to products that don’t grab your attention, you can figure out whether or not they’re worth hanging onto. Chances are, if you don’t want to reach for it and you have to go out of your way to make yourself use something, then you probably don’t need it or like it all that much.
Cut Your Losses
In the same vein as the above, if I have products that I know aren’t working for me, or that I don’t really enjoy using, people often have this temptation to say, “Well I spent money on it, so I should use it up.” Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to just get rid of makeup and buy new products, and I totally understand that. But if that’s not your situation and you own 10 concealers but you’re trying to get yourself to use a certain one up, then I say give yourself a break. It takes a long time to finish up products, and ultimately makeup is supposed to be fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself because you’re trying to force your way through something you don’t like using, just cut your losses and move on. All the time you’re spending using products you don’t like is time that the products you do like are sitting in a drawer gathering dust. Most of my friends and family aren’t anywhere near as into makeup as I am, and I know they love it when I have products to give them. If you don’t love something, hopefully someone else will and you’ll make their day by giving it to them – it’s a win win
Don't Save the Best
for Special Occasions
It’s funny that so many of us have this tendency to save our best products for special occasions. Like I said, most makeup items last quite a long time, even with regular use, and there’s nothing more disappointing than throwing away an expensive product that’s gone bad. Frankly, if you love something that much then it’s worth buying again once you've finished it, even if you have to save up to do it. Like I said, we all deserve to have good makeup days, so rather than constantly testing different products and coming back time and again to ones that are just “okay”, I personally would rather use products I love all the time.
Don't Keep Things for "Just in Case"
Another common excuse people have for keeping things that you know they’re never going to use is, “I don’t have anything else like it.” You know why you don’t own any other dark blue lipsticks or bright red blushes? Because you don’t use them. If you love experimenting with bright makeup colours then sure, they might come in handy, but if you work in an office 5 days a week and hit da club once every six months, you probably don’t need them. Halloween only comes around once a year people. Maybe you don’t own anything else like that because it’s not for you, and that’s okay.
I’m not always 100% the most conscious of this, but it’s important to keep in mind that if you think there’s a good chance you won’t like something or won’t get much use out of it, don’t buy it. Of course, you can give things to friends when they don’t work out, but if you’re holding on to a drawer full of foundations in 8 different shades until they go bad and you have to throw them out, well, that’s going straight into landfill and frankly it’s a waste. A lot of the things I might have impulse purchased when they were on sale fall into this category. If I didn't want them at full price, I probably shouldn't buy them just because they're on sale - although they're cheaper, it still doesn't make them any more useful to me.
If I’m honest, this doesn’t play a huge part in my decision making process because these days I don’t tend to want products that I’m not 90% sure I’ll love anyway, but if you often buy makeup to experiment with, it’s worth thinking about. Particularly if you don’t have friends or family with the same skin tone, or who have similar tastes to you, because if you don’t have anyone you can give products away to then they’re probably eventually going to end up in the bin.
If you’re in the right headspace for a good declutter, I just want to also take the time to mention that decluttering will be pointless if you don’t address how things come into your life. For some bloggers and YouTubers that means mountains of PR packages they didn’t ask for every week, which is a whole other kettle of fish. But if you’re a regular person like me, and you buy 99% of your products yourself, for a declutter to stick you also have to consider your shopping habits. I’m pretty careful with what I buy, and especially when it comes to makeup, I really don’t buy all that much these days because I don’t want to spend money on things I don’t love.
Everyone is entitled to live their life however they like, but I do think it’s worth thinking about, or else you’ll find yourself stuck in a cycle of decluttering only to feel overwhelmed by all your stuff again down the track. I hope that doesn't sound preachy, but all I can say is having experienced both sides of the fence, I definitely enjoy my collection so much more now that it’s been cut down. It really is a great feeling to know that I could reach into my makeup drawer with my eyes closed and pick out anything and would be happy with the results.
An Argument for a
Streamlined Makeup Collection
You'll look & feel your best every day if you always use products you love.
It’s less wasteful to only own things that you use and enjoy.
You’ll be able to “get your money’s worth” by actually using products up.
You won’t feel overwhelmed or guilty about not using things enough.
No matter how long you hang onto those expensive products that don’t work for you, your money is not coming back.
Your friends and family will probably love the makeup you’ve passed on to them far more than you did and it'll make their day.
Once you give something away you'll probably never think about it again.