How to Simplify the Makeup Drawer

I don’t wear too much makeup. I stick to the basics. Concealer, foundation, eyeliner, mascara. Everything else tends to stay unused in the drawer on a typical morning when I have only a few minutes to get ready.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have a lot of makeup. I’ve got all the best highlighters, lip stains, eyeshadow palettes… Every time a new product is hyped by Desi Perkins or NYX, I can’t resist indulging.

What I love about makeup is the possibility. It offers hope – the hope that maybe I’ll look different.

But in order to minimize my makeup drawer, I have to get rid of A LOT of it. If I only keep what I default to, this would be easy, but then I would also be saying goodbye to the possibility of looking a different way. And what that requires, beyond an ability to part with material objects that cost money, is self confidence.

Getting rid of all the glittery eyeliners, vampy lipsticks, and shimmering bronzers means I’m giving up on someday figuring out how to look like the fun party girl, sexy bad ass, or sun kissed beach bum.

But if I’m committed to this journey of minimizing, then the reality is that I don’t need an entire drawer overflowing with products, especially when I only use the same handful of them most days.

Here’s how I worked to simplify my makeup collection! 

Though my criteria was the same for sorting through all types of my makeup, I found it easier and less stressful to sort through everything by type (first lipstick, then eyeliner, then eyeshadow, and so on).

Let’s start with the basics.

  1. Dig it all out! Outside of my makeup drawer, I knew there were lipsticks hiding out in almost all of my handbags, makeup brushes stored away, and a slew of free samples of bronzers, eyeshadows, and primer in a cabinet somewhere. But it’s best to start with everything all out in front of you, so dump everything out.
  2. Open up every product and get rid of anything that smells funny, has changed texture, or has discoloration.
  3. Sort through anything you haven’t worn in the past year, wore once and don’t like, or maybe bought on a whim and know you’ll never wear.
  4. Set aside anything new. (You can save these for gifts, return to stores like Ulta that accept them, or sell new makeup to get money back! More on selling things later.)
  5. Also set aside any colors you’re not into that you know a friend might love. Because everyone loves free makeup, and why not share some with friends (who aren’t aspiring minimalists)?
  6. Now organize the products that are your everyday go-tos. Obviously don’t want to get rid of those.

After those first six steps, here’s where I ended up.

Being able to make money back by selling things I didn’t wear much, and put a smile on friends’ faces by giving them products they’d enjoy more than me, helped me to feel less guilty and more secure in clearing out much of my makeup drawer.

Now it’s time for the more emotional side of things — that giving up of hope to look different. Here are the two heart-based questions I asked myself in order to further condense my makeup drawer. (And I realized in going through this that, more often than not, the answer was no.)

  1. Will I use this more than once a month?
  2. Will wearing this product provide me unquestionable confidence?

The reality I discovered was that I was hoarding makeup for the possibility that it might make me feel amazing when I wear it, yet when I [rarely] wore it, it wasn’t helping me to feel more confident than any other given day.

In reflecting on this, I found that there’s nothing wrong with finding the routine of makeup that makes me feel good about myself consistently. And in doing so, I can be less overwhelmed by my overflowing makeup drawer, and less upset by all the money I was uselessly spending.

By simplifying my makeup drawer, I was able to get to the heart of a confidence issue and more properly work through it than masking it in a hobby that was negatively affecting me. Looking forward to what I can simplify next!

, Amanda Irel


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