My name is Alle, and I'm an accidental makeup hoarder.
I should explain. I started my career in beauty writing five years ago, and in that time, I've accumulated a LOT of products. Some were sent to me by brands, some I bought, and some I inherited from friends and colleagues.
I love my job, and I LOVE makeup. But because of that, it's been way too easy to keep bringing makeup home with me, but never getting rid of the products I already have.
I was no longer a makeup collector. I was a hoarder. It had gotten so bad that I was accidentally re-buying products I already owned! So I decided to do something drastic, and purge five years' worth of beauty freebies.
This is how I store all of my makeup: two nine-drawer Alex storage units from IKEA ($129 each).
These drawers ($129, IKEA) are perfect for people who have a lot of stuff to store, but limited floor space. They're tall and narrow, so they fit easily in even the weirdest New York nooks, but they're also deep, so they can hold A LOT of stuff.
That's also part of the problem. Because I *can* store so many beauty products, I *do.* It's too easy for me to bring products home, file them away in drawers, then forget about them. Makeup is meant to be loved and used, not saved forever!
So I decided to sort through five years' worth of free beauty products, and decide what to keep — and what to get rid of.
I decided to open every drawer, and put EVERYTHING into one of three piles: Keep, Give Away, or Throw Out.
I'd keep it if I use it often, or will use it in the near future.
I'd give it away if I don't use it very often and think one of my friends would like it better.
I'd throw it out if it's expired or has gotten gross. Nothing gold ever stays.
Inspired by organization masters like Oprah and Marie Kondo, I resolved to be absolutely brutal in my assessment. I would be minimalist. I would be Spartan. I would be perfect. I would be the KonMari champion of Brooklyn.
I started with what I assumed would be easiest to get through: my perfume collection. But I was dead wrong.
Many of these perfumes were sent to me back when I was just starting my career. They were tangible proof that I had *arrived.*
But perfume is personal, and most of these just never worked on my skin. I wanted to wear them; I wanted to be that cool New York beauty girl with a wardrobe of fragrances that I'd change with my mood.
But I am not. I am someone who wears the same two perfumes — Byredo Black Saffron ($150, Space NK) and Commodity Moss ($105, Sephora) — year round. Perfume is meant to be worn and loved, so most of these fragrances went into the "donate" pile.
These are the perfumes I kept: a nice mixture of fragrances I'll definitely rotate into my lineup when it's warmer, as well as a few that have emotional significance.
Note the bit of Coco Chanel perfume in the back, which is what my mum wore when I was a kid. I don't wear it myself, but when I smell it, it's like I'm 3 years old again.
Emboldened by this early success, I moved on. It was time to organize THE DRAWERS.
I opened the first drawer, which is where I store my eyeliner. Everything came to a SCREECHING halt.
This is the eyeliner drawer. It is about 75% bullshit at any given time.
Let's focus on the positive: Over the holidays, Marc Jacobs Beauty sent me a STACK of new Velvet Noir mascaras ($26, Sephora), so I threw away all the old tubes I'd been accidentally hoarding. You should never use a mascara longer than six months, btw, but sealed tubes won't expire for about a year.
Likewise, the liquid eyeliner section up on the top left is reasonably well-organized. This is the only product that I use up faster than I accumulate.
Ignore the fake eyelashes. I certainly do.
But ugh, down in the lower left corner is my nightmare. I have over 350 pencil eyeliners in every shade and finish you can imagine. They are stacked three inches deep in a Laduree box.
I love them all. I rarely use them. But when I think about throwing them all out or even just sorting them, I get sweaty and anxious.
So I didn't. Organizing is meant to make you feel better, not worse. Pushing myself to do this thing was absolutely making me feel worse.
Marie Kondo would probably scold me for not being super-disciplined with my purge, but who cares? Sometimes these organizational geniuses ignore the fact that humans have messy emotions. It can be hard for us to throw parts of our lives in the trash!
So here's my take: If there's a part of your organizational routine that threatens to overwhelm you or makes you feel hideously anxious, you can skip it. Take a walk. Pet a dog. Come back to it when you have more time or emotional toughness (just make sure you come back to it).
I threw out some globby-looking liquid liners, made sure no eyelash glues had spilled, then closed this drawer. My heart and brain thanked me.
It was pretty easy to get my single-shadow drawer in good working order. Because that's the thing: It needs to WORK.
Single shadows are kind of a pain to store, so I did the best I could. I moved the Pat McGrath metallics up front for easy access, placed other singles in the back, put mini-palettes to the right, and set pigments, glitters, and mixing mediums up front.
But there were some things I just couldn't donate or throw away.
I kept the MAC x Simpsons mini-palettes because that was the first major makeup collection a brand ever sent me to review. I kept the first fancy eye shadow I ever bought from Sephora. Sometimes it's not all about what brings you joy in the moment, or what products you use the most. Sometimes it's about history.
Speaking of history: Tucked in this drawer, I found a TRUE relic. Feast your eyes on the Revlon Steer Wear double-ended white eyeliner that I wore EVERY DAY in high school.
Would I wear it now? No way. It's a million years old, probably expired, and/or a bacteria jamboree.
Did I save it anyway? Absolutely. It's an antique, a true relic of my beauty evolution.
Next, I moved into the eye shadow palette drawer, which was so full I almost couldn't open it. Getting it down to the relatively well-organized mess you see before you required some serious work.
While sorting through the dozens of eye shadow palettes I've accumulated, the question became less "Does this bring me joy?" and more "Will I ever actually use this?"
Any palettes I haven't used in the last year were cleaned and put in the "give away" pile. Any palettes that I literally forgot I owned — a bigger number than you'd expect — ALSO got purged.
This is what's left. Hi, Pastel Goth.
My blush and highlight drawer was unmitigated chaos — but I stood firm.
Over the last five years, I've managed to accumulate expensive bronzers not in my shade, blushes that don't work for my complexion, highlighters I tried once and forgot about, and more all mixed in a huge pile along with things that I *actually* really love.
I threw away half-melted contour sticks. I tossed blushes so old they were practically sprouting legs and walking away. And I reorganized everything so that the things I use the most often are at the front of the drawer, while the things I'm holding on to for sentimental reasons are in the back.
I moved on to the complexion drawer, which is where I keep the very few foundations, concealers, and powders that I love enough to actually wear.
When I'm sent complexion products, they go straight into our beauty closet for future study. Only the best of the best make it home with me.
I tossed all the concealers that had been with me longer than my current hair color. I cleaned up all the foundations I had been keeping. I got rid of the empty primer bottles that I had been saving for some dumb reason.
So while I didn't get rid of many big things, this drawer is much, much better-organized. And in case anyone asks, I wear Fenty foundation shade 130.
At this point, I was tired. I wanted to stop. No matter who you are, throwing things away and dealing with emotions is HARD.
So I took my own advice from earlier about what to do while feeling overwhelmed: I took a break. I went for a walk. I petted my dog. And then I came back, feeling much less anxious, to continue my work.
And I was glad that I did. Because the next section I tackled was LIPSTICK.
Actual footage of me ignoring the 16 ziplock bags containing five years' worth of lipsticks:
But no more. It was time to take the plunge and sort them.
I took every lipstick, gloss, and liner out of the bags and put them in a big pile. I then swatched EVERY SINGLE ONE, and decided whether I was going to keep, toss, or give it away.
I don't like having stuff on my hands, so I scrubbed them clean after every 30 swatches or so.
I did this many, MANY times.
I sorted my lipsticks into one of three color families. This is now the nude/pale drawer.
I keep my lip liners in a corner on the left. (I'm looking for a long, flat storage container to keep them in, so help a girl out if you have one!)
Instead of organizing my lipsticks by color or by finish, I decided to sort by how often I use them. Go-to shades live near the front so I can grab them easily, shades I want to wear more often are now in the middle, and save 'em for later shades reside in the back.
This is the bright drawer, previously so full of lipstick I was concerned the bottom of the drawer would break.
Are there still a lot of products in there? Yes. But am I worried that I'm going to throw my back out when I open the drawer? Absolutely not.
Once again, I've organized the brights drawer according to which products I use the most often, but I think there's still work to do here. I'd like to separate out my lip liners into reds, pinks, and "wilds" (purple, blue, green), and maybe also break the red lipsticks out into their own area. My color memory is pretty good, but it's hard to tell the difference between 50 shades of red in the tube, you know?
But this is MUCH better than a random bag filled with lip gloss.
And finally, allllll the deep dark shades live together in the GOTH QUEEN drawer.
My heart, guys. This was the hardest section to throw anything away from because I love my dark lip colors! I love them like my evil babies! How can I make these choices?
But I did.
Because of my noted tendencies to hoard things that are emotionally important to me, I found a *lot* of dark lipsticks that had LONG since gotten crusty and gross. It felt amazing to throw them away. It also felt really good that all these dark lipsticks fit so nicely in one drawer.
Looking at my "give away" pile made me feel ENERGIZED. I realized that all these products were going to find new homes with people who will love and wear them all the time.
Again: ALL of the lipsticks you see here are 100% Alle-approved. I love ALL of these like they are beautiful babies covered in diamonds. But I only have one mouth, and they deserve to be worn — not just sit in a drawer and gather dust.
My face mask drawer was easy to get down to JUST the essentials, which includes two boxes of Hanacure's amazing masks.
I like masks in general, but I cannot live without the Hanacure mask. I use one once a week, and the results are almost as good as what I see after a peel in my doctor's office.
There's also the Ole Henriksen HydraClay mask ($32, Sephora), which is literally the ONLY mask my boyfriend has ever done with me. I kept it because I love to lure him into skin care.
The skin care drawer was similarly easy to organize, as it was minimalist to begin with.
Because I've only recently — like in the last nine months recently — gotten my acne under control, I tend to keep my skin care routine very, very simple. I didn't have to throw away much from this drawer because I don't keep anything in it I don't use regularly.
And you KNOW I always have a fresh bottle of my chosen moisturizer (CeraVe PM, $16, which I've used most of my life because it's perfect) on hand!
It's the same story in my cleanser and fancy moisturizer drawer. I really only keep what I use.
I may get dragged for not having my drawers arranged like a professional prop stylist organized my life, but stuff doesn't have to look perfect; it has to WORK.
I rearranged this drawer so that cleansers and makeup removers are in the front, with rich creams farther in the back. There are a couple makeup bags in here, too, to stop things from sliding around.
Your storage situation should reflect your life. Because I travel quite a bit, I took this opportunity to create a "travel" section, where all my miniature products live right along with bags, empty travel containers, and important stuff like extra contacts that I don't want to hunt for when I'm packing.
The pink box lifts up to show all the ziplock bags and teeny shampoos in a shallow shoebox, btw. This drawer is very deep, so it's really all about maximizing your storage.
I used to be a chronic nail-biter, and one of the things that finally got me to stop was getting REALLY into at-home manicures. So this drawer isn't just an absolute buttload of nail polishes — it's an important part of my self-care routine.
This drawer, which has the polishes I use most often in it, is pretty well-organized, but I knew it could be better. I threw away polishes that were dry and goopy. I also added blobs of color onto the black caps of the Butter London and JINsoon lacquers so it's easy to tell them apart.
At some point I'm going to have to make some tough calls about which of the MANY shades of blue polish I'm going to keep in permanent rotation, but that's an issue for another day.
The next nail polish drawer houses the lacquer B-team: bottles that I like, but don't use quite as often as I did.
I really like Essie nail polish, but admittedly I haven't used the shades as much as I did five years ago. Same goes for OPI, China Glaze, and Zoya — I LOVE the brands, but I've outgrown many of the shades I bought when I was 26.
And that's the problem: A lot of these polishes have just been SITTING. Shades I once loved so much have gotten all gunky, separated out, and weird. With a heavy heart, I threw these neglected toys away.
Honestly, there's no hard and fast rule on when nail polish "expires." I've had some bottles for 10 years, and they're as perfect as the day I opened them. Others seem to only have a post-opening shelf life of a few months.
Whenever a nail polish starts to get too thick, too watery, full of bubbles, hard to use, no longer true to color, or splits into its component elements — throw it out.
Not many of these polishes were fit to be given away, so most had to be thrown out. I resolved to not only stay on top of my polish organization, but also to use *ALL* the amazing colors I'm lucky enough to have more frequently.
Organization isn't just about STUFF; it's about who you are as a person. Like, I'm VERY into my habits, I assign emotional value to objects, and I hold onto things like a motherfucker. These are things that don't just affect how I store my makeup; they affect how I live my entire life.
Some of this stuff is good for me, some of it less so. But I know I can do better, and I will.
So, after five years of dedicated makeup hoarding, what am I giving away? Here's *some* of it.
I took this photo a week ago, immediately after I'd cleaned out my beauty closet. I was, at the time, feeling really proud of my progress. Look at how much I'd accomplished! Look at everything I was giving away, to say nothing of the giant trash bag filled to the brim with expired products!
But a few days later, I realized I could do better. I gave away more lipsticks. I found 15 (!) limited edition eye palettes that I couldn't let go of during my initial Kondo-ing. I made gift bags for friends and added more expensive bronzers, blush, skin care products, and sheet masks. I made some tough calls on my nail polish hoarding.
After some initial stress, I was *really* going for it.
So what's the takeaway here? When it comes to beauty organization, the goal shouldn't be Pinterest perfection or holding onto all the most $$$ products. It's about YOU.
Your makeup is a reflection of who you are. It doesn't matter how many products you have. No, instead they should fit your style. They should be easy to find. They should make your life better, not complicate it.
And as for the "organizing" process itself? Don't let it get in your head. WHATEVER your goals are — organization, minimization, sorting it out for ease of use — it doesn't need to happen all at once. Humans are not machines, and if it takes you some time to wade through your ~feelings,~ it is totally OK.
Anyone who tells you that everything you do needs to be perfect the first time is lying. Approach organization however works best for you: Giant leaps! Tiny increments! Timed to music! Whatever you do, just get it done.
Whatever works for you, do it. Because finally having this done feels INCREDIBLE.