Where and how do you store and organize cosmetics?
June 6, 2014 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I have, at conservative estimate, a TON of makeup. Not a lot of big, oversized palettes (2? maybe?), mostly individual eyeshadows, lipsticks, blushes, pencils, mascaras, glosses. I cull through often for expired stuff, old stuff, stuff I don't use, but it still kind of takes over bathroom counter space. I have a couple sets of plastic drawers on the bathroom counter, and a segmented acrylic cup thing (for pencils and brushes), but it's still just a hot mess and I can't find things. I need advice and inspiration - how do *you* do it?
posted by ersatzkat to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
YouTube is a good resource for ideas, just search for "makeup organization" videos. I know the ALEX drawer sets are pretty popular among that crowd. People are also pretty crazy about MUJI's selection of acrylic organizers and sorters.
posted by scarykarrey at 10:59 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and if you have a bunch of individual pots of eyeshadow, definitely invest in one or more Zpalletes.
posted by scarykarrey at 11:00 AM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I use a big wire mesh basket and sort things into individual makeup bags by type - lip stuff, eye stuff, etc. I don't have too much in the way of foundation so that's just loose in the basket.
posted by brilliantine at 11:01 AM on June 6, 2014

I keep mine on the back of a closet door in one of those shoe holder things. Not directly in the shoe holder thing, though - in rectangular food storage containers (like these). I don't have a ton of makeup, so I have one container for "everyday" - the stuff that's in current rotation - then one for eyeshadow, one for eye pencils/primers/mascaras, one for lipstick, etc. It works really well for me, but if you like to have it all out in front of you all the time it might not work as well.
posted by mskyle at 11:08 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a ton of makeup too. I have my most-used items in my vanity (this post is old, but it shows more or less how I organize it, though it's rearranged now), with some skincare things and some lipsticks (in this type of holder) on top of the vanity. My less frequently used items are in plastic drawers. The drawers - this kind - aren't pretty, but they work.

I really like the Muji acrylic drawers - I have some that I use for brushes (keeps them away from cats!), but they're great for makeup too - e.g. here.

The Ikea Alex is popular for makeup storage, though I don't have one.

For me, the trick for staying organized is to have enough space to keep things sorted by type. If I don't have enough storage space, the whole organization system falls apart.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:09 AM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hello, fellow makeup lover! I use plastic drawer sets (Overstock.com, not Ikea) and use those. I have about three or four of those drawer sets and use different drawers for eyeshadows, lipsticks, etc. With the eyeshadows and lipsticks, I break those down further by color (blue in one drawer, brown in another, red lipstick in a drawer, pink in another, and so on).

I have this organizer for stuff I use every single day - BB cream, mascara, brow powder, blush brush, one neutral blush, one neutral lipstick, etc. I prefer to keep those out on the counter so I don't have to hunt for them when I'm in a hurry and want to put on a basic face in five minutes.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:10 AM on June 6, 2014

I've considered making this magnetic frame but haven't gotten around to it yet.
posted by emkelley at 11:12 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I put metal strips (found at ikea) on the wall and glued magnets to the backs of my cosmetics. It's like a magnetic spice rack for make up. For the brushes I got a magnetic pencil cup. Everything is neat and on display.
posted by haplesschild at 11:12 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ooohhh so excite. I love organizing makeup.

I got some plastic stacking boxes with moveable dividers - the kind for artists or engineers to sort parts into. Mind you these aren't tiny ones, the smallest configuration of one compartment inside the box would be enough to fit, say, several eyeshadow duos or blushes stacked on top of each other.

It's important for the boxes to be transparent or translucent, too.

To organize them, I sorted them by type, and in the order in which I would apply them.

In the first box, I put things like primers and skin preppers. Primers without SPF got one compartment, primers with SPF got another.

Next came BB creams (these being in between complexion product and foundation), followed by foundations sorted according to type - liquid, powdercream, stick, etc.

After that, zit concealers, organized by type. Then undereye concealers.

Next, liquid and cream complexion products: highlighters, shaders, bronzers.

Next, liquid and cream colour cosmetics: first blushers, and then eyeshadows. Group colour cosmetics according to colour as well as formulation (said Captain Obvious, but it is good to know exactly where to lay your hands on which colour).

Next, powders: loose powders, pressed powders, powders with SPF and without.

Next, powder complexion products: highlighters, shaders, bronzers.

Next, powder blushers.

Next, powder eyeshadows.

Next, pencil, gel, and powder eyeliners.

And now we come to the awkward part: liquid eyeliners. Liquid stuff like this should always be stored upright with the brush going downwards into the liquid. It's good to, once you've opened this kind of liquid, to seal it closed with a piece of adhesive tape so that it doesn't dry out as quickly. These, you store either in a clear, square or rectangular vase; or in one of those compartmented acrylic holders marketed especially for the purpose.

Same principle applies to mascaras.

And from there, you go on to lip pencils, lipsticks, and glosses.

If you have palettes, you can get one of those little toast-rack-looking things for sorting mail, and arrange them in that. Smaller palettes can be stored in empty plastic fruit punnets or washing powder containers - these are flimsy so you have to be careful they don't get knocked over.


Now as for the everyday go-to stuff, you can get one of those acrylic compartmenty things and classify the stuff you grab on a daily basis into that.


Brushes should be stored upright in a pot or jam jar.


Finally, don't store your makeup in the bathroom. It's too steamy and damp in there. Keep that stuff in the bedroom.
posted by tel3path at 11:13 AM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Plus, if you like to depot things but don't like metallic palettes, get some museum wax and stick the pans down with that.
posted by tel3path at 11:14 AM on June 6, 2014

Seconding Insectosaurus - keep those makeup brushes away from cats, if you have them! I kept a favorite eyeshadow brush (a spendy MAC brush) out on my bathroom counter and my kitty boys got hold of it. Good makeup brushes will last a long time, but they aren't up to being cat toys. Put them in a drawer or keep them in a case. I have a set of brushes from Sephora that live in their own, very convenient stand-up case.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:14 AM on June 6, 2014

I keep a couple of items in a top drawer, but I love the ease of a large train case that can be closed-up and tucked under the sink or in a cabinet. When open, everything is within easy reach, and when closed, everything is protected. If I have more make-up than can fit in this sized case, I cull the herd.
posted by quince at 11:17 AM on June 6, 2014

I have perhaps less than a ton of make up, but still have quite a bit in limited space. I have one 10 x 36 shelf on which to keep all of my stuff, and I keep it organized with an acrylic lipstick holder, a set of 3 stacking drawers (one for blush and contour/foundation, one for hair ties/headbands/etc, one for individual eye shadows and smaller palettes), and 3 big, decorative glasses (one for mascara and eyeliner and misc tall, thin makeup, one for brushes, and one for tall, skinny lip products that don't fit nicely in the lipstick holder). I also have a bunch of bigger palettes stacked on top of the drawers and a small wire mesh basket holding awkwardly shaped bits and pieces like bb cream, serums, etc on the top of that pile. That still leaves me with room for a tray to hold hair products, brushes, etc on the same shelf.
posted by snaw at 11:22 AM on June 6, 2014

I was pretty inspired by (minor embarrassment), the Muji style acrylic drawers used by all the Kardashians (you know those ladies have a lot of makeup!). I got very similar containers at the Container Store, they had good options and lots of styles (think the drawer set I bought was sold for jewelry, but is perfect for my makeup-def check out acrylic jewelry boxes if this style interests you).

While there, they also had a bunch of different styles of pencil/desk stuff holders, and got one that's large and segmented into 4 compartments, I keep my makeup brushes standing in that. Everything looks nice and neat, easy to find what I need, and is a huge improvement over the basket with every item jumbled together that I used to use.
posted by PinkPoodle at 11:25 AM on June 6, 2014

My makeup shame: I'm too cheap/poor to have a beautiful system, but I like to be organized anyway. Lipsticks go in the medicine cabinet, organized upside-down in half of an iPhone box. Eye and face stuff goes in a big makeup bag. Brushes are in a glass. Lip glosses and pencils are in a Birchbox box lid in a drawer.
posted by mynameisluka at 11:31 AM on June 6, 2014

Z Palettes are a great way to sort make up. There are also handmade ones to be found on Etsy. You simply depot (remove the little metal "pots" that hold the product) what you like from a palette and put it in the Z palette. It has magnets to hold in the metal pots in place, and metal stickers to put on non metallic pots to make them stick. I am in the process of going through my stash of palettes & pulling out the ones I like. They sit neatly on a shelf as they are all the same size. I've got different colours for my blushes & eye shadows so it's easy to just reach up and grab the one I want. Depotting can be a bit of a pain but I am starting to get the hang of it.
posted by wwax at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2014

Also I've tried the magnetic board and if you do it use rare earth magnets and a more intense glue like E6000 rather than craft store magnets and hot glue.
posted by brilliantine at 12:46 PM on June 6, 2014

My apartment is small and basically perfectly designed to be as storage-unfriendly as possible. I also have a ton of makeup! My storage system is sort of an anything goes, shove stuff where it fits horrorshow BUT I have developed a good workaround.

Most of my eyeshadow/blush/bronzer collection is loosely sorted into big plastic storage bins which get tucked away on shelves. Lipsticks/lip pencils and lip glosses each have their own zipper makeup bag, but after being sorted into "stick-y" and "gloss-y" are just tossed in without further organization. Eyeliner and lipliner live in a cup on my dresser. Brushes live in this cheapy ELF holder. I keep one small tray of everyday use stuff like foundation, eyebrow stuff, mascara under the bathroom sink (which has no drawers, hooray.)

Now, what makes this manageable: I take ten to fifteen minutes every weekend to sort out a week's worth of makeup into this roll-up case, which has five good-sized compartments. Anything I'm going to put on my face that isn't in the everyday tray goes in for each day, including lip stuff and the brushes I'll need to apply. Once the bag's loaded, I can just roll it up and tuck it away wherever and grab it each morning. This means that instead of digging through bins and bags every day, I do it once for the whole workweek, which makes it far easier to use all my collection rather than what's most easily accessible - when I'm grabbing five of some type of product at a time, I'm much more inclined to think, "Oh, I haven't used these two palettes for a while" or "Here's the bright lipstick I got last summer."

Ideally, you have more storage space than I do and can take some of these great tips above for improving your storage system, but in case your space is also constrained I wanted to put in a vote for combating a-less-than-perfect storage system by consolidating the amount of time you're spending digging through the collection instead.
posted by superfluousm at 1:03 PM on June 6, 2014

I did have this problem. Here's how I solved it.

1. I ruthlessly sorted down to the stuff I use every day, and only one of each item. Those get tucked into one of those clever travel bags with many side pouches like this one or this one, and it lives neatly on my bathroom countertop whether I'm at home or traveling.

2. I put my replacement/backup items in another zipped pouch (one of those freebies from a makeup purchase from Clinique) and that pouch lives in the cabinet under the bathroom sink.

3. I sorted my manicure items into yet another zipped pouch, which also lives under the bathroom sink.

4. Everything else got thrown away or given away.

Try it, you'll like it.
posted by bearwife at 1:08 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

For everyone suggesting depotting eyeshadows, could you suggest a way to do it that doesn't result in shattered or alcohol-soaked pans? It's such a brilliant idea but I haven't found a reliable way to do it yet.

When I had room for it, I really enjoyed having a vanity table, which was really just a cheap old desk from craigslist. It was so much more comfortable to sit down and take my time doing my makeup - when I did it in the bathroom, I always felt uncomfortable and rushed. It felt like a luxury to sit down and take some time enjoying doing my makeup, and the desk had a bunch of drawers and stuff in it so everything had a home. We didn't really have room for a dedicated vanity table, but I made it double as an electronics & sewing workspace so the desk earned its keep.
posted by dialetheia at 2:52 PM on June 6, 2014

For the things I use everyday: liners, mascara, eyelash curler, concealer, etc I bought a piece of Styrofoam and poked those items into it so they can stand up on their end. This just makes them easy for me to grab without having to touch a lot of other items on the counter.
posted by ezust at 2:59 PM on June 6, 2014

A search of /r/makeupaddiction for "battlestation" turns up a ton of results for various solutions.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:03 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing that make-up is better off being stored outside the bathroom. I only keep my liquid foundation and camouflage cream in my bathroom because I wash my hands before I apply it with my fingers/palms.
Everything else is in make-up bags close to my big hallway mirror.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 3:29 PM on June 6, 2014

Response by poster: Holy crap, insectosaurus, those Muji drawers are hot! The "not pretty" drawers you link to are the ones I have - I have two sets and they are jammed full and I can't find a thing in them.

tel3path sounds like what I most aspire to be.

I read bearwife's advice and literally gasped "no!"...my husband asked me what was wrong :)

Thank you all so much for these wonderful suggestions!
posted by ersatzkat at 6:17 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got a block of wood (short section of 2x4) and drilled holes, at a diagonal angle, to hold everything stick/pencil/tube shaped. Forstner bits (Google it) are great for this, and go up to a considerable diameter. You can measure your stuff to gauge the right size bits to buy (and holes to make). You can make as many holes as you want! You can also hang your block of wood on the wall, if you want, and even stain/finish it. So simple, so useful.

Works for art supplies, too.
posted by amtho at 9:16 PM on June 6, 2014

You can also use any kind of wood (driftwood, an interesting section of branch from outside) for the holes/caddy, as long as you figure out a way to keep it from rolling or tilting.
posted by amtho at 9:18 PM on June 6, 2014

Oh! And! Don't forget about not only empty fruit punnets, but other plastic containers for foods and household products, as long as they're sturdy.

I am just eating the last one out of a tray of Marks & Spencer mini macaroons, for science. There was that time I found a whole basket of Barry M Dazzle Dusts in the bargain bin at the pharmacy (oh, happy day). Buy macaroons, eat macaroons, arrange dazzle dusts in empty macaroon tray with clear lid. This, I think, is the closest to true happiness that a person can attain on this earth.

Don't forget what I said about them being sturdy enough though. Fruit punnets usually are pretty flimsy, and I over relied on one for storing nail polish, and I picked it up the wrong way and there was a big crash and all of a sudden, I was part of a Jackson Pollock. The next day, I went to the takeout taco place, that uses the microwaveable clam boxes with clear lids. I took one of those narrow elastic headbands and wrapped it twice around, just to make sure the lid stayed on.

But for lighter things, fruit punnets are awesome, especially the ones that come with three little compartments. I remember the time I walked past that pile of deadstock bindi in the thrift store for the millionth time, realised what I had been seeing, and backed up. "I was going to get rid of them, dear, you can have them all for a pound." I had a delightful time filing the little cardboard packs into the little compartments.

For items that you can make fit, the smaller boxes you can get at bead shops will do the trick as well. I haven't found a use for the ones that only have tiny compartments though.
posted by tel3path at 2:49 AM on June 7, 2014

You can swap away stuff you don't use on Makeupalley.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:49 AM on June 7, 2014

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