How to Organize and Declutter Your Makeup Collection in 4 Easy Steps

“Where is that new lipstick I just bought?  It would be perfect with this outfit!”  Look in your cosmetic bag, or maybe the bottom of your purse, or the jumble of products in your makeup drawer.  Finding the exact makeup items we want, when we need them, can be a daily frustration.  But fortunately, this common problem is easy to solve!

When you’re done with this step, you’ll be free of ‘makeup clutter’.  Keeping only the items you actually want and use will make your beauty routine much simpler.  And it’s the necessary first step in getting your makeup organized.

Gather all the makeup you own

You’re going to start by gathering every cosmetic you own. Get all the makeup you have out from wherever it currently lives and put it in front of you.  Empty drawers, cosmetic bags, purses, medicine cabinets, etc.

Throw away what you don’t want or need

Don’t hesitate to *ruthlessly* weed out your collection.  Get rid of any items that are:

  • Broken
  • Out of style
  • Unflattering
  • Unused or not likely to be
  • Expired

How to know when your makeup is expired

Different categories of makeup have different lengths of shelf life.  And expired cosmetics can do far more harm than simply not looking so great.  Irritations and infections, potentially serious, can result from continuing to use these items.

Telltale signs that your makeup should no longer be used:

  • Change in smell
  • Change in color
  • Change in texture
  • Separation
  • Drying out
  • Not applying easily

Shelf life, used in combination with the telltale signs above, lets you know when to replace a product. First, look for the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol that is on most beauty products. This will give you a specific expiration date from the manufacturer.

If the official PAO is not available, below are some general guidelines.

  • Mascara (3 months)
  • Liquid Eyeliner (4-6 months)
  • Eyeliner Pencil (2 years)
  • Liquid and Cream Foundations (1 year)
  • Concealer (1 year)
  • Face Powder and Powder Blush (2 years)
  • Cream Eye Shadow (6 months)
  • Powder Eye Shadow (2 years)
  • Lip Liner (2 years)
  • Lipstick (2 years)
  • Lip Gloss (1 year)
  • Brow Pencil (2 years)
  • Nail Polish (2 years)

The Beauty Keeper app will help you keep up with makeup expiration dates.  Receive an automatic reminder on your iPhone when a product you own is about to expire.

Step 2: Sort your makeup based on how you use it.

By now, all the excess products have been removed from your collection.  And what’s left is only what you really use and love.  Next, think about how you normally use your makeup.  This will help organize it in a way that makes the most sense for your beauty routine. 

Ideas for sorting your makeup

Here are a few examples of ways you could sort and organize:

  • By category, such as Everyday vs. Special Occasion.
  • By type, such as all mascaras together, all lipsticks together, etc.
  • By palette, with all items that coordinate for a certain look or color theme grouped together. 

Makeup organizing tips

  • Keep the items you use most often easily accessible.
  • Keep duplicates together but separate from currently used items.​
  • You don’t have to spend a lot of money on custom organizers.  DIY options are easy, inexpensive, almost limitless, and can be beautiful.

Step 3: Select a makeup organizer.

Your goal is to be able to see everything at a glance and only hold on to the items you use.  Whether you do-it-yourself with items on hand, or purchase organizers, you can create the perfect fit for your products.

Counter Space

If you’ve got an open counter, use as much vertical space as you can. Organizers with drawers are simpler to access than stacked ones.

Drawer Space

Drawers are good because you can see what you have in one glance. Take advantage of compartmentalized inserts to keep things tidy.

Wall Space

You can store an amazing amount of items on a wall that may otherwise be empty space.  A good choice if you like to see your makeup.

Back of Door

The back of a door can be a prime location for all types of hanging storage.  Your items will be easy to see and reach, as well as out of the way.

Under the Sink

Pull-out storage means you don’t have to stoop down and rummage in stacked boxes or bins.  Your products are easy to get to.

Floor Space

With a small footprint, you can get a huge amount of beautiful vertical storage.  IKEA® Alex drawer units are a popular choice.

Step 4: Now that you’re organized, here’s how to keep track.

Pen and Paper

If you’re a makeup minimalist, you may want to keep a simple written list of the items you use.  Even if your needs are not complicated, it will help you to remember what you liked, what you didn’t, and why.  Plus, it’s easy to see at a glance when your products are expiring and will need to be replaced.

Download our Free Printable Makeup Inventory Tracker


If your collection is a little larger, a spreadsheet may be the perfect solution.  Easy to access and update, and hold lots of information.  A good basic template will get you started and you can change it as you go to meet your needs.


Do you love technology and/or have a large makeup collection?  Then this may be the answer you’ve been looking for. Depending on the app you choose, you can keep inventory, receive alerts when one of you items reaches its expiration date, upload your own photos, and more.
Features:  Keep detailed inventory of your products, view inventory summary in graph or table, tag photos, compare swatches of products already purchased with new products at the store, blog reviews directly from app, use your product photos, share your wishlist, and more.
Available for:  iOS + Android
Features:  Keep detailed inventory, sort 10 different ways, include your product photos, keeps lists of your beauty routines and favorite products, view a sortable purchase report, create shopping lists, export to CVS file, and more.
Available for: iOS
Features:  Reads the batch code for over 800 brands, then calculates how long the item is safe to use.  You receive an automatic reminder on your iPhone when a product is about to expire.
Available for: iOS

Although not specific to makeup, Sortly is a great way to organize any collection, including your cosmetics.

Available for: iOS + Android

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