I used to have a fairly large, fairly expensive makeup stash which took up a small dresser drawer. By Makeup Alley standards, it was probably on the high end of a medium-sized stash. I’ve now purged down to a boot box. In fact, my stash got so small- I over purged my blushes, bronzers and lipsticks- that I had to gank some from my mother in October. I think big stashes are a by-product of our consumer society and the Limited Edition craze so many makeup brands push on us, and it takes a while to navigate the waters and pull the good products from the hype. The truth is, we so rarely finish cosmetics these days, and keeping a large stash is just consigning items to rot one day. I know a lot of makeup hoarders are going to make New Year’s resolutions about shopping their stashes or going on low- or no-buys, so I figured I would write a quick and dirty post about what worked for me. I originally started my first low-buy because I was out of cash (while some people were going on exotic vacations with their lovers but whatevers) but it has been a philosophical shift in how I shop for makeup.
1. Keep a notepad by your vanity and write down what you use in a month and how many times you use it. Put that in a “keep” pile, even if it is huge. We’ll come back to this. Skincare and haircare count too.
2. Make a second keep pile of stuff you didn’t use which is either a) out of season or b) swappable/sellable. This could be limited edition items, or bronzers that only work in summer but work well. This should be small and really only contain stuff like Guerlain Meteorites compacts and the like.
3. Be honest with yourself about trash-by dates. If something is more than two years old (1 year for foundation and sunscreen, 3-6 months for mascara), or its texture/odor has changed, just chuck it. The exception is some powder products which have been stored correctly. For example, I have some Shu and Chanel blushes which may be around five years old, but they have been in a dark closet just chillin and are fine.
4. I’m not big into wastefulness, but if your stash has gotten big enough to consider a no-buy or low-buy, you also need to throw stuff away that you can’t swap, sell or use, like old mascara and wand lipgloss, half empty bottles of shampoo and the like. Also, a lot of drugstore stuff isn’t swappable (except for cult products). If you don’t use stuff that you can’t share (wand stuff, pot creams, eye creams), just toss it.
5. Now that you have made your first cull, let’s go back to what you use in a month. In my case, it was four blushes, two bronzers and a couple of eyeshadow palettes, as well as six lip glosses. Of these, two of the blushes and one of the eye shadow palettes I had only used once, ditto for two of the lip glosses. So I purged the less used items and put them into the “second pile.”
6. With my “second pile” (“stuff worth keeping that I wasn’t using frequently”), I kept some to the side for swapping during my low-buy (more on that later) and purged the rest through swapping or just giving them away. I have a SIL who doesn’t mine my secondhand glosses so she got those, and a lot of powder cosmetics and stick lipsticks went into what I call the “Marriage Kit” whereby my female relatives use them as a communal stash for dolling up people at weddings.
7. I wasn’t too hard on myself- I kept my two Meteorites compacts (although one is BNIB and I don’t exclude swapping it later) and some LE Guerlain bronzers, my Lancome Erika F eyeshadow and a Dior highlighter. Your ultimate goal should be having a manageable stash that doesn’t hog your space and is full of products you use frequently but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep a small amount of products which are meaningful to you or which have monetary value (the coin I could get for that Guerlain on Ebay…). Follow the spirit of the cull, not the letter. The only thing I did not cull at all was my brush collection. These are all high end (Shu, LM, Kanebo) and last around twenty years anyway. Keep the good tools.
8. Now you are ready for your low- or no- buy. I have been on a low-buy for two years now. In my case, for the first six months I only replaced mascara, loose powder, moisturizer and eye cream, e.g. stuff I used daily and ran out of. As I started finishing lip gloss and lipsticks or hitting pan in blushes or bronzer, I would allow myself to replace a finished product with something new. Likewise, every six months, I cull my stash and contribute to the Marriage Kit or swap out what I am truly not using. I would also use my swap pile to replace by trading items I ran out of rather than buy. My stash has gotten so small now that I don’t really swap or give away any more.
9. Don’t beat yourself up about the money you spent on makeup that is now going to other people or to the trash. I look at it as an investment in a learning experience whereby I got to experiment with a lot of different brands and styles on the way to finding out exactly what worked for me. I don’t even think about my makeup any more and yet every time I put in just a little effort, I get complimented on mah mad skeelz. I have the tools I need to do a day look, a work look, a OMG IZ NYE PARTAY look and the like, and you can’t get to that point without having had a big stash at some point. The worst is that on a given day I generally only wear powder and mascara, and this regardless of the size of my stash. I think on some level, my big stash was a crutch.
One final note: when I first started, it helped me a lot to stop reading makeup blogs and going on MUA. Now that I am in a phase where I will buy stuff within reason, blogs and MUA are a great resource for making the difference between quality and hyped products, but it may be worth it at first to quit “makeup” cold turkey for a while, especially during LE collection seasons. The pan pr0n is ALWAYS worth it.