Dressing like a Minimalist: Project 333 and Capsule Wardrobes

In the wake of a fairly productive yard sale and a truckload of donated items, I wasn’t sure what next to tackle on my minimalism journey. Suddenly, my kid learned how to crawl and I realized that Laundry Mountain was a real and insurmountable obstacle in my life. Well duh, this means I have too many clothes! Between pregnancy and motherhood, gaining and losing the same 20 pounds, and five years of jobs with uniquely different clothing requirements (retail management, food service, and offices), it was obvious my wardrobe was out of control. My closets are stuffed, my attic is full, and I’m not even sure most of it even fits or looks good. I barely even manage to find pants in the morning.

I stumbled upon Project 333, the brainchild of Courtney Carver, who first writes about her minimalist wardrobe challenge in 2010 at her blog “Be More with Less“.  For the past 4 years, Courtney’s wardrobe has been filled with only 33 items (shoes, accessories, outwear, etc) for 3 months at a time.

“I remember my pre-333 days thinking that a new dress that I saw in a magazine would make me improve my life, or scoring an amazing deal at a semi-annual sale would make me happy and finally complete my wardrobe, but it never did. I always needed more. There is nothing you can buy that will finally make you anything. The secret to having it all is recognizing that you already do.”

- Courtney Carver, Project 333

 The project is a variation of what’s called a “capsule wardrobe“, which is a term coined by a London boutique owner named Susie Faux in the 1970’s. The idea is to have only a few classic items in your wardrobe that will never go out of style, and you augment them with trendier seasonal pieces. Capsule wardrobes tend to be color coordinated so that you can easily mix and match pieces to create a variety of new outfits without taking up space in your closet.

For the next few weeks, my goal will be to minimize my wardrobe by following in Courtney’s footsteps. My first 3 months will range from October 1st – December 31st. If your post-college, post-baby, post-breakup wardrobe needs a makeover too, please follow along and comment below!

TOTD: Throw a Yard Sale!

If you’re feeling discouraged on your minimizing journey and need a little kick in the pants, throwing an impromptu yard sale can be a great way to quickly clean out your house and earn some extra cash. I decided on a Sunday that I was going to have a sale the following Saturday, and it worked out pretty well! We made over $300.

Benefits to organizing a sale quickly:

  • The sooner you do it, the sooner the stuff is out of your house.
  • There’s no time to spend debating over whether or not to keep something. When it doubt, put it out.
  • Some people struggle with deadlines if they are in the distant future. If you work better under pressure, throwing together a quick sale might be a good idea.

Downsides to throwing an impromptu yard sale:

  • They are a lot of work. In order to do it quickly, you need to have a lot of spare time. All in all, I’d say the sale took me 40 hours of work start to finish. If you have a full-time job, you’ll probably need more than a week to get everything together. (and that’s okay!)
  • After the sale, your house might be torn apart as you frantically rip apart each room looking for sale items. Have a plan for putting your house back together again.
  • If you’ve never thrown a yard sale before, you’re going to need to do research if you want the best yield for your work. Quickly organizing a sale means you need to research, plan, and prepare all at the same time. I did pretty well at my sale, but I would have done better if I had more time to plan.

Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself which option is better for your situation, but here are some tips:

CREATE A PLAN

  • Here is a handy yard sale checklist from Organized Home. Here are some other fantastic resources for planning your sale:
    • Yard Sale Queen. She truly is the queen of yard sales! Her tips are amazing.
    • 10 Tips for having a killer garage sale from the House of Hepworths. There are tons of photos on this post that mine is lacking. Check it out!
    • Organized Home has some great tips, as well as some useful printables. This is a thorough post with lots of good info.
  • After checking out these sites, yourself these questions:
    • When will I hold my sale?
    • Where will it be? (front yard, garage, driveway, someone else’s house)
    • How long will it last? (early morning or later? several hours or all day?)
    • Who will help me? (Do not attempt to hold a sale alone! You need at least another person, but a team would be ideal)
    • Will I need child care?
    • What supplies will I need? (tables? stickers? signs? markers to make signs? posterboard? calculator? boxes? etc)
    • Where will I advertise? (online? how many signs?)
    • How will I handle leftover items? (donate, curb, trash, sell online etc)
    • What is my time line for gathering items? (What day and time will I be gathering items? Pricing them? Making signs? Posting my advertisement?)

 

GATHER INVENTORY

  • Designate an out-of-the-way spot to gather your inventory.
  • Divide your house into zones, like flylady suggests, or just take it room by room.
  • Go through each area of your house and collect items to sell. Don’t waste too much time debating over individual items, as you’ll have another chance to look them over when you price them.
  • Don’t forget closets, attics, basements, garages, sheds, cars, or nooks and crannies where the odd knick-knack may have been shoved over the years.
  • Take a trip out to your storage unit if you have one. After this sale, you shouldn’t need one anymore!
  • Once you’ve gone through every space, do a last minute sweep and gather any random items you wish to sell.

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Infants are exceptionally helpful at gathering yard sale items. I promise.

ORGANIZE AND PRICE

  • Decide how you’re going to handle pricing your items.
    • Will everything be stickered individually?
    • Will you be grouping similarly priced items together on a table or in a box?
    • How will you handle haggling?
    • Are you going to offer any deals? (5/$1, fill a bag, buy one get one free, everything half price after noon, etc)
  • Organizing similar household items together can be helpful (e.g. all kitchen items together, all knick knacks together etc).
  • Make sure your items are as clean as possible and not broken. If it’s broken or hazardous, throw it out. Safety first!
  • To speed the process, I had a few boxes labelled with various price points ($.25, $.50, $1). As I was sorting my junk, I just tossed it into the corresponding box.
  • If you’re not so great at math, stick with easy price points! I didn’t bother with $.75 or $1.50 because I wanted to make it easier for myself. I just rounded up to the even dollar amounts if the item cost more than $1.

Remember, the point of having a yard sale is to move your stuff quickly, not make millions of dollars. Price fairly. Think to yourself “What would *I* pay for this at a yard sale? You can always inflate the prices on more valuable items a little bit, and then allow people to haggle you down. Make sure that everyone involved in the sale is aware of the pricing plan.

ADVERTISE

  • Do your homework and decide how and where you want to advertise your sale. Here are some websites you can post a summary of your items, along with a handy map for out-of-towners.

By using Craigslist, we were able to unload some pricey musical equipment to a random fellow at the very beginning of our sale. It’s unlikely that anyone would have spent $150 on a pair of cymbals without previously knowing we had them. Likewise, if you have a lot of particular items like baby gear, or clothing, specify the sizes and conditions to attract customers. The more specific your ad, the more helpful it’ll be for yardsalers looking for something specific.

Another important advertising tool are good signs directing people to your sale. Make sure your signs are clear, legible, and bold!  The Yard Sale Queen has some great signage tips here. Don’t forget to take them down once your sale is over! I used recycled cardboard boxes, leftover fluorescent posterboard and acrylic paint to make my signage.

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Make sure to plan your arrows ahead of time so they’re pointing in the correct direction!

YARD SALE DAY!

  • Make sure you’re ready to open by opening time. We were missing a couple of tables and things were still a little disorganized in the beginning. You want to take advantage of the punctual sale-goers.
  • Having items laid out on tables helps customers see what’s available. Even laying things out on sheets on the ground is preferable to random piles in boxes.
  • Become a salesperson! Talk to people. Be friendly. Be outgoing. Don’t sit in a chair like a grumpy lump.
  • Make sure to have plenty of change, and use a fanny pack or money pouch.
  • Have plenty of plastic bags or boxes on hand for customers to use to gather items.
  • Consider serving refreshments, especially if it’s a hot day. Happy customers shop longer.
  • Be prepared for hagglers. You don’t have to sell your items for a lower price, but consider the benefits. If you’re selling old linens for $.25 a piece, and someone wants to buy the whole box for $5, do you really think that there will be 20 people looking to buy your old pillowcases? Probably not. Consider the item, the time of day, the quantity someone is willing to buy, and how much you want to get rid of the item. And yes, people will haggle you over $.25.
  • Have fun!

 AFTER THE SALE

  • Take down your signs!
  • Take the time to pack up the remaining items for donation, and don’t bring anything back into your house!

Schedule a pickup with one of these organizations, or do a quick google search to find community specific organizations to which you can donate. Check out each organization’s website (and research the local ones in your area) and decide which one best suits your needs.

Because I’m in Boston, I personally donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters with a whopping 6 trash bags and 6 big boxes!

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Take pictures, have fun, and treat yourself with the money you make from your sale. Good luck! 

Letting go of guilt: Letters from Tim

Confession time.

In my basement, I have five large Rubbermaid storage containers of invaluable paper items: old diary entries, colored pencil sketches of Pokemon, random essays from 10th grade English class, and faded movie stubs, among other things. I was fully prepared to take my own advice from my previous post about paper clutter. How hard could it be? I hadn’t looked at any of these things in over a year. Do I REALLY need fifty drawings of horses from my blue period (which is of course, the period in which I only used a blue marker for these sketches. I was an artist, after all)?

I gave myself a limit: I could only keep what would fit into one small filing box.

It was easy at first. Truly, one does not need a w-2 from their first job at the strip mall in 2003. Or utility bills from two apartments ago. These things were easy to toss. I struggled here and there with the odd paper stub or photograph that reminded me of a distant memory. If I never see this paper again, will I forget it ever happened? The photos usually made it to the “save for scanning” pile, but the random mementos from old school field trips were quickly tossed. I am not likely to forget what the Washington Monument looks like without a brochure from a museum. But then, I reached the Letters from Tim, and I was catapulted back to the fall of 8th grade.

Tim was a small, bespectacled fourteen-year-old boy who played the xylophone behind me during band practice. I had finally decided to grow out my bowl-cut bangs and experiment with shimmery eyeshadow. Tim had a crush on me, I had a crush on his best friend, and his best friend was dating my best friend. So it goes.Over the course of about a month, Tim sent me several letters detailing his feelings for me and asking me to go out with him. The first was written on a restaurant place-mat, and delivered via his best friend in a sealed plastic tape case. I almost expected it to self-destruct after I read it. But it didn’t.

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I played it cool, and ignored him. Because that’s what you do when you’re 14. My friends weren’t any help; they egged him on, suggesting he write me a note with all of the qualities he thought I possessed, like it was somehow going to help him get a date with me. He did, it didn’t, but I was flattered anyway.

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I finally crafted a short but fairly polite note explaining that the feelings he expressed were not mutual. I just wanted to be friends. We typed it on my friend’s new computer; I even kept a copy. I thought that would be the end of it.

But then, he gave me one more letter, right before Christmas break, 1999.

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 Tim was hurt. He didn’t understand why I didn’t want to go out with him. He didn’t understand why girls always rejected him. I’ll stay single from now on, he wrote. If a girl does ask me out, I’m just gonna say “no” from now on. Then they might get the idea that they know how I feel when I get put down. He was sick of me and my hurtfulness, sick of his family for annoying him, and sick of our town. He alluded to plans of running away, or committing suicide by being hit by a car. But he ended the letter cheerfully, with a  Well I gotta go now! See ya! with friendly bubbles over the exclamation points.

I considered telling an adult. Was he actually threatening to run away? Jump in front of a car? But at the time, I didn’t think he was serious, just lonely. He didn’t have many friends.

So, I did nothing but vow to be a little nicer to him.

We returned for the spring term as though nothing had happened. We talked during band practice, but he kept his distance. His parents divorced, and he moved in with his mom two towns over, right before our 8th grade graduation. We never spoke again.

That summer, I saw an article in the paper with a big picture of Tim’s face. He had been riding his bicycle to Wal-Mart for a spare part, when he was struck and killed by a car at a red light.

My friends assured me that Tim’s accident, as tragic as it was, had nothing to do with the letter he had written me. But every time I stumble across Tim’s Letters, the guilt rises to the surface and I question it. What if I had just agreed to one date? What if I had just talked to him nicely from the beginning, instead of ignoring him and letting it go on for so long? What if I had been nicer to him? What if I had told someone about his vague threats? Would it have made a difference? Was his accident really an accident at all? Or something he had been planning for years?

Of course, I’ll never get the answers to these questions.

Regret is a funny thing. Looking back, I know 14 year old me wouldn’t have done anything differently. I was under no obligation to go on a date with a boy I didn’t like. Could I have been nicer to him? Sure. I could be nicer to a lot of people. I didn’t tell an adult because it felt like he shared a secret with me, and it wasn’t my secret to tell. I didn’t want to tattle on something that was innocent, and make his life worse than it already was.

I’ve carted these letters around for more than a decade. I kept them because I did not want to forget a boy whose life ended too soon. I owed it to him to keep these letters, to keep some piece of him alive in that way.

Many of us have Letters from Tim in our closets. Painful reminders of past guilt. But the truth is, holding on to these things does nothing but prevent us from fully moving forward with our lives. They keep us stuck in the past. And that’s no way to honor someone’s memory.

I can’t change what happened. I can’t change the actions or choices of a teenage me. I will never know the truth, but that’s okay. I will never forget Tim, but I refuse to carry around this burden any longer. Today, I’m releasing my guilt. Are you going to release yours?

 

 

Inspiration Corner: Tiny Houses

If you have Netflix, I encourage you to check out a documentary called Tiny: A Story about Living Small.

“TINY is a documentary about home, and how we find it.

The film follows one couple’s attempt to build a “tiny house” from scratch, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into homes smaller than the average parking space.

Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about good design, the nature of home, and the changing American Dream.”

In this documentary, Christopher Smith is a late 20-something on a journey to find himself by building a tiny house with his bare hands, and live in it on a 5 acre plot of land in Colorado. Tiny houses are just that: houses that are built to last as long as a traditional home, but are only 80-400 square feet. They are usually on wheels, in order to circumvent building codes. People who live in tiny houses are often environmentally conscious, as living in a tiny house cuts down significantly on the ecological waste that a traditional home produces. They are also simplifying their lives: you simply can’t have a ton of stuff in a tiny house. This frees up their time and resources for other pursuits, such as spending time with family, enjoying nature, or just enjoying life to the fullest without all the extra crap that we assume we need for every day life.

While you’re watching the documentary, entertain these questions:

  • What would my tiny house look like?
  • What would my essential items be?
  • Where would I live?
  • Who would be with me?
  • How else could I spend my money? Would I have a different job?
  • How would I spend my time, if I only had to clean and organize 100 square feet worth of stuff?

If you’re feeling demotivated, spend some time with the last one. What could you be doing if you got rid of 90% of your belongings, TODAY? What would life be like? How much fun could you be having RIGHT NOW if you didn’t have to squeeze xyz out of a few minutes of peace?

Maybe living in a tiny house isn’t your dream. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your stuff, I encourage you to take an hour or two to watch Tiny (On Netflix, iTunes, or DVD), or check out some of the blogs from other Tiny house creators here and here.

 

Tip of the Day: Eliminate the Paper Trail

Paper clutter is still a huge problem in my life. Here are some tips to avoid the pileup!

  • Place a small recycling bin/wastebasket where you drop your purse or keys. Sort mail immediately upon receipt. 
  • Go paperless! If you pay your bills online, check with the company to see if they can stop sending paper statements. 
  • Many magazine subscriptions offer discounts if you purchase them on e-readers such as Kindles or iPads. If you’re a magazine fiend, but hate the resulting piles, sign up for a digital subscription instead.
  • Invest in a shredder. There’s something inherently satisfying about sending a paid bill through the shredder. It also helps keep your personal information more secure. 

If you are unsure whether or not to toss an important-looking paper item, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this information easily found online?
  • Is the information old or outdated?
  • What will I NEED this document for? Why do I need to hold onto it?

When in doubt, a good scanner/printer combo might be all you need to save important documents without the paper trail to match. If you’re really concerned, you can always scan the document for backup, but toss the paper copy. Always remember, recycling is your friend! (This is a particularly helpful tip for children’s artwork, cards, or pretty wedding invitations that make you smile, but take up unnecessary space). 

Note: I am not a tax expert. If your tax professional suggests keeping important documents like receipts and pay stubs, listen to them, not me. I can honestly say though, I’ve never once needed a paper copy of a pay stub that wasn’t the absolutely most recent, so think about that when you’re deciding whether or not to keep it. Also, there are ways to get your address off of junk mailing lists, but I’m a fan of coupons, so I don’t mind it as much as most people. 

 

Overcoming Obstacles: Focusing on the Big Picture

My husband lost his grandmother last weekend.

Losing someone you love causes a great deal of complex emotions to surface, and confronting them is not easy. For those of us who have trouble letting go of things on a normal day, it’s downright impossible to throw anything away after a loss. I’m looking at boxes of random crap I don’t need, and staring back at me instead are bits and pieces of proof that I existed. That I was important. That I was somebody. All that will be left of me once I’m gone is the stuff I’ve left behind. That is the basis of anthropology, isn’t it? We are all reduced to our trash, in the end.

But then, I started thinking about Nannie. She was a wonderful, sassy lady who lived a rich life surrounded family and friends. She raised ten kids, often on a shoestring budget, and didn’t take crap from anybody. How dare I reduce somebody like that to her stuff.

Memories are not tied to mementos of things that happened in the past. They live inside the hearts and minds of our friends. Of our children. In the hearts and minds of their children. Death is a condition of life, but it doesn’t mean that we vanish from existence. In the end, your stuff is irrelevant. Your friends and family don’t miss your stuff. They don’t talk fondly about your stuff, or laugh about the memories you created with it. I don’t want to give my children the responsibility of dealing with the random stuff I leave behind. I’d rather they spend that time together, celebrating our memories.

And so, I took a brief hiatus from my downsizing journey. But I am back at it now with an even more determined resolve than ever before. I am not going to reduce myself to my stuff any more. I am important. I am somebody. I do love my stuff, but it will not celebrate my life when I’m gone. My friends and my family will.

If you find yourself in a situation that tests your resolve, as I did, focus on the bigger picture. When you see yourself standing at the end of your journey, free from your stuff, what do you see? Who is with you? What are you doing? How do you feel? Keep that in the back of your mind when you’re faced with an obstacle that halts your progress in its tracks.

But don’t forget to give yourself a break. Celebrate small victories, and move forward. You can do it!

 

TOTD: Vinegar!

Three words: Distilled. White. Vinegar.

Seriously, there are 1001 uses for a single jug of the smelly stuff. You can clean with it, cook with it, ward off bugs in your garden with it, seriously. The possibilities are endless. And best of all, it’s CHEAP, environmentally friendly, and non-toxic, unlike many commercial cleaners on the market today. I’ve already replaced much of my vast collection of specific cleaners for one big jug of store-brand distilled white vinegar.

We clean mostly everything in the house with a solution of vinegar and blue dawn (recipes here), but here are some specific tips that I’ve tried with success in my own home (these tips come directly from the Vinegar Tips website:

“To shine chrome sink fixtures that have a lime buildup, use a paste made of 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar.

Clean the shelves and walls of the refrigerator with a half-and-half solution of water and white distilled vinegar.

Kill germs all around the bathroom with a spray of full-strength white distilled vinegar. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

To remove grime and scum from the tub, tile, shower curtain or door, wipe with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse with water.

Get rid of stubborn bathtub film by wiping it with white distilled vinegar and then scouring with baking soda.

Clean up pet accidents by first blotting up the area and then adding a white distilled vinegar-and-water solution. Blot until it is almost dry. Then sprinkle baking soda over the area and let it dry. Vacuum up the residue the next day.

Clean and deodorize urine on a mattress with a white distilled vinegar and water solution. Then sprinkle the area with baking soda and let dry. Brush or vacuum the residue after it is dry to the touch.”

There are endless combinations of vinegar, baking soda, water and in some cases, ammonia or other basic cleanser. You can experiment with different strengths and recipes in your own home, but remember to never use vinegar on your fancy marble countertops, since the acid could ruin them. Also, I’m jealous of your fancy marble countertops. Happy cleaning!

Parenting and Minimizing: Do’s and Don’ts

When I was nearing the very end of my pregnancy with Mac, I went through a pretty intense nesting phase in which I wanted to GET RID OF ALL OF THE THINGS. I didn’t, however, since it’s kind of difficult to climb out of the attic at 9+ months pregnant. I do miss the large chunks of time in which I was intensely focused on cleaning and organizing. Time is hard to squeeze out of the day with a 7 month old. And, as Mac grows and becomes more active, these chunks of time will become even shorter. So, here are my do’s and don’ts of trying to tackle your clutter with kids:

  • DON’T make excuses.
    • Being a parent is a hard, 24/7 job. It’s even harder if you have crap everywhere. But there will always be a million excuses as to why you can’t possibly tackle the problem, and having kids is not one of them (Okay, it totally is, but it doesn’t HAVE to be). “I’m too busy! I have too many activities to drive my kids to! I have to spend all my time cleaning!” etc etc. Stop it. We’ll figure it out together.
  • DO give yourself a break!
    • Being a parent is hard! It’s amazing how quickly a day goes by before you realize you accomplished nothing but get out of bed and have a cup of coffee. (Go you! Small victories!)
    • There are no “minimalism awards.” If your ultimate goal is to be able to spend more time with your kids and less time organizing your crap, remember that. Every hour that you spend downsizing will reward you with hours of free time in the future. Stay focused on your goals.
  • DON’T bite off more than you can chew.
    • A 30 minute baby power nap is not enough time to go through your bursting catch-all crap closet. TRUST ME. You know your kids. If they can sit through a 30-minute episode of Spongegbob, you have 30 minutes to tackle something. If they can only handle 10? Plan accordingly. No point pulling all your crap out, only to have to shove it all back in again.
  • DO break big projects into small chunks.
    •  Use the 20/10 cleaning tip. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish in 20 minutes.
    • Take a closet one section or shelf at a time. Only pull out the contents of one shelf, make decisions about each item (toss, donate, sell).
    • Make sure that anything that leaves the closet ends up in its permanent most useful location! If you cannot find a home for it, does it belong in your house at all?
  • DON’T give up.
    • If you want more for your life and freedom from your stuff, you have to put the work into getting rid of it. You got yourself into this mess, but you can get yourself out. Nobody is hopeless.
  • DO make a plan.
    • Having kids means you might have to take things at a slower pace. Even if you only get through one box a day, that’s one less box you have to move. One less box weighing you down. One less box you’re spending time stressing out about.
    • Schedule time for minimizing each day. Even if it’s only 30 minutes, make time. Even 5-10 minutes here and there will help. (Examples, clean out the medicine cabinet while the kids are in the bath. Tackle a kitchen drawer while you’re making coffee. Toss clothing while you’re doing laundry. etc)
    • Enlist help. Can your spouse hang out with the kids while you finish a 45/15? Can your kids spend the day at grandma’s so you can finally tackle the garage? Can your kids spend the day at grandma’s while your spouse helps you tackle the garage?
    • Write your de-cluttering goals in big, bold letters on a piece of paper and hang it up somewhere you’re likely to see it (the fridge, the bathroom, your bedroom mirror, etc). “I will spend more time enjoying my kids” “I will be free from clutter” “I will not give up” “I am not my stuff”.

 

I realize that every situation is different. Despite my strong desire to throw out all of my things and start over, becoming a mom has made me more sentimental about my things, which I didn’t think was even possible. The most important thing is to focus on your goals, and make a plan that’s unique to your life. And remember, you own your stuff, it doesn’t own you!

Tip of the Day: Regift!

I had two crock pots. One was a wedding gift, and the other was a Christmas present from my brother. Both new, both awesome, and both genuinely thoughtful gifts. I loved them both.

But I don’t need two crock pots.

Sure, I could keep one “for a rainy day” in the attic, and then when my current crock pot breaks, inevitably forget that I have a spare.

No.

Hiding something in a cabinet or attic like that is no way to appreciate a thoughtful gift! So, I gave one of the crock pots to my sister-in-law. And now you know what? She loves it. She makes delicious meals with it! It’s even got adorable polka dots on it, which look cute in her brand new condo. Everybody wins.

If you have an item that you don’t need, and you know someone else who does, give it to them. Pay forward the kindness and generosity that was bestowed upon you by the original giver and remember: “What’s sentimental for us can be useful for someone else” -Joshua Millburn, The Minimalists.

Weekend Challenge: Beauty product round-up

I LOVE beauty products. Makeup, body washes, lotions, potions, body sprays, scented candles, you name it! I love them all. But I have an entire linen closet of doom that is filled to the brim with various products, and what do I use on a day-to-day basis? A comb, a bar of plain soap, and some moisturizer. That’s crazy.

Here are some inherent problems with collecting beauty products:

  1. They’re fairly small items, so it’s easy to justify storing them. It’s true, 50 eyeliners only take up a small percentage of space in a drawer, but do you really NEED 50 eyeliners?
  2. Any given product has a shelf life of between 90 days and several years. How old are those eyeliners, anyway? As they expire, products lose their effectiveness, but can also spread (or cause!) infection. Gross.
  3. They’re expensive! I find it’s often difficult to get rid of things upon which I spent absurd amounts of money. But how useful is that? The money is already gone, and I’m not using the product anyway. Let go of the guilt, and quit buying more.

This weekend I decided to tackle my beauty product collection and come up with some solutions to these problems.

  1. Embrace the space. An empty drawer is a happy drawer. Nobody needs 50 eyeliners, even if they technically fit in a drawer. Is there everyday clutter on the counter that could be stored instead?
  2. Most of my products were old. I’ve listed the average shelf life for different things below. If your stuff is old and gross, toss it. No need to give yourself pinkeye.
  3. Things you can do to justify the cost, instead of throwing useful items straight in the garbage:
    1.  Give them to someone who will use them. Some women’s shelters will accept donations of unopened products. Body sprays and other items that don’t come into contact with your actual skin are easy to give away to friends or family. I put a free sign on a box of hardly used products in front of my house. Anything that was still there at the end of the day is thrown in the garbage.
    2. Give yourself a strict timeline to use up your products. I’ve given myself 30 days to go through some of my items before I have to toss them. If it’s a bath or shower product (soap, body wash, etc), only continue using it if you LOVE it. If it’s greasy or smells weird, toss it. It’s much easier to justify tossing something once it’s all slimy from the shower.
    3. Google alternative uses for bath products. For example, I shave with extra lotions I have laying around instead of buying shaving gel (But, I was using plain soap before, so my shaving routine is pretty basic). I have a ton of bath bombs from Lush, and I found an interesting list of alternative uses for them, since I rarely take baths. Check it out at your own risk.
  4. Work on breaking the habit altogether! Now that I don’t need a full face of makeup every day, I’m experimenting with lighter looks and routines that don’t involve foundation and false lashes. Eventually, I’d like to even try a “no-poo” method of cleansing my hair, and avoid buying shampoo. Unleash your inner beauty!

 

Beauty Product Shelf-Life:

I found this handy website where you can enter the code of a specific product and it will tell you whether or not it’s expired. I haven’t personally tested it, but if you’re on the fence about whether or not something is still good, you can try it out here. Apparently, the FDA only requires expiration date labeling on “drugs” (sunscreen, acne treatments, dandruff shampoo etc) but the EU requires one on products that have definitive expiration dates before 30 months. For a more detailed list of products, click here or here. When in doubt, throw it out!

Eyeshadow: cream based shadows, 1 year. Powder, up to 2 years.

Eyeliner: Between 1 and 3 years. Some sources say eyeliner can last up to 5 years. But if you’re hanging onto eyeliner for that long, are you really even using it?

Mascara: 4 months (Surprise! I know your mascara is older than that)

Lipstick and lip gloss: between 1 and 4 years. If it looks/smells questionable, toss it.

Nail Polish: 1 year.

Foundation and concealers: 1 to 2 years.

Powder and blush: 2 years.

Alcohol based hair products: 3 to 5 years.

Bar soap: up to 3 years.

Shaving cream and deoderant: up to 2 years.

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel: up to 3 years.

 

Don’t worry, I will be posting the before/after of my linen closet of doom once it’s finished. I broke several of my own “de-cluttering with kids” rules while trying to get through it. Learn from my mistakes!