YouTube beauty star Safiya Nygaard has more than 8.5 million subscribers, and judging from the video images of her workspace, her eye shadows, lipsticks, bronzing powders and mascaras nearly match that number. She realized she had amassed drawers, shelves and bins full of products — much of which she was not using — and decided she needed to get her beauty kit under control.
But a great makeup guru does not necessarily a great organizer make, so Nygaard called in professionals. Enter Los Angeles organizers Joni Weiss and Kitt Fife of Practically Perfect who, along with their team, helped Nygaard sort and store her products so they would be accessible, visible, attractively contained and easy to maintain. The video of Nygaard’s makeup room transformation has been viewed more than 16 million times, making it one of her most popular features and attesting to the fact that we just can’t get enough of seeing people sort, purge and put away their stuff.
Although Weiss and Fife admit that organizing for a beauty influencer presents specific challenges (all those products!), they say there are many lessons that we all can learn and apply to our own makeup drawers and cabinets. Here is some of their advice, plus tips from some well-organized beauty pros, to help you get your own bathroom in order.
Be smart about what you keep in your space
Weiss and Fife say the biggest hurdle for all of us — beauty pros included — is typically space; most of us just don’t have enough of it, particularly in our bathrooms. Furthermore, the duo says that people don’t usually prioritize their storage space by keeping the right products in key spaces.
“We always encourage people to keep their everyday essentials readily accessible and available. Those essentials vastly vary from person to person, but we believe that everyone should make sure that the items they use all of the time are given prime real estate,” Weiss says.
It’s also important to maximize vertical space. For Nygaard, Weiss and Fife used several tall Alex drawer towers from Ikea to house her vast makeup collection. Other vertical spaces they say to consider: walls (install shelving), doors (hang shoe bags or over-the-door racks) and the shower (buy a hanging organizer that attaches to your shower head or install a tension pole shelving unit for inside your shower).
Decide if you are all in, all out or somewhere in between
Whether you keep your products and tools out on top of your vanity or store them away is a matter of preference and is partially determined by your space. Weiss is an out-of-sight person, whereas Fife prefers to neatly organize items on her vanity so she can see what she has.
“There is no right or wrong way,” Fife says. “It’s all about how you feel in a space.” Does having clear countertops create a sense of calm for you? If so, keep them clear. Do you become easily frustrated when you can’t remember where something is? If so, maybe having everything placed in plain sight is preferable.
Makeup artist and beauty entrepreneur Charlotte Tilbury is in Fife’s camp. “I have all my products perfectly laid out in the morning in the order I need them so that they are all easy to find and easy to use,” Tilbury says.
Aerin Lauder, founder and creative director of the beauty and fragrance brand Aerin, feels the opposite: “All of my products are always put away, either in the medicine cabinet or my closet. I never like to have any clutter.”
Margaret “Margo” Francois, a Tampa-based freelance style and beauty writer and the founder of the Beauty and the Beat blog, falls somewhere in between; she keeps everyday products, such as face washes, creams and hair products, on the counter and stores items she uses less frequently, such as nail polish and hair styling products, under her sink or in a drawer.
To avoid digging around, keep similar items together
When organizing, Weiss and Fife suggest always grouping like items together. “Keep all your face-care products together in the order that you use them,” Fife says. And, like Tilbury, they say to strategically place your cosmetics and brushes in the order that you use them so you can grab what you need without the stress of hunting and digging around. For Nygaard, they went one step further: They grouped not only like items together (lipsticks, blushes, etc.), but also like brands together.
Beauty entrepreneur and author Bobbi Brown keeps her items in compartmentalized drawers, designating one for hair products, one for vitamins, one for makeup and so on. Lauder also groups like products together, but she has streamlined her regime so everything fits in her medicine cabinet. “I keep my skin care on one shelf and my makeup on another,” she says.
Invest in the right organizing tools, even if they’re hidden
Weiss and Fife recommend buying drawer inserts to categorize smaller items and create a home for everything.
Francois uses drawer organizers that she found at Dollar Tree, and she favors the inexpensive yet durable Sorbus Box Bins to organize the space under her sink. She likes that the washable woven baskets come in sets with different sizes and that they are available in various colors. “Even though they are hidden under the sink and I don’t see them all the time, I like that they coordinate with my bathroom color scheme, giving the room a more organized, pulled-together look,” she says.
Uniformity is also important to Brown; she buys white refillable bottles from Muji, into which she decants products such as mouthwash and hand soap. She then labels them with a label maker. She says it keeps her bathroom looking clean and simple.
Vicky Tsai, the founder of beauty brand Tatcha, recommends using trays to corral products. “They keep everything from creeping all over my vanity,” she says.
Look around your house to see what you can repurpose
Weiss and Fife love to use what they call “found items”: things you can find around your house such as glass jars and vases. They use them to store small items such as cotton balls and swabs.
Tsai uses keepsakes from her travels in Japan, including the sake glass she uses to store her makeup brushes. Lauder favors pretty boxes and vessels; she keeps her makeup brushes standing up in a silver cup, which she says “allows me to see them easily and keep the brushes clean.” In her bathroom, Francois repurposed items from her kitchen: An old tiered spice rack now stores her daily face creams, and a two-tier lazy Susan turntable sits on her countertop and stores other frequently used products.
Edit frequently, and be wary of overstocking
When it comes to decluttering, another beauty YouTuber, Weylie Hoang, says: “Every three months or so, I do a major clean-out. I shuffle my products around and see which ones I love and the ones I’ve neglected. If it’s an unused [but unexpired] product that has been collecting dust inside my drawer, I give it to a friend or donate it to a women’s shelter. I find that the best way to stay organized is by minimizing the amount of stuff.”
Weiss and Fife point out that many beauty products and medications have an expiration date of six to 12 months (and some are even less than that), so going through them at least twice a year is a must. They also suggest relocating medications to a kitchen cabinet or hallway linen closet to free up some much-desired bathroom storage space and to also protect them from bathroom humidity.
Weiss and Fife warn against buying in bulk: “It can be so tempting to purchase products in bulk, but if storage is not readily available, it’s best to avoid having a lot of excess,” Weiss says. If you do have back stock (and the space), they suggest creating a zone of “extras,” which does not have to live in the bathroom, and checking the area before heading to the store so you don’t buy items you already have.