Even ruthless purgers tend to hold on to lotions and potions for too long. But all items become less effective over time. Throw out anything that smells or looks funny or that you know is well past its prime. Many products have a “period after opening” label, a number followed by the letter M (shown). It indicates how many months the item is effective after opening. In general eye makeup is good for six months, foundation a year, and lipsticks two (but pay attention to preservative-free products, which typically degrade more quickly than others).
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Use a Sticker Strategy
For an easy way to track how long you’ve had a product, write the month and year when you first open it on a small sticker or a piece of masking tape and affix it to the bottom of the jar or tube. In time, if the item starts looking dicey, you can refer to this date to see if you’re in the clear or not. Then you can get back to remembering more important dates, like your mother’s birthday.
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Channel a Surgeon
Most mornings, you need to fly out of the bathroom, so having everything readily available is key. Instead of rummaging through a dopp kit for your daily makeup, arrange everything on a small tray atop a counter. This way, you’ll have all your trusty implements at hand, just like a doctor. (And when you’re not using those items, stow the tray in a drawer.) Separate all other cosmetics by category (lip colors, shadows, blushes, etc.) and store them in containers that fit in the drawer. This will help you to see all your options at a glance—and encourage you to use them. Whether you repurpose pretty tins or purchase new boxes, they should be shallow enough so you can rest the daily-makeup tray on them and still shut the drawer.
When buying drawer organizers, choose small boxes over large units with many compartments so it’s easier to customize to your needs (whether you have five lipsticks or 50). Try the Modular Bamboo Drawer Organizers from the Container Store ($4 to $8 each, containerstore.com). They come in different shapes and feign the look of expensive built-ins.
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Show the Disposables
So you can see when supplies are dwindling and know when it’s time to stock up, put everyday essentials, including cotton balls and swabs, in clear containers. Consider using any repurposed vessels or glass apothecary jars. Keep makeup brushes upright and accessible in a tumbler (as opposed to dusting up your drawers or makeup bag).
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Don’t Hide the T.P.
Two conundrums you’ve probably experienced: (1) You’re in your bathroom and you realize you are out of toilet paper. (2) You’re in someone else’s bathroom and you realize they are out of toilet paper. (Do you uncomfortably search your host’s cupboards or sheepishly go interrupt her?) Skip scenario one at least and always keep ample rolls in a nearby urn, bin, or basket (check Pottery Barn, Ikea, and Target for good basket options). As for scenario number two, with luck your friends will also read this.
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Keep Some Supplies to Yourself
Daily skin-care essentials are best stored in the medicine cabinet for easy access at the sink and mirror. Stow the items you use only on an as-needed basis—summer sunblock, tampons, guest soaps—in a closet or a closed cabinet. To save money and cut down on waste and trips to the store, buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in bulk and store them here. Decant the products into smaller bottles for the shower and even tinier ones for traveling. (You can find small containers at drugstores and websites like organize.com.)
Instead of clustering a sea of crowded bottles on a shelf, arrange all your backup supplies (or those you use infrequently) on bleacherlike seating. The Stainless Steel Three-Tiered Expanding Shelf ($30, containerstore.com), originally designed to hold kitchen spices, can be lengthened to fit your space.
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Consider the Ceiling
If your quarters are tight and space is already compromised, look up. Take advantage of vertical real estate by hanging a multilevel fruit basket for additional storage. When placed in the shower, the open rungs of the three-tier hanging basket allow loofahs and bath toys to dry over the tub. Or suspend the basket in an unused corner and stock it with lotions, treatments, and scented sachets (in lieu of dust-catching potpourri).
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Create a Caddy
Hair dryers, curling irons, brushes, and styling products can become an unruly mess to manage. To keep yours neat, store them in a tote bag with many compartments. Hang the handle over a doorknob when you’re doing your hair, then store the kit and caboodle under a sink or in a closet when you’re done. Wrap the cords of your curling iron and blow dryer loosely, like lassos, to maintain their life.
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If you have a pedestal sink that’s not pretty enough to be, well, put on a pedestal, make a no-sew fabric skirt. (For easy instructions, see below.) Along with adding some grace to your space, you’ll create more coveted hidden storage. The best thing to keep under there is an organizing unit on wheels, like this three-tier cart. Roll it out from under the sink to reach extra hand towels and cleaning supplies, then roll it back into hiding when you’re finished.
Skirt the Issue
To make a sink skirt, start with a bedsheet, using the finished hem for the bottom of the skirt. Trim the needed length and width and “hem” the edges with iron-on hem tape. Affix industrial-strength Velcro (sold at hardware stores) to the top of the skirt and to the bottom of the sink. Finally, attach the skirt.