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Make-Up Madness

I’ve noticed an interesting trend with some of my female clients. We get through the entire house — the garage full of holiday decorations and childhood memorabilia, the file cabinets stuffed with financial records, the closet full of clothing but nothing to wear — and finally, when I think the last bit of clutter has been sorted and made orderly, she opens a final cupboard or drawer crammed with cosmetics and other bathroom potions.

The make-up drawer seems to be the final frontier in organizing. It somehow seems both too small to bother with and too overwhelming at the same time, but getting it in order will make a hectic morning routine a more serene, even pleasant, experience.

As with almost all of the organizing projects, it begins with emptying the entire space. If it is one or two drawers, a drawer and the cupboard under the sink, whatever, it all has to come out. Then give the space a good wipe-down. Bathroom drawers rarely get a thorough clean-out because it is so tedious to remove all those tiny bottles and jars.

Next, with a big trash bag at your side, separate the items into groups — all the lotions together, the sunscreens, the hair products, the eye shadows, and so on. As you pick up each item, check for an expiration date. Expired products are an easy “out.” If there is no expiration date, try to remember when the last time you used it (if ever) or when you bought it and make a decision as to whether you need to hold on to it. At the end of this process, you will have sorted items into groups.

The next step is to put everything into containers. There are so many fun containers for make-up and there are creative options for all budgets. For under the sink, where larger bottles of lotion, sunscreen, hairspray and other toiletries are often stored, the clear plastic boxes that organic spinach comes in are very good containers to use on a budget. They are not as sturdy as some containers, but they can be replaced every few months as needed, and because they are clear and rectangular, they look very streamlined.

Other containers that are great for under the sink are plastic containers with lids (Rubbermaid or Sterilite in the 6- and 16-quart sizes) for extra hair brushes, hot rollers and other items. A container with a lid is a good solution for all the sample size and travel size items you might store to use for vacations and other trips. For things you use everyday, open containers (no lids) are better because you can grab something, like a hair brush or the Listerine, and put it back much more easily.

For the drawers, shallow open dividers are life-changing — no more digging for the tweezers. Utensil trays meant for silverware work well for makeup, especially long make-up brushes. Rubbermaid makes small white plastic drawer dividers that fit together to customize your storage (available at most hardware stores such as Ace). Bamboo is a more expensive but very attractive and practical option. You can find bamboo utensil trays and rectangular drawer dividers at the Container Store or online at organize.com.

I recently came across an ingenious idea for organizing make-up; a magnetic make-up board. It’s especially good for women who have a lot of products and for teenage girls. To make one, take an attractive wooden frame, insert a sheet of metal (available at Ace or Home Depot) that you have covered with the fabric of your choice. Glue simple magnets to the back of your eye shadows, pots of lip gloss and blushers and organize them on the board. At a glance, you can choose the colors you want without digging through a drawer. I also love that you can take the whole thing into another room to take advantage of natural light or to leave the bathroom free for another family member.

You can find complete instructions for creating a magnetic make-up board at laurathoughts81.blogspot.com. I’ll be giving a talk and showing samples of make-up boards and other cosmetics storage at Heaven & Earth in St. Helena at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 26. Call me or the store for more details.