Discover beauty through professional reviews

(Available in USA only)
NOW READING Skincare That Sparks Joy: How to Marie Kondo Your Vanity
March 14, 2019

Skincare That Sparks Joy: How to Marie Kondo Your Vanity

You might have Marie Kondo’d your clothes and your kitchenware, but what about your skincare vanity? Here, contributing writer Ruth is ready to help you take your K-beauty experience to the next level. So clean out your closets, gut your garages, and get ready to ’gram your new and improved skincare #shelfie because we’re going to Marie Kondo your skincare.


Spring cleaning came early this year, and it was single-handedly brought on by one very unassuming Japanese organizing consultant by the name of Marie Kondo. It’s been a while since Queen Kondo has been spreading the gospel that is her KonMari method to the world, but only recently has the entire Internet community converted to her religion (myself included) thanks to her Netflix special Tidying up with Marie Kondo.


A whole television series and about eight hours later, I was already waist deep in jeans and jackets, old photographs and letters, and of course, a crap ton of skincare and makeup. I felt absolutely overwhelmed at the sheer amount of stuff I had stored away, collecting dust. I always believed I was a reasonably clean and organized person, but implementing the KonMari method has elevated my skincare vanity to a whole new level of tidy — and here’s how you can get there, too.


marie kondo your skincare


1. Face the pile (and your shame)


First of all, you’re going to have to face the reality of your shopping sins. Dump ALL of the products you own into one big pile. If you’re like me — a former beauty editor and/or simply a Korean beauty addict (hello, Beautytap community!) — you’ve probably got a ton of products staring back at you, waiting for judgment. Yes, it’s going to be a lot, and you’re going feel a wave of regret. You’ll wonder why you impulse-bought that overly hyped-up moisturizer on sale in the K-beauty section at Target, or reminisce on how desperate you were for retail therapy that you purchased yet another nude-colored lipstick when you know FULL well that you barely ever wear lipstick, Ruth! (I digress.)


marie kondo your skincare


Once you’ve acknowledged your foolish ways, follow the first and second rules of the KonMari method: Commit yourself to tidying up, and imagine your ideal skincare vanity. You’re ready to move onto the next step.


2. Spark that joy or say thank you & adieu


Now for the hardest part. If you’re like me, you’ll naturally want to hold on to each and every cherry-flavored lip mask and Etude House BB cream sample you have in your stash. Here’s where you’ll really need to pull that joy-mometer out and put it to the test.


In the KonMari method, this is when you’re supposed to pick up a belonging, feel it in your hands, and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” I applied a modified version of this thought process by narrowing down my skincare pile to: products that spark joy; new, unused products that are so far neutral in the joy department; products that dampen my joy but may spark joy for a friend; and products that are just downright trash.




Naturally, keep your holy grails. Cradle that all-time favorite snail essence of yours in your arms, and give your favorite facial oil a big smooch. If you’re wondering how to tell if a skincare product sparks joy for you — other than the obvious reason that it improves your skin — take a note from me. Every time I pick up my holy grail SanDaWha Liposome Skin Softener, my heart skips a beat, my senses tingle, and I mentally thank it for giving my skin life. If that doesn’t constitute sparking joy, then hell, I don’t know what does.


ask the unnis marie kondo your skincare


Next, set aside the products that you haven’t yet tried. Maybe you received skincare as a birthday gift, or you gave into a K-beauty sale and stocked up on a few goodies you’ve been eyeing. You don’t know if that one moisturizer will be the next staple in your skincare routine or a solid backup alternative. Or it could be the worst moisturizer you’ve ever tried. You never know, so don’t throw it out until you’ve given it a chance.


marie kondo your skincare


Now catalog the products that you have tried in the past that did you dirty. Maybe a culprit in the ingredient list broke you out or there’s just something about the texture that just doesn’t work for you. You haven’t thrown it away because there’s still 99.7% of the bottle left. This is the perfect opportunity to give these products a chance to spark joy for your friends or family. Remember, YMMV! One woman’s trash can be another woman’s holy grail.


Speaking of trash: As the last step, throw away any products that have met their expiration date, or any that you disliked so much that you wouldn’t even want to risk gifting to a friend. Go through your stash of samples and throw away any that you just know you’re not going to use, no matter how many times you try to convince yourself otherwise. Trust me, you really won’t ever use it.


3. Catalog & categorize


Next, tidy by categories. This may look different for everyone depending on what type of categories you want to divvy your goods into. I kept it simple and grouped by the type of product, allocating the toners into one pile, emulsions and moisturizers into another, ampoules/essences/serums in one large group — you get the idea.


marie kondo your skincare

marie kondo your skincare


Other ways of categorizing can be based on expiration date, by the season in which you use the product, or even by color, if that tickles your joy-mometer. You can get even more granular like I did with my sheet masks by distinguishing sub-categories as you can see below.


marie kondo your skincare


4. Get OCD with organizing


Now that the worst part is over, here’s the fun part: organizing! If you don’t already have a vanity or a space to organize your skincare, you’ll need to purchase some storage options like shelves and boxes. My shelving unit is a super inexpensive, easy-to-assemble option from IKEA called the VESKEN Shelf Unit, and I managed to find some old gift boxes I had stored away in my closet that I used for my sheet masks.


Everyone’s way of organization will vary, but here’s how I did it. The top, most accessible shelf is for my current skincare routine, home to the products that I use on a daily or weekly basis.


marie kondo your skincare


Moving down the shelf, I organized by type of product again. I grouped toners and essences/serums/ampoules in one shelf; emulsions and moisturizers below it; and sunscreens, mists, and boxes of masks in the next.


marie kondo your skincare

marie kondo your skincare

marie kondo your skincare


To keep my sheet masks decluttered, I placed those in two large square boxes with lids. One box holds all of the new masks I haven’t yet tried (and I keep that box on the top shelf to remind me to use those first), and the rest of my masks, I keep in the second box on the second shelf.


marie kondo your skincare


Finally, I threw any small sample or deluxe sized products in a clear pouch, and I keep this pouch next to my travel skincare bag to remind me to first use these travel-friendly versions over my full-sized products. I also separated hair care products into another pouch. It’s important for me that these pouches are clear so that I don’t forget what it’s inside, because as the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”


marie kondo your skincare

marie kondo your skincare


And with that, here’s the final result!


marie kondo your skincare


All of my skincare is visible and top of mind, so whenever I’m tempted to make an impulse purchase, I can mentally refer to this image and make the smarter choice to refrain. I also love having my entire skincare collection readily accessible, so if a certain step in my current routine needs a refresh, I can easily tag-team in another product. And one of my favorite parts is picking a sheet mask for the night: Something about lifting the lid off the box makes me feel like a kid at the candy store, giddy at the thought of picking one sweet treat for my skin.


Have you tried to Marie Kondo your skincare? How do you keep your skincare vanity organized? Let us know how K-beauty sparks joy for you in the comments below!


All photos by the author.



Ruth is a 20-something creative with a fixation on black coffee, black boots, and the beautiful black hole that is all things K-beauty. A Southern California native, she loves to share her current skincare favorites and lifestyle inspirations on her Instagram @ruthhlesslyy.



My collection of skincare and K-Beauty items hasn't quite gotten to that level yet, but I'll admit I've been purging makeup and either gifting to friends or selling unused items on Poshmark. Discovered I seemed to buy duplicates of a favorite lip product, only to move onto a new one.

I have an organizer by my bathroom sink with cleansers on the counter level (because they can get messy) and products I use most frequently at the top of the little turntable. I keep sheet masks in a box, unopened products or products not in current rotation in a drawer, and products I know I don't want in a tub in a closet. When the tub gets full I bring it to a friend who works at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. Apparently good skincare products are highly valued there.

I do wish I could see all my drawer... Read more

I also donated a bunch of skincare to a shelter. Does yours take products that were used once or twice (and obviously in a pump or other less contamination-likely packaging)?

Yep. I'm not sure they would if I went through more official channels, but this is a small outfit and my route is informal; I hand the things to my friend, she brings them to the house. I've also donated clothes in good shape.

I recently organized my skincare/haircare as well! I had to be a nerd about it, so I made a spreadsheet to keep track of all my products, with dates of purchase, expiration, when I opened it, etc. And I added color-coding, with red to highlight products that should be used in the next few months, orange for things to use by end of 2019, and so on. It's been very helpful since I can see everything at a glance instead of picking up 10 bottles and squinting at those tiny expiration dates to figure out which product to use next.... Read more

That's a great idea! I probably won't do the spreadsheet, but will definitely do the color-coding method! Thank you for the great tip! :)

I have a spreadsheet too, but I didn't think to put dates in there. What a great idea.

I JUST started a spreadsheet last year and it was soooo satisfying getting it all organized. Now I know what I need to power through before they expire and I love that feeling of not having wasted anything. (I hate waste.) I keep my about-to-expire-this-year sheet masks in a separate box in my bathroom so I know to use those first on regular days, and it kinda reminds me to sheet mask more often too.

This was so satisfying to read~I always try to clean out my vanity every now and then! I haven't cleaned my vanity yet, so I should totally do it like this!

Next to organizing my own stuff, I love nothing more than seeing how other people organize. Seeing you whittle that pile down to your "joys" is so satisfying. Now, I don't know if I can be as disciplined (I keep a beauty cupboard in my bathroom as well as in my office for a hierarchy of what I love and what to use next), but I do love me a good cleaning session! I've cleaned out my beauty stash twice this year already!