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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
And with that, here’s the final result!
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.