Lessons in Beauty

Beginners Guide To Destashing & 8 Makeup Projects For Inspiration & Decluttering

If you clicked on this, chances are you’re feeling a little, or a lot, of unrest about your makeup collection or the rest of the clutter in your life. It might be lipsticks or your closet or you might have way too many pieces of fine china. This guide will primarily be focusing on destashing beauty items and finding a balance in your collection.

Deep breath! Let’s get started.

Beginner’s Guide To Destashing Makeup

You Will Need:

A flat open space big enough for your entire collection
Trash can or bag
A few hours of free time (depending on your collection size)

If you get stuck on any of the steps here, or want to go a more subtle route of destashing, you can skip down to Projects.

#1) Gather everything together.

Yes. Everything. That lipstick or spare mascara in your car or purse. That one you left in your winter jacket pocket that you’re only remembering as you read this and might have been a pleasant surprise in a few months, everything from your battlestation. Lay everything out all together grouped by item type such as eyeshadows, liners, mascaras, lipsticks, etc.

how to destash makeup declutter

(this is almost every beauty item I have – I left my nail polishes out for photos)

Grab everything EVEN if you’re SURE you only have 1 of that item type. Don’t forget nail polish! But if you have a huge collection, you can do that after going through the rest of your products. Lay everything out in a flat lay. Beds, desks, kitchen tables, or floors that are safe from kids or cats all work well for this.

#2 Get rid of everything older than a toddler.

(brushes and tools excluded, except those sponges!)

That means everything that has been in your collection over 4 years. If you have not used it up by now, it’s both VERY likely expired, and you don’t love it. You don’t. If you loved it, there is no reasoning for why it would still be in your collection unless it’s BEYOND unsanitary. Despite the belief of a lot of poorly informed souls, nail polish and eyeshadow BOTH expire, and can become highly unhygienic. Don’t pass these on. Don’t set them aside. Trash can. Now. Even if it’s your only one. Just because it hasn’t hurt you visibly yet, doesn’t mean it won’t, or even that it hasn’t done damage that you haven’t noticed.

decluttering old makeup expiration date

(these were actually something I already ‘destashed’ since I clean out my makeup inventory to keep it manageable every month after I get my beauty boxes – these were 4 years old, ew! 4 years of bacteria)

If you have a horrified expression on your face – you either just realized you still have makeup from years you don’t want to admit to… or you can’t imagine someone keeping any product from this long, but I’ve seen people pull out makeup they got as a hand me down… in middle school… and they’re long past their college graduation now!

#3) Grab your holy grails & go-to’s!

This is the fun part. Look through each grouping of products. What do you reach for daily? Or at least often? What’s the products that you could NOT do without? What products make you feel amazing when you use them? The lipstick that you put on that makes you feel smokin. That liner that makes your wings look fiiiine every time. The eyeshadow palette that you know you can get your BEST looks from every time. The 5 star mascara you never want to run out of.

how to declutter makeup holy grail products

(these are the things I reach for and just love using, yes, you do see multiple mascaras)

You can keep any back ups for these items if you will be out of that product within 1 year, but keep them in a bag or something separate if they aren’t opened, so you don’t have 2 open and expiring at once.

Put your holy grails aside, or back on your battlestation, but do NOT put them away yet. We’ll double check expiration dates first.

#4) Now be honest… what don’t you use?

If you haven’t used an eyeshadow palette in months, is there a reason? Do you not like the blending? Do you have *gasp* a palette that gives you all the same options? There’s really only so many nude and neutral palettes you can have, and that seems to be the most popular thing for girls to have dupes of, at least after red lipsticks and MLBB colors.

destash and declutter makeup products you dont use

(these are the products that I don’t reach for, or that I hestitate to reach for.
It’s not a commitment to get rid of everything in this pile. I really like some.)

Maybe you feel guilty about getting rid of it because it was expensive or maybe someone gave it to you and you don’t want them to feel like you don’t appreciate the gift. You might not even know why you don’t use it. Whatever the reason: Pull it out. Set it aside. This is being dubbed your ‘destash pile’ but it doesn’t mean it automatically gets trashed. Keep going, we’re getting there!

#5) Identify the sources of your frustration.

Anything you would rate a 3 out of 5 stars or below. Pull it, add them to that pile of items you don’t use. The only exception to this is items you only have one of (ie: you only have one mascara, but it sucks; or it’s your only foundation and you haven’t had luck yet with the perfect one)

my last destash

(this is the results of one of my most recent destashes, before the other photos were taken.
I got rid of an entire BeautyCon sized box full of items)

#6) Progress Check!

What’s left?

Situation 1: Nothing! YAY you got this far, skip to #7, you badass, you.

Situation 2: Too friggin much. Alright calm down, you didn’t do anything wrong. Here’s what we’re going to do. Out of what’s left. Do you have a holy grail product that you love more that does the same thing? If you’ve got red lipsticks left, do you have that perfect red already picked out? Would you REALLY reach for this one over that one? If you would, you can keep it. Add it to your holy grail pile. If you wouldn’t, I’ve got a little reality check for you:

You’re cheating yourself if you keep anything in your collection that you don’t enjoy. 10x moreso if you have something you love more, but you use this because you feel like you should… while you give your favorite products more time to expire. Why would you do that? It’s like eating something bland because it’s about to go bad when your favorite food is right there and you’re letting it mold in the process. Isn’t it more wasteful to let something you love go bad, than to get rid of products that don’t make you feel happy or beautiful?

Situation 3: Just a few things. Not bad! Why are they left?

  • Bold lip colors you like experimenting with or wearing from time to time? You can keep them. That’s OK. Nobody said your collection can’t be fun.
  • Anything you haven’t used? Cool! This is where we start one of our last piles (the trash can doesn’t count, but that is coming up! Wait, wait, it’s ok! We’ll make sure you won’t regret it!) This is the ‘try me’ pile.EXCEPTION: Unopened items that you would rather return (if applicable), that you would rather sell, pass on, that you aren’t excited to try, or that do not add anything to your collection, should be moved as needed so you will remember to return/sell, or added to the pile of 0-3 star items and things you don’t use.
  • Everything else, really consider: Does this add to your collection? Will you reach for it? Is there something you don’t like about it? If you know it adds to your collection and you’ll reach for it, go ahead and add it to the pile of things you’re keeping with those holy grails. If you don’t think it’s something that adds to your collection, add it to that destash pile. And if you aren’t sure, you can add these to your try me pile too.



(this is more for skincare, hair stuff, and other fringe beauty products)

1) If the samples you want to keep fill a gap in your collection,

2) If  think they could still become a holy grail,

3) If using the samples in that category won’t make a holy grail product expire before you’re done with it and you will enjoy using them

4) Or if using the samples will save you money by not needing to purchase that item category for longer, and you are not wasting your first choice/holy grail product.

… Then keep them! Use them. Just because something is a sample size, even a foil, doesn’t make it worthless. Half of my personal collection, or more, is samples.


This is my 2 minute quick guide for expiration dates. If your product has an expiration date on it, you can go ahead and use that time period instead. Some will be longer, some shorter. These are found on most products in a little makeup compact design with months (M) or years (Y) written next to a number. 6M = 6 months.

Expiration dates are from the date of opening, however liquids, gels, and creams that have sat around for longer than 2 – 3 years even unopened should be smell checked and patch tested before even considering to keep them. It’s like food, it can still spoil.

Mascara – 3 to 6 months
Liquid Liners – 6 months
Gel & Push Up Liners for Eyes/Lips- 6 – 12 months
Liquid Lipstick – 6 – 24 months
Sharpenable Pencils – 1 year
Foundation – 1 year
Concealer – 1 year
Lipstick – 2 years
Lipgloss – 2 years
Nail Polish – 2 years
Loose Powders/Pigments- 2 years
Pressed Powders/Eyeshadows – 2 years

Run this through the items we decided you’re keeping, and make sure that they all fit within it. Yes, there’s a chance it’s just perfectly fine after the expiration date, especially if you kept it sanitary, and there’s a few things you can do to make your makeup last longer, but my advice is if it’s expired… just don’t risk it.

This is where the notebook and pen comes along – if anything you know you don’t want to go without is expired or expiring, write it down, replace it as soon as possible if you don’t throw it out, or toss it and make a trip to the store to get a replacement!

If anything smells wrong or looks like it’s changed color since purchase, toss it regardless of expiration date.

Pressed powders and bullet lipsticks can be sanitized with a light spray of rubbing alcohol if you do decide to chance it. Sanitizing them throughout your use is more effective, and can help keep bacteria from forming on the surface.

If any of your items in the destash pile have hit their expiration, you’re tossing them. No second chances. They didn’t make the cut AND they’re not hygienic. You can’t justify this. Don’t try it.

If the products in your destash pile have not expired: you can trash them, re-home them to someone that would enjoy them more, try to resell them (do not sell glosses or other items that can’t be sanitized like mascaras, liquid liners, etc), or use them in a project to help you clear them out of their collection. Projects are also perfect for that ‘try me’ pile.

If you’ve noticed any gaps in your collection that you’re really wishing you had filled, or if you suddenly realized all of your red lipsticks actually suck (happened to me, I tossed all of them) you can add these to a list in your notebook too, so you can find things that really work for you instead of things that you have to force to work for you.

And that’s it! You’ve separated out all of your products and figured out what you really enjoy vs what you accumulated over time. Now let’s talk about those ideas to either get you out of a makeup rut, help you decide what products you really love & what else can go, or just give you something fun to inspire your creativity.

8 Makeup Projects For Inspiration & Destashing

#1) Lipstick of the Day

Do you have a ton of lip products you don’t reach for and you don’t know why? Try wearing a different product every day. Wearing it all day will give you the best idea on whether you like the color on you, and whether the way it feels and the longevity of the formula works for you. This is also a great way to test a bunch of similar colors against each other to figure out your favorite for formula and wear time!  (Check out and join in on #31DaysOfLipstick on Instagram if you’d like, too!) This project helped me to declutter 6 lip colors that I didn’t enjoy wearing for longer than a photo and #MOTD post.

#2) #100DaysOfMakeup

my best looks

If you’ve felt in a makeup rut, or just want to experiment with the way you do your look, this is an amazing challenge. It was started by YouTuber Glam&Gore (at least that’s the origin I can find, if this is inaccurate, I apologize) on Instagram and you can find hundreds and thousands of people posting for this challenge every day. It’s an amazing way to find inspiration and network, as well as improve your skills and try out looks you’ve never done before! And if you don’t want to share it, you can do it on your own just for fun. (Check out my #100DaysOfMakeup challenge here or on my Instagram) You can go mild or wild and it’s all up to you and your style.

#3) Create An Inventory!

Listing out all of your products can be an amazing way to figure out where you’re at with your stash, as well as mark out your collection into categories. You can track spending habits, expiration dates, star ratings for products, and any other information you can think of.

#4) #ProjectPan

Project Pan 5 by Cinco De Mayo Milk Update

If you didn’t know, “hitting pan” on something in makeup means to hit visible bottom, and “panning” means using up or the act of using up. So if you’ve got things you want to use up, whether they’re samples, things that are expiring soon, or just products you want to make good progress on, this is an excellent project for you. Project 10 Pan is one of the most popular, where you just pick 10 products and your own end date. There’s also Pan 16 in 2016, or 17 by 2017, 13 by Halloween, and the list goes on and on. You can also make up your own challenge guidelines

#5) Create a Swatch Library

swatch library

If you have trouble keeping track of your collection, or especially if you have a bad tendency to buy products similar to what you already have, try creating a swatch inventory.  It works especially well for lipsticks, but any color product works. You can swatch on paper and slip it into a page protector in a binder, or just a slip of paper on the wall. You can swatch on your arm and take photos of all of your lipsticks, or even take photos of you wearing each color and make an album on your phone, or a physical one using a cheap photo book site like GrooveBook (yep, the Shark Tank startup) to get 100 photos for under $4 and create a book to see how they really look ON you.

#6) Curate Your Perfect Collection

Instead of putting back the items you’re unsure about into your battlestation, try just working with your absolute favorite products, and only add things back that you feel like you’re missing, as you need them. Working with an edited down collection will help you realize if you’re really enjoying all of your stash, or if you like a more curated and polished arsenal to work with.

#7) Pan Roulette / Weekly Makeup Basket / Palette A Week

Notice that a lot of things you actually like end up sitting aside? Try choosing the palette you want to work with this week, or the lip color, or choose a little basket or bag full of products that you’re going to limit yourself to using – it’s like packing a travel bag of makeup, you pretend the rest isn’t there and see what you can do with just the items you chose for the week.

#8) Collaborate!

Whether you pick a theme with a friend or fellow blogger, or join up into a collab group like #BeautiesOnFire (hosted by Elisabeth over at everythingandnothin.com), working on a collaboration can help you try things that you hadn’t thought of, and help you gain inspiration and show off your creativity, makeup skills, or writing style. Plus it’s a cross promotion, which means more exposure for you and any collaboration buddies.

Hey! Let’s connect!
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15 thoughts on “Beginners Guide To Destashing & 8 Makeup Projects For Inspiration & Decluttering

  1. What a great idea. It’s one of those things that everyone forgets to do, like cleaning makeup tools lol. My weekend project this week! 😊


  2. Those tips are awesome!! !!! ! You’re totally right about old products, they’re full of bacteria, no one should have something like that in their collection. Call me weird but I don’t have many dupes in my collection. Just a couple of lipsticks and that’s all… Actually I’m impressed realizing that…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I have any true dupes either! Unless we count my bigger rainbow palette with 3 trays. Then I probably have dupes for all my mattes, but not for quality. I feel guilty if anything is even remotely similar lip product wise.


  3. Omgsh girl…I love this post!! I totally need to do this…even if it takes me a whole year! These tips are amazing!!! You’re the best!! I love the swatch library idea. I have wanted to do that and totally forgot haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now you made My day! 😀 I end up destashing about 1-2 times a month with all the beauty boxes and it’s finally gotten easier, but god it takes forever sometimes.

      I’m ALMOST done with my lip swatches (and actually passed on a gloss just because the stupid thing wouldn’t make a good swatch, OCD much!) now tackling the 180 palette… yeah that’s gonna take a while. I’m gonna be a rainbow zebra O.o

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I am not positive wherever you happen to be obtaining your data, but good matter. I needs to spend some time learning a lot more or awareness extra. Thanks for wonderful data I used to be searching for this inioomatfrn for my mission.


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