How I Inventoried My Products So I Don't Buy Things I Don't Need at Holiday Sales

I had to figure out exactly what I needed before I started spending money all over the place.
Publish date:
November 16, 2015
shopping, organization, sales

November is an exciting—and tempting—time to be a beauty nerd. Lavish holiday sets are hitting stores, and there are tonnes of sales. Black Friday lurks just around the corner. It’s an easy time to spend money and a hard time to save.

I already succumbed to a Paula’s Choice sale on Halloween. I gleefully ordered bottles of Vitamin C Booster and BHA toner only to realize later that 1) BHA and salicylic acid are the same thing and 2) I already own a bunch of salicylic acid products (including those cheap-and-effective Stridex pads).

Clearly, my head wasn’t in the game.

I had to figure out exactly what I needed before I started spending money all over the place. Plus, I was feeling inspired by a book I’d just read about Korean skincare routines. Korean Skincare Secrets says that you can create a Korean routine with Western products, and I was curious to see if I could do it with products I already own.

So last night, I grabbed all the skincare products from my bathroom, bedroom, and closets. Every little sample. Every raw DIY ingredient. I threw them all in a heap and started sorting by category. Within minutes, I could see where I’d over-bought. (I had, like, eight body lotions, and I don’t even use lotion that much!) At the end, I could see where the gaps truly were.

I put all my virtually duplicate products—products that did the same thing as something else—in storage. Now, my bathroom is a lot less cluttered, and I’m way more likely to use products up.

Because I’m a librarian and therefore a professional nerd, I’ve written out the process for you. It’s like the KonMari technique, but specifically for skincare. (I suppose you could apply it to makeup, too).

Decide what kind of skincare routine you want. I decided to follow a basic Korean-type routine for my face. I also regularly use a hand cream, two kinds of body lotion, a couple different masks, a cuticle moisturizer, and, like, six different spot treatments for acne

Create a document that lists each step. Mine went:

  • oil-based cleanser
  • gel cleanser
  • toner
  • essence or serum
  • emulsion/light moisturizer
  • SPF

Clear a working space. Use a whole table or expanse of floor.

Gather all your skincare. GET EVERYTHING. Put it in a pile together.

Start grouping them into categories. Label them with sticky notes. You’ll be tempted not to use labels, but they force you to think about the products. Be as specific as you need to. For example, I had one pile of exfoliating body lotions and one pile of normal body lotions.

Select one product for each step in your routine. Write the name in your document, then put the product away.

For extra nerd points, select a second choice for each step in your skincare routine. Write it in the document. I did this so I that I’ll remember that I don’t need to buy another oil-based cleanser for a long time.

Put all your trial-sized products in a travel bag. That way, it’s easy to assemble a gym or travel kit.

Put everything else in storage. Keep similar products together.

If you need any products, make a note on your phone. A running shopping list will keep you focused at sales or especially fun stores.

Wash out any empty containers you want to keep. Sometimes I put cheap foundation in a nicer container, because I like to make my life as confusing as possible.

Is this 11-step process kind of a nerdy hassle? Yes. Is it worth it? DOUBLE YES.

I’m going to stop wasting money on products that I already own five of, my bathroom is less cluttered, my skincare routine is reset, and I don’t have to choose between three million products each time I wash my face. Plus, I might actually use up some of the stuff I’ve bought!

  • What’s the one thing you’ve accidentally bought over and over?
  • Are you an organizing nerd?
  • Do you think this is crazy? You can tell me. I don’t mind.