DIY Project: Card Catalog Makeup Table

Imagine, if you will, that the card catalog is chocolate. And my need to reorganize my makeup is peanut butter. I think you see where this is going.

If I were the kind of person to feel ashamed, I might feel ashamed of how much makeup I own and how infrequently I wear it. Actually, that's not entirely true -- I


feel a little bad about how rarely I bust out the eyeshadow. It's mostly because I hate to let such beautiful things just sit there and not be used, though.

I keep an online spreadsheet of my eyeshadow (and other makeup, fine, I admit to my compulsive organizational tendencies). And I used an IKEA Helmer to keep everything in one spot, super tidy and put away. The problem, for me, with things being put away is that then I won't take them out and use them -- organizing is sometimes akin to sealing things into a perfect tomb of order and neatness.

There is very little middle ground in my world. Unfortunate but true.

In fact, once things were squared away, I didn't even feel like going and looking at new makeup -- my budget felt pretty good about that, let me tell you. This weekend, though, I finally broke down and bought two lipsticks and an eyeshadow quad. And that triggered such a need to rearrange and document that I wound up dragging my husband to the hardware store at 5:32 on a Sunday night.

I've had this card catalog for close to 10 years. I was a teacher, once, back in the day, and the school I worked for was just going to throw it away.

My passionate love of the Dewey Decimal System would not allow that; I wrestled the thing into my car (I drove a Toyato Tercel at the time), in front of an audience of co-workers who thought I was completely ridiculous.

Which, you know, I


-- they weren't wrong.

Lately, finding a spot for the old card catalog has been a bit more challenging. It had taken up residence on the front porch where I think we intended it to be used for mail and such. Instead, it was becoming a catch-all for spiders.

That could not stand.

Because I am a creature of habit and unbreakable routine with some things, keeping my makeup in another room was failing and failing hard. I can't see for shit without my glasses, y'all, so I sit cross-legged on my bed and put on makeup with a tiny handheld mirror. It works for me when nothing else seems to.

Imagine, if you will, that the card catalog is chocolate. And my need to reorganize my makeup is peanut butter. I think you see where this is going.

Nightstands are one of those weird conceptual items to me. They always seem so useful, but then they just become a repository for vibrators and crap. I say that not because vibrators are crap but because they are distinctly


crap -- those are two distinct categories.

But a nightstand that would hold all of my multitude of makeup... That was a hope and a dream.

The first job was, of course, evicting the spiders. I'm generally cool with spiders, which is perhaps surprising, but daddy longlegs -- which are actually harmless -- kind of skeeve me out. It's the long spindly legs. I also think baby horses are a little creepy looking, for much the same reason.

Job #2 involved taking all the drawers out. We should have made that job #1 -- card catalogs are heavy. And when I say heavy, I mean lift with your legs and not your back because otherwise it's going to be you on the couch with a muscle relaxer at the end of the night. Once all the drawers were out, I started thinking about spray paint.

There is almost always a part of my mind that is thinking about spray paint. This has been true since I was very young, though when I was in middle school most of my spray paint pondering was about how very stupid huffing seemed.

My quickly developed plan for the card catalog involved spray painting the body of the cabinet and leaving the legs and drawerfronts as they were. The top had already been half-heartedly painted, so mostly I wanted to wipe the slate clean and start over with a new color palette.

The bedroom is orange and purple and red -- so, you know, throwing more color in there didn't seem like the best of ideas. Fortunately, because I'm that kind of woman, I had spray primer on hand -- we hauled the cabinet into the back yard and I gave it a good going over with the primer.

Then we raced to the hardware store. Sunday afternoons are the worst time to start a project if you don't have everything you need -- all the places around here close at 6pm. If it's 5:49 on a Sunday evening and you realize what you really need is a paint scraper? Well, you're screwed.

Fortunately, we made it with time to spare and got to spend 10 minutes in the paint aisle debating various metal finishes. Orange is hard to match and the hardware on the drawer fronts is brass. Antique brass should have been the obvious choice but it was on a high shelf and I couldn't see it until I'd just about given up in despair.

Red spray paint is always the choice when I'm in despair.

Primer looks like white spray paint, it really does. And, in a pinch, you can use white spray paint to prime something. But, as with eyeshadow primer, spray primer gives your color something to grab on to and helps it dry true to color. That's why I took the time to prime before running to the store.

When we got back, I was able to thoroughly spray paint the cabinet (metallic spray paints are drippy -- if you get drips, you can do a very light sanding job to help smooth stuff out) before losing the light. In a perfect world, I'd sand and do another coat anyway, but because I kept my coats thin, even as I rushed, things turned out okay.

One of the beauties of living in the now is artificial light. I love artificial light because I wasn't left trying to rearrange my nightstand situation by candle light. I moved (well, Ed moved) the card catalog into place and we loaded up the drawers.

I have three drawers of MAC eyeshadow. And a couple drawers of lipstick. Only one drawer for blush but that's just how I roll. Or, you know, not how I roll. I can't help it; I'm still far too gothy for my own blushing good.

It's so much easier to organize things according to how I use them, rather than trying to change my routine all around to fit an organizational scheme that, while it looks great and makes logical sense, wasn't actually sustainable for me. I get caught up in this a fair amount; I want things to be tidy and organized, but then they exist in the statis of nonuse because they aren't part of my world anymore -- they're all too out of sight, out of mind.

Being honest with myself means knowing I'm not going to go to my studio to put on makeup. It means knowing that I'm never going to sit at a vanity and put on makeup the way Hollywood starlets do in the movie. I'm going to sit on my bed and put on eyeshadow before I pick out what to wear for the day... or I'm not going to wear makeup at all.

Organization has turned into a balancing act for me -- having this stuff does me no good if I don't use it. This card catalog seems to be working!

Now I just have to restrain myself from assigning each eyeshadow a Dewey Decimal Number...