One year blog-iversary series: getting the most from your stash

I've been wanting to write a post along these lines for ages - it just took me a while to firm up what I wanted to say.

As you may know, I haven't been a beauty junkie for that long in the scheme of things: it was the beginning of 2012 when I suddenly went from rarely wearing makeup and not knowing what toner was, to suddenly finding a ridiculous amount of excitement in a new blush and having a whole raft of skincare at my disposal.

Then, like any self-respecting beauty junkie, I went bananas and bought too much stuff. On top of that, I joined a number of different subscription boxes at various intervals and wound up with even more stuff, to the point where I eventually had to go on an enforced spending ban to stop the flow before things got well and truly out of hand.

Happily I'm at a place now where I have a well-edited collection that's more under control, thanks not only to the spending ban but also Project Pan, as well as my obsession with finishing things off before I open new ones and making sure that everything I have gets used.

The aim of this post is to set out some things I've learned when it comes to beauty products and how to get the best from them, as well as a few notes on keeping your collection streamlined and in good shape. Some of the comments may seem obvious, but it's worth noting them anyway because sometimes we need to hear the obvious in order to apply it.

Keep it small (ish)

First things first, you can't make the most of your stash if it's too damn big. Plenty of people are happy to have drawers, boxes and shelves brimming with cosmetics because, for them, more is more - and having a bountiful collection is what makes them happy.

I'm all for that if it's what you want, but for myself and many people I've met through online beauty forums, there comes a point when having lots to choose from becomes overwhelming and you suddenly have that What the fark am I going to do with all this stuff? moment when you finally realise what you've done.

You have enough makeup for at least three lifetimes. What a lot of money. And what a lot of waste.

Work out how many of particular things you're happy to have, knowing they'll get used. For example, I own three bronzers and I don't need any more than that. So I'm not in the market for a bronzer until I finish one and see a hole in my collection. I do have my eye on a Burberry bronzer but I'm not going to buy it until next year, if I still want it. I don't need it, not yet.

Don't be fooled by bargains

There was a time when I happily went through the bargain bins at Priceline to get shiteloads of stuff, thinking I was getting a good deal. But all too often, that stuff was used a few times and then forgotten about because I had products I preferred on hand and I don't actually wear bright sparkly eyeshadows on a regular basis. And definitely not blue ones.

I'm all for exploration and experimentation, but you're better off doing that in-store, rather than taking everything you come across home with you. Once you've worked out what looks good on you, try sticking to that. It's not a bargain if you never use it.

Don't open things straight away if you don't need them

That Burberry bronzer mentioned above: if I happen to see it ridiculously discounted (unlikely) then I won't be dumb about it and I will buy it, but I won't open it until I finish something else. Makeup starts going off from the moment you open it, so you're better off not opening everything at once if you can help it.

Plus it's always nice to have a few new things at your disposal so you can open them come a rainy day, rather than perhaps going shopping on a rainy day and buying something you don't need.

Don't have 564 skincare pieces on the go

Skin responds well to discipline; using too much product can be harmful/wasteful; and there's such a thing as exfoliating too often. The list could go on.

If you have too many things, go easy. Get through one range of products first before introducing new ones. I'm pretty sure it's not good for your skin to use a different clay mask each day of the week because you have too many and want to use them - you'll strip your skin and risk irritating it. Same goes with exfoliating products.

Plus, if you're reaching for different skincare items on a daily basis, you won't know which ones are working for you and which aren't. Try a range of products for at least a month before opening something else. Even better, finish a range of products before switching to another one. You don't need five serums on the go.

Leave some wiggle room

I'm using the bronzer example again. I did have only two bronzers and decided that was more than enough for me (one for when I'm more tanned and one for when I'm more pale). Plenty of bronzers caught my eye over the past year but I kept telling myself that I didn't really need them...

But then, Hourglass released a bronzer.

Now Hourglass is my Achilles heel so when I saw that bronzer I had that sinking feeling - the one where you know you have to buy something and there's no point resisting. Happily I could save my pennies and buy it, knowing that I didn't have a ridiculous amount of bronzers anyway, so it would get used. Phew.

Put things on rotation

This is an obvious one but I certainly need to remind myself to do it. I have three open eyeshadow palettes (and one I haven't opened yet), seven open eyeshadow duos and four open eyeshadow singles. That's a lot of eyeshadow.

Like many people I often reach for what's easy when I'm in a rush or don't feel creative. This means that some eyeshadows get plenty of use while others only get used a couple of times a month.

I've tried to change that with my 'now playing' posts, so I pick a few products and use those exclusively for at least a couple of weeks. This means that everything gets a good workout so I'm making the most of what I have.

If I don't do that, I tend to forget about things - even products I like - and they can sit there for months without being used. That's definitely a waste.

Work out what can be finished, and finish it

This was part of the motivation for doing Project Pan, the idea being that you use particular products every day so you can finish them and streamline your collection (or buy more, if needed).

It's very easy to keep opening new products if you have them - this happens all too easily if eg you're signed up to subscription boxes and keep receiving more stuff - and all of a sudden your bathroom is loaded with six of everything. Argh!

Each month I have a look at what's open and commit to using certain products every day in order to finish them. This has really helped keep things under control.

Know your weaknesses

We all have them. Mine is base products like tinted moisturisers, BB creams and CC creams etc. Honestly, I had ridiculous amounts of these at the beginning of this year, and while I still have far too much in this department, at least that amount is starting to look smaller.

If you're circulating a particular product like this weekly, you're not really getting a feel for a product because you're not seeing how it fares over time. I've really had to discipline myself to commit to using one product each day until it's gone, while allowing myself to use a 'special' product if I'm going out or need a change for the day.

I still don't know whether I'll ever get through everything before it needs to be turfed. Argh. Buying up too many things too quickly has also meant that there's no place for new and exciting bases I want to try. Boo.

Don't buy back ups unless you're completely certain you'll want them

I'm so guilty of this one. Only last year I ordered four of the base I was using because they were half-price. Bad idea. I used two and the others got sent to better homes because I was bored of them and wanted to try something else, plus my skin changed with pregnancy/breastfeeding so I needed something more hydrating.

Never again.

Get rid of things you won't use - early

I have a present/swap pile of the stuff I receive in sub boxes and know I won't use, but sometimes you think you'll use a product so you open and trial it, only to find that it's just not for you.

If that happens, pass it on before it goes rancid. I give products like these to friends and, if no one wants them, I donate them to a women's shelter. I do this within six months of opening them. If I don't do that, they'll end up going off and need to be thrown out. What a waste.

Mix products

I cannot believe I only just started doing this one.

With the first couple of Shanghai Suzy seasonal releases, I was so damn excited by these lipsticks that I bought a few when I saw them on special, and then again when I saw I could get four for the price of one. Only five of those eight were ones I would actually use, while the others just didn't suit me.

Instead of passing them on (I mean, it's Shanghai Suzy), I played around with them. Turns out that all three 'bad' colours make great mixer shades and two of those will be finished reasonably soon because they look great together and I've been giving them a good workout. Huzzah!

This taught me a valuable lesson: don't give up on your products. I've started mixing blushes now too.

Find alternative uses for things

There's no rule that says you can't use a blush as an eyeshadow, and vice versa. You can also find uses for old makeup - I've done a post on that here.

For example, I use old (dark) eyeshadows as dry shampoos on my brown hair. They're not as good as a dedicated dry shampoo, but if my hair is looking greasy in the morning and I don't have time to wash it, putting some powder at the roots will get me through to the end of the day.

It's worth doing some research on what you can do with old products before turfing them - plenty of good tips exist in cyberspace on this and I'm often stumbling across new ideas.

Swap with friends

Last but not least, if you have some fellow beauty junkie friends - make use of each other's collections. Arrange to swap a few products each month, which should satisfy your need to have new things to play with. This is also useful because you can work out which products you really miss when someone else has borrowed them, and which ones you forget about quickly.

It's also good for working out whether you really do need that new blush that your friend has, or whether you'll get bored of it or already have something that's similar enough.

In sum

I'm glad I've finally written this post - I just realised that it's been sitting in my drafts for almost a year. My golly!

I may well do another similar one when I hit the two-year anniversary of littlewhitetruths, just to see if there are any other ways I've found of getting the most from what I have.

If you have anything to add to what I've said above, please do!

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