One of the most problematic areas of organization for my female clients is the bathroom. Many women simply have too many cosmetics, unguents and potions. The husband of one client described the bottles and jars on his wife’s side of the bathroom counter as the skyline of a major metropolis.

There are lots of reasons we buy and keep more cosmetics than we need. Like shoes and purses, lipstick and eye shadow always fit when we need a quick pick-me-up. Unlike shoes and purses, they don’t, at least one at a time, bust the budget. A latte and a fresh lipstick can make me feel like a new woman for under $25.

Advertising is a huge influence on how many beauty products we buy. Magazines tell us from a very early age that being an adult woman means having a different perfume for every mood and a shade of lipstick, nail polish and eye liner for every outfit. A trip to the dermatologist, hair stylist or aesthetician sometimes means coming home with a bunch of products we will never really use.

I’ve had the same hairstyle for years and wear very little, very boring make-up, but even I have fallen into the trap of buying and keeping a bunch of cosmetics over the years thinking that someday, maybe.… Someday I will decide to wear eye shadow. Someday I will get serious about skin care and put on five different products every night before bed. (Yeah, right.)

In the last few months, I finally knuckled down and told myself that since I’d spent so much money on skin products I was going to diligently use them until they were gone. If I saw a huge improvement in my skin, I would buy them again. If I did not, I would not. I am almost through my bottles of hyaluronic-this and Vitamin-C-that and enzymes and lotions. Do I see a difference? No. The best thing that has happened to my skin lately is the copious sweating I do in class at Hot Yoga Calistoga. It makes me look like I just had a facial.

Here’s the thing with cosmetics, like nearly everything else in organizing: use it or lose it. Take some time to go through your cosmetic drawer(s) and test each item. Are your blushers dried out or caked and cracked? Do you still wear the perfume you liked in college or can you toss it and just wear your new favorite? Do your lipsticks go on smoothly and still flatter? A color doesn’t necessarily look good on a person forever. Aging will change which colors will work with your older skin and teeth. For me, darker, brighter colors are not so great any more.

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Old makeup is not going to hurt you, it just won’t help you look your best. The exception is eye makeup. Mascara and eye liner should be replaced at least every six months to prevent bacteria build up that could irritate your eyes. Eye shadows seem to “keep” for years and it is fun to have options, but I did throw out the canary yellow shadow I bought when that was a trend. A “what was I thinking?” moment if there ever was one.

Once you’ve reduced your make-up hoard, organize it into bamboo utensil trays, Rubbermaid white trays that hook together to fit in a drawer or clear acrylic make-up trays available from Home Goods, Target or the Container Store. Your trays need to be easy to wash out if there’s a little spillage. Use the spongey type of drawer liner (by Con-Tact Brand, at hardware stores or Target) underneath to keep the trays from slipping around in the drawer.

Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For information about her services, go to www.houseinorder.com or call 707-738-4346.

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