It seems our modern world is one increasingly filled with shortcuts, instant gratification and quick wins – some fantastic, like electronic banking and others, fairly ordinary, a la dodgy instant coffee. I am usually fairly old-school when it comes to chipping away to achieve real results, and have found that for most things worth having, there are no shortcuts that lead to a quality outcome (except internet banking – that stuff is great). When we moved house back in 2014, our de-cluttering efforts were epic. We had so much stuff. And believe it or not, there was no room I saw this evidenced more dramatically than in our bathroom.
Bathroom? It is usually the smallest room of the house! How could so much excess be stored in a bathroom? Oh Nelly.
Our bathroom housed the remnants of every beauty product I had every bought and then decided – “no I don’t think that colour works on me but I’ll keep it anyway”, “let me just store this mascara sample rigggght at the back here”, “they had a 2 for 1 sale on Garnier Fructis!” and my personal favourite, “There is still a little left in the bottle but I can’t be bothered getting it out – but I don’t want to waste it – I might just crack open a new bottle and keep the old bottle for that day I’ll find time to scrape out the leftovers and use them”.
At the time, we only had a slimline bathroom cabinet with four little shelves but man, did those shelves get put to good use. Much like a library, I really needed a Dewey Decimal System to code the goods I had stashed – because my system of cramming all the bottles on top of one another and just pushing the stuff back further and further until the products fell of the shelf or were engulfed by their counterparts – was not working.
Does this sound like your bathroom? If it does, you are definitely not alone.
I had fallen guilty to a few different mechanisms that led me to having too much stuff in the bathroom department – namely a) not wanting to be wasteful (see above), b) being a complete sucker for the marketing campaigns (“this product will finally tame my frizz!”, “I have always wanted to try a darker shade of mulberry smokey eye!”), and c) sentimentality. Regarding sentimentality – well, let’s just say I had a little glass jar of eyelid glitter that was given to me by a dear friend when I was about 13, and I had held onto this bottle of eyelid glitter for the next 13 years, never using it once, but keeping it because it looked like fairy dust and it was pretty and my friend gave it to me and I have had it for so long now that I just CAN’T get rid of it.
Bathrooms in my mind now are a sacred space – the room we go to to clean ourselves, pamper ourselves, refresh our minds and bodies at the start of a new day or the end of a long day, and a place where we can rest and unwind, even if for five minutes.
Looking back – my bathroom clutter was absolutely invading my peace. The lotions, potions, perfumes, lip balms, shaving creams, aftershaves, body butters, sunscreens, wipes, towlettes, expired vitamins, expired medications, and glitter hairspray from 2001 (you had it too) were getting in the way of me finding anything I needed. And in reality, I only used a handful of products each day, month and year. This realisation was the catalyst for one of the easiest clutter culls I have ever performed.
Many of the products in my bathroom graveyard were not only dried up and un-usable, they were unsafe. Expired medications, vitamins and lotions and potions should not be housed in your bathroom and should be a priority for being discarded, especially if you live with children or animals.
You see, much like our friend internet banking, a bathroom purge is a quick win with instant gratification that you can do today.
You will need a bucket, bin or rubbish bag. And some strong resolve.
Bathroom Purge (estimated time requirement – 15 to 30 minutes)
- Set aside the products you use every day. Most of the time, you will have them stored in an easy to access place e.g. I have a little basket of the less than 10 beauty products I use daily on my vanity. If you don’t have a dedicated space, set the products aside (I am talking your everyday products – not your Las Vegas eye shadow collection) and we can add ‘get a quick grab basket or case’ to the to-do list later. Move your everyday products away from the purging zone.
- Open your cabinets and pull everything out (like we do with the clothes – everything!). This will create a mess. That’s okay. I recall sitting in the middle of a circular sea of products with a bag in my hand and desperation on my face.
- Immediately toss without further consideration anything that has one quarter or less of the product remaining.
- Immediately toss any products that you purchased more than two years ago. No hesitation or questions asked. You heard me.
- Immediately toss any products that you know in your heart are not meant for you e.g. fuchsia lipstick was trending but looks horrendous on your complexion and your complexion is never going to change, so just toss the fuchsia lipstick already.
- Now for the products that have half or more contents remaining – you will need to make hard decisions. Create a pile for use within the next month – in the next 30 days, you will be using that product. You will be using it up. You will use it before you go back to old faithful (shampoo, conditioner, perfume, foundation, whatever). Don’t like that idea? Then throw it out NOW. Because it is N O T going back into your cabinet.
- Set aside expired medication and vitamins for safe disposal – if you live in Australia, check out the website http://www.returnmed.com.au . It’s as easy as dropping your expired stash to your local pharmacy to be safely and securely disposed of.
- What should be remaining is a collection of perhaps new, barely used, or special occasion items. You will need to make more decisions about what stays and what goes. Questions to help:
- Have I used this in the last 12 months? If not, I really will not likely use it again. And by the time I do, it may have gone bad. Toss.
- If you paid a lot of money for a product and you are keeping it out of lost cash guilt, then you need to get over it. The money is not coming back. Let it go and don’t purchase it again in the future.
- In reality, can I make do with what I have? Do I honestly need a 24-colour palette of another shade of brown eye shadow just because it is Bobbi Brown? Toss or donate to a friend.
- Is there someone else who would love a ‘barely used’ item (discretion required for hygiene purposes). E.g. brand new fancy body lotion that I have pumped once but don’t love the smell, perfume I no longer love but that someone else might. Donate to a friend.
What remains should be a reflection of functionality (what you use) with a very small proportion of special occasion and ‘high-priority for using up’ products. The trick, of course, is then to reflect, to ensure that you are not needing to repeat this cycle in 6 or 12 months’ time. And if you share a bathroom with someone else, offer to help them through their purging process.
What I felt looking at the big bag of bathroom rubbish was a sense of ‘lessons learnt’ mixed with relief. I could now locate what products I needed, when I needed them. I knew they would be in date, fresh and and ready to use.
You too can enjoy the same bathroom Zen this weekend, or whenever you choose to set aside a miniscule amount of time to get going. You can take pleasure in wiping down your cabinets, returning the items that hold value and are used to their rightful place, and turning your chemical graveyard into a powder room paradise. You just need to start.
Have you purged the powder room and what did you find the easiest and trickiest aspects? Leave me a comment below and let’s start a conversation.
Until next time – simplify, focus, pursue and count your blessings.