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How to Declutter Your Makeup Bag

Photographed by Horst P. Horst. Courtesy of CNI Archive

Photographed by Horst P. Horst. Courtesy of CNI Archive

Before Marie Kondo valorized decluttering in a series of pop-housekeeping books, there was Nagisa Tatsumi, whose treatise on the subject – published in 2000 as Suteru! Gijutsu – arrives in its first English translation this week as The Art of Discarding: How to Get Rid of Clutter and Find Joy. Kondo, who encountered Tatsumi’s book in junior high school, called it a “catalyst” for her own tidying empire. With spring around the corner, The Art of Discarding might as well be a catalyst for your own fearless cleanout, starting with the overflow of lipsticks, sheet masks, and face oils taking over the bathroom cabinet.

This is a philosophy that the makeup artist James Kaliardos can get behind. “I actually threw out my shoulder last year because my kit was just so heavy!” he laughs (It’s an understandable job hazard, when the average workday involves shoots with Steven Meisel and Mario Testino, and when the essentials run the gamut from “gold body paint to prosthetic stuff to glue-on sequins to a thousand eyelashes.”) For Kaliardos, who recently finished a top-to-bottom organization of his makeup bag, the benefits of paring-down go well beyond the physical. There’s that aforementioned “joy” to be found, not to mention real peace of mind. As he sees it, “decluttering often allows you to make mental space for the new to enter, whether that’s a new relationship or a new job or anything you need” – like a must-have mascara in place of the collection of dried-out ones.

Here, using key principles from Tatsumi’s book, Kaliardos breaks down the methodology behind a smart beauty edit. He also shares his five makeup-bag picks for less-is-more polish that won’t weigh you down. “Beauty should be pleasurable, where you have your private moment and it’s fun. You shouldn’t have another chaotic thing to deal with,” he says.

Don’t Keep It ‘For Now.’
Too often, Tatsumi says, the discardable item winds up in some purgatorial waystation, more procrastination than purge. For Kaliardos, that might be an eyeshadow that’s somehow inspiring in the package but never seems to work. The appropriate response: “Goodbye! Just put it. In. The. Trash,” he says with emphasis. “The biggest and hardest thing we have to learn to do as humans is to let things go.” The question you have to ask yourself is simple: “Is this fuchsia lipstick making me happy sitting in my drawer? No,” he says.

If You’ve Got It, Use It
As Tatsumi writes, “Things are given life by being used,” and that includes that languishing favorite eyeliner obscured by all the less-loved ones. “I have so many face masks because somewhere in some fantasyland, I’m watching Netflix with masks on, one after the other, and my skin is amazing,” Kaliardos says, noting that neither happens much. “Make friends with your iCalendar and actually schedule it in as a reminder,” he says. “It’s Saturday morning: Before you start doing your mail, throw on the mask.”

Storage and Organization Methods Are Not the Solution
The author’s point here is not to discount the satisfaction of, say, all the lip pencils in one place, all the eyeshadow brushes in another; it’s just that the edit doesn’t end there. “Your psyche has infinite space, whereas your apartment and your closet have limited space,” Kaliardos says like a true New Yorker. “You have to bring those ideals closer together, so you are imaginative but also practical.” Try, for instance, zeroing in on lipsticks you actually wear – an exercise Kaliardos did himself when creating four tried-and-true shades as part of his limited-edition MAC collection

Discard After a Certain Period of Time

The clutter Tatsumi contends with is comprehensive – magazines, clothes, kitchenware – but this particular issue is of utmost importance when it comes to cosmetics, which all have an expiration date even if unmarked. “With beauty products, they should be fresh,” Kaliardos says, calling out formulas for the eyes and mouth that tend to harbor bacteria. He recommends weeding through your supply twice a year. “It’s like the refrigerator: You’ve got to go through and throw away old food. It’s not going to refreshen.”

Couple the above expertise with the humidity and soaring temperatures across our region, and there’s even more reason to review your beauty stores with a critical eye. Ready, steady… Detox.

First published on US Vogue by Lauren Regensdorf.

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