Sunday, July 3, 2011

When Does Just Right Become Too Much?

Although I am a minimalist at heart, including what I wear on my face, I have loved makeup and other girly things since I first saw my mother's Avon catalog. I enjoy looking at new collections in magazines, observing how women wear it, and reading makeup reviews. In the last couple years, however, my affection has transformed into something I barely recognize. I increasingly find myself missing the days when ALL my everyday beauty items fit in a small shoebox, and my morning routine was simple and fast.

For example, my pre-forum/blogging eyeshadow "collection" consisted of 1 face powder, 2 eyeshadows, one brow color, and a half dozen lipsticks. I didn't wear blush. I owned zero lip gloss. I used 2-3 brushes. Whatever I reached for went with every outfit, any occasion, because the makeup I purchased was an extension of my own coloring. Small as my stash was, I almost always wore makeup, even around the house.

Back then, I might add a new lipstick once or twice a year. I did almost all of my shopping at a counter, never online. I was selective, discriminating, and quick to get rid of items that did not work for me (such as lip gloss). I threw them away, some practically new. I never saved the boxes makeup came in--I didn't see the point. It never occurred to me to return anything that didn't suit. 

Inexplicably, in the last 2.5 years, my makeup interests exploded. Suddenly, the goods were in a train case, tackle box, wicker baskets, and multiple shoe boxes. A friend and I would send each other USPS flat rate boxes of items we had barely used.  I recently convinced myself that my continual pursuit of the perfect _______ was only because I had no idea what I already owned. So a few weeks ago, I went to Ikea and bought Alex (not affiliated) so I could gather everything in one location.

One of the first things I noticed was the volume. Embarrassingly excessive. The second thing that struck me was how similar a lot of it was. Near duplicates and significant overlap, mostly in color but also in formula and texture. And almost all of it was barely used, some not at all, especially those limited edition palettes I guess I am saving up for who knows what.

I realize the following photos might not look like much to the makeup artists and true curators among you, but is a huge amount for a person who used to see herself as just an everyday beauty lover who enjoys makeup. This looks like a LOT to me--especially because what I am showing below are the items I am keeping. At least the same amount has been put aside for my upcoming blog sale. So just imagine doubling everything you see, and you will realize I have truly gone off the rails.

My nail polish, at least the ones I could find
Partial brush collection (rest on top of desk in a large brush holder)
Foundation, powder, blush, bronzer concealer (face stuff)
Lip stuff
Compacts and palettes
Eyeshadow singles
And that's not even all of it! In a previous post, I gave a peek into my makeup area, and showed you the storage that holds the makeup and brushes I reach for every day. (If you notice the desk is different, you'd be correct. I had to swap it with the current one so the Alex would fit underneath.)

And even still, I maintained a separate train case for all my brand new backups.

And because it still didn't fit, I have a shoebox for the overflow, which holds the items I don't love but don't want to give away yet.

If I had to name the catalyst that led to my transformation from a minimalist to collector, I'd say Makeup Alley. Reading reviews was a lot like purchasing something at, where right under the item it shows you all the other things people bought after making that purchase. Makeup Alley led to forums and blogs, which fed the interest.

Now, each morning I have to decide which of my satiny taupe eyeshadows I want to wear, and sometimes it's paralyzing. Even Hannibal finds it exhausting, and he's a model of good saintly taupism.

"All I need is my guyliner, and I'm good to go."

I can't possibly be alone in amassing all this stuff. At least I hope I am not. What happens when makeup starts to feel like it's going to eat you when you are sleeping? Where and how do you draw the line between enough and excess, and what do you do to reduce?

How do you manage your beauty items when you've accumulated too much. Do you sell it, give it away, throw it out? Once free from the excess, do you put yourself on product probation for a while, or do you start right back in? I occasionally leave a box of gently-used makeup in the ladies room at work marked FREE. It's almost always gone by lunch.

And it must be said: This article is about my habits only. I do not judge others. If collecting every blush Chanel has released since 1992 makes someone happy, then there's nothing wrong with happy.


  1. First and foremost, be still my beating heart with those Chanel polishes. Ok, now I'm not here to judge either (those in glass houses...) I agree that if makeup makes someone happy then so be it! I do think that if it starts to feel like a chore or burdensome then it's time to unload! I have a sister that I bequeath some makeup to who has similar skin tone to me so that is how I "rid" myself of some makeup. Others are so old I just toss into the trash can. I do like the idea of a blog sale, perhaps some point down the line I'll do one too who knows. Best of luck with the sale!

  2. Sounds like you are ready for a Project 10 pan ;)

  3. Jenn, thanks. I am setting a few Chanel polishes back into the wild, so stay tuned. :) You're lucky to have a sister you can give things to. Not that many women around me even wear makeup (!), so I could not even bring a box to work with a big FREE sign.

  4. I had my first blog sale two weeks ago. I wasn't sure what to expect but I got 60 emails in the first 40 minutes. Organization is key. I did the sale in two parts and I had a total of 50 packages go out. I am so happy I did it because all the thank you emails I got from happy buyers were so great. I love that they are using stuff I never even touched or barely did. And even better than that I can see and use what I have left! Oh and I made enough $$ to get all the fall collection stuff I want. Now I have space for it!

  5. I'm not as much of a makeup devotee, but had amassed an embarrassing volume of lipsticks and lip glosses (my obsession - finding that Perfect™ color that I'll wear every day for the rest of my life - ha!). I gave away/threw away probably 3/4 of them a few months ago, and felt much lighter. I bought a few of the Rouge Coco Shines when they came out, but have held off purchasing any more, and go rummaging through my remaining collection when I need a change.

  6. une femme, I hope that by paring down, I'll happily shop my own stash, as well. The funny thing is lipstick used to be my obsession. I guess I finally found the colors I am most happy with and transferred my obsession to eyeshadow. Dumb! I reapply lipstick several times a day but apply eyeshadow once. But soon I will be free!

  7. This is so timely, Zuzu. I am feeling overwhelmed with all that I have (makeupwise) and don't even use. I would love to toss most of it or give some away to my niece (which I do periodically) but then wonder if I will ever want some of it back again. I've been known to re-buy something after I gave it away. I think, though, that this is the longest I've been in this mood so maybe it will last and I can have that wonderful (I think it was veuve?) phrase: A luxe, well-edited little stash.

  8. Sounds like you're doing this just right, Z. Except, perhaps, a little too much guilt. It's very human to be prone to obsessions now and then. Let it all go.

    I have been known to throw things in the trash even though they're still good. It hurts, but remembering that keeps me from falling back into excess.

    And "a luxe, well-edited little stash" is my motto for life. :D

  9. Impressive :) I started on makeupalley as well then moved on to blogging. I think my makeup ways are really bad as I only keep the things I really love, so I give a lot of stuff away to friends/family, I hate to think how much money I waste. I guess thats my way of keeping the actual amount of stuff down.I do think my makeup buying has greatly increased since I started my own blog which does bother me somewhat.
    Interesting post x

  10. May I ask how blog sales work? Is it first-come, first-served? (And if so, can you tell us at what time you'll put up the items? :) What can I say? I'm excited) Or do we bid? Or is there another way? I'm new to the idea, so thanks for any guidance!

    Also, do you have to have paypal to participate? Or are checks ok, if you hold the item till the check clears?

  11. I am going through the same issues myself. Since becoming stay at home mum I prob wear makeup a maximum of 10 times a year yet I keep buying more. As soon as I get something new it is all I want to use and it pushes all the old stuff to the back of the drawer where it then gets forgotten.

    Skincare us my real prOblem, though. I have always bought way more than I needed but since I started blogging I have been sent stuff to trial as well. Same deal there - the second I am on to a new item the previous is forgotten. I want to get rid of it but I genuinely love most items!

    Ps I have just discovered your blog and am loving what I have read so far!

  12. Hi Zuzu

    To echo Ammie, this is a very timely post.
    We just got back from our little trip and I only brought a few products this time round.... It was a little experiment of sorts. I brought one foundation (CHanel), one blush (Tarte), one mascara (Tarte), one eye color (Chanel), one liner (Chanel),an eye lash curler, one concealer(Chanel) and the handful of lippies that are in the cosmetic bag in my purse. I was perfectly happy with everything and didn't feel overwhelmed or feel like I needed a thing. Now granted I was camping and most people don't do themselves up but I have to put on my face or I feel- well, like poo. I remember when less was more- and I liked it. I've been purging because things were sitting and it's a shame to have such gorgeous things going lonely. I'm going to do another weed through my *pit* and just like clothes if I haven't used it in (xxx amount of months) it needs to go. I LOVE Veuve's motto and I'm going to really trying to live like that. Except it may be a *medium stash* xx

  13. Oh, I could have written this myself! I'm still quite a discerning shopper and usually quite a minimalist but I still have amassed quite a collection (I did very much enjoy your pictures, epecially knowing brands from the packaging alone!). I give things away to friends and family, I have had blog sales and in the case of my older items I throw away.

    I have tried to rein myself in with buying but it never lasts long. I just try to be very careful about my decision making. As you say, the more you have, the harder it is to decide what to wear in the morning!

    Thank you for this post, I really enjoyed reading x

  14. Such a well timed post! this is something I've been thinking about recently as I too have gone from being a woman with a 'normal' interest in beauty (one makeup bag, five nailpolishes, replacing favourites as they run out) to an obsessive with a room overflowing with all the latest high end stuff, most of which I have not used.

    I can tell you exactly how it happened though, it was a combination of the internet (I can see something new and shiny on a blog and go straight to any number of online retailers and buy it), becoming a housewife in a foreign country (more time on my hands), turning forty and finally having two large moles removed from my face. Having been self concscious about these since I was a small child I suddenly feel it's 'worth' putting makeup on and I want lots of it to make up for lost time!!!

    Recently though I've begun to feel uneasy at the amount of makeup I buy each month and I've also started buying backups (why???) which is adding to the problem of where to keep it all.

    I think the first thing I need to do is stop buying backups, and then realise that I do not need to buy new makeup every week when stuff I love is going unused.

    having said all that I'm not a hoarder so whatever some might think of this, If something drops out of favour with me or an online purchase does not please me I just chuck it in the bin! A lot has been thrown away recently and I'm trying to keep my collection reasonably in check.

  15. MUA and eBay have been terrific (and terrible) enablers of my makeup addiction. The prices of cosmetics in Australia is so ridiculously jacked up, it made me evaluate and consider my choices much more rigorously until buying online became an option. Recently, I've been travelling overseas a lot more (it feels like I'm in and out of international airports all the time now), so that's given me access to dutyfree cosmetics. I have yet to start buying backups, though.

    I have managed not to go overboard (ie limited myself to less than a dozen) where it comes to blushes and foundations, and my eyeshadow collection contains enough variety to justify itself. It is in lipsticks that I tend to splurge, and where the greatest amount of overlap occurs, especially in the red/burgundy family, where I must have more than 20. Brushes are another weakness.

    My collection of makeup and brushes is divided between Sydney (where I spend about 5 months of the year, and where I have more storage space) and Shanghai (where I spend the remainder of my time). This is both a reason and a self-justification for the number of products that I own.

  16. How great to come back to this wonderful discussion!

    Ammie, I know you and I have both had tosser's remorse and repurchased items. But I started that behavior long before discovering MUA and blogs. I didn't do it often, but I did do it, so I guess it is my nature to be fickle or run hot and cold with makeup. I think part of my not staying true with an item has more to do with not knowing what feels right for me than with changing skin, etc.

  17. Replica, I *wish* I had people near me to give my makeup to. I don't know how I managed to surround myself with so many makeup eschewing women, but there it is. I also have spent more on makeup since starting this blog. I felt like I wanted to add some value, given what great resources you all had been to me when I was shopping. So I guess I figured if I could put up something new and swatch and photograph it well, I'd help someone. Help her spend money, I guess!

  18. Me again, sorry!

    We don't need help to spend more money Zu Zu, what we need is posts that lead us to discuss our llives and loves, an offer of a bit of escapism and friendship in a place where it's not about our work, our kids, our husbands, but about us. I have no 'real life' friends who even use the tiniest scrap of makeup and look at me as if I'm crazy if I mention a new lipstick or polish.

    Please don't ever start just churning out product reviews (even though we all know why they do it) but continue to give us grown up girls something to talk about!

  19. Munichjoolz, I totally agree about the internet! I remember when I first started heaing of the newer brands that I hadn't seen in department stores (Chantecaille, Shu Uemura, etc). It was the mid-to-late 90s, and the info arrived via a catalog called blissworld. I actually had to call my order in on the phone! Not that I didn't have a computer with online access, but it certainly wasn't the way it is now a mere 10 years ago!

    I also did something nice for myself last year. I had a few v-beam and IPL treatments to get the red out of my face. I never had acne but I ended up with a permanent flush, thanks to my pale northern European skin and moderate rosacea. So for the first time in over a decade I actually bought blush. And buy I did!

    I have also realized how futile it is to buy backups. I am fickle. I admit it, and even if I love something today, chances are very good that by the time I have finished it (IF I finish it), I'll have moved on to something new. There are a few exceptions--I actually have repurchased a few favorites over the years, but they are the exception to the rule.

    I'm not really sure what a hoarder is, but I don't think it's me. I clean out too frequently, whether it's tossing, swapping, exchanging, or (now) selling. I don't really have a collector mentality, thank goodness.

  20. Munichjoolz--you have caught me at the perfect time. The main reason I am going through all of this is precisely because I don't want to be a review junkie. I LOVE reading reviews, but I don't want this blog to be about just that. I have virtually no interest in PR samples, and I could care less about amassing hundreds of followers for the sake of numbers--I'd much rather have people follow this blog who actually read it and--ideally--post comments that stimulate conversations like this one!

    I have a killer job and don't have many 3D friends, either. But I have made some great online friendships, some of whom I have met IRL. Not to sidetrack you from blogging, but did you know I run a forum where we discuss precisely these things (life, family, aging, beauty, selfishness, makeup greed!)? It's at

    Everyone is welcome to join, but realistically I think it would most appeal to the 40+ crowd, though we have a few 30-somethings who particulate regularly. If you decide to join, please know that I've had to temporarily put registration on administrator approval (me!) because of the sudden and huge increase in viagra/fertility drug pushers (um, how about knowing your audience, spammers!), but I do check the registration page regularly (and receive e-mail notification), so please feel free to join, and you can read most of it as a guest. I'd love to see you there.

  21. I have a few brushes by MGPin, which is a fairly fasion/trend-focused Chinese cosmetics brand that does brushes that are pretty good dupes of shu uemura's, at a much lower price. Their blue squirrel medium-sized blush brush gets a lot of love from me, as well as a small sable eyeshadow brush that works great for dark pigments and doubles as a lipbrush. They also a sable version of my beloved Shu Uemura Kolinsky/Sable 10 brush. I've been lusting after a brush set from Hakuhodo for months now, but after buying the Shu Uemura Kolinsky 15, I thought perhaps it was about time I reined myself in. :)

    Shanghai also gives me access to brands like Helena Rubenstein and Cle de Peau, which are not available in Australia. The downside is that cosmetic counters in China are unusually a season or two behind everybody else, so they never have the latest collections. That's what my regular trips to Singapore are good for.

    Becca is fantastic, and quite a unique brand, I think, with a philosophy that has wide appeal and products that are easy to use. I'm not very impressed with their brushes thought - the huge badger hair bronzing brush I got shed for months before settling down.

  22. Diana, thanks for the ressource. I also have the Shu 10 and love it. I almost died when I bought it 10 years ago and saw the price, but I have gotten my money's worth, And, of course, I have done much worse in the intervening years. ;)

    Becca sold the first eyeliner brush I could use wiht gel liners. I like tightlining, but it really irritates my eyes, and I used to laugh at Bobbi Brown's "ultra fine" eyeliner brush, which left a thick, obvious line on top of my lashes. Becca's ultra fine is, indeed, that. It's so incredibly thin and pointy I can poke it right into the lash line. I also love the spot concealer brush and the cream blush brush. Otherwise my brush favorites are all over the map: Paula Dorf, Laura Mercier, BB, Edward Bess, MAC, Smashbox, Sigma, Alima, Jane Iredale, Bobbi Brown, Shu, Lorac, vincent Longo, Stila ... no real brand loyalty. Obviously, lol.

  23. Zuzu, have you tried the Shu natural 18 goat foundation brush? It is my favourite brush to use with cream blushes. The size of the head is perfect even for small pans like Becca and Edward Bess, and the bristles are soooo soft and densely packed.

  24. Hi Zuzu,
    Oh it is time consuming. I have a box that things sit in until the sun pops out and I can take photographs! Crazy stuff.

    Having said all this about my huge collection and wanting to keep it down, of course I am very excited about your impending blog sale! I forgot to mention in my previous comment that I send some of my excess makeup and beauty products to Give and Makeup too. That always makes my feel better my excessive purchases.

  25. Hi there!!! First, how cute is your cat? Very cute I tell you, and, you're extremely organized and I'm not gonna lie, I love your make-up collection!!! xx

  26. Suffering from serious make up envy right now! Loads of stuff and pretty much all high end - one blog sale I will make sure not to miss!

  27. Oh my dear Zuzu! You have soooooo much makeup!! :) I started buying alot of makeup recently since I started reading all the wonderful beauty blogs (like yours;) ) and there's no turning back!! :P sometimes I ask myself why do I need like eye pencils in 5 shades of green? And I have makeup all over the place!! I should start buying proper storage like yours :)

  28. Jane, absolutely no need to explain! I haunt all of my favorite bloggers' makeup sales, as well. I've just been unlucky so far that another person beat me to the item(s) I wanted!

    I'll do it in the future. It's a really low-risk proposition and a great way to try something out with a bit of a cost savings. x

  29. Diana, I have NOT seen the 18 brush. It's been a long time since I could scope out Shu in person, since it was first pulled from Sephora and then the downtown boutique. I'll look online later. I noticed they have redone their makeup again, and Rouge Deluxe has posted up the eyeshadow and blush compatibility chart. No dupe for ME Silver 945, those stinkers.

  30. ArtDonatella, thanks! Hannibal is one of my special boys because he's a little psycho. My other favorite grey kitty, Ivan, will introduce the sale tomorrow. He kept watch over it for a long time, as I was cataloging, examining, describing ...

    I was born organized, but getting it all together recently is what precipitated this sale! Had I left everything where it was (in boxes and cases) and not collected it all together in one place, I'd never realized how much I truly owned. Time to lighten up.

  31. ihavemostlybeen, aw thanks. I decided to not sell the drugstore makeup (which I DO use) in a blog sale, mostly because it wouldn't be worth shipping, since we can all get that stuff so cheaply ourselves. I blame Lisa Eldreidge for my new love of Rimmel, for example.

  32. Esther, your comment made me smile. Buying proper makeup storage is an *excellent* discipline! It helps keep us honest with ourselves when we are feeling weak. :)

  33. I am late to the conversation, but thank you for sharing your great (and nicely organized!) makeup collection and btw your kitty is adorable! :) I struggle with these same issues. I have many items I love but that don't get used often enough or that I can't find quickly when I want to use them. I try to be discerning when buying but it's hard when the latest Chanel, Guerlain or Nars collection comes out and I want it ALL! lol. Makeupalley was definitely an influence in the beginning but then I discovered beauty blogs and that has really caused my collection to explode! I know if and when I move from my current space there will be a massive downsizing. I may try a blog sale or ebay and I do like ModestyBrown's suggestion of donating unused items to a charity organization. xx

  34. I'm also late to this conversation, but I have to say this really hits home! I first have to say, I'm impressed by the organization of your drawers and stash in general. My collection is a bit smaller, and fits mostly on my counter or in a large-ish train case. I rarely give in to impulse buys and get only what I think I will love, however there are a large number of great items that sit in storage. I mean, we only can have one makeup look per day! I've made peace with this, in a sense. As long as I use my new products vigorously and often, if only for a couple months, it's worth it to me and I don't have to feel guilt if I don't pick them up frequently afterwards. The thing that annoys me about my stash is some of the GWP items that are nice enough to keep, but rarely warrant use.

    I'd have to say that beauty blogging initially made my collection explode, perhaps with things I didn't need. However I consider it a time of experimentation, and now I have a much better sense of what I will cherish. So in the long term, it's a plus, not to mention it's great to way to live vicariously through others =P.

  35. Not to encourage the hoarding but I love your drawer system! I think a part of my problem is when I create organizational space, I constantly get an urge to fill the empty spaces as soon as possible. It's like that with not only makeup but books, shoes, whatever that requires fitting on a shelf or some sort of visible space.

    Anyway, you know that I'm all about trying to reduce and restrain the crazy urges, so I wish you the best of luck in not only getting rid of things this time around but being happy with whatever you're left with by the end of all this. I've gone through a few purge cycles and still have piles of things to get rid of. The preview of your blog sale goods are awfully tempting so I won't be looking at it too closely but know that I'm cheering you on! xoxo

  36. this post makes me think that I have quite a small stash haha. I get overwhelmed very easily by excess and am constantly editing. That said, I am also very discerning when purchasing. I like high end items but I dont buy a ton. I have also been more into skincare recently. To each their own I say. Some can get along with much more than I can.


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