I am a person who likes potions. Ever since I started getting pocket money (and then wages), I’ve enjoyed buying shampoos and shower gels (now soaps) and other goodies. The problem with this habit is that a person can only use so much soap in one day, and bottles end up accumulating.
Before I started trying to be a minimalist in 2011, I used to keep a box, then a drawer, full of toiletries that weren’t in use. Obviously this is not very minimalist, and I gradually used up everything and resisted the urge to collect more. Nowadays I can count on one hand (ok, two), the bottles I haven’t started yet. And I only own them because they were on offer (minimalism doesn’t mean paying full price for one essential item instead of taking part in a 3 for 2!).
Having said that, problems remain. I am known for my love of potions, and thus it is a good gift for me. Which is great because I love toiletries, but bad because Christmas and my birthday are within three months of each other and can pretty much set me up for the year. Except of course I still want to buy stuff so I end up suffering from clutter creep.
I went through all my toiletries today and it’s shocking how many items were out of date, even with my more minimalist system in place. This doesn’t include sorting through my make-up, which I do frequently already – it was just a sort through of bottles and pots, basically, and there weren’t that many of them to start with!
I suspect some of the problem is that because I buy/receive a lot of natural products, they don’t have artificial preservatives in them and often have a shorter shelf life than their artificial cousins. As such, if items accumulate they rarely get finished before they’re out of date. And whilst I’m 80% certain the dates are there just to prevent you from suing the manufacturer if you get a rash, my skin is sensitive at the moment and I was wondering if getting rid of old things would help. So, out of my life it all goes, even though I have guilt for not using them all up! And some of them aren’t coming back because I don’t use them enough to warrant another purchase (sorry, fake tan. It’s time to embrace the pale yellow!).
De-cluttering based on shelf life is very satisfying, but it only works if you don’t rush out and replace everything that’s old. You have to ask yourself why the product wasn’t used up before its best before date, and be honest. In my case these products weren’t used up because I have too many of them (lip balm, I still have a couple of duplicates!) or because I only use the product a couple of times a year (fake tan). Now I know what the problems are I can work to fix them. Don’t buy stuff I hardly ever use, and use things up in order! (Also, as the use-by date is based on when you open the product, don’t open things before I’m ready!)
Have you checked the shelf life of your toiletries recently? (If you don’t know how to identify the use-by date on your beauty products, here’s the Wikipedia page.)