The Power of Paring Down

It was the character of Madame Merle in Henry James' famed nineteenth-century novel The Portrait of a Lady who said our material possessions have the potential to define us: "I've a great respect for things! One's self for other people is one's expression of one's self; and one's house, one's furniture, one's garments, the books one reads, the company one keeps, these things are all expressive." Odds are the luxury-loving Madame Merle would be a total beauty junkie if she was around now. But would her own beauty counter be a cluttered mess? Just like your shopping choices can say a lot about you, your personal beauty counter, whether it be your medicine cabinet, vanity table or the expanse around your bathroom sink, reflects your state of mind.

U Beauty is all about optimizing your time and like your newly abbreviated skincare routine, your counter also ought to be a space that prioritizes quality over quantity. Your beauty counter should be a sacred space, even if that space is limited. The time, however brief, when you perform your morning and night rituals is an opportunity to take a meditative moment: Appreciate some self-love, contemplate the day ahead and try to remember if you take care of yourself first, the rest will follow. A clear space begets a clear psyche and arguably clear skin, so let's declutter your self-care space so you can focus on what really matters: you! Here's a simple step-by-step guide:

Take stock and pare down.
Most of us can admit we've fallen prey to the thrill that comes with say, a robust Sephora run, when we've walked in to buy one or two necessary products and left with an armful of potentially gratuitous splurges. It's even easier to get carried away online. Maybe it's the seductive packaging: Who doesn't want something pretty to put in her bag or bathroom? Maybe it's the idea that you really need all these different products: To put it bluntly, you don't. Next time you feel the need to replenish your supply, only replace the products you've used down to the last drop and only buy what you know you know you'll use. You might be surprised how good that show of restraint makes you feel.

Discriminate to eliminate.
Either way, there are still probably a lot of items sitting on your counter or in your medicine cabinet you don?t really use. They might literally be collecting dust. They might have legitimately expired. Go through everything and apply the old wardrobe rule that says if you haven't worn it in a year, it's time to bid it farewell. Except we're talking about products here, ones that seep into your body's largest organ, no less, so if you haven't used them in three months (mascara and eyeliner), six months (skincare and foundation) or a year (lipstick), then they're doing more harm than good. Be discerning and more importantly, honest. If you've forgotten how old a container of moisturizer or bottle of foundation is, simply smell it. If the scent isn't quite right, you'll know it's game over.

Get organized.
Just like packaging can make or break a product, the way you maintain your own space can mean the difference between stress-inducing chaos and an instant feeling of calm. Let's go for the latter. Now that you've shed the excess baggage, organize your necessary products by type: say, moisturizers, toners and, of course, a certain special compound in one section; hair care in another area; cosmetics relegated to their own spot and so on. Organize your essentials by product type and when it comes to lip glosses, by color, whatever works for you!

Go shopping to use less.
There's a method to eliminating madness and it comes in the form of clear containers. From Muji's stackable drawers to Sephora's all-in-one situation to simple dividing units on Amazon, a few of these super-affordable purchases will make organizing a pleasure. If you've recently burned your favorite Byredo or Dyptique candles down the wicks, clean out the excess wax and use them to store makeup pencils and brushes. (This idea isn't revolutionary, but it's sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.) Finally, a few dishes for miscellany will complete your counter; Sunday Forever's brass trays, as well as their seashell dishes, are versatile and easy on the eyes.

Take a moment.
For a more topical, and less Victorian reference, let's quote Marie Kondo: "We can only transform our lives if we sincerely want to. Small changes transform our lives." While a medicine cabinet overhaul is a small act of change, it can genuinely refresh your daily life and further enable you to streamline your daily routine. The sleek Art Deco look of your Tom Ford lipstick bullet might spark joy, but if you haven't applied the shade in over a month, it's not doing anything to improve your life. So with that in mind and now that you've done the work, take a deep cleansing breath. Look in the mirror, a view now unobstructed by excess clutter, and relish a moment of clarity.

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