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Tired of spending your mornings rummaging for a lipstick that's gone MIA in a drawer? Take it as a sign that you need to purge and reorganize the vanity. "A frenzied morning can throw off your whole day," says New York organizing expert Amilya Antonetti. To streamline the jumble—and your routine—she recommends a total overhaul.
Vanity combination, $735; mirrors, $20 each; ikea.com
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Above It All
Eliminate countertop chaos with a few decorative solutions. Store cotton balls and swabs in glass jars and tissues in a sturdy holder.
Apothecary jars, InterDesign, from $8, organizedliving.comTissue cover, $18, umbra.com
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Antonetti suggests reserving the most convenient drawer for everything you and your husband (if you share the space) need first thing in the a.m. and right before bed. Use interlocking trays to separate toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, moisturizers, hairbrushes, and combs.
Drawer organizers, InterDesign, from $2.50, organizedliving.com
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A collection of compartments in the second drawer keeps all your makeup sorted by type—eyes, cheeks, face, and lips—so finding the lipgloss is effortless.
Five-piece organizer, Charter Club Home, $25, macys.com
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Save precious time packing for trips by stowing cases with sample-size versions of toiletries that you use every day. Just remember to replenish soon after you return from vacation.
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Fold towels into a stack and keep bathroom cleaners in a small caddy. His grooming stuff can be stashed in a waterproof basket. Buying supplies like toilet paper in bulk can present a storage challenge, so Antonetti advises against it. "If it's unavoidable, keep one of everything in the bathroom and store the overflow in the linen closet," she says.
Caddy, $5; woven basket, 2/$30; containerstore.com
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The Nitty Gritty: Take Stock
Take stock: "Before you organize the vanity, ask yourself who will be using it," Antonetti says. Is it his and hers? Do the kids brush their teeth there? Will guests have access? "Then allot enough storage space to accommodate each person's essentials," she explains. Assess and measure all drawers and cupboards. If they don't feature built-in compartments and shelves, start a list of the types of items you'll need to purchase.
Two-tier shelves, $25, organize.com
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The Nitty Gritty: Edit and Toss
Edit and toss: Next, get rid of anything that's expired and products you haven't used in more than a year. Have three baskets or bins handy—one for nonnegotiable keepers, another for iffy items, and a third for trash—and assign every toiletry to one bin. Antonetti says to leave makeup for last. "We're less likely to purge in the beginning, so we tend to hang on to things like tubes of untouched lipstick even if we'll never use them." After the initial separation is complete, sift through the undecided bin again to put everything in a "yes" or "no" pile.
Rainbow tote, Storage Sense, $19, 800-526-6722 for stores
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The Nitty Gritty: Pick and Choose
Pick and choose: Classify items according to each person's routine by laying everything out on towels. Designate one for your hair tools, another towel for his; one for makeup, and so on. Then further divide those groupings, e.g., things used every day and items reserved for special occasions (such as "the smoky eye shadows you wear only to a party," says Antonetti).
Bag with bottles, loofah, toothbrush holder, and soap dish, $70, stephaniejohnson.com
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The Nitty Gritty: Fill 'Er Up
Fill 'er up: Now that you know what you have, start with the shared spaces. Organize the vanity from the top down, placing the most frequently used items up front. Anything you don't use daily can be stowed in the back of the cabinet under the sink. Group like items together by category, such as hair care, skin lotions, and cleaning products.
Turn the countertop into a pretty display with containers—such as clear jars, wood boxes, or decorative trays—for things you'll need daily. Add a personal touch with flowers or a small collection of favorite perfume bottles.
Floral tray, The Macbeth Collection, $30, themacbethcollection.com
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The Nitty Gritty: More First Aid
More first aid: "You want to organize only once," Antonetti says. "Get in the habit of removing one item when you add a new one—whether you're replacing an empty tube of mascara or trying a new hand lotion—so you don't start accumulating too much." Keep Post-its and a pen in a handy place so you can quickly make a note when products run low.
Soap pump and apothecary jar, $4 and $9, marshallsonline.com
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the February 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.