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As we leave the bitter cold and abundance of snow behind, our impulse to lighten things up for the coming season isn’t only reflected in our fashion choices. This is also the time when we intuitively feel the need to de-clutter our closets and clear out our bathroom drawers and medicine cabinets.

Although few will admit to it, we all have a love/hate relationship with our inner pack rats, especially when it comes to our collection of cosmetics and grooming products. You know what I'm referring to: the endless inventory of skincare samples, unfinished bottles of so-called "miracle" serums and jars upon jars of creams that sometimes predate our memories of first opening them.

I myself am guilty of sometimes collecting up to eight different jars of hair wax to find the right one, samples of skincare brands that came and went and colognes that evoke a distinct olfactory reminder—that I don't like wearing that scent anymore.

Hello. My name is Thuyen, and I am also a cosmetic pack rat.

Well, the first step to solving any problem is admitting that you have one, and the next logical step is to do something about it. So, harnessing that spring enthusiasm, I decided—for the coming year—to apply the same six-month rule with my collection of toiletries that I successfully applied last year to my wardrobe. Basically, the rule is this: “If I haven't used it in the last six months, I will most likely not use it in the next six months; then I need to discard it.”

Mind you, this new rule is easier said than done. The first drawer was agonizing from product to product. I felt like the conflicting personalities of Sybil: I initially wanted to throw each item away, then I’d rethink that, imagining that I might use it one day. Seconds later, I wasn't sure if I really want to use it and, finally, I wasn't sure who was right. That's when I decided to apply the six-month rule, which made it clear what needed to go in the trash.

Discarding your cosmetic junk pile is not only therapeutic; it’s also safer for you. Skincare products especially have an average shelf life of one-year for effectiveness. Even that is stretching it once the products are opened, since oxygen-exposed ingredients eventually get oxidized and become simply worthless or, worse, a breeding ground for bacteria. That's really the most important thing to keep in mind: Unless a product is packaged in an airless container, opened jars especially are very likely to host a number of contaminants that eventually can cause skin reactions or bacterial infections on the skin.

At the end of the day, it's not worth it to keep that “pretty” bottle if its core ingredients lose their integrity or become potentially counterproductive for your skin. These days, as we are more conscious of applying the proper nourishment through our skincare, we need to regularly update our inventory and discard what is no longer of use.

After I conquered my first bathroom drawer, the task of clearing out the old and unused became easier and more enjoyable. The now organized and focused inventory in my bathroom cabinets feels less like a heavy veil of choices or a daily hurdle. Now, I can finally enjoy the ritual of pampering without the agony of clutter.

Goodbye, inner pack rat, and hello, spring!

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