Friday, July 22, 2016

My Nail Polish Collection and One Last Declutter

Uhm, well, at least I *think* it's the last declutter for a long while... I've been itching to further edit down my nail polish stash for weeks and thought it would be fun to share my purging process with you. I personally enjoy watching others downsize their beauty collections, but more than the actual products, I'm always really interested in how exactly we determine what to keep versus what to let go of, and I'll attempt to illustrate in this post what my decision process looked like this time.

Before we dive right in, here's a little back story on my nail polish collection. In college (when I still lived in Poland), I used to have about 5 bottles at any given time - sometimes I would toss a shade when I noticed its quality had deteriorated, sometimes I would buy a new one when something caught my eye at the drugstore, but overall, I only did my nails occasionally and nail polish wasn't something I was very drawn to. Fast forward to when I graduated/ moved to Washington state and became an avid beauty blog reader (and a blogger myself) and surprise surprise, my stash started growing - I'd pick up a color every few weeks at the drugstore because it seemed like an innocent treat, and everything looked new and exciting - so why not try it out for myself? My nail polish amassing ways peaked when I started working in beauty retail; not only was it important to present myself well by always having an impeccable manicure, but the store I worked at also carried a wide selection of OPI, Essie and China Glaze along with all of their Limited Edition collections. I bought A LOT of bottles myself in the 1.5 years I worked there, but also received a good number as gratis.

But ever since I quit that job and we moved to New York City, my passion for nail polish has been on the decline. In late 2013 and early 2014, I still polished my nails pretty regularly, and even thought about trying out some more nail art; but in the end, I proved too lazy for it. I would buy a few new shades here and there but already felt my stash had grown too large and overwhelming. Now, through all of 2015 and the first half of 2016, I purchased exactly ONE new nail polish. I gave a lot away though - last year I passed on 4 to various family members, tossed 2 older ones and used 2 up (can you tell it was still difficult for me to let go of my pretties?) and had roughly 68 bottles remaining, in April I gave away 15 to my coworkers (Instagram photo above), leaving me with about 53 bottles - that is, until yesterday.

I wanted this declutter to be a lot more thorough this time and my loose goal was to whittle the stash down to the point where it could all fit in one Birchbox lid; even though I haven't been subscribed to the service for over 3 years now, I still use their boxes to organize my beauty stash. I don't know why I pictured exactly that amount in my mind - it just seemed like that would give me the most variety without becoming overwhelming or holding on to shades that were alright, but not my favorite. You can see in the first photo in the beginning of my post what I started out with: 2 Birchbox lids in the front (but one of them holding only my 'manicure kit': files, tools, thinner, base and top coats) and 4 manufacturers' boxes for 6 bottles each in the back of the drawer.
The 'Before' photo of my stash.
I started by dividing my stash into color families so I could both see how many I had in each group, and also be able to compare and contrast shades more easily. I took photos of each grouping and also swatched them all (one coat only) on some sticky tape against a white background - I realize this is not an ideal representation of how those shades would look on my actual hands but it was enough to jog my memory, and much less time consuming than applying everything to my nails.
L-R: OPI Alpine Snow, OPI Ski Slope Sweetie, Essie Urban Jungle, OPI Don't Burst My Bubble, OPI I Theodora You
Let's start with my palest shades of white, ivory, pale pink and nude. I decided to give away OPI Alpine Snow and I Theodora You - the former I only ever used for nail art when I needed a pure white, and the latter just wasn't super great on my skintone, on top of needing at least three coats to look decent. Decluttered 2 out 5.
L-R: OPI Pedal Faster, Suzi!, Zoya Julie, Zoya Megan, Essie Chinchilly
Pink & purple pastels and grey neutrals. Out of this group, I didn't part with any bottles, even though I've never worn OPI Pedal Faster, Suzi! - maybe because I was focused on I Theodora You instead ;) I wear the other three regularly. Decluttered 0/4.
L-R: Essie Absolutely Shore, Zoya Neely, Essie Bikini So Teeny, China Glaze Secret Peri-wink-le, OPI You're Such a Budapest
Pastel greens and blues - some of my all-time favorite shades to wear. However, as you may be able to see, Essie Absolutely Shore and Zoya Neely are so close that there's no excuse in keeping both; there's no way I'm going to need a 'back-up' in the next 5 years. I opted to keep the Essie because Zoya was a touch darker and more muted. Which was the same reason I parted with China Glaze Secret Peri-wink-le; it's not really a pastel on me, more of a light denim blue, and I prefer both Essie Bikini So Teeny and OPI You're Such a Budapest to it. Decluttered 2/5.
L-R: Essie In the Cabana, Essie Butler Please, Revlon Royal, OPI Into The Night
Darker blues. I'm currently sporting Essie In The Cabana on my toes after not wearing it for over a year, and I love it so much that there's no way I could part with it - just need to remember to wear it more often. However, both Essie Butler Please and OPI Into The Night haven't been worn in 2 or 3 years and I don't think I want to wear them now; Revlon Royal is quite close to Butler Please anyway, but somehow more visually striking. Decluttered 2/4.
L-R: Essie Cute As A Button, Essie Off The Shoulder, Essie Pink Grenadine, China Glaze That's Shore Bright, OPI Pamplona Purple
Bright pinks and purples. I believe I used to own a lot more coral pinks in the past, but somehow Essie Cute As a Button is the only one remaining now after various culls, and I'm not letting it go now - it's always beautiful for a summer pedi. However, Essie Off The Shoulder is just a bit too pink for me and I never reach for it. As for China Glaze That's Shore Bright, it's one of those colors that I love to admire in the bottle, but it's just not 'me', and I don't think I've worn it more than twice. As for OPI Pamplona Purple, I have still never worn it, but I think it's more because I was distracted by other shades and not because I dislike the shade. Decluttered 2/5.
L-R: Essie Head Mistress, OPI Lost on Lombard, China Glaze Merry Berry, Orly Star Spangled
Reds. Now, this is an embarrassing category. I've never ever worn Essie Head Mistress nor China Glaze Merry Berry. Why? Because every time I wanted a classic red - which is usually around the holidays - I would reach for Orly Star Spangled instead, which as result has only half a bottle remaining and is now thick and gloopy. I finally trashed the Orly and am now left with a brighter cool-toned red (Head Mistress), darker berry red (Merry Berry) and a strange, muted, slightly brown cream red I absolutely love in the autumn (Lost on Lombard). Decluttered 1/4.
L-R: Zoya Toni, Zoya Jem, Zoya Payton, Revlon Perplex, OPI Muir Muir On The Wall, China Glaze Naughty and Nice.
Vampy purples, wines, burgundies. First of all, I had no idea I have so many in this color family - but then I love me a dark manicure in the fall and winter. I knew right away two of these had to go: Revlon Perplex because I haven't worn it in more than 3 years (looks muddy and grey on my skintone), and Zoya Jem because I've worn it too much thanks to the splendid idea of including it in a Project Pan. Yes, you can be overexposed to a certain shade, and yes, you can burn yourself out on it even if it used to be one of your favorites. My current opinion is that I will never try to pan another nail polish ever again, especially if it's a nearly full 0.5 fl. oz. Decluttered 2/6.
Misfits and metallics. Here I also knew right away what needed to go: OPI Just Spotted the Lizard because I haven't worn it more than once and don't intend to in the foreseeable future, and the Wibo peachy orange - it has too much orange and too little white for my skintone and I'm never completely in love when I wear it. Decluttered 2/5.
Maybelline Precious Pearl, China Glaze Champagne Kisses, OPI The Living Daylights, China Glaze Mrs Claus, OPI
Glitters. I used to own many more, but have steadily been getting rid of them in the past few years; not because I don't love looking at them in the bottle, but because I never wear them, mostly dreading the removal process. I think I've worn Mrs. Claus two Christmases ago, and that's about it for how often I now wear these. My two least favorite were chosen to go, but I think that at the end of the year, I'll have to let go of Mrs. Claus as well - I only have about half a bottle left and what used to be a mix of red and silver glitters now appears to be just one mass of light pink. Huh. Decluttered 2/5.
The last group is my base and top coats and other treatments. I didn't think I was keeping too many unnecessary things on hand, but still decluttered the OPI Chip Skip (never use it, don't see the need for it - you could just clean your nails with a remover before you start), a Trind nail balsam thingy, and some old argan oil cuticle concoction. I will soon be tossing out the mostly used-up bottle of China Glaze top coat; see how red it's gotten? But I'm working through a coral red now so I'll use it a few more times and then call it done.
Here are all of my nail polishes swatched (in the same order & color families as photographed above), with the 'X's marking the bottles that are leaving my stash. Overall, I've decluttered 15 nail polishes and 2 nail treatments. This is actually not more than my polish declutter earlier this year, but I feel that this round was a lot more difficult because I enjoyed nearly all of these shades at some point, and found them all very pretty to look at. But realistically, was I actually using them? No.
And here is my 'After' photo. As you may be able to see, I haven't quite reached my goal - I did manage to get rid of all the boxes in the back, but my actual nail polish colors spill out a bit from one Birchbox lid to the next, which used to house just the treatments and tools. That's okay though; they all fit easily in there anyway, and I can see all of my stash at a glance. I currently own 29 nail polishes, compared to about 70 last August.

Do I ever regret owning as many as 100 bottles at some point in the past? Not especially. For me personally, I think those couple of years of collecting nail polish (or beauty products in general) were very important in exploring the beautiful variety and richness of shades, and then in turn figuring out what I liked and what suited me best. If I've never experimented, I wouldn't have had so much fun in discovering my individual preferences. However, I am now content and confident to follow my taste exactly and don't need to hold on to my 'experimenting tools' any longer. Plus, I'm pretty sure my family, friends and coworkers were all very happy recipients of my rejects :)

I hope that you enjoyed this very lengthy post and thanks for sticking with me to the very end. I would love to learn more about your decluttering process if you care to share, and especially what you personally consider to be 'ideal size' for a nail polish stash. Please let me know in the comments!


  1. Hi Monika, I'm a long time reader of yours! x

    My 'ideal size' for a collection is a broken see-through cosmetic bag I keep my polishes in. Now thanks to sales, it's overflowing. Inspired by you, I counted 23 polishes including minis, plus 2-3 top coats. For me, it's more than enough as I don't wear any nudes, metallics, dark reds or most of the pinks. I could declutter a couple of cheap Korean drug store ones that are going bad soon, but I think I'll try using them for my toes one more time.

    I totally agree that nail polish has been an innocent treat to me, something to experiment with. I've never been a fan of nail art though, I mean it's pretty, but too much work for me (and the ever increasing prices in Finland are ridiculous). Congrats on your decluttering project, you're doing great! Have a lovely weekend!

  2. Hi Laura, thank you so much for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it! Ha, I always like to give my products one last chance too before I decide to let them go :)

    I always admire nail art from afar but like you, I just can't muster the time or energy to try it out myself (plus, I'd super frustrated if I messed something up and had to start over). Have a great weekend too - I hope the weather in Finland is nice and summery, but not too hot like here in NYC!

  3. You did a wonderful job! So funny that you did a nail polish destash post because I was just watching some destash videos on youtube and googling some destash posts yesterday!

  4. All right, you ignited a fire under my butt. This project has been on my list for a while now, too, and I better get to it :P

  5. I just stumbled across your blog and I'm obsessed! Currently going through my own decluttering of nail polish and makeup and will probably do a write-up in my own blog (if I ever even finish my other two in the making) lol. I notice that I hang on to things for years and then all of a sudden a light goes off and I'm just ready to toss. I find that if my collection is just getting too large or if I'm running out of space or am having a hard time looking for products, then it's time to reevaluate the situation. And I go through cycles of feeling great about it, then once it's tossed wondering if I should have kept it... Ugh.but overall for me, a nice neat collection wins out over having too many options. You have a new subscriber!

    1. Hi Jen, I'm so happy you found my blog and you're enjoying it! If you do decide to write a post on your decluttering process, please drop by and share a link. I actually rarely regret giving away/ tossing something - most of the time when I look back at the photos of my purged products, I don't even remember why I had them in the first place, lol. I'm a Virgo and definitely a little OCD about keeping things tidy and in their place, so if my stash starts to get too large and unorganized, it makes me rather anxious :/

    2. Hi again Monika! I finally got around to writing up about my declutter (had to do it in sections- way too much!) and just wanted to share it with you! I am totally linking out to your site if that's ok since I really enjoyed yours and hope people get inspired to go through their stuff! Hope the pregnancy is going well! (I've been there, know how it is!)
      and the actual declutter post:

  6. That's what I call nailpolish decluttering! Your box is so much smaller than mine, but I do not succeed in decluttering any longer. I have bunches of nail polishes in my box, but hopelessly nobody wants to have them *sigh* If I would really declutter, I would only keep about 30 pieces. I decided against it, because I can use my ~100 nailpolishes for nails designs. I would waste a lot of money if I tossed them or give it to other people (exept friends) ...
    It is quite interesting that your decluttered colours are 80% those I would keep :D

    1. Thank you! Lila, I think if you lived closer we would be the best decluttering/ swapping pals - I'd take all those light, cool-toned shades off your hands, you'd take all of my darker/ muted/ warmer tones that don't suit me very well. It's like we have opposite preferences in make-up, lol. Do you do nail art regularly?

  7. Once I see my makeup organized I definitely do not regret it lol. The decluttering post is definitely on my to-do list and I will let you know! Actually I was wondering how to subscribe to your blog- is there a link I can click on? Thanks for the quick response! :)

    1. Please do let me know once it's up :) You can subscribe on top of the page via Google Friends Connect (if you have a Google account) by clicking Follow, or via Bloglovin' button, or simply by RSS (email) - it's that last orange button on the right in the line-up of icons for Twitter, Instagram etc. Hope that helps! :)

  8. Seeing your destash makes me feel horrifically bad as I definitely need to do another declutter of duplicate colours. I justify my 2000 bottles(!) by saying that nail polish is my first love and that I do use the colours for nail art and blog content. I love my babies so much that I even have an escape plan of what to take should my place be on fire! LOL