How to organize a vanity — 10 ways to tidy

Learn how to organize a vanity with ease — and beauty — in mind

White vanity with open wooden drawer on left, white vanity with chair and mirror on right
(Image credit: Neat Method & Meredith Owen Interiors/Molly Culver)

Learn how to organize a vanity so your cosmetics and toiletries remain neat, tidy, and easy to find. Sounds simple enough, but with all manner of different-shaped bottles and brushes, tubs, and tubes to account for, it’s no mean feat.

Luckily, we’ve got experts on hand who've their professional organizing secrets, along with a few smart buys, to help you keep makeup mayhem to a minimum. 

If you nail how to organize a vanity properly, you'll also free up a bit of storage space — always handy when organizing a small bedroom

Here’s how to organize a vanity 

If you’re thinking a vanity is a luxury, reserved only for those with oodles of space, know this; it’s perfectly possible to fit a vanity in a small bedroom. The square footage it takes up is minimal in comparison to the benefits it brings. 

Extra storage and surface space, not to mention the joy of getting ready without roommates or family members banging on the bathroom door… it’s a no brainer, really. 

Having said that, you will need to keep it well-organized if you want it to remain an asset to your small bedroom, rather than an eyesore. 

1. Get everything out in the open

Organized drawer in a white vanity with flowers and a mirror on the countertop

(Image credit: Neat Method)

When organizing bathroom drawers, or of any kind, it’s always a good idea to get everything inside, out. This will give you a clear idea of what space you have to work with and what items you want to keep, and fit back in.

Take the opportunity to give shelves and drawers a wipe down (if you’re on a roll, consider deep-cleaning your small bedroom at the same time) and measure up in readiness for any small bedroom storage ideas you might enlist. 

If you’re after a fresh feel, consider using drawer liners such as these lavender scented drawer lines from Scentennials Store, available on Amazon, will add a nice whiff and look pretty to boot.

2. Check expiry dates

Now you can start streamlining your vanity stash. As with organizing bathroom cabinets, getting rid of empty bottles and containers is a good starting point, but you’ll need to assess your half-full ones, too — beauty and skincare products don’t last forever. 

“Look for the jar symbol on makeup, skincare, haircare and other toiletries," say Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer, founders of Neat Method. "The date shown indicates how long an item lasts from the date it was first opened. Toss any that are past their prime in order to clear space for items you’re using regularly."

Neat Method's founders, Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer
Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer

Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer are the organization-obsessed co-founders behind NEAT Method. NEAT takes clients' homes from chaotic to composed, with their team of expert organizers creating beautiful, sustainable systems based on their clients' needs and lifestyles, with personalized shopping lists and step-by-step instructions.

It’s important to trust your instincts. Anything that doesn’t look or smell right, get rid, regardless of the expiry date. We know it’s annoying to toss items that are barely-used, but it’s really not worth the risk — skin irritation and breakouts are the last thing you want!

3. Assess brushes and tools

They don’t expire as such, but brushes and beauty tools certainly do suffer from overuse — flannels, sponges, and exfoliating cloths, too. If yours are looking a little past their best, it might be time to invest in new ones. 

These Paula's Choice reusable cotton and bamboo makeup removal pads on Amazon come in a pack of 11 and are machine washable, making it kinder on the environment. Get into the habit of cleaning them every week going forward — our laundry experts have covered how often to do laundry.

In shallow drawers, use dividers or organizers to keep your brushes and tools separate. Alternatively, line a deep drawer with heavy canisters and store them upright. A non-slip drawer liner, like this one from Amazon, should help to keep them in place when opening and closing. 

4. Group like-with-like

Styled vanity area in neutral bedroom with built in closets surrounding a large mirror

(Image credit: Meredith Owen Interiors/Molly Culver)

Before you start putting things back, experts advise you group what’s left into categories. From makeup and toiletries, to jewelry and hair care, vanities are expected to hold a varied array of items, so this will ensure they stay neat, tidy and well ordered. 

Make sure to learn how to organize jewelry to avoid tarnishing and tangles on your fave accessories.

“Keep all your makeup in one spot, your skincare items in another and your hair care products in a third. That way, you’ll always know where to find what you need”, says professional organizer Michelle Urban, founder of The Organized House

Michelle Urban, professional organizer and founder of The Organized House
Michelle Urban

As a professional home organizer, Michelle Urban knows how hectic life can get. With years of experience as a working mom, wife, and owner of 'The Organized House', she offers advice and guidance on decluttering homes and restoring harmony in living spaces.   

Once you’ve done this, you’re also in a good place to decide how best to store things. We’d advise waiting until this point to invest in any vanity or the best bathroom organizers, so you don’t waste money on storage you don’t need.

5. Store extras elsewhere

Vanity seating area in neutral bathroom with wooden cabinets and marble counters

(Image credit: Jenami Designs/Heather Talbert)

If you’re someone who likes to store back stock toiletries, that’s fine — just be sure they’re not taking up prime real estate in your vanity. 

“Gather all extras together and place them in a labeled bin when organizing a linen closet, or under the bathroom sink if there’s room,” suggest Ashley and Marissa. 

Make sure any makeup you’re storing — whether opened or not — is positioned in a cool, dry place to ensure it lasts as long as possible. 

6. Designate a purpose to each drawer

To help your routine flow smoothly, experts advise ‘zoning’ a busy vanity, in the same way you would when organize closets with lots of clothes. Consider your routine, and assign your everyday prime position — usually the top drawer.

For the remaining drawers, experts recommend assigning a single category of items to each, if you can — haircare, beauty products, jewelry, and so on. Not only does this make things easier to find, but it also makes storing them easier (like items tend to sit more neatly alongside each other). 

When arranging your drawer layout, position frequently used items at the front, and stash lesser-used items towards the back. This results in less rummaging, and consequently less tidying for you. For even easier access, try stacking items upright using makeup storage such as this Mdesign makeup organizer tray from Target

7. Divide and conquer

Organized vanity drawers

(Image credit: The Organized House)

Your vanity drawers might start off looking neat, but if you don’t employ dividers of some kind, it’s not going to last. 

“We like to use containers and dividers that are easy to wipe down, as beauty products inevitably spill”, says professional organizer Shannon Krause, co-founder of The Tidy Nest

“There’s all manner of different options on the market, but if you’re looking for a DIY option, we’d recommend repurposing small cardboard boxes and mason jars”. 

Shannon Krause, professional organizer at Tidy Nest, a woman with long brown hair picutred in a garden with pink flowers in bottom right corner
Shannon Krause

Shannon Krause is an award-winning Certified Professional Organizer. Tidy Nest won the Reader’s Choice Award from Ridgefield Magazine in 2020, and won Best Home Organization Design Services in Moffly Media’s “Best of the Gold Coast" in 2021.

If your drawers are deep enough, professional organizer Mary Jo Contello, founder of Organized by MJ, recommends using a rotating lazy susan, such as this Mdesign roundtable storage tray from Amazon

Mary explains, “The compartments are great for grouping smaller like-items, and you can access what you need without having to rummage around and risk knocking things over."

Mary Jo Contello, professional organizer and founder of Organized by MJ
Mary Jo Contello

Mary Jo Contello spent years in the corporate world, when downsizing and layoffs left her with a sudden need for a new direction in life. Passionate about organizing,  she started Organized by MJ with the goal of cleaning and organizing people’s spaces in Houston, TX and the surrounding communities. MJ is also a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing (NAPO).

8. Use clear containers

Makeup organized in clear containers inside a vanity drawer

(Image credit: Lennox & Co Organizing)

When you’re short on getting-ready time, the last thing you want is to waste precious minutes looking for things. Use clear containers to not only easily see your products, but make it more likely to use them before they expire. 

Stackable containers are a great use of space, either inside your vanity, or on top of it. We like this Casafield cosmetic and jewelry display case from Walmart; the drawers pull right out, so you can have a proper rifle through. 

9. Keep the top looking tidy

Bathroom vanity seating area with wooden cabinets and a marble top

(Image credit: Meredith Owen Interiors/Molly Culver)

Clutter doesn’t exactly help us unwind, so when it comes to styling ‘on show’ surfaces in a bedroom, experts recommend taking a minimal approach.  

“Store a few of your most frequently-used — and most aesthetically pleasing — items on the top of your vanity, neatly contained on a decorative tray. This creates a sense of intention and adds a touch of elegance to the display, worthy of a bedroom. You can always switch them up now and then for a fresh new look,” says Shannon.  

This good-looking Bellwood three-compartment organizer from Wayfair has different levels to categorize essentials. We love that it comes with a handle, so you can do your makeup elsewhere if the lighting isn’t working for you.

If you’re short on drawer space, stylish baskets are handy for keeping your less ‘sightly’ essentials close to hand without sacrificing a stylish scheme. Don’t forget a mirror, either — these vanity mirrors are ideal for perfectionists! 

10. Make use of the surrounding wall space

Adding shelving either above or next to your vanity adds valuable storage, not to mention offer up a potential styling opportunity — think pretty perfume bottles or products decanted into good-looking containers (we like these frosted cosmetic jars, from Amazon) lined up neatly in a row. 

Depending on your needs, there’s likely a vertical storage solution to cover it. However, if it's jewelry storage ideas you're after, don’t don’t underestimate the humble hook. Hanging necklaces and bracelets creates a sparkling display, and keeps them tangle-free. 

11. Customize storage solutions to suit

“Whether it’s cosmetics, toiletries or beauty tools, it’s important you have the right storage to suit items in kind. Not only is it more efficient in terms of organization, but it’s more visually appealing, too”, recommends professional organizing and decluttering expert Barbara Brock

Professional organizer Barbara Brock
Barbara Brock

Barbara is a successful home-stager, professional organizer, entrepreneur, and the past President of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals™ New York Chapter. She is the Founder & CEO of Barbara Brock Inc, a professional organizing and staging company.

If budget allows, you could consider bespoke inserts for your various items, but shop-bought versions work just as well. They’re also less costly to customize should your needs change over time, or if you’re looking for renter-friendly closet organization tips

This multi-compartment drawer organizer, from Wayfair, is great for keeping smaller items neat, while chunky canisters keep brushes and tools neatly contained, for example. Experiment with different solutions, and combine what works for you.

12. Maintain organization going forwards

“Regular declutters are the key to maintaining good organization”, says Shannon. “Take the time to assess your inventory. Throw expired products and ensure you’re storing essential items only. 

Frequent edits like this not only streamline your collection, but allow you to reclaim valuable space within your vanity”. 


What should I put on my vanity?

If you want your vanity to look as pretty as you do, consider opting for storage as stylish as it is practical – think woven baskets, acrylic drawer units or glass canisters filled with cotton wool pads or hair grips. A mirror and a jewelry box make for nice additions, too. Don’t go overboard though, experts recommend keeping surfaces as clear as possible in a bedroom to ensure calm and clutter-free surroundings. 

How do I organize my makeup in a small space?

If you’re short on space, the first thing to do is split your makeup collection into ‘everyday’ and ‘occasional’. The latter items can be stored elsewhere altogether, which should make the task infinitely easier. 

To ensure you’re utilizing every inch, experts advise enlisting the help of space-boosting vanity organizers. Which ones you choose will depend upon where and what you’re storing. Lazy Susans are a savvy way of storing bottles and jars, while stackable containers contain and categorize smaller items without taking up too much surface space, for example.  

It’s important to remember that there’s no ‘right’ way to organize a vanity. Designs vary, and how you choose to utilize yours is personal, so pick and choose what works for you. If you simply don’t have space in your bedroom, don’t panic — the same techniques work just as well across bathroom vanity ideas, too. 

After the arrival of her second son – and subsequent departure of any free time outside of his unpredictable nap schedule (!) – seasoned writer Tara King decided to move on from her position as a Content Editor and enter the exciting world of freelance, covering interior design, DIY and lifestyle. Alongside features for, Tara writes for Ideal Home, Style at Home, Country Homes & Interiors and other interiors publications. When she’s not working or ‘mumming’, she can be found (hiding) in the garden, attempting DIY projects… with varying levels of success!