In search of a nail care storage solution

My wife’s manicure bag (pictured below) is in complete disarray. She has had the bag since high school, and it serves as a storage bag for all of her nail manicuring needs. She has the terrible habit of putting things into it and then never taking anything out of it:

For years I have looked the other way and ignored it, until recently when the bag’s contents spilled onto our bathroom floor. The accident provided a perfect opportunity to talk to her about a new upgrade for her manicuring storage.

She is interested in cleaning it out and finding a better solution, but we are at a loss to find a decent replacement. Anyone out there with a recommendation? We’re eager to read your suggestions.

90 Comments for “In search of a nail care storage solution”

  1. posted by Harris on

    And….think of the money you will save! :-)

  2. posted by Sara on

    I use a couple of these drawer separators in all my bathroom drawers. That way, I have to keep things organized – I can’t just dump stuff in like I used to. It also limits the amount of stuff I can have at all. My manicure stuff is tucked away with some other specialized makeup/hair stuff.

  3. posted by Groovymarlin on

    For items like this, a hard-sided box will work better than any type of soft-sided container. In a soft container or makeup bag, the nail polish bottles will fall over too easily and just generally make things disorganized.

    A tackle box, “Caboodles” type makeup box, or shower caddy are all good suggestions. I use a small plastic bin with a lid that I got at Target; I believe it was originally intended to be used for photo storage. I just never inserted the plastic divider things and it works great (I use the same type of box for non-prescription medications in a cabinet, office supplies, etc.).

    When you travel you wouldn’t want to take the whole array of nail products anyway, so all you need is a small makeup bag to stow a bottle of nail polish, nail file, clippers, and some of those individually-wrapped nail polish remover pads. I keep something like that with my travel items, which are stored in a bin in my closet when I’m at home.

  4. posted by Meg on

    For storing nail stuff at home, I have a rather simple if unglamorous storage solution. I use a plastic ‘shoe box’ (I also use similar boxes around my house to store shoes, personal care products, and just about everything else that’ll fit).

    It’s shallow enough that I can see everything, and it stacks well with other boxes.

    I did make one modification. I added a wall of duct tape a few inches from one side. On one side I store my nail polish bottles, on the other side I store everything else. That way the polishes stay upright under normal conditions and the little tools don’t get mixed in.

  5. posted by Farmwife on

    Sorry, I’m still with Janet —

    What’s the problem with the bag she has now? You just HAVE to buy something new???? Keep it purged, and the top zippered up and the problem is solved.

    Mountain out of a mole hill here.

  6. posted by Christine on

    Cargo brand media box. (see or

    They are an organizer’s best friend: awesome, come in really cute colors, totally discreet, absurdly sturdy (I once spilled most of a bottle of nail polish remover into mine, and it’s still fine). The one I’m using is the perfect height for nail polish bottles, with plenty of room for files, clippers, toe-separators, etc.

    I have another, slightly larger one, for pedi supplies (lotions, pumice sticks, etc). I also keep one on display on a bathroom shelf and fill it with, erm, “girly” products.

    I cannot rave about this solution enough.

  7. posted by Leslie on

    First of all, ixnay on any bag-type solutions. The polish and remover and solvents need to be kept UPRIGHT! A tackle box sounds like a plan, as long as the sections allow for this upright storage. My solution is a cleaning caddy – hard sided plastic with handle on the top, right there by the cleaning supplies (mops, buckets) at Target. You might have to trick this out by adding a few paper/plastic cups for files and tools, but the main point is BEING ABLE TO SEE ALL THE CONTENTS so that you can discard old products as necesssary.

  8. posted by Melissa on

    I concur with the previous tackle box suggestions – they’re cheaper than a Kaboodles box and there’s a wider variety of sizes out there. Mine allows all the bottles to stay upright in the lower part, with space in the top for nail files, clippers, etc. I also have the rest of my makeup/beauty type items in there as well – I don’t have much so a small tacklebox is perfect. It keeps everything organized and all in one place, instead of scattered around in a bunch of small containers.

  9. posted by sue on

    Do what DH & I do—-have separate bathrooms! LOL!

    Seriously, if she purges the old stuff, cleans the inside, and replaces what she keeps, it’s a win-win. She can keep something that has worked for her since high school, no money needs to be spent, and she can zip it up and tuck it under the vanity–out of sight.

  10. posted by CrimsonCrow on

    I’m with JW!

    Keep it simple. Polish and remover can be dangerous, particularly if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

    A file and a clipper. Easy peasy.

  11. posted by Keeper Of Stuff on

    I used to spend time every week filing, smoothing, and polishing my nails. Strengthening coat or base coat, a couple of coats of color, and then a top coat. Often a protective coat on top of all that, and then a coat of quick-dry.

    In addition to the considerable time it took to apply all the above, there was the endless waiting for each layer to dry – and the repairs when I didn’t wait long enough. All the paraphernalia required to do this took up space, and then the dad-gummed stuff spoiled and had to be thrown out and repurchased regularly. If I went anywhere special, I had to carry along supplies to make repairs. That can get complicated with polish removers and other liquids.

    Of course, many products contained formaldehyde and other odious chemicals (think of the fresh polish smell). There you are, making an organic salad or veggies for your family’s dinner, and doing it with hands layered in toxic gunk. Yuck.

    In addition, my nails have always been thin and get ragged quickly, snagging on everything. Don’t know about you, but that snagging feeling is sort of like scratching a chalkboard to me.

    A few years ago, I did go the professional phase and got a regular manicure and pedicure. Yes, it does feel relaxing, and my nails stayed snag-free far longer. The downside was it took lots of time, it cost money, and I was still wearing toxic chemicals on the ends of my digits. I was fortunate enough, and careful enough, not to get a nail fungus or infection from the process, unlike many others.

    A couple of years ago, after ripping a nail down a lot shorter than the others, I was in a hurry and used a pair of quality nail clippers (Revlon) to make all my nails short and neat.

    You know what? I kept on doing it. Just this week, I decided to file my nails for a change and spent the required time. Before the day was out, I had snags which I again filed. The day after that, I got out the clippers again, and I haven’t had to spend another minute messing around with my fingernails. I haven’t put anything on them in ages except hand lotion – I don’t need it if they’re short. I keep my cuticles pushed back, clip about once a week, and do other things with my time.

    Over the years, while on vacation, my family would be outside frolicking in the hotel pool while I sat sweating under hot rollers in my hair, polishing my nails for the evening out. Good grief! What a waste!

    If having long, gorgeous nails “floats your boat” or your significant other’s boat, have at it. For me, it just isn’t worth it!

  12. posted by Kelly on

    I’m with Keeper of Stuff, except I’m not a keeper of stuff! I did the self-manicure for a million years, with base coat, top coat… the works. Finally, as a statement of my commitment to the minimalist lifestyle, I dispensed with the whole shebang.

    Years ago, I’d read about a Parisian nail expert (a man, can’t remember his name) who commanded staggering fees for his services, and he used NO POLISH! Instead, he filed and buffed each nail to perfection, using creams and even a dentist’s drill with buffing attachments. So now I do my abbreviated version of this, for both fingers and toes: cuticle cream, buffing, filing.

    Now my nail-care kit consists of Sally Hansen cuticle remover, nail file, clipper (for toes), and two buffers – one heavy-duty, and one chamois. I still have one shimmery champagne polish, but I doubt I’ll use it any time soon. The entire thing fits in one small acrylic cosmetic organizer. C’est fini!

    I also used to have thin, splitting nails. Now they’re strong, and grow so frequently that I have to file every other day. My other big tip is that I use face cream on my hands – Olay Age Defying.

  13. posted by Heather on

    From all the organizing books I’ve read, you never ever shop first! She needs to sort and purge that bag first. Only when you know how much stuff you have will you have the dimensions for what kind of storage box to get. Shopping is the reward!

  14. posted by Amanda on

    If it’s not required that she lug the whole enterprise out to travel, what about a spice-rack? That’s similar to what the nail salons display thier colors in, and you can hang it on the inside of a cabinet door and take out only what you need to do your nails, then put it all back exactly where it goes! the taller items like polish remover can live up top, with maybe a small container that sits in it for to stand upright…and you could see all your colors at once.

    I like this idea so much, I think I’m going to do it myself!

  15. posted by Michele on

    I see someone already suggested tackle box. That’s what I use. I also use a clear tackle box ( 8 by 11 ) for my jewelry. I don’t have expensive jewelry but it’s easy storage and nothing gets tangled. I can see what’s in there.

  16. posted by Amy on

    I used to have a toteable or something like that – it was a brand of storage cases desiged for different purposes. It was AWESOME until during a move the locking mechanism got trashed.

    I now use a semi-transluscent toolbox from Wal-Mart. It does what I need it to and it was inexpensive…

    I also found this from the container store:

  17. posted by Kate on

    I keep mine in a recycled plastic container. I think it came with some kind of wipes. Anyway, it allows all the nail polish to be kept upright. I also keep a small bottle of nail polish remover in the container. All the files, clippers, scissors, etc, get kept in a shallow cup in my medicine cabinet. Hubby hates to paw through nail polish to find the clippers! And heaven knows I would rather him use my clippers than chew them off!

  18. posted by Lia on

    I use [img]

    It has worked well for years!

  19. posted by Kristy on

    I use a box that #10 envelopes came in; it’s about the same size as a shoe box.

  20. posted by Kelly on

    My storage solution? Throw it all away…or better yet, donate it to a local charity – and make an appointment every other week to get my nails done! :) Storage problem solved! Ha! Ha!

  21. posted by Mer on

    I wanted to comment this morning and held back until tonight when I read the first SEVENTY comments.

    Matt’s posts have a tendency to set my teeth on edge.
    It seems that they always deal with him trying to tell someone else how to manage their stuff.

    @ Erin – If Matt’s wife was genuinely interested in solutions, that’s fine. But that’s not the impression I get after reading the first paragraph. I guarantee she did not read what he wrote before he posted it.

    I understand and admire his desire for an uncluttered life (believe me, it’s something I strive for), but at times he comes across like a controlling clean-freak. I don’t think I’m alone in my assessment.

    If you delete my comment, I’ll understand.

  22. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Mer — Don’t think of Matt as some controlling neat-freak. He’s honestly the most laid back person I know. Think of his writing style more like mimicking the style of Andy Rooney.

  23. posted by Majken on

    @Erin – Sorry, I can’t think that Matt’s writing style mimics Andy Rooney, because it mimics the writing style of a control-freak. I have to agree with Mer and Sue with their objections to this post. Even if Matt’s wife asked for the post, Matt didn’t need to write about her as if she was a five year old.
    @Matt – You said nothing in your post about what exact problems your wife had with her system. Even organizational systems themselves can be clutter, and this is especially true of imposed systems. I suspect that many people who read this post thought “wow, she has her nail supplies all in one place!” She already has the ultimate unclutterers solution: A simple bag with all her stuff in it.
    About “She has the terrible habit of putting things into it and then never taking anything out of it”
    Terrible habits are things like excessive gambling, domestic violence and driving the wrong way on the freeway. Messy manicure bags don’t make the list.
    However by “never takes anything out” means “never takes the time to indulge herself with a pedicure, then there is an easy fix to her Pedicure Bag problem:

    YOU start giving her a weekly pedicure.

  24. posted by jocelyn on

    I’m with Courtney and JW. Of course, it is partially because I’m really bad at doing my own nails, but I also think it helps with clutter to outsource whatever can be outsourced, in this case a manicure.

  25. posted by NewLeaf on

    I use an insulated lunch tote for all of mine. There is a see-through zipper pouch on the top where I keep nail files and such and the depth of the bag itself is perfect for storing all of my colours!

  26. posted by Stacy on

    I like to use a simple plastic shoe box. You can find them for a dollar or two at places like Target. All of my nail polish can stand up in the box and the length allows for long items such as nail files. I also keep a stack of cotton squares, q-tips, and nail polish remover (laid on it’s side) in the box. This makes it really easy to grab out of the hall closet and take to what ever room I plan on painting my nails in. Also, I can use the lid as something to put my foot or hand on while I’m painting or clipping my nails so that the polish doesn’t get on the floor or counter. Plus, it is easy to collect the clippings and take them to the trash.

  27. posted by sue on

    I couldn’t resist this!

    Matt, perhaps your sweet wife falls prey to the same purchasing temptations that lured you in?

  28. posted by Karyn on

    I’m with the commenters who recommended the minimalist approach to nail care–keeping them trimmed short, buffing, and using cuticle cream. While I understand the desire to have beautiful, feminine nails (the few times I’ve gotten manicures, it was really wonderful and I liked the results until the polish chipped), it’s not worth it to me to have toxic chemicals in breakable bottles lying around the bathroom. Even when I was in high school and college and still trying to “do” my nails, I often just put on clear polish so they looked “done” and it worked fine.

    So if i had a “nail bag” it would have, at the most: a good nail clipper, orange sticks, cuticle cream, and a buffer. I think a small bag is perfect for items like this–it’s easily tossed in luggage for traveling, or in a purse, or whathaveyou. A tackle box, or a Caboodle, can’t. I’d tell your wife to just keep the bag and maybe cull out some unused polishes and old files.

  29. posted by a*p on

    perhaps this would be useful:

  30. posted by Tiffany on

    Wondering why Unclutterer commenters think Matt’s marriage is any of their business. I’m sure Mrs. Matt is quite capable of telling Matt how she may or may not feel about the article and doesn’t need US to do it for her.

  31. posted by Angel on

    She may have already told him!

    Maybe Matt want the bag lightened up in case she heaves it at his head!

    ;- )

  32. posted by jocelyn on

    with tiffany.

  33. posted by Elizabeth on

    When I was in high school, my mom got me a medium sized silver metal case that was a manicure kit inside. It’s maybe about 8.5x11x3 inches.

    It has a little flap at the top that has elastic loops for clippers, files, and other little things that then unhooks to become a flat work surface. The bottom used to have dividers for all the polishes and lotions that came with teh kit, but those are long since used up. It’s the perfect size, it’s a pretty stylish box (in my opinion) but it also fits perfectly under my bed, when almost nothing else does.

    Sadly I have to admit that it isn’t my only nail care box, I’m still recovering from a nail polish addiction ; ) But I think a box like that, where everything has it’s place and there’s only room for one or maybe two of a specific thing is rather perfect. You can get them in most stores, I think my parents picked my up from a mail order catalogue but I’ve seen similar in Sally’s Beauty Supply. The biggest bonus is that I’m never fishing around for things, or dumping it out to find something that was hidden at the bottom. It’s all laid out.

  34. posted by S on

    I have those three drawer tupperware type boxes that hold all of my getting ready things. Each drawer holds different things, and are all labeled. One of them is for nails, and these are shallow drawers so I can only keep a few polishes and supplies in there so I’m careful about what colors I buy.

    Same for my eye makeup drawer, feminine things, hair clips, chap sticks, etc. Since it’s see through it keeps down the content amount as well so it looks less cluttered.

  35. posted by Angie on

    If Matt’s wife has a problem with losing things in the zip bag, I suggest she switch to a transparent one. I prefer a box with a lid so I can store it on the bathroom shelf. We’re back to the weeding out of the unnecessary if we really want to be uncluttered. I have been the victim of impulse nail polish buying. But luckily I have teenagers who are glad to relieve me of my transgressions.

  36. posted by Lauren Halagarda on

    Contrary to popular belief, shopping for products should not be the first step when seeking a better storage solution. I know, I know- it’s just a manicure bag, right? Bear with me…

    I would recommend:
    First, remove everything from the bag, sorting as you go and tossing any unnecessary items (i.e. nail clippings)

    Then, review what remains while considering how you use the items within. A basket under the sink would work as long as you don’t want to travel with it (even down the hall).

    Next, MAP it out or Make A Plan- Do you want pockets for each polish? Clear container? Mesh? Is it best to use a Containers within container (perhaps some smaller mesh pouches)? Is there anything else you would like to store that you currently don’t have room for? Measure (stand everything on a flat surface and approximate length, width, height and cubic footage). It may sound strange but you would be amazed at the value in that step.

    Finally, purchase the perfect storage container!

    OK, I admit- that was a bit overkill but a fun exercise anyway :)

  37. posted by gquaker on

    I use the green plastic boxes that strawberries and other berries come in to store my nail polish. I put the bottles around the edges, so that I can see the colors without lifting each bottle individually. In the center, I put cotton pads, nail files, etc.

  38. posted by jgodsey on

    may i interject and say that you should keep your organizing limited to your things and communal things.
    If you want to GIVE her a new container for her things, that’s nice, but keep your criticisms of her storage of her personal items to yourself.
    seriously if my husband wanted to have an intervention about my manicure items, i’d have him looked at and then tell him to stuff it.

  39. posted by Laura on

    I use an old wet-wipe container. Huggies gave them free with wipes for a while, and after my daughter outgrew wipes, I confiscated the container. It’s tall enough to handle the bottles, and long enough to handle files, etc.

  40. posted by spa tables on

    There are many nice and beautiful cosmetics box available in the market where your wife can put all the things in organized way. I use such boxes and its really useful. I dont think always it needs to carry with , but for traveling its very handy for carrying with.

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