Reader Sage submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I have tons of lotion bottles — and they are all near full, and perfectly good to use, but I only use about 4 or 5 of the scents. What do I do with the rest? I don’t want to throw them away because that would be really wasteful of the lotion.
In my high school biology class, we bred mice to track which genetic traits of an original pair of two mice were transferred on to the more than 100, fourth generation, great-great-grandmice. Before the project started, my lab partners were convinced we could name all of the offspring after rock stars who died from drug overdoses in the 1960s and 1970s. (One of us had recently discovered her dad’s Sex Pistols’ album.) Since I was in high school before the days of Google and Wikipedia, we ran out of names during the second litter of mice and had to start using names of rock stars we were surprised hadn’t overdosed. We had no idea how quickly mice bred and how fertile they were, in addition to our lack of real knowledge about the music industry. We were also overwhelmed with cleaning, feeding, tracking pregnancies, and separating the mice into independent cages.
I think of this lab experiment gone awry whenever I go through my lotions, shampoos, and conditioners. These liquids appear to breed like Sid and Nancy, our first generation pair of mice. Without much time and effort, they overwhelm drawers and shelves.
To keep your lotions, shampoos, and conditioners from cluttering up your space, try these tips that have significantly helped me:
- Start by checking all of the bottles’ expiration dates and putting the liquids through a smell test. Dispose of any lotions that are past their use-by dates and throw out any lotions that smell rancid or funky. After pouring the expired lotion in the trash, you should be able to recycle most of the plastic bottles.
- Identify the exact location for where you will store your lotions in the future and create a perimeter that defines the area. This will be your dedicated lotion space, and you need to commit to not storing more lotion than can fit in this footprint. When this space is stuffed, you’ll know it’s time to unclutter again.
- To get rid of the lotions that are good but you no longer want, trade with friends and extended family members for scents you like or simply give them as gifts.
- Another option is to donate the good lotions to a charity, like a women’s shelter or homeless shelter. Call the charity before you drop off your donation, and only donate products that you would use if you liked the scent.
- You can also put them in a guest bathroom in a basket with a sign “For Our Guests: Help yourself!” on it.
- You can commit to using them up, regardless of your love for them. Most lotions lose their scents an hour or two after skin contact, anyway.
- Even though it’s not always the most sane financial decision, you should commit to buying only the small size bottles of lotion in the future. Anything over 4 oz. will likely go unused.
- Finally, resist the urge to take home bottles of lotion from hotels in an effort to keep your lotion stash under control. Or, do the exact opposite, and stop buying lotion and only keep the free samples you like from hotels. (And, yes, hotels are okay with you taking these samples. I’ve asked numerous folks in the hotel industry and they view these products as advertising.)
Thank you, Sage, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. I hope I was able to help you with your lotion dilemma. Be sure to check the comments for even more ideas on how to keep lotion, shampoo, and conditioner from becoming clutter in your bathroom.
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