At this time of year, we generally throw open our windows to warm breezes and start clearing the cobwebs from the corners. But while you’re washing windows and shampooing rugs, give some thought to cleaning out your hair product and makeup stash.

A lot of members here at NaturallyCurly.com have multiple hair care products taking up space in the bathroom cupboard and around the edges of the bathtub. Some members confess to spillage into other areas of the house -- the linen cupboard, the bedroom closet.

Find some alone time to take stock of what you have. This is not the time to have a spouse, parent, child or friend saying -- “Wow, look at all that stuff!”
Pull every bottle out of every nook and cranny. Put them all together and count them if you dare.

Now, divide them into two sections -- the ones you use regularly and the ones you haven’t used or used once or twice to ill effect. Starting with the ones you use regularly, open the bottles and make sure that everything still smells good. Pour a little into your hand to make sure that nothing has separated. Discard anything that you suspect has passed its shelf life and put the others away.

Move on to the once- or never-used pile and again sniff the bottles and jars and look at the product to make sure it hasn’t separated. Now it’s time to evaluate the potential usage -- be HONEST with yourself. Did the product do what you thought it would? Why not? Do you really want to give it a second chance? Make three piles -- keep to try, do more research, discard. Put away the keepers.

Take the research pile and log on to NC. Go to the search function and look up your product. Once you’ve read about other members’ experiences, you might have a better idea of how to use something to good effect, or determine that you want to discard the item. Again, put away the keepers and put the rejects in the discard pile.

More about the discard pile later.

Turn your attention to your skincare products and makeup stash. Dig out every pencil from the bottom of every purse and hunt down every elusive eye shadow and lipstick. Once again, divide the products by use regularly and never-once-or-twice usage.

Makeup companies would like you to believe that the products you buy have a much shorter shelf life than they actually do have. One industry web site suggests discarding lipstick, eyeshadow, eye and lip pencils and concealers/foundations after FOUR MONTHS!!!! This ensures that you will buy, buy, buy more often.

However, with the exception of mascara, which really does have a life-span of three to four months from opening, makeup does last longer than you think before it goes bad.
Last year, in my first column for NC, I recommended the following trick to tell how long you’ve had a mascara on the go -- write the date you open it on a strip of masking tape and put it around the tube. Three months after that, toss it!

Foundations and concealers will last about 12 months, especially if you take care not to introduce bacteria into the container. Using brushes and sponges and pouring things into your hands first will help with this.

Lipstick will last about two to three years. Powders are virtually indestructible. However, if a pressed powder product such as eye shadow starts to take on a dark cast, it’s time to throw it out as the oils in the product are starting to separate. Loose powders last even longer, but if yours starts to get lumps, you should toss this too.

Pencils are also good for two to three years. Sharpening them exposes fresh makeup and keeping the cap on helps protect them from the elements. If you lose a cap, discard the pencil just to be safe.

Nail polish lasts about two years. You’ll know it’s time to discard it when shaking the bottle doesn’t make the colour look “right”.
Perfume also lasts about two to three years. You’ll know it’s turned when the smell is wrong and not your old favourite.

Moisturizers will last about a year. To maximize the shelf life, choose one with a pump dispenser. Jars are open to bacteria. Sunscreens last about two years and have FDA-mandated expiry dates printed on the bottles. Discard them when they’re past this date.

Once your discard pile has been finalized -- and do be ruthless in determining what you will and won’t use, your closets will thank you for it -- determine what you’re going to do with it.

Is it saleable? Do you have a rare product in high demand? List it on the swap/sale board.

If it’s just a matter of too much Aussie Three-Minute Miracle, or the lipstick shade from hell, consider giving it away to your best friend, sister, co-worker or babysitter. There is always someone out there who will LOVE the product or colour that didn’t work for you.

Or call your local women’s shelters and find out their policy on accepting used products. Some places will not take them, while others will.
Not only will you have cleaned out some space in your home, you’ll help someone inject a little curl or colour into her life.

Never underestimate the power of a tube of lipstick!