They tell you to write what you know, and I know this: I am being overwhelmed in a physical, emotional and spiritual way by Sephora samples.

Of course, it’s not just Sephora samples under which you will find our listless but beautifully made-up corpses. Birchbox, Kiehl’s, those tiny little soaps that are pressed into your hand if you so much as breathe in the direction of a Sabon storefront, Ipsy, and in the case of one work friend who promised to maim me if I revealed his identity, enough Sisley fragrance samples to fill a pool.

The scams are rife: ordering big-ticket items and returning them just to keep the samples; befriending department-store employees to get extra bottles of goop; walking into Aesop to look at products and ask for samples, carefully scanned one by one. The tiny bottle of Eucerin grabbed from a dermatologist’s office. The “travel-size” mascaras for trips we’ll never take. We don’t even wear mascara.

And we haven’t even gotten to the part where we confront the stockpile of hotel shampoos and body washes and disposable shower caps cluttering bathrooms the world ‘round. I’m scared, and I’m cold, and I’m absolutely never going to use that bottle of Ferragamo body wash I snatched from a hotel sometime back in 2014.

But in 2019, I’m determined to change. In saving myself, I will also save you.

Tip No. 1: Admit You Have a Problem

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Tempting though it may be to blame Sephora, Birchbox, and hotel groups Hilton and Marriott for saddling us with darling samples we didn’t ask for and certainly don’t need and also are constitutionally unable to part with, the reality is that we are the problem. Cheryl Wischhover, a reporter who covers the beauty and retail industries for The Goods by Vox, explained the allure of samples, “They are tiny and tiny things are cute! Everyone knows cute things are irresistible, whether they are puppies or teeny tubes of Good Genes.”

Our intentions are good. We grab travel-size toiletries from hotels because we can think of all the ways we’ll use them. But why aren’t we using these precious items that we’re all so lovingly collecting?

Wischhover blames our tendency toward fantasy and wishful thinking, “Samples represent possibility. We pin our hopes on them — it’s fun to imagine that maybe finally you’ve found The One, so you delay trying it to prolong the experience.”

One day, I’ll take that vacation and need 76 mini bottles of body wash.

Tip No. 2: Donate Unwanted Samples

Beauty samples are ripe for donation, which is great news for those of us staring down an angry mob of foundation samples in every shade but the one of our actual skin. But! Endeavor in all things to be responsible, especially when it comes to donations. (This is a polite way of saying that you shouldn’t dump all your unwanted junk on charitable organizations. Please stop doing that.)

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Emergency shelters are more likely to want sample-size products, whereas long-term stay organizations will generally prefer full-sized product donations. The best way to determine this, duh, is to call or email organizations before making donations.

Truesdale said toiletries like shampoo, body wash and lotion are generally welcomed at shelters (homeless and cold-weather shelters in particular), orphanages, Ronald McDonald House and children’s hospitals, where volunteer groups often put together comfort kits. Makeup can be donated to playhouses and school drama clubs, teen and youth development centers; makeup and perfume samples are also welcome at many Dress For Success chapters.

Tip No. 3: Host a Sample Swap

Feel like combining altruism with socializing? Gather your friends or book group or running club, pool spare samples, let everyone have at it and send anything that’s unclaimed to national organizations like Project Beauty Share or Beauty Bus Foundation.

Tip No. 4: Just Throw Them Out

No, you will not be condemned to hell for eternity after putting those tiny Kat von D Sinner + Saint perfume vials in trash. (You’ve done plenty of worse things.) Of course, if anything comes in plastic bottles the right thing to do would be to spill out the product and recycle the bottles.

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Tip No. 5: Actually Use the Samples

If charity or outright wastefulness doesn’t appeal, you could become a person who actually uses their samples.

The first step is to store your collection in one place. Godding commended my strategy of using a Tiffany sunglasses box to keep me honest. “I want to give you a pat on the back for your technique of keeping them all in a box! It is useful because you have a quick inventory at a glance.”

Wischhover believes in frequent sort-throughs. “I save my samples for traveling, and I very carefully go through my stash of tiny tubes before I pack to determine which one will get me through four days or whatever,” she said. Truesdale suggests setting a limit on samples. “Don’t bring anymore home until what you already have has been used up or expired,” she said. “It’s simply a mind shift; don’t bring home what you won’t be able to use.”

Of course, we’ve established that samples are irresistible and so instead of denying yourself a new tiny packet filled with cleansing mud, maybe just use the tiny packet filled with cleansing mud you already have, so that you may make space for that new tiny packet filled with cleansing mud.

When put like that, doesn’t it sound so easy?



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