If you’re reading this, I would bet that you probably have double (or triple) of similar or the same products laying around your house.

I’m guilty of it too. Why do we have four bottles of olive oil on our counter…?

Back in the fall of 2019, I found myself swimming in travel-sized hairsprays, multiple half-used bottles of lotions, and huge containers of hated hair conditioners that made my locks feel greasy within a few hours. Looking around my bathroom (and under the sink, and in my kitchen cabinets), I felt disheartened. It was all so. much. stuff.

I didn’t want to just throw it all out and start over. That felt wasteful on a level that was far worse than the amount of plastic taking up space in my life.

So I decided to start a “Project Pan”.

The term comes from the beauty community. “Panning” or “hitting pan” means using up enough of the product that you could see the bottom of the container, or “pan”, and eventually evolved to mean using up a makeup product entirely.

Therefore, a “project pan” means using up everything in a category before buying more.

It’s a way of mindfully consuming and preventing your hard-earned dollars from expiring while collecting dust in a drawer. So I gathered up all the products that I wanted to include in this effort and got to work.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Things suck a little less when you’re determined to use them up. That terrible hairspray that leaves visible residue? Meh, I’ll just wash my hair tomorrow. It felt so good to hear that faint hiss-sputter when I got to the end of the can that it didn’t matter how much I hated the product while I was using it.
  • There’s a LOT more product in there than you think. I have long cut open my toothpaste to get the last little bit out, but this applies to pretty much anything else in a bottle or tube. Cracking open my foundation, I found at least 8 more applications, despite being unable to pump out another single drop. Don’t be afraid to cut or break open a product – there’s likely more in the container than you can see, and then it’s also easier to clean out and recycle (if the packaging is actually recyclable.) Be careful to keep things sanitary here, particularly with cosmetics. Tossing out a little extra product is way cheaper than going to the doctor for a bacterial infection.
  • You can be very creative with how you use products. I had a liter-sized bottle of hair conditioner that was just so-so. I began using it as a shaving cream and it was great. I tried using products in ways different from their original purpose, and it was totally okay.

Once I discovered this concept, I began to do “project pan” other things in my life, like food items in my pantry, craft supplies and stationery, and even candles. You can start a Project Pan in pretty much any area of your life, and I strongly encourage it.

Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Mix it up with products you actually like. Trying to use up products shouldn’t feel like torture. Rather than using a very drying shampoo every single time, I switched back and forth between it and a really gentle shampoo. At night, I’d apply the natural deodorant that didn’t seem to keep me dry or smelling fresh, but then apply a more effective deodorant in the morning.
  • Some things aren’t worth “panning”. There were a couple of things that I knew were either expired or were going to cause more issues than they were worth. It’s okay to toss something that you know is going to make you break out in hives. It’s okay to give friends or family the chance to take something off your hands.
  • Have a “goal” product. I would tell myself, “Once all of these spices are used up, I will budget to splurge on some good stuff from Penzey’s”, or “I can buy that super luxurious retinol once all these other bottles are empty.” It helped me stay motivated to use up stuff that wasn’t as exciting.

What do you need to “Project Pan” in your home? If you decide to take on this challenge, let me know how it goes.