Monday Question – How Do You Organize Your Samples?

How do you store your sample stash?

What system have you found that works for you?

Are you happy with your sample storage?

What would you wish for?

What would you like to change?

Or did you develop the perfect system already?

My Answer:

I am not at all content with my sample storage at the moment.

As happy as I am with the organsation of my full bottle collection, my samples are a sore point that needs attention.

I have many samples and they seem to be multiplying on their own.
For now they are stored in sealable clear plastic bags labeled by house,  and all of those bags are inside a big IKEA cardboard box.

Then there is a wooden teabox containing carded and boxed manufacturer’s samples and miniatures.

Finally there is my in-tray on my desk right next to my laptop, where the to be reviewed queue resides, a line I try to keep at no more than about twenty samples deep at all times.

I love the idea of ammonition boxes that many American bloggers use, but anything to do with weapons is not so easy to get here (I’m quite thankful for that actually, so not that I’m complaining).

I’d like to find boxes with enough compartments so I can stick to the “by house” organisation system and that allows my samples to lie safely and uncrowdedly.

Any ideas?


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55 Responses to Monday Question – How Do You Organize Your Samples?

  1. My samples, although relatively few, are pretty chaotic. The weeniest ones I have put by house in ointment jars, the rest are just all jumbled together.
    What would be best is ‘by house’ and then ‘by name alphabetically’ – can’t figure out how to do this with limited space though…
    My essential oils I have classified by top/heart/base notes, and then in their odour families eg. floral/woody/spice etc.
    They are all in an old cutlery chest with cardboard dividers put in by me.
    When I get more essential oils and absolutes etc they will no doubt have to separate out from the samples – till then they all nestle in the dark together and produce an amazing smell when I lift the lid!
    As Paul Cezanne said ‘We adore chaos because we love to produce order’.
    I have tried to post a link below to my picture but I suspect it won’t work…
    Maggie x

    /Users/maggiemacmillan/Pictures/perfume box.jpg

  2. Organisation is definitely not my strong point and even though you aren’t happy with your sample system it is far more organised than my own.

    Mine are all just shoved into a big box, some are in bags, others aren’t. I can find most things that I want though. Organised chaos? Isn’t that what they call it 😛

  3. civava says:

    So far all my organazing samples were a failiure. I still have them mostly as I’ve got them in sealed bags like sample sets. Once I had an idea to organize them by genere like vanillas, ambers, leather…..but there are some which are this and that. Then what. I gave up for now ;-).

  4. Vanessa says:

    Another chaotic sample owner here! I was just lamenting the state of my sample organisation last night while auditioning some to go in a swap package. I have a box with a large gauze bag of loose 1ml samples, and small atomisers of the manufacturer kind four or five to a plastic bag in no order at all. Then the 1ml samples in individual plastic bags that have the label on rather than the vial are in another gauze bag, and screw top samples in another, all in this same box. You may think that is a degree of organisation by shape, and I guess it is, but the trouble is that I get lazy, and stuff odd samples back in any one of my umpteen travel bags, so in practice they are dotted around everywhere.

    And I haven’t even mentioned the “to be reviewed” samples in bags, baskets, pots and just loose on the desk in my office!

  5. Mine sounds very similar to yours actually. Laid out flat in a row, by house, in ziplock bags and then all in a box. I have been wanting to try the ammo box thing too but haven’t found any yet. I’m sure it’s likely more accessible here in Canada but less so than the US.

  6. Sara says:

    This would be lovely!

    Could use it for a lot of stuff, but jewelry and samples would be the best. My mom had something like this, but at the time it never occurred to me that I could use it for samples.

  7. Alnysie says:

    When I started, I crafted from cheap Christmas cards some kind of sample cards, where I’d make holes to put the samples and a space to write the house name. It could stand straight and be stacked in a box. It worked great when I had about 20-30 samples, but then I realized I’d be too lazy to cut and pierce and label new cards for each new house or new sample coming in… So now they’re loose in either one of two boxes: “to try” (which includes the ones I want to keep in the hopes that my tastes will change in the future, and also the “classics” I don’t want to part with) and “to swap.” But of course, each time I scan the “to swap” box to see what’s in there, I end up taking out 2 or 3 samples that I put back in the “to try” box, just in case… 🙂 Anyway, right now I have just enough samples for this method to be annoying, but not enough that I can’t find what I’m looking for in under 2 minutes.

  8. Ines says:

    I don’t have a sample storage system. I don’t even have one place where all of them are located. I need one but as that would need more time for putting them into right place, I don’t think that will be happening any time soon… 🙂

  9. Julie says:

    Most of my samples are 1ml. They’re sorted alphabetical by house, then alpha within house and fill 3 smallish sheesham wood boxes that I already had. I like the wooden boxes because they block light & are beautifully carved. I’ve used old cards to cut dividers to fit in the boxes, and have the 1ml vials in rows. I refer to a printed spreadsheet that has each sample by house. Each box holds about 80-90 vials. But it’s a pain to interfile a new sample, because everything behind it has to shift. And now I have oodles of samples from an indie perfumer that, if I filed them all, would probably fill all the boxes. I have my oils & attars, which are mostly on the basey-resiny end, in a larger sheesham box. Like Maggie says above, when the lid is opened, it smells indescribably wonderful. Sometimes I just lift the lid to sniff, not to get anything out. I read somewhere about using the craft storage boxes that are specifically made for beads, and that sounds like the easiest/cheapest way for 1mls. I’ll probably try this next, as I have no more small wooden boxes.

  10. bloodyfrida says:

    I’l be posting my storage of samples soon on my blog – basically, in a colorful little wooden box with many drawers, and I put all samples from the same line in a little bag, and they’re sorted alphabetically.

  11. Tara says:

    I don’t have much trouble organising my samples by not having any! Well not exactly, but I did give away the vast majority about a year ago because the huge amount of those 1ml vials was getting me down. I still try and pass on as many as possible after testing because it’s fun sharing anyway. I now have 3 bags for those yet to try, those to try again and those to send on. I can imagine it’s annoying though if you part with something you later want to try again but it hasn’t happened much.

    Hope you find a good storage system that works for you – sorry I’m not much help!

    • Olfactoria says:

      That is a great system, especially for me as the beneficiary of many of your tested samples. 🙂
      But I found I missed many I gave away at a later date, and had to go the trouble of acquiring them again.

  12. deeHowe says:

    I’m somewhat organized, but not nearly to the degree that I’d like to be. For 1mL samples, I have a 8×10″ frame inset with a wooden panel, which has holes neatly bored in it (hold about 80 samples) and holds them securely enough that it can stand upright within my perfume cabinet. For larger samples, I have them in a cigar box. Decants just stand on their own. All of these live on the bottom shelf of my perfume cabinet.

    I’ve designed a cabinet specifically for different standard size samples, but haven’t yet found a suitable manufacturer to build it! It’s a little beyond my carpentry skills (and patience) to build on my own, but one of these days… I promise to send you one once I’ve got it all sorted out! (in bright white, of course 😉 )

  13. Alexis says:

    Unfortuantely, I have a jumbled MESS on top of my jewelry box! Yes, I am also a believer of organized chaos – you should see my desk at work. Actually, it’s better now – you can see parts of my desk! My husband has designed a decant/samples/fragrance box for Joey and I just need to send it to her – I am hoping that he’ll build one for me eventually. It’s wooden and the front opens up like a old-timey bread box. I’ll send you the link if you are interested. I’m not trying to peddle my husband’s good, I promise!

    I look at my samples and I know I need to organize them but procrastination is my biggest nemesis – maybe now that I announced that I’ll actually get it done! Instead of arranging them by houses, I was thinking of arranging by note. Thanks for indirectly giving me a project!

  14. Natalie says:

    I also feel your pain with sample storage. I recently borrowed from Undina the ammo box idea, but since I was not able to find ammo boxes either, I reorganized used craft boxes. (They seem to be intended for people who make jewelry). I like them because the dividers can be adjusted to accommodate different-sized samples. I have numbered each compartment, and the number corresponds to a spreadsheet. They aren’t in any kind of order, which ensures I don’t have to shift them to make room for new samples as they come in; I just find a compartment which has room for the sample, and note the number in my spreadsheet. Then I have a little box of samples which are “waiting to be filed.” It seems to work well. Oh, and I have photos here (which you may have seen).

  15. masha7 says:

    I only have 20 samples right now, in a Russian laquer box. When I get a new sample (rare, these days), I use up another, so as to keep the box full, but not overflowing. So far, it is working. In Germany, where I had so many more samples, they just overflowed out of silk bags, I’d sew another bag, fill it up, give samples to friends, and go ACK!

  16. I always give away my samples (I’m a support worker and a lot of my supported folks like perfume and can’t get out. However, I make a lot of jewellery and store my beads and findings in a clear plastic storage case for nails and screws I got from Homebase. It would be ideal for samples as you can change the compartment sizes. They don’t make it any more or I would post the link. So try a hardware store.

  17. Julie says:

    My samples are not very organized at all. However, they are all logged in a spreadsheet by house and notes if I’ve swapped them out so at least I know what I should have! The samples themselves are in a plastic shoebox in my vanity. I put a divider so one side is for things I have yet to try and the other side is for things I’ve tried already. The samples are just loose or in the little plastic baggies or cards they came in. Then I have a separate small box with samples and other things for swapping. I also rotate some bottles and decants on my vanity and try to throw a few samples on there too to remind me to wear them since I have so many!

  18. Undina says:

    Primal Mist compiled a nice list of different samples organizing systems (with pictures).

    I’m not happy now with how my samples are organized: ammo boxes are great but it drives me crazy that I cannot put all the samples from the same brand into the same box because of the different sizes. Also I’m still thinking if I should be moving samples once I get more from the same brand that would fit into one box (a lot of moving and changing print-outs) or if I should start a new one (confusing since I have the same brand in multiple places).

    • Olfactoria says:

      It would make me cranky too not being able to have the same brands in the same box. So ammo boxes are not the be all and and all of sample organization either… 😦

  19. Here’s an idea, designed to overcome the difficulty of storing the quite small and differently sized sample bottles, while also making them ‘catalogueable’ ( I know that’s probably not a word) and easy to access…
    A box (or several if you have loads of samples, or a cabinet of drawers) with a hinged lid. A piece of dense foam that fits into the bottom of the box, and is deep enough to hold the sample bottles securely.
    Make slits or small holes in the foam and push the bottles into this – the slits can be closer together for small bottles, and further apart for larger bottles. And make sure that the lid can close over the bottles. You can make the slits as you go along, as you acquire samples – as long as they are arranged in a grid.
    Make a grid system on a piece of paper that mirrors what you have in the box, and write on this what is in the box, in the right position. Make the piece of paper the right size so that it fits into the box – either on top of the samples or ideally pushed into the lid of the box for ease of use.
    You can adapt this system for drawers in a cabinet by just laying the piece of paper over the samples in the drawer.
    I might try this in my cutlery box!
    Maggie x

  20. Joan says:

    I put them standing upright in a Tupperware, and then in the fridge.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Good idea! Samples go off way quicker, so the fridge is a great solution. I might get a problem with my menfolk though, they tend to be very territorial when it comes to the place where their food is stored. 😉

  21. I hardly know how to organize anything 🙂 I have two plastic containers that hold most of my samples. One holds fragrances from favorite houses or favorite individual fragrances. The second holds everything else. That’s it.

  22. GeM says:

    95% of them: somewhere in the middle of my mind – so in Order of Chaos -!!!!
    and the rest, in some L’OCCITANE gift boxes, just because I’m too casual/mindless to find better alternatives, I don’t take care of it properly, oops… shame on me…

  23. Gogol says:

    I have hundreds and hundreds of perfume samples and a very simple solution.
    I keep all of them in a large dresser drawer. Within it, they are stored in a clear acrylic Muji organizers sorted according to their house or family name.
    Muji organizers come in sizes and shapes, with lids and drawers and without. This is my favorite
    My tallest samples are about 7 cm tall, Each perfume house lives within its own locker, and even a big family (say, my Lutenses or Malles) fit in nicely. Also carded samples fit perfectly. You could probably find something very similar from a crafts store or IKEA.

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