Monday Question – How Do You Organize Your Collection?

Are you a neat freak who keeps perfumes in alphabetical order on the shelves?

Are you more of a free spririt (who is unable to find what you are looking for in under twenty minutes)?

How is your perfume collection organized?

Do you have a system?

Do you feel you need one?

Or are you the type who loves some chaos?

question-markMy Answer:

My perfume closet is actually quite nicely organized – upon first glance that is. It looks good, but that does not mean there is a system in operation. I can find everything I am looking for though, while it may not be a system a normal person would approve of, I know where I put what and that is good enough for me.

Where it is getting really chaotic though, is my office. I keep my samples and small decants near my writing desk. There are several containers and there is an attempt at a system in evidence, but in reality, it is as chaotic as possible. I just can’t be bothered to bring law and order to my samples for the simple reason that I suspect that they have a life of their own, and that it is not my place to interfere with their secret shenanigans, like multiplying on the sly and playing hide and seek.

What about your perfumes? Are they sitting pretty or are they running amok?


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99 Responses to Monday Question – How Do You Organize Your Collection?

  1. OMG! This is a GREAT question Birgit.
    I have set up drawers in my cupboard that are shoe boxes, they hold most of my stuff in there neatly but there no method. The small decants and samples stay in the packets they arrived in as much as possible and they are written on the outside. Finding things can take a while.
    The fridge, where all the super precious stuff is kept is much more organised, and the desk has faves, to be reviewed and can’t decides.
    There is also another cupboard with back up bottles.
    I know, TRAGIC.
    Portia xx

  2. haefennasiel says:

    I’ve arranged a few of my empty bottles in front of a small window, while a few that I use are cozily grouped on top of the bedroom dresser. But most of them are hidden in boxes because I haven’t found a place for them (the rest of my family doesn’t share my perfume-bottles-as-house-decor views).

  3. Lynley says:

    My collection has recently had an overhaul. It was most of my seasonals on my dresser and samples/decants and the out-of-season/less worn in boxes. But my collection was getting a bit big and the number of perfumes on my dresser was freaking friends out ๐Ÿ™‚
    Sooo, the 3 drawer dresser has been swapped from clothes to perfume (yet to sort the clothes situation!! Lol) A vintage mirror tray on top displays about 20 of current most worn. Top drawer is decants all upright in boxes, minis and this season go-to’s and others I’d most likely reach for. 2nd drawer is not in season at the moment, and 3rd drawer is rarely worn and vintage. My samples all now hang in a huge double-sided jewellery organizer with clear pockets, A-Z, on the inside door of my wardrobe. So far, so good ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Olfactoria says:

      I love that your collection has a safe home now, but your clothes don’t. You have your priorities straight, Lynley! ๐Ÿ˜€
      The sample wall inside your closet sounds fantastic!!!

  4. judith dm says:

    I live in Chaos! I have no system, and need a special place. I have one place in mind,but I was hindered this past year due to two knee surgeries. So, think I do have space in a cabinet, and it/they will look very pretty, as some glass panels, but cabinet situated so no light shines on it. I like darker rooms anyway. Just have to now take the time. I probably will not organize by alphabet, as I know I will never replace in the same place. So amok for now, soon to have a bit of organization hopefully! They do not call this house Casa Disorder for no reason!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Casa Disorder may ba chaotic, but it is certainly a warm and cosy place since it belongs to such a lovely lady as you, Judith!
      Good to hear from you! How is the knee doing?

  5. Tatiana says:

    Organization? What’s that? I have an idea of where I keep all my full bottles. But samples, splits and decants are in plastic cosmetic trays of varying sizes and designs. When something I want to wear is a split or sample it can take me anywhere from 5 minutes to forever to find it. Although I have a pretty good idea where to find my favorites from Chanel, Dior, Guerlain, Amouage and Parfum d’Empire.
    I wish more of my life was organized. But it seems the logic for organization escapes me once I walk outside the confines of my kitchen.

    • Olfactoria says:

      A womand after my own heart! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I wish I was flawlessly organized as well, but I fail woefully time and again. The only immaculate place is my Hermรจs silks drawer… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Catherine says:

    My collection has completely overgrown the box I allotted to it, as well as the samples box next to it… I am really excited to see what everyone else writes in because I need ideas!!

  7. Civava says:

    My collection of full bottles is not that big to bother with some particular order. I usually put smaller ones in front the bigger ones, just to see what’s behind. The story is quite different with my samples. Trying to bring order into them has failed in few attempts to do so, now I just put them somewhere in the closet. That means if I want to find something I have to digg for some time. I’m hopless. It gives me some confort, I’m not alone in this ;-).

  8. Ines says:

    No system here.
    Every once in a while, I have the need to put everything in order and that lasts for a little while until I start sniffing and looking among them. Then whatever I did is no longer organized (not that it was very organized to start with).
    That said – I can usually find whatever I am looking for – I have a good idea of where I put what. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Olfactoria says:

      I’m the same, now and then the organization bug gets me, but it leaves again just as quickly. We are creative geniuses, we need the chaos… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Alice says:

    Organising them is such fun! 3 or 4 times a year I pull everything out, and re-sort it (when I’m alone at home, definitely not to be done with an audience!). The System: everything in a coolish bathroom cupboard; long term bottles in boxes on top shelf, samples by house in cosmetic bags, seasonal bottles on an accessible lower shelf, decanted atomisers of favourites ready to grab and go, a few selected bottles on a separate glass shelf in front of a window (looks so pretty)…BUT of course it doesn’t work, because I suddenly decide I MUST wear that amber in the middle of summer, and pull things out at random, plus I squirrel things away in drawers when I am in a rush, plus I leave atomisers scattered about in handbags, coat pockets, etc…. so after a while it gets chaotic and I have all the fun of sorting them all over again (just re-read this and thought what a loony, I know!)

    • Olfactoria says:

      No, I totally empathize, you’re not a loony at all (or I am one too, that is another possibility of course!), the re-organzing once in a while is FUN!

    • annemariec says:

      I go through my collection quite often too. Shows how sensible you are because you maintain a good grip on what you own. Or so I tell myself …

      • Alice says:

        ‘Sensible’ isn’t the word that springs to mind in my case…not when you consider that the sorting often results in me throwing away several old/unused bottles, only to re-buy at least one of these a few months later when I suddenly miss them…

  10. Ana says:

    I don’t have a system as my collection is still quite small..My full bottles are stored in their original boxes on a shelf in my studio flat and my samples and decants are stored in a flowery box on top of my tv set.
    it never takes me more than 5 mins to find something. so all good so far!

  11. Undina says:

    I keep all of the perfumes in the closet. (almost) No system for my full bottles – those that have boxes occupy two shelves (even though nodirect sunlight goes in there, I still plan to make some type of curtains to cover those), my most valuable perfumes go (surprise!) on the top shelf and the “simpler” ones (and shared with my vSO) take thelower one. Bottles without boxes, decants and samples that are organized by a perfume house (usually those for which I have many samples or they are of a very different size I put in plastic bags but store them in upright position) go into drawers. The rest of the samples are in ammoboxes that I keep moving around in a paper shopping bags sinceI haven’t figured out a good place for them yet.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I would have thought you have alphabetical order and military precision in your perfume closet, Undina. ๐Ÿ™‚
      The ammoboxes are such a good idea (that is where the military comes in after all ๐Ÿ˜‰ )!

  12. annemariec says:

    I don’t have a system but my collection is not so huge that I really need one. I can usually find what I want. BUT I do play a silly game with myself. I try to have the fewest bottles and decants on my dressing table at any one time. This is not just because of the threat of the light but to kid myself that I don’t really own THAT much perfume – do I?

    I just have four FBs and three decants out at the moment. See? That’s quite normal, isn’t it. Lots of quite normal people would have at least that much perfume on their dressers, wouldn’t they? I’m not a freak, really I’m not … ๐Ÿ™‚

    For interest, the three FBs are SSS’s Femme Jolie, 24 Faubourg, NR For Her EDT and EL’s Beautiful, and the (large) decants are Le Temps d’Une Fete, Ginestet Botrytis and Rochas Femme. All quite normal …

    • Alice says:

      Yes! I play these games too – a few on display, partly so they can be reached quickly, but mainly as a pretence – that I’m normal, that I’m cool (selected to impress some imaginary bathroom visitor with excellent taste)…

    • Olfactoria says:

      Totally normal, Annemarie, totally normal… ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. brie says:

    Oh B this was a fantastic question and I enjoyed reading some of the other responses…
    When I was young and single there were seven to ten bottles sitting pretty on my dresser and the rest of my collection neatly tucked away in the refrigerator.

    Now life is crazier and there are four of us with a collection…so my current rotations hang out in one bathroom with Colin’s bottles, Brittany and Courtney keep their bottles in their own room (but accessible to their mum, naturally!), my vintage and most of my sample vials are in a shoebox in the fridge (like Portia’s ) and my essential oils and e.o. blends are in the “laboratory” (a/k/a the basement). So basically they are literally all over the house!

  14. Jordan River says:

    Fridge door but should I be concerned now about the vetiver vibrating eggs of a morning, the Shalimar sented butter?
    Just bought a hand made hand painted wooden 3 drawer thingy from a Trade Aid shop for sample organization. I love your theory on the life of samples. Clearly they do vibrate Turin style. A woman that I have just styled perfume-wise is having a pupose-built cabinet made within her wardrobe. Not refridgerated but a great idea. The cabinet-maker was comletely non-plussed by her request and the size of her collection. Photo to come. Wondering if each bottle will have a bordered spot. I like a cabinet with a purpose.

    • Olfactoria says:

      A cabinet with a purpose – how lovely!
      It’s surely a good and important thought to keep a perfume collection refrigerated in your part of the world, Jordan.

  15. poodle says:

    I try to be organized but sometimes it just doesn’t work. I started keeping the boxes for my full bottles but decided they take up too much space that way and storage space is precious. So I tossed most of the boxes. I keep my full bottles in drawers except for about a dozen or so that I put on the dresser. Those are the scents of the moment for me which I will probably reach for most often based on the season. Samples are in small boxes in a drawer and are somewhat loosely sorted by type; floral, incense, gourmand, etc.

  16. I wish I was organized. My full bottles are on my bureau with my frequently used bottles in front and the “not in rotation” bottles in the back. The boxes they came in are shoved in drawers and closets in my office. I probably couldn’t find half of them if I wanted. As for samples, that is a lost cause at this point. I guess I need to do a little spring cleaning ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Alexandra says:

    I keep all my bottles on top of my dresser (out of the sun and away from the radiator), organised entirely by aesthetics (tall ones at the back, dark ones to the right etc), they are very easy to grab and I know my way round them. I also have a pretty bowl on my dresser for the samples or decants I am currently enamoured with or curious about and I like to empty this out each month and start again (Illuminumโ€™s Black Rose is at the top of this at the moment โ€“ is it love?!)

    My samples are tucked away in 2 large boxes, organised by House and this seems to work quite well, although I do have a slightly confused area for the โ€˜randomsโ€™. I then have my โ€˜to testโ€™ box, which is now too full and a bit of a mess, I really need to put in some serious sniffing time. I have a spread sheet listing all my purchases as well as a record of everything I have sniffed (I do enjoy seeing how much my tastes have changed in the last 2 years) โ€“ I do like a spread sheetโ€ฆ.

    It seems to work for me, but I would really like to avoid a third samples box, or expanding my bottles onto a second dresser, which provides me with a handy limit!

  18. Sandra says:

    I am generally a season organizer. In hopes of spring coming I have declared winter over and moved my winter perfumes to the closet and brought out my spring perfumes. Other than that I am a complete disaster and just put bottles next to one another. Have to have one area of my life that is messy, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. Tara says:

    Great question, B! We love talking about our collections, don’t we?

    You inspired me to clear a couple of bookshelves for mine and now it makes me so happy to see them. I have spring/summer scents on one shelf and autumn/winter scents on the other (not that I stick to that strictly). Then they are grouped by house/brand. Bottles without boxes are in my cupboard. Decants are mostly stacked on the shelves in the nice square boxes sent to me by kind perfume friends like Undina.

    As for samples, forget it! These are scattered around the house in various bags and a vanity case and this is how they will stay. Occasionally I do as Alex does and turn out a couple of samples to leave out on a glass dish for me to grab in the morning which works well, when I do it.

    I love that no two of us have a similar “system”.

  20. Lady Jane Grey says:

    The same old story causing me headache… Thankfully,I don’t have such a big number of FB that I couldn’t find a particular one when desired. I’d love to store them in a special fridge, but I have no space for that. So some of them live in a nice wooden box, and some simply share the shelf with books. BUT! The decants, that’s a different (and sad) story…

  21. cookie queen says:

    All my stuff is on one large, cool shelf in a dark wardrobe, in an unheated room. Samples in metal boxes in said wardrobe. I clearly do not have the tons of stuff you all have. But still, a large shelf holds a lot.
    I have no decants. A wise woman suggested
    not to bother. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Samples, 5ml and 10ml specials, and full bottles only.
    I store vanilla just as carefully!!

  22. arline says:

    I don’t feel qualified to leave a comment here, as I don’t have the collection that you guys have, however, I do love organization, but not only that, it has to visually please me. So I organize in a manner, that pleases my eye. If I had a large collection, I would contain it in a special place, with the same visual organizational attention.

    I am sure, that I would categorize via scent families. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Annina says:

    Great question, I often wonder how everyone store their precious jewels!

    I have most of the top shelf in an armoire cleared out – sweaters evicted – for my collection, which isn’t huge. The armoire is dark and fairly temp-controlled. The DH’s clothing in said armoire has magically been condenced as well…

    Bottles are arranged according to height – we tall girls always stand in the back. My samples and decants are in a lidded plastic box, and my minis and large decants are in a small box.

    I don’t keep my bottles in their boxes, but I have the boxes carefully collapsed, folded, and stored on a shelf in the closet.

    I keep 4-5 bottles displayed on a silver tray on my dresser, which I rotate when I feel like it. The DH has his 4 on the other side if the tray (he has about 7 total).

  24. shellyw says:

    I just finished spring break from my teaching job. (teaching gives you vacations but not the money which one would need to actually travel on them.) I spent an entire day cleaning out one bedroom closet that I had not really seen the floor of for the 16 years I have lived here. Organization is not a natural state for me. Luckily or unluckily, I do not have so many perfumes that it is a problem. Maybe 16-18 bottles. They fit nicely on a shelf int he darkest corner of my room. I can’t stand to have the in a drawer but I know sunlight is not good for them so that is the compromise.

  25. Asali says:

    At the moment, my bottles are safely stored away until I’m in my new flat, but normally all my cabinet allows for is hight orientated storage- so tall bottles like SL, Hiris and those kind of bottles go on the top shelf, then the lower bottles on the next shelf and then my Guerlains are all stored together on the next two shelves- it’s a family-thing, they want it that way;-) Same goes for SL.
    Don’t quite know what to do about samples and decants yet…

  26. lucasai says:

    When it comes to my bottles I don’t really need a system for 13 bottles of perfume. They all sit in my decarative box on the shelf and are easy to find them. Also each of the bottles is different so no chances for a mistake while taking it out of the box.
    For samples, I keep them in plastic stands from laboratory tubes, that makes them stand in nice rows. I try to keep samples from the same brand close together in the stand but without any specified order. I don’t do any databases for my samples either. I just try to remember where to search for a specific brand.

  27. Suzanne says:

    Similar to Alexandra and you, my full bottles are arranged by aesthetics and I can locate any bottle in about ten seconds. The decants are also easy to locate because I like to keep them together in some beautiful wooden cigar boxes. The samples? Complete and utter chaos!! The funny thing is, that despite how many samples I have and how they are scattered around the house, I know exactly who sent me what sample. I can pick up a sample that I haven’t thought about for two years and remember, oh yes, Birgit (or Ines or JoanElaine or whoever) sent this to me. My mind obviously has its own unique system of organization, even for the more chaotic part of my perfume collecting. ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Farouche says:

    I have a combination of organization and disorganization.
    My samples are in small baggies by house, then in four small plastic boxes grouped alphabetically. My Excel spreadsheet tells me what I have and what size so that I can easily find a sample ( and find out whether or not I already own something I’m thinking of buying!).
    My perfumes, on the other hand, are arranged somewhat by height in my perfume cabinet and on my dresser, but that’s about it. The left side of my dresser has the beautiful vintage bottles, and the right side of my dresser holds what I’m currently wearing. Inspired by Birgit, I have my Chanels together on a vintage round mirrored tray on my dresser. And this weekend I placed my smaller Hermes collection on a matching but smaller mirrored tray. These trays used to house my mini perfumes, which I boxed and put away. They were cute, but real dust catchers!

  29. Miss Woolf says:

    I have such a teeny tiny collection of full bottles so far, and I keep it in a pretty little cabinet near my writing desk, so I can go and open the door every so often and just gaze at them lovingly :-). I would also love to find a pretty mirrored display tray for my current favourites, like I know you have Birgit.

    My much larger collection of samples is a different matter, and I’ve started collecting nice boxes to keep them in. They are pretty much kept in a disorganised order (whatever that means). Then I have one box with randomly selected, untested samples on my desk, and every morning I reach for one without looking and I put a few drops on my left wrist. Then I try to figure out what’s going on, before looking it up on the internet. A good way to learn and to try to trust my nose a little.

    I also have a box of doubles and “yuck, urgh, never again” samples, which I keep in case someone suddenly declares their undying love for one of them.

    • Olfactoria says:

      You might just be the person who declares her undying love for a “yuck, never again” perfume one day. I did that more than once completely unexpectedly. ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Dear Brigit
    Oh lord, no. As far as The dandy’s collection go chaos reigns.
    That said, everything’s kept in a dark cool place, well away from grasping hands!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  31. I don’t have a complicated system for my fragrances. I have one cabinet that holds most of my fragrnaces. I move the fragrances that I will wear most often during the current season to the front. That’s about all the order I have in my collection. My samples are in a few different bags or containers, which I try to group together: one for favourites, dedicated containers for certain houses from which I own several samples, etcetera.

  32. I am NOT organized as a person, but I put too much money and time in my perfume collection to just let it all hang out. I also like neatness. So what I’ve found works for me is organizing everything by season! Not only does this cut down my collection by two-thirds (since several perfumes do double-duty) at all times, but it breeds excitement when the weather changes since it means I can take out old bottles and appreciate the scent – it’s like falling in love with them all over again!

    I usually display my bottles. My samples I keep in a little chest from Ikea. All the ones in storage are kept in the top shelf of my nice, dark closet.

  33. FeralJasmine says:

    I am happily chaotic in my perfume storage habits. I like to look over the assortment and let chance help me decide what to wear that day. I also like to see random juxtapositions that sometimes give me ideas for layering, if no one frag seems suited to my mood. But then, I’m quite new at this, and so far it isn’t a space or storage problem. I suspect that as I acquire more perfume, my habits will have to change. Of course, the alternative is to avoid acquiring any more perfume, but somehow things aren’t trending in that direction…

  34. Tora says:

    My full bottles of perfume aren’t very specifically organized. All clear or pale glass bottles are in a cupboard only grouped by House, ie:Serge over here, Profumum over there, little bottles in front so I can see them. The full bottles that are in black(Avignon, Tom Ford) metal (Bruno Acampora Musc) or very dark glass (Regina Harris Frankincense and Myrrh) are on a display shelf. My samples are super well organised. I have 17 tupperware type plastic little boxes, each with a label. Leather, Chypre, Woody Aromatics, Floral etc. I have larger ones for Orientals (my fave) and “maybe”. I also have one labeled “No”. It is embarrassing to admit to this need to organize. I wish I was more at ease with chaos. It would probably be exactly what I need.

  35. Lila says:

    I’m afraid that I’m more of the latter, my perfumes are amok. I’m in search for an antique piece to store them in, away from light. Maybe a secretary with a drop-down front. For now, they’re just crammed into a basket of a cheap little 3-drawer wicker stand. It’s like they’re on an uncomfortably crowded subway, getting jostled every time I open the drawer. My samples are divided into two categories, those I like and those I don’t like so much. They’re crammed into these two little pottery bowls that I made. I took a pottery class and I have so much ugly pottery that I don’t know what to do with!

  36. I keep most of my fb’s in their boxes within easy reach and away from light or any heat source.

    It’s really my samples and decants that are meticulously organized like the insane Virgo that I am: two Semikolon media boxes with dividers. Decants and samples are individually bagged, tagged, upright, and organized alphabetically by house. If I was even more organized, I would note when the sample or decant was acquired and when was the last time it was worn. New samples and decants overflow from glass tumblers and shot gasses all over the apartment.

    Great Monday question!

  37. glasses. shot glasses ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. Currently, all my full bottles are on an etagere in my closet, split onto two shelves into roughly two categories: “light” florals (more spring/summer) and “dark” ambers/orientals (more fall/winter). Within those shelves it’s pretty random, but with smaller bottles toward the front. I’ve been thinking of switching up into alphabetical order or even just a random mess because currently, there are bottles I don’t “see” since they’ve been in the same place for so long. i figure if I move them around, that’ll mix up my rotation? Samples and decants are also roughly organized by category, but it’s intuitive and not labeled. I need a label maker!

  39. Dionne says:

    I’m a mix of organized and disorganized right now, and the disorganized part is making me a bit squirrelly. The full bottles are kept in their boxes on a shelf in this cool little closet kind of hiding behind my bedroom door ie. when the door is open, you can’t see the closet. I’m at about 30 bottles, so they’re simply placed in order of height so I can see everything.

    It used to be that *everything* was on that shelf, but a second one is now dedicated to decanting supplies and my label-maker, a dresser drawer is the soon-to-be designated spot for my samples, and the decants…. the decants are taking over. I’m considering putting them in a pretty box and investing in little sticky circles to put on the lids so I can read what they are without taking each one out.

    It’s all a work in progress. Now if you were to ask about my virtual organization in terms of spreadsheets and stuff, I’m now at…..*cough* mumble quietly, “21documentspleasekeepthattoyourself.”

  40. Vanessa says:

    Semi-chaos here! As you know, I have two dedicated fridges – in the spare bedroom in the new house – and have vowed that I will never get a third. So far I am sticking to my guns…helped by a recent bout of albatross clearance.

    Within the fridges the decants and samples are in a mixture of make up bags and cardboard boxes of varying degrees of warpedness. These sit on shelves above the well where the FBs stand. It is getting rather crowded now I must say.

    Then the swap box is under the bed because I don’t want to think about it, while samples I am planning to try are by the bed in numerous bags and boxes.

  41. rosiegreen62 says:

    I don’t really have a system. all of my full bottles are in a drawer in my bedroom vanity. The various decants and samples are in assorted small boxes on top of the vanity. I do need to firgure out a system soon. Anything that I have tried and do not need to keep gets passed on to my nieces.

  42. To conserve vanity space and facilitate storage (but really to make my collection seem smaller than it really is so as to not draw more disapproval looks from the other half), I decant all my fb and large decants into identical small perfume bottles and label the top of the cap and bottle with a label maker. The full bottles are kept away from light in cabinets and drawers.

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