Perfume Sample Storage and Organization

Perfume Sample storage and how to organize them, I need help!  You would think I’d have this figured out by now, I’ve been perfume sampling for about a decade, um, vigorously, and I still can’t figure out how to organize it so I can find it.  Here’s an example.

perfume sample storage and organization

Just a few boxes of perfume samples and minis, and I only pulled out one of the storage bins.  I have no idea what is in any of these exactly except lots of stuff I should do something with. I have many more bins of these and makeup/cosmetic/skin care samples.  And I don’t even want to talk about my yarn stash. For someone that’s only been knitting less than a year, it’s ridiculous. Here’s one small part of it.  

yarn stash for knitting partial

I have more wicker baskets and several storage bins full as well.  But we aren’t talking about my yarn problem today, just my perfume sample storage problem.  So how do you guys organize and store your perfume samples?  I used to have a system, but it got overwhelming – spreadsheets, tracking it. I’ve toyed with doing just zip-loc bags and doing them alphabetically. Yes?  Do you have some great storage device that works for perfume samples and decants as well?  I’ve worked out storing all my perfume bottles well enough because I had to, but everything else is just mystifying me!  So post your best solution or best problem,  let me know if I have permission to republish, because I’d like to put these together in a future post so they are all in one spot.  

Oh, and I am so proud that I am finally getting on knitted garment done that looks like it’s supposed to!  It’s not done yet, I’m putting on the bottom ribbing and cuffs on the sleeves, but it actually isn’t lopsided, it looks like the picture.  I’ve done a lot of other nongarment things that are starting to turn out pretty decent, but this is the first garment that has worked.  I’ll post another picture with the final garment once it’s all trimmed and then blocked.  So excited!

sweater for me

BTW, Perfume Fairy Godmother post will go up this weekend!

  • JK says:

    My samples tended to get out of control on a smaller level, stored in bowls and drawers, dresser tops, wherever. Luckily, I hate most of what I try so my grateful neighbor gets that stuff and it doesn’t stay around to clutter me up. I do need a better organization system, but for storage I measured out a space in my bathroom shelf, bought a board that fit the area, and drilled slightly larger holes for my various size samples and decants. I keep my collection small…mostly because I hate almost everything lol!

  • Dee Y. says:

    My system for physical storage is very similar to Lynely’s and like Jan Last, I maintain a spreadsheet to keep up with my collection. Upon arrival, samps are added under House – once tested, each are rated using icons with supplementary comments.

    For storage I use two items, one is a hanging two-sided, white and clear, glove and scarf organizer. I use it for FBs, untested samps, and 15mls. It has the following:

    Side A: nine (9) – 4.5”w X 5”h pockets

    These pockets are perfect for FBs. Each pocket can fit 2 column style FBs or 1 wide FB. Lots & lots of 15mls will fit into one of these pocket.

    Side B: two (2) – 13.5w” X 10.5h” pocket

    HUGE pockets! I keep individual samps in the bottom pocket (it is a little smaller than the top because of rounded corners). I keep carded samps in the top pocket. I label both pockets “untested Samples”.

    My other storage item is a hanging two-sided, white and clear, jewelry organizer. I use this mostly for samps, it will also fit FBs – it is the key to my system, I can hold 72 Houses in one these. It has the following:

    Side A: thirty-six (36) 4.25”w X 2.5”h pockets
    Four (4) 8.5”w X 2.5”h pockets

    Side B: thirty-six (36) 4.25”w X 2.5”h pockets
    Four (4) 4.25”w X 6.5”h pockets

    I start on Side A using the 36 smaller pockets labeling each alphabetically with the name of the Perfume Houses. My labels are bordered in black & white zebra print with pink lettering. I keep a template and add the name of a new House as a samp from a new House comes in but don’t print it out until it is full – I use temporary blank cards until that time. These pockets will hold numerous 1ml – 8ml samps & decants lying down and a couple 15ml standing up.

    For the 4 larger rectangle pockets at the bottom, I do the following: on the very bottom row in one of the pockets I keep a pot of Aquaphor to dab on my wrists (to help scents last) and a washcloth to wipe fingers on and/or help open samps. In the adjacent pocket, I keep extra blank cards to temporary record Perfume Houses for new samps. For the other two larger pockets above those, one of them is labeled “First Test” and after wearing a samp once if I think I need or want to test it again I place it in this pocket. If not, I place the samp in the adjacent pocket labeled “Ready to Catalog”. Once I have a few samps in the ROC pocket I bring the entire hanging organizer into my office hang it up – pull out the samps, reminisce and record impression/ratings into my spreadsheet.

    On Side B, I continue on the same with the 36 smaller pockets storing samps. The 4 tall pockets on this side (the back for me) would be good for tall column shaped FBs. I use them for to store the neat net drawstring bags STC sends the samps in and the great boxes too!

    Both are hung in my closet.

    P.S. Little cra-cra? Well, ya’ll be sure to some visit me in the loony bin.

  • Kathleen says:

    i have four of these for my small (up to 10 ml) decants: They are not beautiful but work really well.

  • Anne J. says:

    A knitter too! It’s possible the hoarding of yarn and perfume are on the same gene. Must contact genome project. I use clear photo boxes. Each box is slightly larger than a 4″x6″ pic and about 1 1/2″ deep. Then there is a larger box that holds 6 of these smaller boxes. Labeled inside and out. Problem is once I take some out they can’t seem to find their way back! I want the library catalog desk (?)!

  • Dotti says:

    I purchased from wallyworld, large photo album with clear sleeves–enough clear sleeves to have two for each letter of the alphabet. I put cardless vials in the first sleeve of each letter (by first letter of the maker/celebrity) and in the second sleeve, I put carded samples and decants and rollons. This album gets heavy and of course cannot be closed, so I store it in a short, and strong, shopping bag. This is for scents that are going to a good home per swap or gifting.
    The minis and vials I want to keep and use, go into pretty boxes, one is beautiful wood that a hand made Japanese vase came in and the other is from TJMaxx. It has a magnetic closure and holds vials and small decants that I want to use from time to time. From these I can decide if I want larger decants or even FB.
    Hope this is clear? LOL

  • Devon H says:

    Oh my word…I need help. I’m sitting here laughing and eagerly reading the comments. I have over 100 bottles and minis taking up all real estate on my dresser top, and an overflowing Valentino box stuffed to brimming with samples and decants, which if I have more than 1 scent from a specific house, they get put into little organza drawstring bags that I’ve gotten other samples and decants in. So samples are organized by house for the most part. At the bottom of the box is a giant tumble of random samples that don’t have siblings. Finding something in there is like reaching into the Marianas Trench and hoping to pull up a specific sea creature; ain’t happening.

    I, for one, would love to see pictures of these “perfume cabinets” that I keep reading about and lusting for from afar, as well as some of these trickster little containers for sampling organization. We need a post that has everyone’s submissions! 🙂

    That’s a great idea to have a separate place to keep cast-off bottles and samples. I need to do that.

  • Mindy says: Polycarbonate Freezer Boxes are the best things I’ve found so far.

  • Mary E. says:

    I purchased boxes of multiple sizes that nest into one another and then fit in large size dress/coat boxes. I bought them at a store like the Container Store. Each small box is labeled with multiple houses and then placed into a larger box. 32 small boxes fit into 8 bigger boxes than into 2 larger boxes. If I run out of space (close to it) I’ll just purchase the same groupings again.

    • Jan Last says:

      Mary E, I would love to see what you see, do you have a site I could look at? I’ve looked at the container store and can’t visualize it. I think I am container deprived.

  • LaurenW says:

    Such great timing, Patty! Just yesterday my daughter picked up a small shopping bag and asked me what was in it. When I said samples, she immediately dumped it out on the table and we spent an hour smelling many of them and dividing them into: ones she liked that I liked, too samples neither of us liked and samples I liked but she didn’t (the biggest pile). We took the small pile that neither of us liked and put them in a padded envelope and shipped it off to a sample-sharing friend.

    In addition to the shopping bag storage, I keep a small wooden box full of off-season samples (the box smells sooo good). Then I have a large teacup-full of samples I like, and may want a decant of, and I wear these at night. I also have a small teapot full of samples I’m interested in, but haven’t tried yet. There are also a few samples sitting around near the computer. Things I’d like more information on.

    No organization for me, I like to surprised when I open a bag or box.

  • Jan Last says:

    Over-organized here! Pictures available, lol. Giant spreadsheet first, as soon as I receive the scent it goes to the spreadsheet which most of you have a copy of. Then, decants I make go into a yes, wicker basket alphabetized by house. So when I fairy, it’s a tiny bit faster. Then, tiny samples go into covered dollar store plastic bins, alphabetized by house. Then, I got an enormous old silverware chest for out of season and prospective decanting. Then, for things I’m wearing now, a covered wire shelf at my dressing table. Really vintage stuff goes into a dark room, so I can peek in on the beautiful old bottles. I know, it’s pathetic.

    • Mary P. says:

      Great idea using the silverware chest Jan!

    • Erika says:

      What information do you keep on your spreadsheet? I am new to collecting perfume and looking to keep track of mine with a spreadsheet as well. Thanks!

      • Jan Last says:

        Erika, just email me at jandeangeo at aol dot com and I’ll sent my sheet so you can make your own.

  • leathermountain says:

    I’ve been trying to organize the little bits both by type of container and by my impetus for acquiring the perfume. For instance, I have been on a rose quest and a mini-citrus-quest, aided greatly by some magical and generous fairy godmothers, I’d like to add. I have raided the kitchen for containers. All this was on my linen closet shelf until it got so so so hot. Then I moved it into shoeboxes in the bedroom, which is the most consistently air-conditioned spot in the apartment.
    -I have a little candle glass (similar to a shot glass) with the skinny little rose-related dabbers.
    -I have a half-cup mason jelly jar with the short squat citrus-related sprays.
    -I have a one-pint mason jar with the rosy 5-mL decants (where I’ve also hidden a few 5-mL decants I bought unsniffed one day when I wasn’t thinking very clearly).
    -Items on the full-bottle short list are just in a certain corner of one of the shoeboxes
    -Items on the giveaway short list are piled up in a small bowl and/or smushed together in another room with my collection of reusable mailing materials.
    -Manufacturer’s spray samples and carded samples just don’t properly fit anywhere so far. I have them all mixed up in three or four different candle boxes, which do fit nicely inside my shoe boxes.

    So far this pseudo-system is working pretty well. But it is certain to fall behind if my acquisitions outpace my deaccessions. Which seems likely. Not to mention the fact that I would like to get some decanting supplies. So, more STUFF, more tiny containers of perfume that want to roll under the bed.

  • solanace says:

    I have Surrender to Chance little boxes everywhere in the house, scattered over my work desk, in the living room and even the kitchen! Might sound a bit messy, but the boxes are cute, and they kinda disappear among the books. (Ok, it’s a mess :-)) I tend to separate samples and decants by house or by note. There is barely nothing inside the big drawer I emptied for this purpose, so I guess I’m a lost case…

    • Jan Last says:

      Aren’t those Surrender to Chance boxes nice? The granddaughters go through and grab those when they come by. They become everything from doll’s tables to keepsake storage.

  • Mary says:

    Here’s what I do with my samples. I have a couple of large decorative boxes from Michael’s draft store, really pretty, about 5 in. Deep and maybe 18 in. By 15 in. I bought blocks of floral oasis. You know, the soft green blocks that absorb water (also available at craft stores). Put the blocks in the box and pressed each sample down into the oasis so samples are standing up. Developed a map showing what’s where and voila! So easy.

    But yarn is a different issue. Don’t stop buying, you always need beautiful yarn for an unknown future project. You do need Ziplock bags and lots of them to keep the moths away. 🙂

    • Mary P. says:

      That floral oasis idea is genius Mary – can you take the samples out and put them back in repeatedly without it breaking down? Does it still hold them tightly?

  • Tiara says:

    It scares me that YOU don’t have this down given the volume of perfume you handle. How am I supposed to do it if you can’t?! Yikes! I’m a plastic bag gal with labels on everything. I’ve ditched the cards from carded samples and make my own labels for any that are naked. Has been working OK for me but then I don’t have as many small vials as I once had. I got my nieces and their mom hooked on perfume and I pass along whatever I don’t think I like. Sure, there have been a few regrets but they’re so darn happy it’s OK.

    The sweater looks great BTW.

  • eldarwen22 says:

    Usually, I throw samples out, unless they are sprays or parfum. Dabbers don’t give me a fair reading of any perfume. I usually keep my decants in a large makeup bag with the ones I wear most often on top. I’ve been trying to use up some of my smaller decants to make room for more decants.

    • Mary P. says:

      I’ll take your little ‘dabbers’ off your hands – save them up and I’ll mail you postage for them – I love dabbers :)))

  • Michelle says:

    I thought I had everything totally figured out. All samples (vials and sprays) and decants (all in 5 ml SKS sprays) fit perfectly into cardboard lab storage freezer boxes, which have different inserts (144 for standard samples, 81 or 100 for sprays, 64 for 5 ml sprays). Everything on excel. Then I noticed a most horrible thing with the 5 ml sprays. The level of liquid on many of my decants was lowering faster than they should! WTF!!! Then I noticed that my samples were also starting to evaporate. Must spring into action. I can’t go total Osmetheque, as I’m a bit short on argon right now, but I picked up a gajillion little 1/2 dram amber screw top vials with poly liners. These came in boxes of 144 with dividers, so I can fill, label and then put them back in the boxes and into a mini fridge I plan to pick up for the cellar. This probably sounds totally bonkers, but I guess I’m creating more of a fragrance reference library than a functional wardrobe.

  • rosarita says:

    I need help with this too, and you all have some excellent suggestions, thanks! I have a small antique cabinet that I’ve had since I was a teen – when dinosaurs roamed the earth – and I keep all my bottles and two baskets of samples/decants in there. They’re not labeled. On top of the cabinet is a glass display case, the kind people display crystal figures in. That’s where the small bottles and decants that I wear the most live. In a dark corner of the bedroom is a cheese plate with a glass dome; that’s where I display my minis. They are pretty and dust free that way. But a lot of the samples get stuffed in various tins and baskets and relying on my memory is dicey these days, so I’m going to try out some of your great ideas.

  • Caroline says:

    Picked up a fastener/nail holder from the local Ace Hardware. I’d initially thought a tackle box would work, but then I found this small parts holder–it’s 18″ tall by 14″ wide and has 60 little drawers. Samples are organized alphabetically by house, and there are enough boxes to repeat the alphabet. The sample vials aren’t stored upright–hope that’s not too risky. The only drag is that it’s too cumbersome to store next to my perfume cabinet, so it’s taking up space in a different closet. Still way better than my previous haphazard piles of accumulation.

  • Di says:

    Check out some beader blogs and beader catelogues for all kinds of organizing, and don’t buy any yarn until you finish the last project.
    For the fragrances, ask yourself HOW you want your samples. Are you likely to decide one morning that you really want to wear or a specific scent, in which case alphabetical is the way to go. Or do you want the fun of chosing one according to mood, in which case you might want to organize by category (YOUR categories, which might be by fragrance family, favorite note, season etc.)

  • tammy says:

    Jewelry armoire and also ammo boxes when I was deep in the madness.

    I have now culled my samples back down to what will fit in the armoire; the samples I am currently testing go in the top ring section, the keepers are filed alphabetically by house in the sectioned drawers, with one drawer set aside for samples that didn’t make the cut and will be given away.

    The two bottom drawers are deep enough to hold larger decants and the FBs ( on their sides) that I plan on sending to new homes.

    There are two doors that open on each side that have hooks meant for necklaces; I was at one point storing samples in pretty pouches, but I no longer need to do so, and have gone back to using it for necklaces!

    It’s a pretty solution, and I’d guess I’m able to store several hundred samples in it. Well over that when I had pouches full of samples as well. (Many of them are on their sides, though, if that’s a problem for anyone)

  • Ann says:

    What a great post, Patty! A few years ago I dedicated three drawers in an full-size chest of drawers for perfume, but that’s not been enough for awhile now, especially with the enormous amout of samples. Bed, Bath and Beyond had some plastic sock organizer thingies which when expanded in a drawer offered about twenty compartments for storage and I’ve got those in two drawers. But I like the sound of that hanging jewelry organizer with the clear plastic pockets and also the decorative chests that Sherri mentioned. You are not alone, dear — I think we all struggle with storing our beloved hobby. Thanks!

  • Sherri says:

    The Container Store has some nice knitting supplies organization totes on sale right now. They also have clear acrylic lipstick organizers (12 per tray I think) for $5.99. I bought 4. Right now I have the decants in two acrylic makeup organizers, but there are too many per tray to find the one I want easily. I thought if I separated them by notes–vanilla, floral, etc.–maybe they’d be easier to choose quickly. The other thing I love is tiered spice racks but I’ve only been able to find them for FB’s. Unfortunately the lipstick holders that I have are not tiered.

    I see you have alot of carded samples. I got a little demi-lune chest at a flea market (you may need several of these…:-) but they’re alot of fun to look for). Anyway, the little chest has nine little drawers perfect for carded samples and all those pretty little jewelry boxes you send us from Surrender to Chance. Or..go big and buy you a big ole gorgeous perfume armoire! Perfume is such a big part of your life…you deserve it!

  • Diana says:

    OMG Patty are you my long-lost twin?? Copious amounts of perfume samples, check! Baskets full of yarn, check! Kromski harp to reduce yarn stash, check! Do you have a spinning wheel too? Are you on Ravelry?

  • Birgit says:

    Hi, I use an old catalog cabinet from the library, we don’t use them at the library any longer so I got them for free. I put all my samples in small zip-loc bags, I write the house and name on it and I store them alphabetically. I have a picture I could send you if you want to use it.

    • Birgit says:

      And… my husband made me an Access database where I can fill in anything I want about the fragrances, like whos done it, notes and what I think about it. Yes I am a nerd 🙂

  • Portia says:

    Just finished catalogueing the whole schemozzle. Of course, one hour after we finished it was out of date.
    Portia xx.

  • Lynley says:

    Also feel free to ignore all my typo’s 🙂

  • Lynley says:

    Hi Patty! My current solution is a hanging jewellery organizer I found at a discount store. It’s double sided, about 1/2×3/4 m, and is white with rows of small clear plastic pockets. All the smaller ones I put my sample vials in (alphabetical by house) and I can see the labels on the vials for easy access. They stay pretty upright by themselves and I can see hundreds at a glance. Decants would fit nicely too. I use the
    slightly larger pockets at the bottom for carded
    samples. I have it hanging on the back of my
    bedroom door, but if I had enough closet space
    it could easily hang there in the dark. And easy
    if I need to get another one. I still need to write the names of the houses on bits if card to slip into the pockets for super easy reference but have been too lazy. It’s the easiest system I’ve found so far, and I’ve tried a few! It’s the fb’s I have trouble with..
    Feel free to publish..
    Feel free to

  • elvie says:

    Hey Patty,

    I’ve had the same problem a few months ago, though with considerably less stuff to deal with, and (with the help of the Elf Man) I came up with the idea of wooden tea holders with 36 compartments, samps divided by house. Voilá! Mine was made by hubby but You can buy some at craft stores as well. God they look good. Carved and everything… I also second the stackable organizers with removable dividers, if You aren’t scared to store them lying down. (I am.:P)

    Decants: I’ve sewn a few wide elastic bands on strips of felt (You know, each decant goes into a stitched…umm hole or whatever, like in children’s pencil cases but bigger) and pinned the felt onto the walls of my perfume cabinet. It can hold 5 to 20 ml decants nice and firm, and since I label on the side of lid, I can also see which is which.

    Also a good idea to have boxes just the hight of a decant or lower, and labelling on the top, combined with ABC order. Aluminium candy boxes have worked for me in the past.

    My minis stand on a tray next to my fbs in the cabinet, as I like to see each one.

    I think the best storage saving tips are these:
    -STACK! Except for the ones You use regularly:)
    -USE VERTICAL STORAGE SPACES AS WELL! It may not look that airy, but saves a lot of space:).
    -ABC ORDER AND A NOTE WHAT IS WHERE, RIGHT AT HAND! It saves You a lot of nightmares.

    (The only problem I haven’t solved yet is of the 2-3 ml decants I’ve gathered many of the past months – they are standing upright in a cigar box right now, but I cannot see which one is where…)

    But I’m a sick storage freak. If You’d use just half of these tips You’ll be fine:D.


    • Misti K says:

      OMG PICTURES PLEASE!!! Especially of the elastic/felt storage solution. That is utterly genius!

  • Mary P. says:

    I use clear plastic bead organization boxes that I got at Michael’s – I label each bin with post-it strips with the name of the house. I can fit a couple of houses in each little bin depending on how many I have from each house. The dividers can be removed to fit longer sample tubes and small decant bottles. They aren’t beautiful but they are cheap, they stack nicely, they don’t take up a lot of room. I make sure that I write each sample down on an inventory list so I know what I have. It works for me.

    For my mini’s and small decants I use round wooden Shaker boxes. They are deep and they stack nicely too. I was thinking about putting my mini’s and small bottles in a drawer, but all of my drawer space is being used.