Organize Your Collections

The problem

Collections take up a lot of space, collect dust, and are constantly growing.  So how do you organize a collection?  You may have a collection and not even realize it.  For instance, if you buy a refrigerator magnet every time you take a trip – you are a collector.  You may think they are practical, and they are, up to a point.  But after you’ve got more than 10 or so, they are no longer a tool, they’re a collection.

The story

While working with one client in her kitchen I discovered a large number of both cook books and coffee mugs.  She lived alone so I suggested that she keep just a few mugs and only the cookbooks that she regularly used.  “Oh no!” she said, “I’m not getting rid of any cook books or mugs.  I collect them.”  So what I thought was a very practical step became an emotional subject.  People are very passionate about their collections and as an organizer I have to take that into consideration when coming up with a solution for the clutter.


My absolute:  Keep Like Things Together


The solution

There are probably as many solutions as there are types of collections.  And the solutions for how to keep your collections range from utilitarian to decorative.  So in order to give you some guidelines for setting up your collections, it will help to answer the following questions for yourself.

1. What do I collect? You may have to search your house & put like things together.

2. Who do I want to see this collection?  Keep private things tucked away, others on display.

3. Is my collection practical or ornamental? If it’s visually appealing, consider displaying it.

4. If I won’t use or display this collection, why am I keeping it?


My absolute: Keep only what you use.


5. Which room in my house is best suited to display my collection? Go by the color or theme of the items in your collection.

6. How many items are in my collection and will it grow over time? In other words, how big does the shelf or display case have to be?

7. Are there any products out there that are designed to hold my collection?  Search the internet.

8. If not, what can I create to display my collection? It’s sometimes simpler to make your own shelf to the exact dimensions you need.


Once you’ve thought about these questions, have your collection in front of you in the room where it will be displayed. Now look at the size of it and the colors in it. Whether it’s formal or casual, monochromatic or colorful, think about what case or shelving would complement it. I always suggest looking at what you have in your house first. If there is nothing there, second-hand shops are a good place to start. Then there’s always Internet shopping. If you’ve got a collection that other people might have too, chances are you’ll find some sort of display case online.  Simple display shelves that can hang on the wall are very popular now and can be found in almost any home store. Remember, if you don’t like the color of the shelf, you can always paint it!

Simple collections of seashells, ornaments, books, clocks or teapots can add a creative flair to any room in your home. Sometimes digging these items out of boxes, dusting them off and putting them on display can be an inexpensive and surprising way to redecorate. With the holidays just around the corner, concentrate on your holiday theme collections first.

What is a unique way you’ve found to display a collection? I’d love to hear about it!

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