Collection Storage, Display and Organization, Part 1: The Dolls

Hi, dollies!

Welcome to our new monthly series, Doll Collecting Tips, made possible by our very own dolly community from all over the world. I’ve invited our dolly friends last month to help contribute to this little project, which aims to provide as much doll collecting tips as possible. Our dolls and the activities that we do around them are supposed to melt away some stress in our lives, right? Doll collecting should be fun, so we try to keep the often tedious, maintenance part of it as manageable as we can.

This month’s topic on Collection Display, Storage and Organization Tips, really is too broad and sometimes overwhelming to even think about when it comes to doll collecting, or any type of collecting at all. Adding storage space to accommodate our ever growing doll collection, not to mention their massive wardrobe, accessories and diorama items, is not always an option. Organizing our collection to prevent potential doll-related headaches and heartbreaks should be one on top of our doll collecting arsenal then, right?

Everyone is not born organized. But at some point, each one of us has to come up with systems that work with our way of thinking. We have come to develop setups that allow us to enjoy doll collecting more, and not waste our time on being stressed out on small items being lost, breaking a precious item, or obliviously destroying our dolls due to not organizing at all. I am guilty of all mentioned doll collecting crimes, among others, so here I am, reaching out to my friends so I and the rest of us learn from each other.

In this first of this three-part post on Collection Display, Storage and Organization Tips, we will tackle first the Dolls. On the second part of the topic, we will take a look into how these doll collector friends of ours organize their Doll Accessories and Diorama Items. And for the third and last but definitely not the least part of this month’s topic, we try to talk about the unique tips and tricks that each of our contributors have mastered to be able to survive the world of doll collecting, dream doll display and storage systems, and things I might have missed to include in the first two posts.

But before we start, I’d like to thank the following doll friends, in no particular order, for lending their doll collecting smarts so that we come up with this month’s Doll Collecting Tips topic.

Anika, Ford Modolls, Vanessa, Arianne, Connie, Vana, Debbie, Terri, Brini, Robert, Bubbles, Rebeca, Diadema, Melan, Edel, Leslie, Eli, Marcela, Georgia Girl, Katie, Javi, Kenya, Jelyn, Michaela and of course, jSarie.

I cannot thank you, guys enough for being such kind, sweet and generous humans to your dolls, and great dolly friends to me. I’m so excited to continue having you in this series that I hope to continue facilitating for as long as I can. Warm hugs and kisses to you all…

So to start, you may ask - what systems work for most collectors? What solutions are commonly used? Which are unique to certain doll types?

Actually, in organizing our dolls, most of the collectors I know have dolls on display, as well as those that are stored away for later play or use.

For our dolly friends, the most popular Doll Display Solutions are the following:
-  wall-mounted or stand-alone shelves  -
-  glass or acrylic-paneled display cabinets  -
-  diorama set ups done by the collectors themselves  -

Isn’t it just so nice to glance by your collection every now and then, maybe while you’re preparing dinner, or when you’re about to tuck in for the night?

Ford tells me that he loves the fact that his 6ft closet has adjustable shelves, made from laminated palo china wood, and has a couple of holes at the back panel that serve as vent to allow air circulation and keep moisture from locking in.

The Ford Modolls displayed on a 6ft closet, photo taken from Ford's Facebook page

Bookshelves are on top of Brini’s mind when it comes to displaying and housing her dolls. Brini recommends this bookshelf from iKea, or this from Kmart, but always tries to find some that are space saving, easy to assemble and will not blow the budget like the ones from Achieve Display. Achieve Display offers acrylic boxes that are perfect for Silktones or any other fashion doll that is definitely for showing off.  Collecting Warehouse also offers just about anything you are looking for from displaying your collections.

Katie's dolls on wall-mounted, and stand-alone shelves
Katie has a few of her wall-mounted shelves to display her dolls posing like editorial models, while many are placed in stand-alone shelves. Vana also likes to put some of her dolls on wall-mount displays, where they stand next to each other like, as she puts it, “people in a Tokyo subway”. Debbie of Blackdoll Collecting also has all her dolls on display in built-in or free-standing shelves, in a corner of her work desk.

Leslie, Georgia Girl, Javi, jSarie, and Bubbles are major fans of glass or acrylic-paneled display cabinets when it comes to doll display. Bubbles, and Debbie have all their dolls on display. Bubbles recently purchased a glass cabinet to house most of her growing deboxed collection.

Bubble's Poppy Parkers and Fashion Royalty dolls (below) in a glass display

I share the penchant for displaying my dolls in little “homes” we set up as diorama with Leslie, Katie, Javi, Connie and Bubbles. As Leslie tells it, “A few of my most treasured dolls have their own little homes to “live in”. Javi, in the mean time, decorates his “mini greenhouses” to make a diorama for his dolls. Bubbles also has some girls “lounging” at her mini diorama.

My diorama is a simple living room where the girls can “hang out” after we finish a photo shoot. I usually don’t take their outfits off right away as I try to enjoy their looks for a while. My diorama is placed next to my work table. It keeps me inspired that way, while it serves as a display for people who want to check out my dolls.

Almost all the time, I also have at least one doll on my desk, just like Debbie, Rebeca and Katie.

Debbie's dolls on the right corner of her work desk. Such a nice visual, right?
One of Katie's craft room areas already being taken over by the dolls =)

I think, we like to consider our dolls as companions. I like to look at those pretty faces every now and then, while I work. Creep alert, eh? LOL!

And now, on to the not-as pretty but always must be a reliable system, the storage.

For storing dolls away when not in use or play, what seems to be the de facto in
Doll Storage Solutions are the following:

-  plastic storage containers
-  stock boxes
-  closets and cabinets
-  drawer-type containers
- shoe boxes/organizers

Eli suggests we use stackable, see-through containers to maximize floor space and make it easier to find the doll you need. She adds that it helps to buy the same or similar-looking containers so your storage area looks more organized, too.

Anika uses storage bins that are on sale. She gets them from Rubbermaid and Sterilite, and tries to keep the cost of bins from $4 - $10.

For our friends in Manila, our version of getting good deals on almost any goods, including these plastic storage containers, is going to Divisoria. Eli says that if we have time and energy to go to Divisoria, we do it. The same containers we get from the department stores are available there but cheaper.

Eli's stackable storage containers
Debbie has some dolls stored but those are the ones she is planning to sell. She uses Rubbermaid storage containers and they are all stacked in a walk-in closet.

For more delicate dolls like the ones with intricate hair dos and hand-applied eyelashes, keeping them in their own or similarly-sized stock boxes is the best system so far. Diadema puts labels on all of her boxes, which are colored black. She piles them on top of her diorama box as it’s much more convenient this way to pick the ones she needed for her photo ops. jSarie also likes to keep those original stock boxes since they provide good protection during moving in and out of places.

Several of our dolly friends also like to maximize the space and safety that closets and cabinets provide. Melan uses different cabinets to house two major doll groups. Edel and Ford put dolls that are not in use or display in closets, while jSarie and Vana put some of their dolls in closets over at the guestroom That’s a great way to expand space, right? Imagine visiting houses of these two, and sleeping with their collection. Tee hee …

Leslie, Vanessa and I share our love for using drawer-type containers for dolls that are not in use. I agree with Vanessa in making it easier to just take out the drawers that have the dolls she needs for a particular story. In my case, it’s much easier to just grab the doll which can perfectly model the dress I recently completed.

This is my work area. The drawer-type container on the left houses the dolls on its third from top layer =)

Adult-sized shoe containers are also a hit to some of our dolly friends. Michaela of Michaela Unbehau Photography stores her dolls in these clear shoe containers, while Terri puts in her extra dolls in those shoe containers, then into a faux leather storage bench that she's had for a while.

Michaela's dolls in clear plastic human-shoe containers
Terri's extra dolls for storage
Door-hanging shoe organizers as well as open boxes in shelves work for Connie.

Connie's door-hanging shoe organizer housing her lovely dolls

And some more, in open boxes in the shelves in Connie's craft room
I also have some of my for-revamping dolls in an open box in one of my closet shelves.
This “open” system works for us as we both have them in our own craft rooms.

When displaying or storing their collections, most of our friends group their dolls
into different categories:

-  by manufacturer/ doll type/series  - 
-  by type of clothes or themed outfits  -
-  by doll features (hair color, character/sculpt, articulation, skin tone, nationality)  -
-  by special selection (usually displayed in rotation)  -
-  by project/ diorama setup/ photo story characters  -
-  year released  -

Dolls that are fragile enough to require individual space had to be separated from the play line series that can take rough and tumble. Each doll group is housed in separate plastic bins, closets, or shelves. Most (Integrity Toys) IT dolls are tucked back in to their own original boxes to preserve hairdo or lashes.

Leslie keeps two groups - Mattel/Barbie and IT dolls. Her IT dolls are treated with a bit more care - they are stored in their boxes when not being photographed or used often. However, she recently purchased a glass cabinet to display those that are often photographed, when untying all those little strings in the boxes have become too annoying. As for Barbie and her friends, Leslie has a chest of drawers that is dedicated for them.

Robert’s IT dolls are kept in individual boxes, while his Model Muse and Fashionista Barbies are all in one box. Jelyn segregates her dolls per manufacturer as well, but keeps them all in one big storage box. To protect them, she covers each one with plastic bags. She warns though that this is not a good idea with the IT dolls so she puts these dolls in their stock boxes first, before putting them all in the big box.

Melan puts all his Barbie dolls in one cabinet, and IT dolls in another cabinet. Katie also groups her dolls loosely by type - the Barbies are together, IT dolls in a separate area and Phicen dolls on their own shelf. Anika has separate bins for her IT ladies, Barbie, Candi, Kelly and male dolls which is a mix from different manufacturers.

Debbie’s dolls are grouped but most are not. Never removed from box (NRFB) dolls are grouped together. Playscale dolls are placed together on doll stands. There are about five different groups of these. 16-inch fashion dolls are grouped together. Those that are for sale are not grouped in any way.

Diadema keeps close together dolls of the same year they were released.

Some collectors like to segregate their dolls by other categories. Javi has grouped them according to their type of clothes. In one shelf, the ladies in beautiful evening dresses reside. The more casual-dressing dolls dwell on the other. jSarie groups the dolls in similar themed outfits, rather than by size or line. There’s a shelf of three play dolls in Medieval outfits in the living room, a shelf of four BJDs in historical military attire, and game or comic dolls on book or game shelves, while tourist dolls (and International Barbies) get to live with other souvenirs.

Michaela groups her dolls per character. Bubbles has all her Poppy Parker dolls in one shelf, all other Fashion Royalty (FR) dolls in another level. In another shelf are Disney Princesses for her little daughters, and the last level is functioning as a bedroom she has set up for Momokos and Ruruko.

Georgia Girl groups her doll collection by hair color, sculpt and articulation. She also groups her dolls according to projects, or photo story. Vanessa’s dolls are grouped via nationality.

I separate my dolls according to two general skin tone family of sorts – dark-skinned and light-skinned. This way, I just reach out for that skin tone group that I think is perfect for an outfit I made or assembled. Since I still have a manageable number of gals, it’s easier to decide from among the skin tone group who best fits the outfit.

Some collectors display and store in rotation, either by favorites like Edel does, and by special selection like Ford, Kenya and  jSarie do. Ford groups his dolls into three: the Top Modolls (those in regular circulation), and regular dolls (seldom used/played with), and the big hair dolls. This rotation system keeps most of their collection dust-free most of the time. Kenya’s dolls that are in rotation are kept on wall-mounted shelves (nude and on a doll stand). She usually keeps around ten on hand at a time. The others are stored in containers in a separate room. jSarie tries to rotate the dolls in thematic groups.

One collector’s doll storage system I find interesting is Arianne’s. She does not segregate her dolls at all. But her system still makes sure the dolls are in top shape.

How do these solutions work?

Now that we learned what storage and display solutions our friends chose for their own systems, we might as well talk about how all these worked for them. How do they use these solutions for the ultimate benefit of both themselves and the collection.

All these solutions can give us the ultimate benefit if the dolls
are displayed or stored away in the following conditions:

-  in nude, or at least in light-colored clothing, or non-staining footwear  -
-  in upright, or vertical position  -
-  hair secured in hair nets, or saran wraps  -
-  with desiccants or silica gel packs in each sealed container  -
-  stored or displayed away from direct sunlight, or sunlit windows  -
-  clean, free from dust acidic moisture  -

Storing them nude or in light-colored outfits is to avoid staining their bodies with dark-colored clothing and footwear. Leslie advises,“If you ever want to see what your doll looks like outside of her factory ensemble, store her nude with the ensemble in a plastic bag for safekeeping. I have seen beautiful dolls for sale with stained hands, necks or toes because the NRFB condition actually did more harm than safely separating the doll from the clothing.”

Marcela has since been storing her dolls nude after discovering that one of her most beloved dolls had his feet stained by FR Homme doll Lukas' boots.

Having the dolls in upright position also helps keep their hair and lashes free from unpleasant deformation. Loose joints, especially on the knees, can also be avoided when we store our dolls vertically.

Having hairnets or sarap wraps to keep their hair perfect also is such a time-saving technique. Edel, Connie and Jelyn swear by this. You won’t be scrambling for the comb, hair clamps, rubber bands or styling gel come photo shoot time. She’s pretty much hair-ready. You just remove the wrap, do a little bit of retouch and voila!

Bubbles and Javi also advised to put your dolls away from windows where direct sunlight get through. Excess moisture or sunlight may cause or speed up discoloration.

Robert has said that a collector once advised him to clean the dolls after play or use, or before storing them back. His collector friend said that the acidic sweat in our hands can cause doll discoloration. If we use them often, we might as well wipe them off with a clean cloth every after use. Ford wipes the doll’s faces (especially those used in outdoor shoots) with wet face sponge before storage. Shampoo and hair serum are used for cleaning, too, before storage. Diadema admits she doesn’t have any particular doll cleaning routine but she washes them up once in a while.

A lot of collectors have sworn by desiccants or silica gel packs as angels in disguise to their doll collecting. I use desiccants for my doll wardrobe, but not for dolls. But now I realized that moisture can be bad for my dolls, too, not just the wardrobe so please excuse me for a second as I throw in some to my doll drawer =)

Arianne’s doll storage is one unique system, but a very practical and effective one. She uses a crate high enough to make the girls stand on the sides. A stack of fabric is placed around the center of the crate, to support these standing lovelies at the edges in place. And that same stack of fabric is used for the sitting girls at the center. These particularly sitting girls have delicate lashes and must be protected at all times, says Arianne. By being upright, the doll’s hair is always in shape. And each doll has a permanent spot to “sleep” into so that it’s easier to find them come photo shoot time.

Arianne's unique but super effective doll storage system
After staining some of my ladies in the past, I have been storing them nude for years now. But I am a little guilty on the hair net, the cleaning and upright position departments. I currently store them laying down, stacked on each other, playline or not, without hair nets. I do give my dolls fresh bath before photo shoots, but never after. Disaster is coming! LOL!

But after having heard of these tips and working systems, I think I am now set to keeping my dolls such that they could last, maybe even for as long as I want to. The smarts that our dolly friends have contributed for this part of the topic on Collection Display, Storage and Organization Tips, particularly for the dolls, is an invaluable treasure that I believe any doll collector will be more than happy to swear by.

I know this is rather a looooong post, and it was a bit challenging for me to edit entries from more than 20 doll friends who have participated in this little project --- but... I am learning so much and it's all so worth it!

I hope that you find this post helpful, too.

Again, I want to thank our dear contributors who generously lent their time, smarts and love. I cannot thank you enough, and while I type this away, I am happily smiling (while my housemate passes by my back thinking I've gone crazy or something). Kidding aside, I am hoping that you guys will continue to be on this journey to share tips with the community, and learn more about each other and the adorable collections we have.

Thank you so so much also to you, dear reader for having to endure down to this part. See you on the second part --- Collection Storage, Display and Organization, Part 2: The Doll Accessories and Diorama Items ---- which I will hope to publish in a few days' time. 'Til then!

much love,


  1. Wow Shasha...thanks so much for showing me what others do in terms of storage. We all seem to do what works best for us. I like the idea of using the shoe organizer that hangs on the door. It's what I planned to do once I got around to giving names to my main dolls. Can't wait to pick up on some more tips.

    1. Yes, I like COnnie's hanging shoe organizer, too! I may try it one time as they can also be hung over a closet door! Hmmm I like that there are so many options in this story...

  2. Very much worth it indeed! So informative, interesting and chock full of ideas. My thanks to all who contributed.

    1. Hi Muff! Glad you like it, dear! We owe this all to our kind contributors =)

  3. Very well written Shasha! I learned from some great tips from some of the other contributors. Thanks for putting this together!!

    1. Thank you, Georgia Girl! As a sucker for information in general, I am just so happy to learn so much from this =)

  4. This piece offers a wealth of information on storage and display. It is always nice to see how and what others are doing with their dolls and the space allotted for them. I am happy I was able to contribute.


    1. Aww, glad you like it, Debbie... We are more than happy to have you as a contributor! =)

  5. Love all the information you compiled here - great work!

    For some reason reading about storage always makes me want to start a reorganization project...

    1. Super glad you liked it, j! Hahahha me too!!!!

  6. Brava, loved it. I used the silica gel packs from the dolls in my containers. I also use fabric softener sheets in the clothing containers. There is a scent free option for those who may have allergies to certain scents.

    I have used the shoe hanger for dolls I'm planning to use. The pockets work great for holding clothing and accessories too. There is no searching if you put it all in the pockets. Instant photo shoot :O)

    1. I love the shoe hanger idea, too! I'd like to have a hanging organizer of some sort placed at the back of my closet's door... hmmmm.. so many ideas this post is giving me...

  7. This is a timely post for me as I'm in the process of tidying up the doll room. I go gaga for organization posts because I usually get some great ideas. I can't wait to try some of these tips. I'll be sure to post the results. Thanks, Shasha!

    1. Yey, that would be awesome to see your organizing adventures, Jewell! I, too love these kinds of posts - inspires me to do some spring cleaning (pun intended LOL) =)

  8. Thank-you for all these great ideas. I never thought of using silica gel though I have some paquets of it I use for out of season footwear. It can't hurt to try :-)


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