The first nail-focused beauty blog

Makeup Wars – Storage Wars

By on September 30, 2013
in Makeup Wars

I can’t believe it’s been almost six years since the boyfriend and I bought our house and I showed you my Nail Polish Room with its purple accent wall and vintage nail ads. As you can imagine, things have changed a lot since then. My collection has grown in leaps and bounds and, with it, my nail polish storage has experienced multiple upgrades.

Makeup Wars - Beauty, Makeup and Nail Polish Storage

Makeup Wars - Storage Wars

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In the latest edition of Makeup Wars, some of my fave nail blogging buddies show off their beauty, makeup and nail polish storage solutions. Let’s take a peek at how mine looks now, including where I hoard my ridiculous amounts of makeup and hair products.

Nail Polish Storage

When we moved into our home, the boyfriend made a rule. I get a room to house my nail polish crazy but it all has to live in that room. At the time, that meant storing all my nail polish in a cabinet I got from Office Max (similar HERE). Not long after, I realized it was no longer cutting it.

Office Max Nail Polish Storage Cabinet

Before - Office Max Storage Cabinet

Enter the nail polish storage miracle that is, the IKEA Helmer. This $40, 500-bottle-holding wonder is the best, more affordable solution I’ve encountered. The Jetmax Storage Cube (aka Melmer) is a more accessible solution (if you don’t have an IKEA nearby) but it doesn’t hold as many polishes.

I started with two Helmers and quickly added a third. Fortunately, we have friends near both the Ann Arbor and Pittsburgh IKEA’s so we get a fun weekend out of my growing storage needs.

IKEA Helmer Nail Polish Storage White

IKEA Helmer

Those held me over for a while, combined with my Office Max cabinet but last year it got to the point that my office looked like a nail polish bomb went off so I took the plunge and added six more Helmers in place of my old cabinet. Originally I was bitter that IKEA only had red Helmers but I ended up loving the contrast against my purple accent wall.

Tip: You can check the stock of any IKEA store online before going so you know if they have your desired color on hand. Something I learned at the store, a little too late.

Nail Polish Storage - IKEA Helmer

Nail Polish Storage - IKEA Helmer

So, I’m sure you’re wondering how I organize all the polish inside. I think the biggest debate for any nail polish collector is whether to store by brand or by color. For me, because I like to compare new colors to old, storing by color makes the most sense.

Each Helmer houses a different color family; Blue, Green/Teal, Red, Purple, Pink/Coral/Orange, Neutral/Brown/Yellow. Within each Helmer the colors are then broken down from light to medium to dark and then again by finish. So I have a Light Blue drawer, a Medium Blue Creme drawer, a Medium Blue Shimmer/Glitter drawer, etc.

My original three white Helmers house my White, Gray, Black, Metallic, Glitter and Specialty (matte, magnetic, holo, texture) nail polishes plus my treatment products, tools, nail art polishes and strips/stickers.

IKEA Helmer nail polish storage drawer

IKEA Helmer nail polish storage drawer

I “try” to group the polishes by brand inside the drawer.

Nail Polish Storage - IKEA Helmer

IKEA Helmer drawer

While a lot of the drawers are at capacity, some are not as packed. In those instances I use Rubberized Shelf Liner to keep the polishes from sliding on the metal drawer base.

IKEA Helmer nail polish storage with shelf liner

IKEA Helmer nail polish storage with shelf liner

And inside my desk, I use Sterilite shoe boxes to hold the nail polish I haven’t yet reviewed. The boxes are great for smaller collections as they are the perfect height for most nail polish bottles and stackable.

Nail Polish Storage - Shoe Boxes

Nail Polish Storage - Shoe Boxes

Because my nail polish room is on the main floor of the house, I made a bigger effort to keep up with organization, meanwhile my secret shame was hiding upstairs. My Hoarders-worthy beauty, hair and makeup collection. I had tote bags filled with product hidden in our guest bedroom closet. I had storage bins stacked in our basement. It was appalling and so much of my product was going unused.

So when the last set of Helmers came home, my Office Max cabinet made the move upstairs and helped me get my act together.

For years, I relied on this little Sterilite drawer for my makeup storage, dividing it up into Eyes, Lips, Face. It’s simple and holds a lot but not enough so I only keep my essentials in it. Meanwhile, all my fun, specialty makeup was out of sight, out of mind.

Sterilite makeup storage drawers

Sterilite Drawers

In the bathroom, I use a Sterilite (can you tell I love the brand?) roller cart for my daily hair, body and face products and tools. Though a wheel recently broke off, after six years, so I need a new one.

Adding my Office Max cabinet to the guest room not only provided a TV stand but tons of room for all the makeup and beauty products I’ve been neglecting.

Makeup in Sterilite shoe boxes

Makeup in Sterilite shoe boxes

 photo makeup-wars.jpg

Do you store you polish by brand or color? What do you use to store your beauty products? Do you have dividers inside your drawers? Any affordable solutions you recommend? Are you on #TeamHelmer or #TeamMelmer?

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Disclosure: I purchased all the storage solutions featured in this post. Affiliate links appear via rewardStyle and Skimlinks. For more info view my Disclosure Policy

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There Are 72 Brilliant Comments

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  1. sweet baby Jesus you’re keeping IKEA in business! I wonder if IKEA knows why they sell so many helmers haha

  2. sara says:

    I have one lonely Helmer. But it holds all of my polish and supplies (provided I actually put stuff back after I’ve used it… I’m kind of lazy sometimes) AND I have a drawer left for my tv remotes (since it also functions as my bedside table). There will come a day when I need a second one, but for now I’m good. :)

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      One Helmer is more than sufficient. You forget, I’m a pack rat and terrible about wedding out product. The crazy part is, I give away a LOT of polish each year.

  3. Faith says:

    I use two of those Sterilite shoe boxes for my polishes, and 3 of the little Sterilte drawers for my makeup!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      That’s how I started. With just a couple shoe boxes. By the time I started my blog, I had 400 bottles

  4. Phyrra says:

    Ok I love how you organize your helmers! I need another helmer.

  5. Nancy says:

    WOW!! I bow down to the wonder that are your Helmers!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Thanks Nance! I need to actually print out the labels for them. My handwriting looks like a serial killer’s

  6. I love posts like this! I’m up to five Helmers now and just moved into a new house with a “polish studio room” so I’m in the process of re-organizing =)

  7. Teri says:

    Rubberized shelf liner is genius! That would solve so many of my issues!

  8. Malissa says:

    I hope this question doesnt offend.

    do you have a day job?
    I dont know how you keep up with all this, but i must say i am glad that you do :)
    I wish i could spend so much time on this as you do :)

    I love the way you keep organized

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hi Malissa! I’m so not offended. I would ask the same thing. For a long time I worked for my family’s business, which afforded me a flexible schedule but I am a full-time blogger.

  9. Michelle says:

    Oh my God! U seriously need a sale and sell lots of ur stuff to me! ;-p It probably would be an idea seeing as makeup only lasts so long anyhow. I’ll keep an eye out for upcoming sales (wink wink).

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hahaha! I don’t hold blog sales. I give a lot to family and friends. And I do host an annual sale locally to clear out excess product, donating all the money to charity. Last year we raised $2000 for the American Liver Foundation.

  10. Chris says:

    I would like to be left alone in your nail polish room. Overnight. With extra deep pockets. :D

    I use the Sterilite Rolling cart as well. I have the 7 drawer one. I also have one purchased from Staples (5 drawer rolling cart) and one purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond (4 drawer cart). I want to get a Helmer just for polish, but I would like to get my own place before I do that.

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      I just can’t justify some of the more expensive organizers when Sterilite is so cheap and functional. Though I do want an IKEA Alex someday.

  11. sabbatha says:

    I have 2 helmers for polishes and one Alexa (from Ikea) for makeup. I need 3rd helmer ASAP and I thing we have too much polishes. But who cares, give me mooooooooreeeee :D

  12. JDV says:

    I love my helmer, I have held steady at one unit for the past 3 years once I got my bases covered. Now I only buy polish if something really slaps me silly.

    My top drawer is general manicure items as well as untrieds, the next 2 house my biggest collections by brand, the next is my bone pile of misc brands, then the next two drawers are fancy topcoats, stamping, and things like bags of cotton balls.

    I too love the rubber shelf liner, I also bought some cheap plastic bins that fit in the drawers which help me group bottles and keep them organized.

    I need to show my boyfriend your stash so he can stop rolling his eyes when I buy a new bottle!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      People tell me that all the time. That they catch grief from their partners until they show them my stash, ha!

  13. Adina says:

    That is awesome. I didn’t know what a helmer was until I looked them on the interwebs :) Currently I have over 350 polishes (I just bought more today). Because I’m such a neat freak I would love to store away my polishes but I have this need to see them. So… my husband made a nail polish rack so far it holds all my polishes. My supplies on the other hand…

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Very cool! A long time ago I thought about installing racks but at this point, there aren’t enough walls in my house for that. ;)

  14. shayla says:

    So does that mean you have almost 5000 polishes?

  15. The red cabinets are helmers? I didn’t know that’s what they were like. I want them!!! I need to start begging to go to Ikea!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Oh yes, that’s them. They come in Red, White and Silver though I’ve seen some amazing paint jobs done on them.

  16. jbrobeck says:

    I’ve often wondered if IKEA knows how many Helmers out there have nail polish in them!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Good question. I’m sure they never thought that’s what they would be used for when they made them.

  17. nailpolishcolor says:

    I organize by brand, just because if I look in my drawer its easier to recognize the bottle over having to find the perfect shade. I wish I could organize by color though *sigh*

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      I used to have mine by brand but I took a weekend to reorganize and having it by color just makes more sense for me.

  18. Jane says:

    Oh do I aspire to your heights! Very impressive!
    I got my little Alex (the short one not the tall one) sorta/kinda full of my polish stuffs. Having said that, I actually have the tall Alex, but it’s still in it’s box. Waiting for the right opportunity to earn it’s rightful place next to the lil Alex.
    Thanks for sharing your storage solutions – very inspirational & informative!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      You’re so welcome Jane. I aspire to having a tall Alex. That’s so cool that you got both.

  19. Helmers really are perfect for nail polish storage!

  20. Michelle says:

    I got my Helmer at the Pittsburgh IKEA too :) you have an amazing collection!

  21. Pam says:

    I have a helmer and a melmer, but they are both packed and I really need to just stop at Ikea after work one day and get another Helmer.

    Over the years I have weeded-out my makeup to “what works for me” and it fits in a couple of vanity drawers. (Except for what is in one of my dresser drawers…)

    BTW, I just showed my DH your stash. He immediately emailed 4 friends that I wasn’t crazy after all. Thanks, Michelle!!!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      I love that! So much so that I tweeted it. I read your comment to my boyfriend who then wondered who is actually crazier about nail polish than I am. Hmmmm

  22. Diane says:

    I store by color and in the clear plastic boxes. I think I’ve only got 400 or so polishes, so always room to grow! :-)

  23. I have 3 of those rolling Sterlite drawers–2 have skincare and 1 stuff I need to review.

  24. Cindi says:

    WOW, I’m in polish nirvana. Look at all the cabinets full of polish! And all the makeup too? You need to start doing some makeup looks too and some reviews on some of those goodies.

    I started with 1 lonely shoebox full of polish and then it grew to 2 and 3 and so on, etc. So now only 2 years after my nail art addiction started I have a large 4 shelf cabinet that holds 764 polishes and then I have stacked up on the floor another 23 plastic storage boxes full and they are heaping.
    I organize mine by color group first on the creams and then by brand within the group, and the rest are grouped with all the textures and feathercoats and crackles as their own set, and glitters, holos, irridesents, and toppers are simply arranged according to dominant color. I have an entire drawer full of dupes, not as it looks identical, no dupe as in I somehow bought 2 of the same polish. The problem with shopping for polish in so many different places is I can’t remember where I bought what so there is no returning it. Of course I didn’t know I bought something I already had until I started organizing my polishes according to brand within a color group.
    Anyway I am in awe of your storage and you having a whole room for it.

    My hubs says I have a lifetime supply of polish. Yeah, but I don’t have THAT color!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      We’re on a neverending search for THAT color, aren’t we? Boys will just never understand

  25. Tessa says:

    Wauw, this is awesome! So much polish…
    I have only one helmer, and I love it. I need more!! haha.

  26. Colleen says:

    I’ve heard about polish addicts using helmers for polish storage, but I was skeptical that it could hold the taller bottles, like Orly. So, both times I have recently travelled to IKEA I’ve skipped the helmer purchase after looking at it.
    :( Do you find there are any bottles/brands that won’t fit?

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hi Colleen! Pretty much every commercial brand fits in the Helmer. The only ones that have given me issue are international brands with really tall caps and Knockout. I think Dolce & Gabbana is the tallest commercial bottle I own and it fits with some room to spare. Orly is not a problem at all.

  27. Why did I think you had an armoire type of storage system for your nail polishes? I feel like I recall a photo of something like that in an old post of yours. Did you have that at one time?

    I love the Helmer. I have yet to get one for myself though I’ve definitely been tempted the last few times I was at Ikea.

    I store my polishes in six Sterlite bins with removable lids – one of them holds my glitters, foils, tapes, fimo etc. I love them because the bottoms are flat on the inside so the bottles don’t tip when they’re near the edge (where the bin is usually curved on the inside – for stability purposes)

    I definitely store my polishes by brand. I just like how organized it is in the bin if all the bottles are the same shape. :)


    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Good memory. I used to have a brown storage cabinet, back in the day. It’s pictured at the top of the post. When I outgrew that I moved to the Helmers.

  28. Carrie says:

    Wow – I knew you had a lot of polishes, but seeing these pictures really brought it home! If you don’t mind a question, do you actually remember most of the polishes you have at any given time, or do you have “wow, forgot I had this one!” moments when you’re looking through your collection to find dupes for a color, for example? My growing collection is in a couple of Sterilite bins for now (just bought a third yesterday), and even though I only have a fraction as much polish as you do, I’ve already had quite a few of those moments when I’m going through looking for color inspiration for my next mani. I think it has something to do with only being able to see the bottles from the top, which is making me wonder if maybe a rack would work better for me (although the hubby would never go for it!) Anyway, just curious if you have the same problem, and I love how organized you are!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hi Carrie! I totally have those moments. Especially when a new season rolls around and I’m suddenly looking at darker shades instead of summer lights and brights. I was looking for a polish the other day and came across one of my original China Glaze Wizard of Ooh Ahz polishes that I forgot about.

  29. Wow… I wish I had this much polish, even though it does seem like it’s a bit of trouble to store :) Right now my collection fits on a couple of shelves. Love the color of the red Helmers!

  30. Kate & Zena says:

    If I had that much polish, I’d go nuts. Just, seriously crazy. I have, I think, 115 (I haven’t counted since I need to reorganize) and sometimes I feel like I need to par down. That much polish and I WOULD be saying like, “Okay, YOU DON’T NEED THIS MUCH. Keep what you love.” I love polish….just not that much. I have a bit of a “no clutter” issue (it’s a military thing, okay? I’m an Army kid.)

    I feel the sudden urge to organize, I seriously do. I have a very strong itch to organize.

    (And seriously, I totally need a Helmer. I’ve been wanting one.)

  31. T says:

    I already have six white Helmers and have no more room for another one. I haven

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      I’m so glad it was helpful. I haven’t had an issue with stacking mine. They sit quite nicely and don’t move as I push and pull the drawers.

  32. lindsey says:

    Where can I get that purple opi case? I’m in love & can only find the black shany, unless I want to ship purple from the UK :(

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hi Lindsey! Unfortunately, I bought it like 9/10 years ago at Trade Secret and I don’t know that OPI ever made them again. It was part of a special promotion. Have you tried searching ebay?

  33. S says:

    What are those black briefcase-like cases with brand names on them? Wonderful storage idea, by the way. I might have to look into this lol.

  34. Linda says:

    YES! Finally someone who has as much Helmers as I do! And yes, I also sort by color. Each drawer has 4 plastic containers; 3 long ones back to almost-front, and a shorter one across the front. The long ones hold +/- 20 bottles, and the content of each one is swatched on a nail wheel. On the back I note the color (‘Purple’) and the number of the container. So ’3′, or ’12′ (= 3th drawer, 4th container. I have a LOT of purple…) The nail wheels go in plastic containers, dividing the colors, on top of the Helmers. So when I want to match my polish with my outfit, i put my nail wheels against my clothing, choose a color and go to the appropriate drawer and container. I also ‘log’ everything in excel, so I know that at this moment I posses 2199 (unique) polishes. Columns are brand, name, number, color group, better defined color, polish or top coat, cream, sheer, shimmer, glitter, crackle, holo, duo chrome, metallic. A printout is in my bag always, to prevent me accidentally picking up something I already have. :-) Organized? Me? Mwah…
    Linda (the Netherlands)

  35. Janette Lloyd says:

    Hi Michelle! Okay…I finally gave in and purchased one of these Helmers. My husband put it together the other night. My husband repairs medical scopes for a living and he is a very handy guy, but he had a heck of a time assembling the Helmer. And I am now having a heck of a time loading it up. Halfway through loading up the first drawer, it started to fall apart on me with the drawer getting all wonky and crooked and not closing properly. Everyone seems to love their Helmer(s), so we must be doing something wrong. Any suggestions? -Janette

    • Hi Janette! I’ve never had that happen with my Helmers, and I have 10 of them. I’m not really sure why that is happening though. You might want to see if IKEA offers support. I wish I could be of more help, but without seeing them in person it’s hard to determine what the issue is.

  36. Kami says:

    Heya! They look so cute stacked up! Are they secured to the wall or to each other? Thanks!!