From beach to shelf: how to organize your seashell collection

Do you collect seashells? Then don’t let clutter take over your space and learn how to organize your seashell collection.

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I am a seashell collector myself and throughout the years, I learned how to organize my collection both in terms of storage and display.

You may also find this blog post useful if you collect rocks, fossils, coins, sea glass or other small items, but I will focus on shells because this is what I like and what I collect 🙂

My available storage space is tiny. Coupled with being a minimalist, this naturally limited my seashell collection.

And like most seashell collectors, I collect seashells for their aesthetic, but your purpose may be different. Whether you collect seashells for crafts, art, aesthetic value, scientific purposes or even to resell them, you need to read this blog post in order to save time and space.

Here are some things to consider given your purpose of collecting shells and other factors related to the shells themselves:

Do you want to store them, display them or both?

I store most of my seashells in different types of containers in one shelf only and I display some of them by rotation.

If you mainly need to store your shells, it is very important to use an opaque container in order to keep the light out because light will make the colors fade.

You may also choose a transparent container if you want to immediately find a specific shell in your collection or if you want to both display and store your shells, but on the long term and if you care about their natural color patterns, it is best to keep them away from light.

If the container has a lid, you will also protect your shells from dust and your fingers 🙂

Here is a seashell display idea which could fit in a beach house or a regular home with coastal vibes. I designed this mason jar on a platform called Zazzle (if you click on the image, that is where the link will take you). The image and the text are fully customizable at no extra charge to you.

I designed this blue iris coastal mason jar as a clutter-free way to display beautiful seashells or small decorative objects. You can easily change the “home sweet home” text, the background color (which is currently set to none) and you can transfer this design to any different product from the Zazzle platform.

But apart from whether you mainly want to store or display your shells, there is another important factor to take into consideration when choosing a container.

What is the size and/or shape of the seashells from your collection?

These things matter if the shells are to fit the container of your choice.

In order to avoid keeping them loose, you also don’t want to put small shells in a big container. Besides, it’s a waste of space.

I collect regularly sized seashells, but also microshells and I group them by size, place of origin and on whether they were bought or beachcombed by me.

If you are also one of the rare people who collects microshells, here is an example of a tiny container in which I store them: a lip balm past being used for its initial purpose. I also like to store sewing needles in lip balm containers, but that’s a different story.

The lip balm below features a typical marine Ikebana bouquet made of a blue iris sculpture, some green foliage in the background, a white seashell cut like a leaf and one of my favorite seashells which I bought from Japan: the precious wentletrap or Epitonium scalare.

Apart from tiny containers for microshells, I store larger seashells in keepsake boxes like the one below. The lid from this box features a visual poem written by me, called “Scar Collector”. The poem itself is a play on words between how a pearl is formed by an irritant entering the mollusk shell, the growth process of a typical shell (larger ones being older) and how we, humans, accumulate scars, both physical and mental, as we grow up and grow older.

The marine Ikebana artwork is similar to a Japanese Ikebana flower arrangement, but instead of plant material, I use seashells and lyrics. The graphical part of the poem includes many shells, among them a blue painted part of my favorite seashell: Thatcheria mirabilis or the Japanese wonder shell.

I also store some seashells in wide mouth bottles. The one below features another visual poem written by me, called “The Ink Pot”. The shape and the lyrics of this poem assemble a metaphor of nostalgia flowing from an ink pot I found at home. In my time, fountain pens is what we used to write with during primary school and finding that ink pot brought back so many memories from my childhood.

Meanwhile, for both practical and environmental reasons, I quit using ballpoint pens and I got back to using a fountain pen which I periodically refill from an ink pot 🙂

And speaking of fountain pens and writing, here comes the last thing to take into consideration when organizing your seashell collection.

Do you need to keep proper records for each shell?

If you collect seashells for scientific purposes or if you specialize in rare shells which you may want to sell one day, it is important to maintain proper records for each seashell.

In practice, this means storing a card or a label with each shell and/or keeping a computer database for your whole seashell collection.

To save you time, I created a design template for the shelling notepad below. The notepad has 40 easy tear-away pages and the design is printed on each page.

The shelling notepad includes text fields for the date and the location of the find, who found the shell, weather conditions during the find and any other comments you may want to jot down, including the name of the species if you know it or if you can find it.

You can customize the text fields, change the rectangle color or the background color (which is currently set to none). You can either delete the text that reads “seashell name or identifier” or customize it with the name of your seashell collection or a specific name of a part of it, like a certain group of shells.

And with that being said, we reached the end of this blog post on how to organize your seashell collection. Now it’s your turn: how do you store or display your seashells? I’d love to hear from you in a comment below!

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