Living Space: Storage ideas to keep your handbags in top shape

Piling purses onto a shelf, as shown here, is no way to preserve them. Instead, stuff them with wadded paper and set them upright, each in its own cubby, if space permits.

There's lots of talk about shoe collections and women's love of shoe shopping these days. But there's another fashion accessory women love, too: handbags.

From clutches to totes, purse collections have expanded so much that storing your favorite handbags means more than tossing them on a shelf. And with the rising price of purses, storing them well protects your investment.

Helpful hints

Because different purses vary in size, it's a good idea to use different ways to store them. One of the most important ways to store your purses is to keep them upright on a shelf. Take a tip from department stores and always keep your purses filled with wadded paper.

This not only keeps them standing but also helps maintain their structure. To make getting the paper in and out easier when you change bags, try putting paper in the dust cover that your purse came with.

If your purse didn't come with a dust cover, stuff the paper inside a plastic bag and put the whole thing into your purse. This way, when you're ready to switch purses, you can pull the whole bag of paper out easily rather than unstuffing it one wad of paper at a time.

Make sure, though, that you get stuffing pushed into the bottom corners of the handbag, so they don't crimp. The bottom corners are natural spots for handbags to lose their structure.

To cover or uncover

Chances are if your handbags were designer, they came with a fabric or felt drawstring bag to protect them. The problem with these covers is that they make the handbags hard to see on the shelf when you're shopping your closet for just the right purse to go with your outfit. Having a dust cover protects bags from scratches and dust but makes finding a handbag less convenient.

Style storage

Different handbag styles require different storage needs. For clutches, try a covered storage box. Whether you select a fabric box with a top or a plastic storage container is up to you. However, a clear storage container will enable you to see your handbags so you use them more often. Clutches can be "filed" in a storage container by size or by color if you prefer.

Larger handbags can be placed on a shelf, but there are other options if you're short on shelf space. The Clear PEVA 8-Pocket Handbag File from the Container Store is an option if you have hanging space (containerstore.com) on a rod or you can use a hook over a door. Another storage idea is to use the space above a shelf over your closet rod. Consider adding a rod here and using rings to hold handbags individually.

Yet another option is taking a cue from fashion merchandising and displaying your prettiest handbags on glass shelving, or in individual cubbies.

If space is at a premium, add some hooks to the side of shelves to hold your handbags by the handles. Renting? Use Command Hooks by 3M. They'll hold the weight and be removable when you leave.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her web site, redlotusletter.com.