Chapter 6: Additional LEGO Brick Storage Tips & Tricks
I selected the storage solutions in the previous three chapters based on my own experience, from talking to other LEGO builders, learning from families with young kids, and the experiences of educators who use LEGO in the classroom. Those three chapters roughly follow the evolution of a younger builder with a small collection to an Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) with a dedicated room containing hundreds of thousands of LEGO bricks.
While I tried to call out some of the best storage solutions, there is no perfect storage solution for all LEGO builders — it’s up to you to pick the solutions that work best for your collection and building style. It’s also important to be flexible; rather than throw away your current storage, maybe you can re-purpose it to store complete LEGO models, manuals, or seldom-used LEGO bricks.
While the size of your collection, and the place where your collection is stored are the most important factors when picking a storage solution for your LEGO collection, there are a number of additional considerations you should explore before spending a lot of money on LEGO storage. This chapter looks at a few of these secondary concerns.
Planning for growth
As your LEGO collection gets bigger, your storage requirements will grow. Likewise, as you (or your child) become more experienced LEGO builders, you might want a more organized storage solution to make it easier to find specific parts. This is why it’s a good idea to put some thought into the growth of your collection before spending a lot of money on LEGO storage.
The easiest way to plan for growth is to ensure that there will be plenty of empty space in the storage solution you buy. A good rule-of-thumb is to ensure that each container in your storage solution is about half full when you organize your collection. This leaves a lot of space for new parts before you need to upgrade your storage solution.
It’s not just about leaving room in each container for more bricks… If you sort your collection by part, you will need to add additional storage when LEGO introduces new parts. That might not seem like a common occurrence, but in the last 5 years, LEGO has introduced about 30 new general-purpose elements every year — and that’s not including the hundreds of new printed tiles, minifigure accessories, and one-off parts for their licensed sets.
Another good idea is to look for modular storage solutions. If you are using plastic drawer cabinets, you can start with just a few cabinets, and add additional cabinets as your collection grows. Do be wary of purchasing discontinued or off-brand storage solutions, as you might not be able to get more when you need them. A common complaint of LEGO builders is that they have mismatched storage solutions, which are more difficult to stack, don’t look as attractive, and you can’t quickly rearrange your parts without changing their containers.
While there are good reasons to use the same LEGO storage solution for your entire collection, this may not be practical for several reasons. For one, you might want to re-purpose older storage solutions for seldom-used parts after upgrading to a nicer storage solution. For another, you might need a container with larger compartments for your most common parts. You also might want to store seldom-used parts in a cheaper storage solution or a less convenient location.
You also might want to keep part of your collection separate for a variety of reasons – I keep a complete set of 21050 Architecture Studio at work which I sometimes use on lunch breaks (or really boring phone calls.) It’s stored in a single tackle box with removable containers.
That’s why it is important to build your own storage solution using a combination of the storage solutions called out in this guide.
Maintaining an Index
If you have a large collection, you might want to maintain an index to help you keep track of which bricks you have, and where they are stored. In the extreme case of collections sorted by element (separated by both part + color), you might store different colors in a different place.
A quick way to do this is to print the Contact Sheet based on my LEGO Brick Labels collection. You could circle all of the parts that you own, or you could write the storage location in your collection next to each part in the Contact Sheet.
- Contact Sheet – Keep track of the parts you have, and where they are stored by printing this contact sheet and writing notes next to each part.
Some people maintain a digital inventory of the LEGO parts. This is possible using the BrickLink website by marking the inventory as part of your “Stockroom” (This ensures the parts aren’t listed as available for purchase). Alternately, you can use the BrickStock app to keep track of your inventory. Whether you use BrickLink or BrickStock, you can use the “remarks” field to indicate where the parts are stored in your collection.
If your storage solution includes backup storage locations when the primary storage is too full, or if you keep new bricks separate from old bricks, you might want to implement a simple cross-referencing solution. This helps you remember that there are additional bricks of this type stored in a different location. (It’s pretty annoying to order more bricks, only to realize that you already had an extra bag stored somewhere else.)
I designed a simple paper card which is small enough to fit in the smaller Akro-mils drawers. I can write the approximate quantity of extra bricks which I have stored elsewhere. (In my case, overflow LEGO bricks are stored in plastic bags which are kept in inexpensive Sterilite drawers.)
- Extra_Bricks_Redirect.pdf – Put one of these small cards in your storage drawer or container when it is full and you have extra bricks stored somewhere else.
If your LEGO collection has gotten dirty, or you purchased a large lot of used LEGO for a nice price, you may want to wash the LEGO bricks. While LEGO bricks are quite durable, you can’t expect them to look “like new” because used bricks often have small scratches along the edges, or indentations from using fingernails or teeth to separate bricks. The colors which seem to be most susceptible to showing scratches and wear are Black and White bricks.
Washing LEGO is easy!
- Put LEGO Bricks into a fine mesh bag with tight closure.
- Put bag into washing machine with other laundry and regular laundry soap. Run at a “Gentle” setting, as higher temperatures can damage your LEGO bricks.
- After washing, lay bricks out on a towel or carpet to dry.
Some people suggest that you use a dishwasher instead of the washing machine, to prevent bricks from get tumbled against one another. Use extra caution if you have a top-loading washer — parts could be broken or scratched by the agitator.
- Block Wash – This is the top-rated LEGO storage bag on Amazon, despite a few negative reviews due to broken zippers.
Please note that The LEGO Group does not advise washing your LEGO bricks in this way. “We recommend that you clean your LEGO® parts by hand using water no hotter than 104°F / 40°C and a soft cloth or sponge.” (Source: LEGO.com)
If your LEGO collection is sorted by category, or you sort by part and need to find the right color, it can be frustrating to find the part you need. That’s why you need a funnel tray — It allows you to dump out a whole bag or drawer of pieces, spread them out to find what you need, and quickly dump all of the pieces back into the storage container without making a mess.
Since funnel trays are very cheap, I suggest keeping a few of them around your LEGO build area.
- Funnel Tray – A Funnel Tray makes it easier to find a specific part or color.
LEGO Ruler and Sorting Tool
With some practice, you will be able to immediately recognize the difference between a 1×3 and 1×4 brick, but it’s really hard to determine if a brick is 1×12, 1×14, versus 1×16 without counting studs. That’s why I created a simple LEGO sorting tool, which you can print on thick paper, or print and laminate.
If you place a few copies of the LEGO Ruler and Sorting Tool around your build space, you will be able to quickly measure LEGO parts at any time. As you can see, it also includes a guide to help sort common Technic pieces.
- LEGO_Ruler.pdf – It’s easier to sort a lot of LEGO using a ruler.
NOTE: Be sure to print it at “100%” scaling factor. The PDF is designed to fit on both USA 8.5×11 inch and European A4 Paper.
New vs. Used bricks
Some LEGO builders keep brand new LEGO bricks separate from used bricks. This might be to help you find pristine bricks when making a model which will be photographed, or because you sometimes sell excess bricks on BrickLink.
Either way, if you wish to keep New & Used bricks separate, you will need a way to keep them separate. An easy way to do this is to keep new bricks in a small Ziploc bag alongside used bricks.