Chapter 5: LEGO Storage for Large Collections

Do you purchase multiple copies of a LEGO set because it includes great parts? Do you have a whole room dedicated to your LEGO collection? Have you been collecting since the 80’s? Your “Large” LEGO Collection needs to be really well organized, and you need to find the perfect storage solution for your home.

Considerations for large collections

There are several different ways to store a large collection of LEGO bricks. They range from high-end solutions with a drawer or compartment for each part, to inexpensive ziploc bags stored in larger drawers or bins.

Storage solutions for large collections

There is no “perfect” storage solution because everyone’s budget, storage location, and building style is different. Each of these products is best for different people.

You may find that one product is best suited for part of your collection (ex: basic bricks) while another product is better for everything else (ex: rare/specialty parts).

Drawer Cabinets

One of the most popular storage solutions among AFOL’s with large collections are Plastic Drawer Cabinets. They are reasonably priced, and with more than 50 drawers per cabinet you can sort your pieces by Part, or even by Element (Part + Color).

Akro-Mils drawer cabinets are very popular.  They are high-quality and cost effective.

Akro-Mils drawer cabinets are very popular. They are high-quality, cost effective, and offer two drawer sizes.

Best for:

  • Well organized collections
  • Lots of wall space

Also good for:

You can remove a drawer to bring the parts you need to your build area. Labels make it even easier to find the part you need.

Selection and quality varies greatly, with only one or two brands receiving the majority of attention in a given region. In the United States, the most common choice is the Akro-Mils products, but the Stack-on products are also popular. Some models can be stacked several units high, while others require wall mounting.

Features to look for in these cabinets include: durable drawers (which bend instead of breaking), drawers that can be removed easily, drawers that can be stacked when they are removed from the cabinet, and drawers that are the right size for your needs.

Recommended Products

Akro-Mils 64 Drawer Cabinet

Plastic drawer cabinets by Akro-Mils are the top pick for most LEGO enthusiasts in the USA. They have several advantages over other options including: drawers are easily removed and stack-able, drawers are deep enough for 16-stud bricks, drawers are flexible which makes them hard to break, and have competitive prices.

The drawers have interior measurements of 5.0 × 13.3 × 3.7 cm h (2 × 5¼ × 1½″ h), and a volume of 0.25 liters (15¼ in³).

Akro-Mils 44 Drawer Cabinet

In addition to the 64-drawer cabinet, Akro-Mils offers cabinets with larger drawers. The 24-drawer cabinet contains only large drawers, and the 44-drawer cabinet includes a mix of small and large drawers.

The larger drawers have interior measurements of 10.8 × 13.3 × 5.3 cm h (4¼ × 5¼ × 2″ h), and a volume of 0.76 liters (46⅓ in³).

Stack-On 39 Drawer Cabinet

The Stack-On brand is also popular with the LEGO community. The cabinets are taller than they are wide, which might work better in your home. Individual drawers are not stackable, which is less convenient when carrying drawers around your workspace.

They also come in three sizes: 60 small drawers, 18 large drawers, and a mix of 39 small and large drawers.

Drawers with dividers

If you want to store your LEGO collection like the LEGO design studios in Billund, you want large drawers with divided compartments. Drawers with dividers allow you to keep a large collection meticulously organized, and they take up less wall space than the drawer cabinets highlighted above. These cabinets are especially well suited for people who want to separate pieces by Element (Part + Color) instead of just by Part.

Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers with Dividers. (Photo from Brickset)

Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers with Dividers. (Photo from Brickset)

Best for:

  • Well organized collections
  • Limited Wall Space

Also good for:

Especially well suited to collections sorted by Element (Part + Color).

I have seen beautiful examples of drawers with every common brick and plate of a single color in one cabinet, or alternately, every color of a single part in a single drawer. Which organizational scheme you pick will depend on whether you think about the LEGO library of elements by color first, or by part first.

Recommended Products

This UK company makes the only storage drawers designed specifically for LEGO Bricks. The dividers are removeable, and each compartment is slightly larger than 8×8 studs.

Drawers can be configured with up to 15 compartments measuring about 7 × 7.5 × 6 cm h (2¾ × 3 × 2⅓″ h), with a volume of 0.32 liters (19 1/4 in³).

Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers

Really Useful Products makes high quality drawers designed for scrapbooking, and an optional divided insert with 15 compartments that works great for large LEGO collections. These are really large drawers that can hold a lot of LEGO bricks.

With the insert, each of the 15 divided compartments are 10.5 × 7.0 × 7.5 cm h (4⅛ × 2¾ × 2⅞″ h), with a volume of 0.55 liters (33.6 in³).

Each compartment in the Really Useful drawers is about 70% larger than the Papimax Drawers. Because each compartment is so large, the Really Useful Drawers are most appealing for extremely large collections and large LEGO rooms.

Note: Both of these options are now available in the US. They are fairly expensive specialty products, and can only be purchased direct from the manufacturers.

Removable Compartment Organizers

One of the newest products to gain popularity with LEGO builders is a new kind of tackle box with removable compartments. Many LEGO builders like how these have tight-fitting lids, but you can remove just one compartment and bring it to your build area.

Removable Compartment organizers are versatile and have tight-fitting lids to keep pieces in place.

Removable Compartment organizers are versatile and have tight-fitting lids to keep pieces in place.

Best for:

  • Well organized collections
  • Portability

Also good for:

You can remove a single compartment to bring the parts you need to your build area.

These products typically come in both a regular, and deep option. The shallower options are better for people who want a lot of small storage containers, especially when sorting by Part, or by both Part and Color (by Element). You typically get more compartments this way, and they aren’t as deep so it’s easier to remove parts from the bottom of each compartment. The deeper options only make sense if you sort by both part and color, and have a lot of basic bricks that you need to store.

Recommended Products

Stanley 014725 with 25 Removable Compartments

With 25 removeable compartments, this is a great option for collections which are very well organized. A tight-fitting lid makes this perfect for portable LEGO Collections.

They also offer a deeper version of this product with just 10 larger compartments.

Stanley FatMax Deep Pro Organizer with 10 compartments.

Stanley also offers a more expensive FatMax option which is probably overkill for LEGO storage.

It is also sold under the Dewalt brand, which might be cheaper.

Tackle Boxes

Tackle boxes are popular in the crafting community, and they are popular with LEGO enthusiasts as well. These containers have divided compartments and a tight fitting lid, and are less expensive than some other options. The most common designs have a lid which is attached to the base with a hinge, and the size of each compartment is often adjustable with plastic dividers.

Plano 3700 Series tackle boxes can store a lot of LEGO bricks.

Plano 3700 Series tackle boxes can store a lot of LEGO bricks.

Best for:

  • Portability
  • Inexpensive
  • High storage density
  • Stackable

Accessing a specific part is a bit slower than some other solutions, as you need to find the right container, fold it open, and carefully remove the parts you need without causing an earthquake (where parts end up shifting into the wrong compartment.) That said, they are extremely portable, making them a great choice for younger builders, or people who need to bring parts to a LEGO convention. It’s also a good deep storage option for well-organized builders who need an inexpensive and efficient storage solution for less frequently used parts.

Recommended Products:
  • Plano Tackle Boxes – Tackle boxes come in a wide range of sizes, but the larger sizes can hold more LEGO bricks. I recommend the 3700 Series which is 14 × 9¼ × 2″ tall, and has up to 24 compartments. The smaller 3600 Series is 11 × 7¼ × 1¾″ tall, with up to 21 compartments. (Anything smaller than this is probably too small for LEGO bricks.)
  • Plano Multi-tray Tackle Box – For the ultimate in well-organized portable storage, consider one of these large tackle boxes which store up to four tackle box trays. The Plano 1374 Rack System holds four of the 3700 Series Tackle Boxes recommended above.

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are one of the cheapest and most commonly used LEGO storage containers. It helps that they are very easy to find — you can buy them at almost any grocery store. That said, not all bags are created equal… Premium bags don’t cost much more, but they include convenient Sliding zippers, and are designed to stand up when placed on the ground. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s really helpful since you can leave a bag unzipped without worrying about it falling over and spilling pieces all over your workspace.

Zippered Plastic Bags are inexpensive and versatile.

Zippered Plastic Bags are inexpensive and versatile.

Best for:

  • Low cost
  • High storage density
  • Overflow storage

Also good for:

Separating new and used bricks while storing them in the same container.

Plastic Bags are especially well suited as overflow storage for people with very large collections — you can stack a lot of bags in a box or large drawer without wasting space. (Plastic Bags are also useful for storing sets, manuals, or other LEGO accessories.)

I strongly recommend having bags available in all sizes: from the smallest 2 × 3″ size to the largest 2.5 Gallon size — They are inexpensive, and you never know when you will need them!

Recommended Products:
  • Ziploc Slider Stand & Fill Bags – This is the premium option for storing LEGO bricks in bags. The slider makes it easier to open and close, and the bag stands up while you fill it. Available in Quart, Gallon, or a Variety packs. (For even larger quantities, or to store a complete LEGO set, try the Hefty Slider 2.5 Gallon Bag.)
  • Standard Plastic bags – The most common sizes are Sandwich, Quart, and Gallon. The name brand regular bags cost almost as much as the Slider bags, but you might be able to find inexpensive generic bags at your grocery store. The “Freezer” bags are thicker and more durable, but more expensive. (I really like the Snack Size, which is the same width as the Sandwich size, but half as tall. It’s perfect for small parts and accessories.)
  • Small Bags – If you’ve ever purchased LEGO bricks on Bricklink, you probably received some of them in very small plastic bags. The smallest size I can recommend are the 3 × 5″ bags, which are cheap and can hold a fair number of pieces. (The 2 × 3″ bags aren’t very useful, although they are large enough to store a couple bricks or a single LEGO Minifigure.)

Open-front Bins

Designed for industrial applications, some professional LEGO builders use open-front storage for commonly-used bricks. This storage solution takes up a lot of space, so it only makes sense if you have a very large quantity of common elements. For example, artists like Nathan Sawaya who use a large quantity of classic bricks to make large LEGO sculptures.

Akro-Mils Shelf with 8" x 12" Bins.

Akro-Mils Shelf with 8″ x 12″ Bins.

Not Recommended:

While they might make sense in the model shop at LEGOLAND, or the design studio of Nathan Sawaya, they aren’t very practical for most LEGO enthusiasts. The primary concerns are storage efficiency, cost, and dust.

The main concern with this storage solution is that it is expensive, takes up a lot of space, and pieces can fall out if the container is too full.

I’d love to hear if you use a different storage solution for your large collection. In the next chapter, we’ll look at some neat tricks to be more creative and organized.

65 Responses

  1. Avatar Benny says:

    Fantastic, exactly the info I was looking for! I used to have my collection sorted only by color and I’m now redoing it piece-first. I bought a bulk set of meal-prep tupperware which cost ~75¢ per container. Has anyone heard of meal prep supplies being used for lego storage before?

    • Avatar Tom Alphin says:

      Yes, I actually use disposable takeaway containers as my sorting trays. I prefer more durable storage for long-term storage, but I’m sure lightweight food storage containers would last a pretty long time, too.

  2. I am very happy to see your post. I wa s very eager to see a post related with space management. You have shared such an informative post related with large collection space management. Hope you will share more post related with it.

  3. Avatar Charles B. Naumann says:

    One other option. Upcycle #1 plastic jars. They are free and have tight fitting lids to keep dust out. They come in all sorts of different sizes, from small medicine bottles to gallon+ mayo jars. You can even buy the containers empty (not cheap.) They store OK on shevles and it is easy to see the contents if you take the time to remove the label. Jars for spagetti sauce, mayo, nuts, and even orange juice work well. Soda pop bottles do not work well as they are very thin and have small openings. Windex or a small amout of ammonia is good for removing lingering garlic odors form spagetti sauce jars, WD40 and a hair dryer on low heat is excellent for removing lables. Do not use the dishwasher, the heat will distort the plastic.

    You can ask people to save them for you or you can dumpster dive in recylcing bins.

  4. Hi,
    Do you have any recommendations on how to store built Legos without displaying them? We are trying to reclaim a room in our house which has been the Lego room forever, and although my kids aren’t actively playing with them anymore, there are about 25 sets they’d like to keep built for the future. I don’t want to leave them on open shelves as over time they will just get dusty and broken as the room is destined to be a hangout space for our kids and their friends. Any recommendations?? Thanks in advance!

    • Avatar Tom Alphin says:

      I do not have a perfect answer, as this isn’t something I’ve done, nor something that many of the people I know have done. That said, my best suggestion would be to get large ziploc bags (2.5 or even 5 gallon bags). Put each assembled set in the smallest bag it will fit in, remove most of the air, and stack gently in a box with bubblewrap or packing peanuts. Remember that the model will break a little even if you are careful, but it will be pretty easy to repair when you decide to take them out again.

      That said, if you are unsure if they need to remain assembled, you will save a lot of space if you carefully each set, one at a time, and place in separate ziploc bag which is labeled, and ideally contains the building instructions for later. (You can always build them again!)

  5. Avatar pamela says:

    Thanks so much for this guide! In looking for additional ways to sort & store my adult son’s huge lego collection (currently overflowing from 6 tall Ikea Trofast units) I found storage drawers made for the Ikea Kallax / Expedit system. They’re by Best Craft Organizer https://www.bestscrapbookshelf.com/products/kallax-cube-inserts.html and look like they would work well in combination with some individual drawer dividers that we already own. Thought someone else might be searching for something similar since Kallax / Expedit are such popular units.

  6. Avatar Me says:

    Did you know that the Akro-Mils drawer cabinets have things on the back which you can snap off to divide the drawers?

  7. Avatar Daniel says:

    I use a mix of 5L storage bins and the Removable Compartment Organizers similar to the ones mentioned here. I dont mind deep boxes as tehy are easy to tip over to a bigger container if you cannot easily find the part. Tackle boxes are hell for me, hard to get the pieces, they always mix … very nice article.

    I have around 150L~200L of pieces, no idea how many 🙂

  8. Avatar Rob says:

    Hello all!
    I’m very excited to announce that the Papimax LEGO storage boxes with dividers are now available in the US. You can place your orders through our website https://papimax.com/
    EU and worldwide customers can order from AMAZON or our UK website.

    Happy building!

  9. Avatar Steve Bonds says:

    In the USA, the Really Useful scrapbook drawers are available at Michael’s stores (a large chain) as item 1496590:

    https://www.michaels.com/really-useful-boxes-clear-8-drawer-rolling-chest/10496590.html

    The company also (finally!) has a USA presence but the online store for the USA is buried many links in from the main site. The drawers, and more importantly, the amazing 15-compartment hobby tray can be ordered from the “usa” site at:

    http://www.reallyusefulproducts.co.uk/usa/html/onlineshop/rub_storage.php

    • Avatar Erik Homstead says:

      Those 15-compartment trays have only been available in their US store very recently. Ordered some a week ago, they seem to fulfill orders very slowly, when I inquired I was told orders typically ship after 7-10 days. Love the Really Useful Boxes storage drawers that I purchased from Michael’s though.

      Advice for shopping at Michael’s: it is really easy to find 40-50% off coupons. Also I found the Really Useful drawers for 50 % off. Michael’s retails it for $130 (8 drawers, the 9 liter size). If you catch a Michael’s sale or coupon then it is probably cheaper than the manufacturer’s site, especially since they charge shipping (although they give some customizable options for # of drawers and colors). Still need to order any accessories like the drawer compartment dividers from the manufacturer.

  10. Avatar Mullog says:

    Hello Tom.

    Been reading this guide for quite some time since I wanted to sort my Legos in a proper way, and your job is really incredible. The only drawback for me as I live in France is that Akro Mils products aren’t available here, unless you are willing to spend a hundred euros for importing those. So here is what I found at a reasonable price :
    https://www.amazon.fr/gp/r.html?C=3GJ5U8VQGVINW&K=30JDDXBF1PS9N&M=urn:rtn:msg:201811242123095a48f2ef37f9432c810192ba2480p0eu&R=37896FON5DWD2&T=C&U=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.fr%2Fdp%2FB008DHZXRC%2Fref%3Dpe_3044141_185740131_TE_item&H=YJNPAEZQNADRAP0AAPCFKIQO2WUA&ref_=pe_3044141_185740131_TE_item
    9€ for 30 cabinets, almost the same value per cabinet as for the Akro Mils’, stackable as well, seems like a good product for us non-US users 🙂
    I ordered 6 of them, I’ll let you know if you’re interested in it 😉

    • Avatar Tom Alphin says:

      Thanks for sharing. I look forward to hearing how well they work when they arrive!

      Sincerely,
      —tom

      • Avatar Mullog says:

        Hey Tom.

        So I received those Stanley drawers, and I have to say I’m quite happy with it 🙂 Here is a picture :
        https://tof.cx/image/CDHHL

        Dimensions of the cabinets are similar to Akro Mils’, though you only fit 30 cabinets per drawer, but otherwise I guess it’s almost the same product. I plan to buy some more cause I just had enough place for 3 of my Technic cars and I still have a full travel bag full of Lego brick to sort out 🙂

        In a nutshell, I’d recommend this product for people who couldn’t get Akro Mils’ 😉

  11. Avatar Josiah Sansone says:

    I am new (returning) to the lego building world as my son (now 4) has graduated from Duplo’s and is now starting to build with Lego classic. I’ve already bought him several large classic sets to begin a base of building materials, and of course needed some sort of organization solution. The RUB drawers seem like an awesome option but you still can’t get the dividers in the US and they’re expensive. I also wanted something that he could bring from the storage area to the build area easily, with a lid and handle so he can’t spill and drop it. I was looking at the Stanley/Dewalt system and found an alternative that is much cheaper and similar to the FatMax organizers in the build quality and wanted to bring to your attention:
    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-10-Compartment-Interlocking-Small-Parts-Organizer-in-Black-235587/302939645
    Home Depot brand Husky makes these removable compartment organizers, only $10, and they lock together in a stack. The build quality is excellent and the gray bins make visibility excellent for all colors except maybe dark gray pieces. I’ve bought 3 already and they are great! The lids have dimpled areas that prevent pieces from escaping the bins, even if turned upside down. I am also considering building a custom wooden storage rack to allow them to slide in and out. Clear tops allow for excellent visibility. Unfortunately probably not available in the UK 🙁
    Thanks for the excellent write-up!

  12. Avatar Momto3boys says:

    Thank you so much for organizing all this information. As a Mom, I’m always overwhelmed by my boys Lego collection. I started organizing manuals and found out we have well over 100 sets. And now our summer project has been organizing all the pieces per your pdf label organizing system. Summer’s about half way over and we’re almost done. Just a couple days left to sort. Then I’ll put them in Akro Mills storage system. My kids initially balked at sorting but then they quickly realized how much easier it’ll be to free build when they don’t have to search forever through a big bin for that one tiny piece.
    Your website has been invaluable in helping me figure out how to sort and come up with a system that works for us. Thank you so much for putting this all together! Seriously grateful!

  13. Avatar John says:

    Hi I’m new here. I have around 260,000 bricks and I use the really useful boxes for my sorting and storage. I will include the link below. They all nest and can be keep inside the bigger really Useful Boxes. If you would like pictures I can do that also. Thank you
    John Look down to the bottom of the page. The different trays are excellent .

  14. Avatar Richie says:

    I don’t like the slider zippers on Ziploc bags. They are too easy to break and rarely stay properly locked. I really like the freezer type as they come with one longer lip that makes it easier to grip and open.

  15. Avatar Richie says:

    I’d like to see suggestions on best storage options for collections over 500K elements. As I mentioned before, storage space becomes an issue to manage. In my case, I need to look to these:

    http://www.southwestsolutions.com/equipment/high-density-mobile-shelving

    • Avatar Tom Alphin says:

      Those high-density storage solutions are amazing, but well outside of reach for most of my readers. Thanks for sharing, though!

  16. Avatar N. Leenders says:

    For my technics collection, I use Shuter flip out bins. It is hard to express just how great they are to use, and my on-line search didn’t find any pictures to do them justice. These bins come in a variety of sizes, but they are modular, they connect together to create systems. So I have large bins on the bottom, medium next, and topped with small bins. I have these at the back of my table, and at my side, on a shelf, I do this again, three layers deep. The bins don’t fall over. I slide the front sets of bins to the side to access bins further back and thus have many quickly accessible parts next to me.

    • Avatar tomalphin says:

      This looks like a high quality product, but it’s pretty expensive. Thankfully, there are far fewer common elements in Technic than in System, so this might be a good premium recommendation for Technic builders. I’d love to see a photo!

      • Avatar N. Leenders says:

        Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I never saw your reply until I happened to do a search that brought this back up. I got a really good deal on my flip out bins, I suspect the manufacturer was clearing them out because they are blue. I’ll email photos. My original post contains an error, I have two sizes of bins, not three.

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