Chapter 4: LEGO Storage for Medium Collections
A cabinet with plastic drawers allows you to quickly slide out the parts you need, then push them out of the way. It’s an ideal solution if you don’t have a lot of space to store your parts and build models.
Capacity – 5,000 pieces or more. Because there are so many choices and they are modular, it is possible to add additional storage as your LEGO collection grows.
Dedicated LEGO Area Although you can carry a single drawer to another part of your house, these solutions work best if you want to keep all of your LEGO in one area. A cabinet with wheels might be more convenient in some rooms (although small plastic wheels do not work well on carpet.)
- Iris 5-drawer Activity Chest – These drawers are a large enough to store a LEGO baseplate, but shallow enough that parts won’t be too difficult to find.
This version is almost identical to a popular LEGO-branded storage cabinet that Iris stopped selling a few years ago.
- Sterilite 3-Drawer ClearView Organizer – Sterilite offers a wide range of inexpensive plastic drawer cabinets. Look for cabinets like this 3-drawer model with drawers that are not too deep.
Remember that clear drawers are more convenient, since you can look for hard-to-find pieces by looking through the bottom.
Modular LEGO Workstations
If you are able to dedicate space to your LEGO Collection, you can build or buy a LEGO Workstation with multiple drawers. The Ikea Trofast system is the most commonly used system as it is readily available in most countries, and economical. The configuration shown below is less than 100$.
Capacity – 5,000 pieces or more. Because these systems can be built in multiple configurations, it is possible to add additional storage as your LEGO collection grows.
Dedicated LEGO Area Although you can carry a single drawer to another part of your house, these solutions work best if you want to keep all of your LEGO in one area. Thankfully, you can create a modular solution which combines storage and a place to build your models.
- Ikea Trofast Storage cabinets can store anywhere from 6 to 24 shallow drawers.
I always recommend the shallower drawers; they allow more categories, and it’s easier to find a specific part in a shallow container. (You can get lids for Trofast bins, allowing you to stack them or take them outside of the house without losing all your parts.)
If you have space under a bed and a pretty large bedroom, why not use that space to hide a huge LEGO collection? It’s the same ideas as a trundle bed, except instead of hiding a second bed, you are hiding a well organized LEGO collection.
An under-bed storage unit is also suggested in Chapter 3: LEGO Storage for Small Collections. If you want to organize your pieces into categories, you will need more than one storage unit, or a larger unit with multiple compartments.
Capacity – 10,000 pieces or fewer. A twin-sized trundle should be able to hold a lot of bricks.
Keeping bricks in the bedroom. Unless your final solution includes small removable bins, it won’t be easy to move the bricks to another room. (If you are getting this for kids, that might be a good thing.)
- DIY Underbed LEGO Storage, by thehappyhousie.com – This design only offers three different compartments, but could easily be modified if you want to sort your collection into more categories.
- Roll-away Storage Trundle, by Shades of Blue Interiors – This is another good-looking storage trundle design to consider. It isn’t designed with LEGO in mind, but should work well.
- Iris 40 quart Underbed Storage – If DIY solutions aren’t within your skills, you can always buy several smaller plastic under-bed storage containers.
You should be able to fit three or four under a standard twin-sized bed.
Large Plastic Containers with Lid
While I generally recommend cabinets with drawers when sorting LEGO pieces by category, there are some cases where plastic containers with lids are more convenient, most notably when portability is a priority. There are a lot of brands out there, so be sure to do some research before buying the cheapest option at your local department store.
You may want to pick one system and buy only that product, as the plastic containers will stack more easily. Some brands, including Really Useful Boxes offer multiple different heights with the same size lid, making it easy to stack containers of different sizes. That said, remember that it’s easier to find the part you need in a shallow container!
Unlimited capacity You just need to buy more containers when you run out of space.
Portable Models with a tight-fitting lid and latch are very portable, perfect if you need to take your LEGO collection around the house, or to a LEGO convention.
- Really Useful Boxes – These are a premium Plastic Storage bin which is readily available in both the United States and Europe. It’s both durable, and has a lid with latches on either side that can be snapped shut, making it a great portable solution.
The 8.1 Liter box would be perfect for around 1,500 bricks, or the 17 Liter box would be great for up to 3,000 bricks.
- Iris 41 quart Storage Box – This is a really large box that would be great for more than 5,000 bricks.
I would avoid the larger 46 or 62 quart versions because it would be frustrating to find specific LEGO pieces as the container would be too deep.
I have gotten to a 12k collection pretty quickly and as a compulsive sorter (I’m a taxonomist by profession), I needed divided storage for categories much faster than I could take the time to go shopping for them. The solution that I find most useful is empty clear plastic food containers. They come in all sizes with tight lids, and produce boxes nest nicely (just tape the little holes closed if you are storing small pieces). Then I pile them all in a cardboard box and they are in-house portable!
It’s a pleasure to meet a working taxonomist! I would love to know how closely the categories I’ve created to help people organize their LEGO collection line up with best practices in the field. (ex: the categories and sub-categories used in my label collection at https://brickarchitect.com/files/LEGO_BRICK_LABELS-CONTACT_SHEET.pdf )
As for the suggestion to use plastic food containers – I agree, this is an economical (if not free) option which can make a lot of sense. Larger yogurt cups (for example) come with a tight-fitting lid and are pretty sturdy. They are great for sorting a lot of the same part, and you can always dump a bin out into a shallow tray to find a specific part, then pour back into the container for storage.
Hi, we’ve just bought 2 sets of the 9 drawer trofast as it’s easily accessible for my two small kids. Only just starting the mammoth sorting job! They have very different ideas of categories, like jungle-like pieces, river pieces
Does anyone have a suggestion for dividers that fit inside trofast shallow drawers? Ideally want to avoid plastic bags. Thanks.
There are actually trofast bin dividers that you can find online (not made by Ikea)! I’m planning the redesign of my son’s room and will be incorporating additional trofast storage for his lego collection as well, so I’ve been looking for similar solutions.
We have the Trofast storage drawers from IKEA. They are fine, but if the drawers end up with any significant weight (i.e. drawers filled to the top with Lego) they don’t stay in the drawer slots. The plastic of the drawers themselves is shoddy. And bends easily. I would suggest anything else on this list.
Amy, I’ve had the same issue with the Trofast storage, plain wood.
I’d recommend using their white version: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/trofast-frame-white-80153800/
It comes with additional rails for the drawers and it works really well, even when the drawer is full.
I’ve had a similar issue. One thing I’ve seen online which I’m planning to incorporate into my son’s room redesign is attaching additional strips of wood (like a 1×1) underneath the grooves for the drawers to create additional surface area to support the bins.
When I receive a LEGO set that has been shipped to me, if there is no gross damage to suggest a return might be necessary, I cut the shipping carton in half. Usually vertically on two opposite sides and then the bottom, so that I can slide one half into the other, reducing the volume by 50%. Sometimes I have to shorten the top leaves, which strengthens the sides, and I always put a tight piece on to the bottom to add strength and eliminate nooks and crannies where 1x1s like to hide. I don’t use glue which is permanent, and packing tape is as strong and easily allows the halved box to be adjusted in the future. Plastic kitchen storage ware (square, low, with lids, 4/5/6″ and transparent) are excellent for sorting bricks. Plastic freezer zipper bags (large contains mediums and smalls) are good for longer term storage. One halved box can contain the model (and large parts) during construction, and another 1/2 box can hold all other necessary pieces. Both boxes can be quickly put away if necessary.
Thank you so much for this guide! It’s the best one! My 8 yr old has a medium collection that he wants to sort by part. I have 9 drawers but am overwhelmed by what those 9 broad categories should be. Bricks will be sub-organized into smaller containers, so they don’t need to be a category. He doesn’t have any Technics. Any suggestions? Thank you!
Start with smaller containers that can fit inside the drawers – sorting completely by part is not practical unless you have a HUGE collection. That’s why you need to make sure each drawer has an “everything else” compartment for the pieces that you only have one or two of.
I’m surprised there isn’t more talk of ziplock bags. You can get them in a variety of sizes, they’re clear, and you can toss them into a large storage container when done
They are called out as an economical option in the next chapter 🙂
Anecdote: I got an akro-mills container for my medium-size collection and found it had too many and too small compartments. Better to get wide & deep containers if you’re not sorting by part.
That makes sense… The smaller compartments of the Akro-mils are more appropriate when you sort by part, or even by element (part + color).
For medium-sized collections, the wider (and longer) drawers you suggested are a better match. Just try not to get drawers that are too deep since it’s hard to dig through many inches deep to find what you need.
Hey Tom, got a collection of legos from my in laws. Sitting at around 20k pieces (19 gal tote + various bins). We’ve got this massive tote and a 44 akro-mills container. Really at a loss in terms of how to handle this task. We’re also living in a smallish 2 bedroom without much room for storage.
I know it isn’t a satisfying answer, but it really is as simple as just get started! Sorting into categories is the best first step (like bricks, plates, tiles, minifigs/accessories, technic, slopes, curved, etc…) Just the process of sorting into catgories means that you touch every piece at least once, so you have a better idea what you have, whether you need to sort further, and what type of long-term storage makes the most sense for you!
Hi Tom and Jon, how many bricks could you expect to get in each trofast drawer. Our collection is about 43k pieces so we’re trying to work out how many we might need.
PS thanks for the great guide.
I do not own any Trofast drawers, so I can not check. If you can find the capacity in liters, you can calculate it yourself based on the estimate of 250 pieces / liter. (Alternately, you can find measurements of the inner dimensions of each drawer, and calculate liters from that…)
Tom, this guide is fantastic and very well done! If i can make a small contribution, after buying different wrong containers I’m now at peace and can recommend the large GLIS box from Ikea https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/glis-box-with-lid-clear-00283103/#. They’re similar to the other “Large Plastic Containers with Lid” examples in your guide, main differences are that 1) they’re easy available in Italy as well 🙂 2) they cost much less, around 4$ each.
My tip is a IKEA-combination between Billy and Samla-boxes. You can fit 4 boxes on each shelf and i think you can fit about 8 shelves in a large Billy. A rather cheap combination with a large capacity. (but you need to order a couple of extra loose shelves for the Billy)
I’ve used a mix of containment as my collection has evolved. I have a suggestion that would probably fall into your “Medium” zone, and I don’t think I’ve seen many other people use these besides myself: photo organization cases.
They are great for portability, and great for sorting too (up to a certain number/size of parts). I use them to store mainly small plates, tiles, special parts, etc. and whatever I might need to bring along with me somewhere. No spillage issues. I rank these higher than those small “tackle boxes” with dividers (as those are difficult to reach into and find parts without them spilling into other sections).
I’m hesitant to recommend these until I try them, but this seems like an interesting alternative to the Tackle Box solution. I’ll see if I can find them locally to see how it might might work LEGO bricks.
Is each small removeable container used for just one part type, or do sort by both part + color?
Thanks for putting this guide together as it will be nice to point people in your direction when the “how did you sort this?” question comes up. I have a larger Lego collection, but I still use the Ikea Trofast system with the taller frame http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/10308693/ and ziplock bags to sort the Lego pieces inside each bin. Ikea also makes lids for the Trofast bins http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/57454500/ which help keep dust off loose (i.e. to be sorted) Lego and makes the bins easily stackable.
As you saw, Trofast is definitely one of my suggested products, especially for medium-sized collections. I’m sure it works pretty well even for a large collection if you don’t mind using ziploc bags to sort pieces into more categories.
The Trofast lids are a great tip – I added a note to the guide!
For the IRIS drawers I prefer the 6 draw scrap book variant. Mainly because the scrapbook boxes have lids.
I assume it is the same for both the one you show above and as it is for mine you can remove the top tray and stack another tower on top.
they make fantastic dividers that fit in the cases too but I can’t find the ones I use online at the moment
Where did you find the dividers? I am sold on the rolling cart solution, but I cannot find any mention of how to add dividers to their boxes? I would really like to know as I think this is a great solve.
I’m not sure which dividers you are asking about… Can you clarify?