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The LEGO Storage Guide by Tom Alphin

by admin on November 30, 2017

in Taking Care of LEGO

LEGO fan Tom Alphin is known for his passion for the LEGO Architecture line, as well as his interest in assisting LEGO fans with finding storage solutions for their ever-growing LEGO collection. We have discussed Tom’s project with the #21050 LEGO Architecture Studio set (see: LEGO Architecture Studio 30-Day Challenge), and his downloadable labels for storage units (see: LEGO Brick Labels for Your Storage Cabinets). Tom also wrote a book, The LEGO Architect, for fellow LEGO Architecture fans. 🙂

Recently, Tom embarked on a new project, what he hopes to become the ultimate guide to organizing, sorting, and storing LEGO bricks, minifigs, complete sets, instruction manuals, and more. The LEGO Storage Guide is already 10 chapters and about 50 pages long, full of very useful guidance to manage your LEGO collection. Currently, Tom is looking for feedback and suggestions to further improve his guide. Below are the details.

The in-depth LEGO Storage Guide helps you understand your LEGO collection, find the best way to organize your LEGO bricks, and discover the best LEGO storage for your home and budget. It also includes recommendations for displaying and storing your LEGO minifigures. The guide contains two sections:

Both broad sections are broken down into smaller chapters, each focusing on a particular aspect of getting a handle on your LEGO collection. I like that the guide offers not just a one-size-fits-all solution, but it takes into consideration things like the age of the LEGO fan, the size of the collection, the amount of space available, budget, and whether the system needs to be portable. Below is a list of the chapters with links, so you can check them out yourself. And, if you want to bookmark the main page of the guide, you can find it here: THE LEGO STORAGE GUIDE

Most of the storage and display solutions Tom highlights in his guide are readily available in North America, and there are usually similar ones in other areas. Tom also plans to add region-specific recommendations in the future, so if you have special storage and display solutions in your country, let him know.

Whether you are just starting out in the LEGO hobby and looking for your first storage and display solution, or you want to tweak your current system, head over to Tom’s guide and see if you find some tips and tricks to make your own LEGO organization easier. And, if you have any thoughts, feedback, and ideas, you can either share them at his website, or in the comment section below. I’m, in touch with Tom, so will make sure that he reads them and responds. 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

brickmaster November 30, 2017 at 3:53 PM

Well thought out guide. I think the most important is to understand the principle of organization and to figure out what works best for us individually. I have gone through so many different storage solutions, and I’m still probably not done. It’s best to stay with something cheap at the beginning, like shoeboxes and plastic bags, until you figure out what works for you.

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admin November 30, 2017 at 10:14 PM

Yes, your LEGO storage can definitely change as your LEGO collection, building style, available space, etc. changes. You can certainly maintain a simple setup like you mentioned and then just swap it out as needed. If you live near other LEGO fans, you can also trade storage systems with them. Someone may be downsizing, upsizing, or switching to a different system, and you can swap storage solutions. 🙂

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Tom Alphin December 3, 2017 at 2:09 AM

Brickmaster,
I couldn’t agree more—Sort Early and Often!

In all honesty, there is no one-size-fits-all storage solution, so the only way to find the perfect solution for your collection is to pick a few products to try and start sorting. Your collection will grow and your storage products will change over time. Selling or trading storage you used to like with another LEGO builder is a great idea.

—tom

P.S. Thanks to The Brick Blogger for the warm review of my guide!

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admin December 3, 2017 at 10:32 AM

Tom, nice to have you over. Always a pleasure to share your projects. And thanks for answering questions/comments. 🙂

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DavidH November 30, 2017 at 4:02 PM

I have seen the Acro-Mils or Stack-On boxes used most often by AFOLs, and I figured if so many people use that drawer system it should be good enough for me. However, I find that I prefer the ones with the larger drawers. The small ones are a little too small, and are only needed to separate out a few small items. The ones pictured in the article with half small and half large drawers are very good. They are not very expensive either.

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admin November 30, 2017 at 10:15 PM

Yes, that’s a system many AFOLs use. It is great for separating out smaller and/or unique pieces, and you can still use bigger storage boxes for larger volumes of pieces.

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Tom Alphin December 3, 2017 at 2:07 AM

DavidH,
I would agree—the smallest drawers are only advantageous if you sort your collection such that each drawer contains just one relatively uncommon or small part. Mixing colors of that one part in the small drawer is usually OK, since it’s easy for most people to find the red one when they need it.

The larger Akro-mils drawers are great for more common parts, or if you dedicate one drawer to multiple similar parts.

—tom

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Hayato November 30, 2017 at 4:25 PM

We mostly just use one of those lego mats that you can draw together with a cord. It works well for kids, but I can see as they get older that they would want to be more organized.

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admin November 30, 2017 at 10:17 PM

I have one of those mats too. It is great for free building and for gathering up pieces afterwards. Perfect for kids, but I use one too. 🙂

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Håkan December 1, 2017 at 7:46 PM

Are they still being produced? I figured they were discontinued around the 80’s or 90’s?

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Håkan December 1, 2017 at 7:52 PM

This tent and the mats with motifs look rather interesting, though…

Although perhaps not worth the requested price tag.

https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?G=cloth09#T=S&O={“iconly”:0}

https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?G=cloth08#T=S&O={“iconly”:0}

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admin December 1, 2017 at 8:03 PM

The one I have is like the space one, but with no printing on the inside.

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admin December 1, 2017 at 8:02 PM

LEGO still occasionally makes them. And the latest ones even have printing on the inside with a terrain. They are pretty neat. The one I have I got from eBay. It was the older design, but it was in brand new condition. I really like it when I work on MOCs, as cleanup is super easy; just draw the cords together. There are also third-parties now who make the same or similar designs. And you can also make your own if you know how to sow. It’s a super easy pattern.

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Håkan December 2, 2017 at 6:20 AM

I could brush up on my sewing, I guess. I’m an amateur, but I’ve fixed a few holes and such through the ages. In my opinion, it’s mostly patience.

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admin December 2, 2017 at 8:49 AM

Skill too. My grandma was an amazing seamstress, and there is a lot of skill involved. But once you know the basics, you can at least fix/sew most basic things. Knowing how to use a sewing machine also helps. I feel sorry for people who weren’t even thought how to sew on a button. It is a basic and very useful skill that should be taught to everyone.

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Tom Alphin December 3, 2017 at 2:04 AM

The “Swoop” brand bags, and bags by other manufacturers are a good choice, since the official LEGO drawstring bags haven’t been sold in quite some time.

(The classic space one is pretty great, though.)

—tom

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Håkan December 3, 2017 at 9:34 AM

Looks pretty nice.

Some of those were HUGE!

https://swoopbags.com/

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Håkan December 1, 2017 at 9:13 AM

They’re a nightmare when you’re on the lookout for a single, small piece, though…

Although my own sorting system is rather haphazard, to be honest…

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admin December 1, 2017 at 9:37 AM

When I was a kid, we also had one of those playmats for the bulk of our LEGO, then used a little box (like a tackle box) for special pieces, like minifig accessories and translucent pieces. I remember I was so enamored by translucent pieces. Those were my treasures! 😀

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Håkan December 1, 2017 at 10:01 AM

My preciousss… They are quite captivating, like glittering emeralds for our magpie brains…

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admin December 1, 2017 at 11:42 AM

Yeah, fur sure! 😀

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LegoMom November 30, 2017 at 5:32 PM

This looks very useful. I will read through it when I have more time. In the meantime, I bookmarked the website. Thanks!

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Legostuff71 November 30, 2017 at 5:47 PM

I put my lego sets in Storage bins. I keep the sets together as much as possible and worse case scenario I keep all instruction manual’s in with their sets they belong to. So, if the set falls apart I can put it back together again . I have plastic drawers as well , but I mostly use those for my miscellaneous bricks. Also , the container you get at the Lego store from the pick- brick wall can work to.

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admin November 30, 2017 at 10:17 PM

Sounds like you have a good system! And yes PAB Cups are great for storage. I use them both for LEGO and non-LEGO items around the house. 😀

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Tom Alphin December 3, 2017 at 2:02 AM

I think most LEGO builders use PaB cups from time to time. I don’t personally like them because the round shape makes inefficient use of space, and the lids do not stack nicely.

That said, they are worth mentioning since they are free (if you buy a lot of PaB cups.)

—tom

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Håkan December 3, 2017 at 9:36 AM

I tend to recycle them I often as I can, the discount for reusing is bigger in Scandinavia than in the US.

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Legostuff71 November 30, 2017 at 8:13 PM

The way Tom does it is exactly how I do it . I try and keep things in tact as possible. So there won’t be a lot of re- building . Of course, when I moved the container that had the “Temple of Airjitsu ” tipped over and became another rebuild set . It’s always the one set that is the most difficult to build that gets busted up. The heartless act of gravity. Lol!

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admin November 30, 2017 at 10:18 PM

Funny, you say that. I also dropped my Temple of Airjitzu box! Maybe that temple is haunted by some ancient curse! 😈

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Legostuff71 November 30, 2017 at 11:41 PM

It’s a Lego inside joke. They know something we don’t know. Lol! Or as admiral Akbar would say” it’s a trap !”

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admin December 1, 2017 at 9:44 AM

It’s always a trap… 😈

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Laure December 1, 2017 at 8:14 AM

Lego elf sets go in the Lego elf bin.
Lego batman sets go in the Lego batman bin
Lego Ninjago sets go in the Lego Ninjago bin
The Lego city sets in Lego city bin
Lego friends Sets go in Lego Friends Bin
Lego Scooby doo sets go in Lego Scooby Dao bin.
Duplo go into the Duplo Bin
Lego City sets go in Lego city bin…
The random parts is a little more of a challenge… separated colors was ok, however then it took quite some time to find the tiny parts tile 1 by1. The plants just put them in all one bag. Animals and wildlife in another. Minifigures in one bag, and the accessories with food and tools in another bag. I do not even know all the element parts up to date, is there a color list of all the elements that Lego Made…ummmmm help, Please

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Håkan December 1, 2017 at 9:18 AM

There are listings on Bricklink, although they aren’t always that intuitively named.

https://www.bricklink.com/catalogTree.asp?itemType=P

https://www.bricklink.com/catalogColors.asp?utm_content=subnav

(Lego also has a separate listing, of all the parts they’re currently producing, I think.)

https://brickset.com/parts (Based on Lego’s own data.)

https://brickset.com/colours

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admin December 1, 2017 at 9:36 AM

If I remember correctly, Tom uses the same naming system for his freely downloadable storage labels as BrickLink. Once you get used to it, it is actually a really good system. I really dislike LEGO’s own naming scheme. Some of the names (and color names) they use are so lame. :\

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Tom Alphin December 3, 2017 at 2:00 AM

Håkan,
I sometimes use the same names as Bricklink, but often need to shorten the name to fit on the label. In some cases this is just an abbreviation (ex: “inv.” versus “inverted”), and in other cases I create a simpler name based on the Bricklink names.

Either way, the part ID’s are predictable across BrickLink, LEGO Shop, and my labels.

Hope you enjoy them!
—tom

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admin December 1, 2017 at 9:39 AM

The BrickLink Color Guide Hakan mentioned is very good: https://www.bricklink.com/catalogColors.asp?utm_content=subnav

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Håkan December 3, 2017 at 9:44 AM

Btw, the bulk of what I own is in bags under my bed – big, flat plastic boxes similar to Ikea Samla or Skubb…

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Håkan December 3, 2017 at 9:50 AM

It quickly gets rather messy, though, so minifigs, utensils and other special parts are (at least attempted) sorted separately wherever there’s space…

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Tom December 5, 2017 at 10:10 AM

I use the transparent “really useful” boxes available in the UK. They aren’t cheap but come in an amazing range of shapes and sizes and they are indestructible. Mind you my collection is “only” about 90k bricks so it’s not out of control yet!

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