How to Store Reusable Shopping Bags

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Contain the chaos of reusable bags in your house or car so they’re readily available for your next shopping trip.

It’s true that reusable shopping bags are better for the environment than one-time-use plastic bags. However, remembering to take them with you when you’re heading out to the store can be a struggle, especially if they’re strewn throughout your home. As a professional organizer, I’ve opened many closets, cabinets, or even car trunks to find a jumbled mess of bags. Many clients have admitted to not using reusable bags as much as they’d like because they don’t know where they are or which ones are in good condition.

Keeping reusable bags sorted and organized will not only help you find them easier, but it will also keep them from getting crumpled, stained, or ripped. Read on to find a variety of ways you can store reusable shopping bags so you can get the most use out of them.

Before Organizing, Take the Time to Declutter

Gather all the bags you own in one spot to inspect them and decide if they’re worth keeping. Even if a dozen bags of a similar shape and size are like-new, ask yourself if you truly need them all. Unless you have a large household and use them frequently, it’s best to pare down. Fill a few with clothes or toys to donate and drop them off. Most donation centers will accept the bags, too. You can also consider sending them to a charity such as ChicoBag’s Pay it Forward Program, which finds new homes for reusable bags.

Master the Art of Folding

While not all, many of the following storage solutions require reusable shopping bags to be folded. They don’t have to be perfect but the goal is to make them neat so you can maximize the space where they’re stored. Some bags, such as bulky insulated bags or flimsy net bags, won’t fold well or at all. But most reusable shopping bags are fairly uncomplicated to collapse.

Start by pinching the bottom sides to create a flat bag, smoothing it on a surface as you go. From here, you have two options. The first is to fold from the bottom to the top in thirds. Then, fold over the sides and use the handle to secure it together. Alternatively, you can start by folding each of the sides in towards the middle, then folding from the bottom to the top in thirds. Again, wrap the handles around the newly formed square so it stays put. Choose the folding method that feels most natural and, from the following list of ideas for storing reusable bags, stick with the one that makes the most sense for your lifestyle.

chalk boards and hooks by door

Smart Ways to Store Tote Bags

1. Create a Bag of Bags

This method is simple and also incredibly easy to maintain. Not to mention, it requires no additional organizing supplies. How’s that for zero waste? After you’ve sorted through the bags you want to keep, put the largest tote to the side. Fold the rest and pile them into the one you left out. If you have too many to fit, consider paring down more or creating two filled bags. Once full, the bag can sit upright or hang virtually anywhere, such as a kitchen pantry, coat closet, or even your car trunk.

2. File-Fold Bags into a Basket

Take any extra open basket or bin, preferably a rectangular design, and slide in folded reusable bags horizontally, much like you would T-shirts or jeans into a dresser drawer. If space is tight, take it as a sign to declutter. Label the container and place it on any shelf within sight so you remember to grab a few on your way out the door.

3. Divide Bags Using an Organizer

Reusable shopping bag organizers are now on the market, and they look nearly identical to existing kitchen bakeware racks with dividers. If you have an extra one lying around, repurpose it for folded bags instead. Otherwise, you can put an old file sorter to use that’s been collecting dust in your home office.

4. Contain Bags in a File Box

Speaking of file sorters, a vertical wall-mounted box can also be used for reusable bags. Depending on its width, some bags merely need to be flattened, rather than fully folded, to fit inside. This option is best for busy families. Attach the file box wherever it will remind you to take your bags with you on shopping adventures.

5. Hang Bags Near the Entryway

Need only a few reusable bags handy? Dedicate a hook in an entry hall, coat closet, or mudroom to hang them. This is a great option for tote bags that don’t fold well, like ones made of mesh netting. This visual way to store reusable bags decreases the likelihood of forgetting them as you leave the house.

6. Use S Hooks on Shelving Units

If you enter and exit the house via the garage and it’s set up with shelving for organization, consider this effortless idea. Use inexpensive S hooks to hang bags off the side of a shelving unit. Or, if you want to really contain clutter, use the first method of creating a bag of bags, then dangle the large filled bag. As you’re about to get into the car, grab the whole thing off the hook or just the few that you need. This also works well for larger insulated bags so they don’t take up too much space inside the house.

7. Corral Bags in the Car

Lastly, you can keep reusable grocery bags in your car on a permanent basis. Create a bag of bags and drape it over a hook on the back of the passenger seat. You can also purchase headset hangers if your car doesn’t come equipped with a hook, or place reusable bags in a trunk organizer. If you tend to be forgetful, take comfort in the fact your bags will always be with you when you’re en route to the store. That is, so long as you remember to organize them in the car after you’ve unpacked your new finds.