Your home is probably full of reusable tote bags of all kinds—some you've accumulated from the grocery store, others you've received while attending conferences, and then there are those heavy-duty canvas bags that you've somehow held onto forever. While reusable bags are great for the environment — and mitigate the risk of breakage that comes with standard paper and plastic shopping bags — it's safe to say that they can pile up in households quickly. "Remember, a reusable bag is still clutter if it's not being used, and clutter is better off being donated or recycled rather than sitting around your home," says professional organizer Lucy Milligan Wahl, founder of LMW Edits.
This leads us to an important question: how many reusable bags are too many? Is there an optimal number to own? To find out, we spoke with a handful of experts who weigh in below on what to consider when determining how many reusable totes to keep.
Hold Onto No More Than 12 or So Bags
According to professional organizer Morgan Laskey of Morganize It Solutions, there actually is an ideal number of reusable totes to keep on hand. "I recommend keeping four to five of the thicker reusable grocery bags, two insulated bags for cold items, and definitely no more than five of the fabric/cotton totes," she says. "You can always stash all of these bags inside a larger, sturdier bag." Now that you've got an ideal amount of tote bags in mind, it's time to figure out which ones to keep and which to throw away.
Think About a Tote's Color
When deciding which totes to keep, color may actually influence your decision in more ways than one! Rachel Berick, the owner of Maptote, appreciates keeping an assortment of sizes and styles of totes on hand. However, she sings the praises of denim and black totes in particular. "Darker color totes ... are nice to have as they don't get as dirty as a natural tote," Berick notes. "These totes seem to wear really nice over time."
It's also important to consider color from an organizational perspective. "When you make sure that all bags for the same purpose look the same, they will visually trigger that task for you instead of looking like mystery clutter," Wahl notes. "When you see a reusable bag lying around, you'll immediately be able to identify it as a grocery bag and put it in the place you store grocery bags, instead of allowing it to become part of your clutter."
Hold on to Some Totes If You're Planning a Move
While it may seem tempting to part with as much extra "stuff" as possible before a big move, it may be to your benefit to hold onto some extra reusable totes as you pack your belongings. "The smoothest moves I’ve ever been a part of take advantage of reusable totes and use them to make their move as seamless as possible," says Mike Harvey, managing director of 1st Move International. Plus, he adds, reusable totes are easy to label, can stack neatly, and eliminate the need to pay for additional cardboard moving boxes. So why not go ahead and use totes to house those fragile items that you plan to take with you in your vehicle?
Pick a Favorite
Picking your favorite totes might be the simplest way to organize your collection. "If you're really looking to streamline your reusable tote collection, it is indeed ok to pick a favorite," says Macie Kreutzer, founder and content creator at For The Love of Simple, a blog about organizing and simplifying life. "If you only use one type of reusable tote, the overall best, most multi-purposed kind would be a traditional, plastic grocery bag with handles," Kreutzer comments. "These multi-use bags can be used for everything from groceries to library books, trips to the pool or gym, a quick overnight bag, etc." Plus, Kreutzer adds, they're easy to neatly store on hooks or by folding up and can be cleaned in a snap—simply wipe them down. Have room for a couple of extras? "In addition, you would one or two 'freezer' bags that are larger, insulated, and can be zipped," Kreutzer explains. "These are helpful for bringing home cold and frozen goods and keeping them relatively cool."