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What is the best way to sort LEGO?

by admin on December 8, 2010

in Care & Feed of LEGO

As your LEGO collection grows, you will ultimately face the question: what is the best way to sort LEGO?

There is not one answer to the question of sorting LEGO, but there are ways that work better than others according to the size of your collection and your building style. For LEGO storage solutions head over here, or continue reading below for LEGO sorting methods you might consider:

:arrow: SORT LEGO BY SET: using this method you would keep all the LEGO parts together that belongs to a set you may have purchased at a retail store or online.

PROS: the benefit of this LEGO sorting method is that you could easily rebuild the original set. Also, if you intend to resell the set, it is best to keep it together.

CONS: the downside of this method is that if you are building your own creations it becomes very difficult to remember which set a needed part is in. Also when you disassemble your creation you would have to go through each LEGO set inventory to replace the parts to the correct LEGO set.

SUMMARY: this is an excellent LEGO sorting method for collectors who don’t really “play” with their LEGO, or for fans who only build with LEGO according to set instructions. However it is not very practical for creative building.

But even as a free-style LEGO builder you may keep some of your sets together for some special reasons. For example; I collect the small LEGO Creator sets. I do not mix these into my regular LEGO storage system, but keep them in their original boxes.

If you are more of a collector-minded person you might prefer this LEGO sorting method because of concerns about loosing pieces if they are all mixed together. However if you have a nice sorting & storing system you shouldn’t have to worry about loosing pieces. And if you like, you can always keep the original instructions and rebuild it from your sorted and stored LEGO.

:arrow: SORT LEGO BY COLOR: if you use this LEGO sorting method you would keep all parts together that are the same color in the same storage box, tub or drawer.

PROS: you can very easily build an all-red monster! ;)

CONS: although you can find colors easily, you may not remember what parts you have in that color. Especially smaller pieces become difficult to find in a large box of various shape and size parts of the same color. And sometimes you just need a particular piece, and it doesn’t matter what color it is. But which box is it in?

SUMMARY: this is the preferred LEGO sorting method for sculpture and mosaic builders, who use very few different types of LEGO elements in their creations, but color is most important to them. However if you have a mixed-style of building it might not be the best choice for you.

:arrow: SORT LEGO BY TYPE: using this LEGO sorting method you would separate your LEGO parts by type. Bricks go here, plates here, tiles over here… roof pieces in this drawer, minifigs in that compartment, etc.

PROS: are you looking for a window? You know exactly which drawer or box to look for it! You need that special little part with the clip? Right there!

CONS: if you are building that same red monster, you would need to pull out several drawers or boxes to find all the parts you need in red.

SUMMARY: this is the preferred LEGO sorting method of organization for mixed-style builders. It is very easy to find parts for your creation. It is also very easy to clean-up afterward, especially if you are using a multi-drawer storage system.

:arrow: SORT LEGO BY COLOR & TYPE: using this system to sort LEGO you would separate your LEGO pieces by both type and color. Those 2×2 bricks that you separated by color in the “color method”, and had all together in the “type method”, will now be separated by both type and color. So, red 2×2 bricks go over here, and blue 2×2 bricks go over there.

PROS: this is the method used by LEGO fans with a huge collection of parts. Basically they may follow either the type or the color method, and when their storage box or drawer overflows, they split the parts into smaller, more manageable chunks.

CONS: this system can be overkill for LEGO fans that have a smaller collection. You would end up with lots of little drawers with just a few parts in them.

SUMMARY: this method is not something to start out with, but it can be a natural progression from the type or color method as your collection grows.


Keeping your LEGO organized lets you focus on building rather than searching. If you use one of these LEGO sorting systems coupled with a good storage solution from the beginning of your LEGO hobby, you will save yourself a lot of “Where did I put that piece?” kind of headache.

If you start a system later, when you already have a sizeable LEGO collection, it may take a weekend to sort them all out, but it is totally worth it! So go for it! You will be very pleased with yourself! ;)

You may also check out these posts for further ideas:

LEGO

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

SPMom April 28, 2011 at 11:32 AM

My kids have no problem just mixing all their legos up! LOL! We have a giant, shallow bin (I think it was originally for under the bed storage). So even thought it is full of legos it is fairly easy to find parts. In addition my two boys use tackle boxes for the very special parts and figs. They each have their own tackle box and they are very protective of it. :D

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FrenchToast April 30, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Great suggestions! Thanks! Have you seen those lego tubs? I have found them recently at walmart. They seem to be great for storage and they are color coded. :)

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admin May 2, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Are you referring to these?

Yes, they are great! :D
And they are also available in a smaller size (just click on the pictures for more details):

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SPMom May 3, 2011 at 10:05 PM

Oh! Those are great! And they would also help to sort by color! I see the benefit of sorting by type, instead of color, but for little kids color is easier. ;)

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Legoman January 3, 2013 at 1:29 PM

I think people who organize their Lego, probably suffer from the mental illness known as “being a grown-up”. They should probably spend all that time and energy on making better MOCs.

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admin January 3, 2013 at 3:57 PM

LOL! Many kids and teens organize their LEGO. At least those who have a large enough selection and take the hobby seriously. I don’t see how being organized is a grown-up thing. There are kids and adults who are messy, and kids and adults who are organized. In addition, if you don’t like what AFOLs build you are welcome to challenge them and build something better. Wishing you luck! ;)

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K July 30, 2013 at 4:36 PM

I cannot think any better way than doing as you said: “Basically they may follow either the type or the color method, and when their storage box or drawer overflows, they split the parts into smaller, more manageable chunks.”

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Clumsybumsy June 25, 2014 at 12:39 PM

I put my LEGO Bricks in small 15cm high-9cm wide buckets with a lid. I put these in an Expedit bookcase from IKEA. I sort them by color so all Orange has one bucket and all Red has 12-15 buckets. For colors of which I have a lot(red, black, white)I separate the Bricks, Slopes, Plates, Tiles Etc. and I usually even seperate the plates even more due to the fact that I have a lot of large plates. Furthermore I store my Star Wars sets separately from the other bricks and I put the big pieces in a huge tub (think of those in the sets 7900 and 7998)

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admin June 25, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Nice! I so envy the wide availability of IKEA shelving there! I use a USA brand similar to IKEA, but there is nothing like getting the real deal! IKEA + LEGO = a match made in heaven! :D

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Clumsybumsy June 26, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Indeed it’s a match made in haven, those shelves are nice for displaying sets too. IKEA should make hobby store drawers though for their shelves, it would make life a lot easier but I guess you can’t have anything in life.

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Deanna August 13, 2014 at 4:25 PM

My 4 yo (5 yo next week) has around 10 sets and a big tub of legos already. All he’s asked for for his bday next week (and christmas, and anything else he can think of) is legos, so I expect we’ll have quite a few more soon. I gave him some examples of legos sorted by color and some sorted by type, and he had the idea to sort by both. I showed him some drawer storage ideas and some box/bin storage ideas, and he wants boxes with adjustable compartments (maybe ones like this? http://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Plano_Pro_Latch_Utility_Box_3700/descpage-P3700.html), but I’m concerned that what he “wants” and what he will actually “do” won’t mesh… Up till now, they’ve all been sorted by set, but he really likes to build creatively and mix them a bunch, so it’s just not working for us anymore. Is his plan something reasonable for someone his age? Will it scale well as he gets more?

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admin August 13, 2014 at 10:22 PM

Deanna, I like your approach of showing your son various solutions and let him think about it and pick what he likes. Perhaps you can get him a cheap sorting solution first; like one of those tackle boxes/hobby boxes with compartments you can find at pretty much all department stores for quite cheap. See how he works with that, and if he likes it you can expand on the system, or even buy a more expensive version of it.

And yes, this is a system you can definitely expand on as his collection grows. It is a system even adult collectors use. I would suggest you build a system that is easily available to you locally and/or a brand-name system you know will be around.

As far as his age, I started sorting and storing my LEGO in compartments as soon as I got my first LEGO set. I was 6-years-old at that time. I just naturally liked to be neat and organized. My brother kept his LEGO in a larger bin, but also neatly organized his special parts and minifigs in a smaller box. So it depends on the child.

Even for adults it takes a while to find the system that works best for them to sort and store LEGO. My suggestion is that if you have an idea of how you want to do it, start with a cheaper version first, then if it works, you can expand on it. If it doesn’t you don’t have to feel bad to try something else because you haven’t spent that much money.

Sorting both by type and color is what ultimately all LEGO fans end up doing as their collection grows. I’m very impressed that your son discovered this on his own at such a young age. It is a system that allows to build freely yet also keep all the LEGO elements neatly organized.

I suggest that besides the storage system with compartments, he also gets some kind of a project case that can close securely and could be moved around easily for current projects he is working on. This could be the same type of storage system used for storage, or it could be a bit different. The point is that besides the main storage system, it is a good idea to have one extra box that could carry a current project and some loose pieces related to the project. This way he doesn’t have to put everything away back in the main storage system after play-time is over, but can easily clean up the current project and store it away till next time in a half-built state. I use this system myself. ;)

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Deanna August 15, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Thanks for the feedback. Your last idea is pure gold, because we’ve been having no end of conflicts lately over his “in progress” builds… Especially because his builds seem to ALWAYS be in progress. But being not-quite-5 (and having 2 younger sisters who are into EVERYTHING) means that he rarely has more than 30-45 minutes a time to build, and he gets so upset when I ask him to put it away so we can go shopping, eat, or pretty much any other activity that uses the table (the table is his main building space, but we don’t have another viable space in our home – no space for another table and floor is out with an 11 month old crawling around) because he’s not done yet.

I actually have 2 little compartment cases (just like these http://www.amazon.com/Akro-Mils-5905-Plastic-Storage-Hardware/dp/B000BQPZDK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408105402&sr=8-1&keywords=adjustable+compartments+parts+storage+akro+mils) lying in my basement, I just realized, so maybe I’ll give those a try, and see how it goes. Nothing’s cheaper than trying what you have, and it’ll tell me if that idea with the plano tackle box is actually a good one or not. (These don’t stack or have a stand, so they’re not a long term solutions, I think, but good for figuring out what he wants.)

Thanks so much for all your help! I was never into legos, so I just want to do my best to help him with whatever he needs. :)

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Deanna August 15, 2014 at 8:57 PM

So much for the idea that I could try this all out for free initially! There’s no way his legos fit in two of those little plastic things I have. I think I’d need at least four or five of them, and that doesn’t even include the birthday presents he’s getting this next week… Hmmm….

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admin August 15, 2014 at 9:11 PM

Yeah, it takes a while to figure it out, but in general storage boxes that also comes with some compartments are the best solution. If he has a lot of unfinished projects you may also consider a few shoe-boxes. They are cheap, have a snap-on lid that is fairly secure, and it can hold quite a bit.

I would recommend that you check out the following sections of your local department store: hobbies, tools and fishing. All three has storage containers with compartments or drawers. :)

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BuilderFox August 19, 2014 at 1:13 PM

I use small cardboard boxes for sorting my legos and putting them

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