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:
➡ 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.
➡ 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.
➡ 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.
➡ 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:
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. 😀
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. 🙂
Yeah, I have seen those. They are great! I have a few as well. 🙂
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. 😉
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.
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! 😉
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.”
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)
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! 😀
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.
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?
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. 😉
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. 🙂
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….
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. 🙂
I use small cardboard boxes for sorting my legos and putting them
I am présorting now(you know it’s bad when that happens). I am seperating 1x Bricks, 2x Bricks, 2x Slopes, 3x Slopes, other slopes, plates, tiles, technic pieces and minifigures and that is just the présorting process. I will then sort by shape 2×2, 2×3, 2×4 etc. and if needed by color(Red 3×4 slopes).
Yes, that’s a good method! Turn on some good music and have fun! 😛
If you have around a tote full just spread a thin sheet on the floor. dump on the lego. Its easy to spread them out and find parts that way. For clean up, fold up the corners of the sheets and plop the whole thing back in the tub. easy easy easy.
…unless your 6-year-old won’t keep the pieces on the sheet. I want to get his Legos organized but am afraid that after many hours of work he won’t keep them organized.
Mary, maybe a bit of discipline would come handy here. There is no reason why a 6-year-old couldn’t follow simple instructions like cleaning up after themselves by keeping LEGO pieces on a sheet or in a tub.
My son is 4 and he has quite the collection of LEGO! He even has the batcave, but my Dad was helping him with that and said some of the pieces from bag 1 were missing, and the rest have since been mixed in with his other pieces. I guess I’ll have to attempt to build it myself at some point to see what’s missing. Anyway, I recently bought him two of these 6 drawer/case buns from TRU- http://www.toysrus.com/buy/tables-storage-accessories/bricks-6-level-storage-5f622ef-44001946 (previously he was putting all the pieces into one big Rubbermaid container). Now to decide whether to sort by type, color, or both, lol!
Dana, I myself really like those storage drawers/cases. They may be a bit too complicated for a 4-year-old though, so don’t get discouraged if he doesn’t adapt to it easily. For younger children a big, but shallow container works best that can be slid under the bed. With maybe one smaller container inside for special pieces/minifigures/weapons, etc. Whichever system you end up using, it is best to work with the child and allow them to come up with their own system, and you can introduce more complex systems as they grow older. 🙂
If a set is missing pieces right out of the box, just call LEGO and tell them that you bought a set that was missing pieces, and tell them which piece(s) were missing (using the numbers at the back of the instruction set). LEGO is really great about just sending out replacement pieces when they ship a set that is missing parts.
This is the best solution I found. The price is significantly cheaper than a lot of those other products as well.
Here’s a diy Lego Sorter instructable I wrote:
David thanks for sharing. You would probably need quite a bit of strength to shake such big buckets, and would probably need earplugs to cut down on the noise they produce, but yeah, if someone has tens of thousands of loose LEGO elements this could work. 🙂
I just bought 150 pounds of Legos at a garage sale and have no idea how to sort them. I’ve spent hours cleaning them and putting them in bags by color but there are just so many!!! I want to rebuild some of the sets if all the pieces are there. Is that possible?
Sarah, that’s a big haul! In general sorting by type instead of color is a much more reliable method. It is easier to find one red tile from a pile of other tiles, then to find that same tile in a sea of red.
If you have the instructions, you should be able to rebuild the sets without too much trouble, and hopefully without too many missing pieces. If you don’t have the instructions, I would suggest that you pick out the largest, most unusual looking pieces or minifigures and identify them in the BrickLink.com database. Once you are able to locate a few of the larger parts, you should have an idea of what sets you might have there. BrickLink will have a list of all the elements of the set, and you can also find building instructions online.
Hope this helps some. If you have any other questions just let me know. I live and breathe the BrickLink database and pretty much familiar with every part LEGO ever made. 😉
Wow, my just turned 5 year old has seriously just got the Lego bug!
He had around 10 sets and the big box of mixed Lego
After reading through you tips/comments I now understand him to be a “creative builder” so far we have been putting the steps back into the box with instructions after each build he’s good at tidying and has an organised mind.
But I think it’s time the boxes went and he could build his own creations too (oh my this messes up my own ocd need for neatnes!) Help!!
We are looking at the IKEA trofast solution…… But colour or size????
Lynn, nice to hear that your son found a creative and healthy hobby for himself. As far as which way to organize, I would suggest you leave that up to him. From your description it sounds like he is an organized person. To help him think it through, give him the options of organizing by color, by size, or by type of element. It is much better when kids come up with their own system that makes sense to them, rather than having a system forced on them that may not resonate with how they think. 🙂
we talked about how best to store his Lego, Benjamin thinks colour order would work best with some little pots for “the really tiny bits”!
Think we’re going to start with the IKEA trofast system it has 9 shallow treys and will fit 2 of the road/build base birds on top, “we will need to keep my structions (Instructions) somewhere safe too mummy”…. I’m thinking a clear folder so he can find them easily. Also going to keep his original big box for ‘work in progress’
everyhing I’ve read here has been so helpful,
My final thought is…….I think I’ve seen some Lego ideas books, would they be the right age for my 5 year old imagineer do you think?
All the things I’ve read on here have been so heloful, I’ll update once the system is up and running
Lynn, that sounds like a very reasonable system. Looks like both of you are very organized people, so you should be able to arrange a good solution. As far as the LEGO Ideas books, yes, I would recommend them. I like the LEGO Adventures books a little bit better, but both are great choices for inspiration and ideas.
I’ve been using some shoebox-sized tupperware containers to sort by part type, and it’s worked pretty well. The main problem for me is that I’m in college and want to take part of my collection with me, and the containers take up more space than just dumping into a tub. Do you have any advice for more portable solutions?
Jess, you might consider getting a single tub and just separate the parts in it in zip-lock bags. This way you would only have to deal with one tub, but still have the parts separated. If you get a shallow tub, you can even keep most of the elements loose, and just separate out the special parts, minifigs, tiny accessories, etc. If the collection you are taking with you is not too big, this is a reasonable approach that works well.
Sorting bricks is a very deep problem that not only LEGO enthusiasts face, but also Liberians and Biologists. It even touches on Machine Learning and Set Theory. This book spans across the disciplines and has the problem of sorting LEGO bricks at its heart: The Ideal Order
Wow! That book has a pretty interesting plot! I’m gonna have to check that out. Copied from Amazon: “Dr. Rob Parker’s life is out of order. His estranged Japanese wife is leaving him, the relationship to his daughters is strained and his academic career is at a dead end. He escapes into the cult of LEGO and the study of classification systems. By sorting his collection of LEGO bricks he reconnects to his daughters and he maintains his sobriety while maneuvering in the bizarre world of academia. Prof. Dr. Smith and his newly found Adult Fans Of LEGO help him to find a new structure for himself, his brick collection and his family.”
A few years ago we had problems with our son’s giant lego collection. My wife asked me to design a way for him to store everything that would eliminate all the loud digging through large bins. There were lots of great ideas on the internet, but couldn’t find anything that was easy for him to keep organized.
I had to design my own desk. The first version worked, but had some flaws (lego bricks jump into the wrong tray). The second version worked well, but had wierd ergonomics. The third version was great. He still uses it. I had to make several more for friends and family. The design actually had patent pending status now, and we sell them.
It takes a lot to make one, so they are pricey when compared to “Ikea hacks”, but they work amazingly well for 12,000 to 16,000 piece collections.
Looks good! Thanks for sharing! 😀
Same problem here AARGH. at first we use to KEEP the sets with their box. However living in a small place and a family of 8. Me and spouse and our 6 kids. We had to ditch the box. One day I did something STUPID. Mixed them all together in one bin… GAG what was I THINKING. And my kids where being really noisy trying to find pieces to their favourite sets. My spouse was NOT IMPRESSED with me.
So back to finding all the sets and putting them in a bag. SIGH.
I’m still not done yet, and I’m still buying Lego sets for my kids to enjoy. since then I made sure zip lock bags where handy when kids were done their play and wanted to put them away.
That is when I started to think… they have Lego city, Lego friends, Lego elves, lego Ninjargo, Lego creator… etc
Hmmm, what if I bought a large bin. And catorgise them. This bin Lego friends. That bin Lego elves, this once can be for Ninjargo, and that one be Lego creator, you can be lego city… Etch
So if my kids wanted to use their imagination and mix all the Lego together. They can take out the Lego elves bin. Open all the bags and create a new Lego elves set, with all the combined pieces from the Lego elves series. This way you can keep track on which piece goes with what theme. You will be Stuck with them trying to gather all the pieces if they wanted to follow the book. But at least all the pieces is in Sync with the theme. Way better them digging through one sure large bin with a mixed themes.
Just an idea to help Lego fans and parents with kids.
Laurie, thanks for sharing. Yes, that’s a possible method that can help those who would like to keep themes together and also like free-building. It sounds like you found a system that works well for your family.
Once people have large LEGO collections they usually get sorting storage units with drawers and separate pieces by type. This way it is easy to sort and store everything, and also re-build sets from instructions. However this method is more suitable for teen and adult builders. Children usually don’t have the discipline to sort everything into drawers after they play.
The good thing about LEGO is that it can always get sorted and re-sorted in different ways. There is no harm in trying different methods. As your collection grows, and your children get older, your sorting system will likely continue to evolve. It is part of the fun. 😉
I attempted a “super sort” of our legos maybe two times. It was more work mostly for me to do the OCD cleanup sort, after building lego playtime was over. So now I’ve got the medium sized 3 drawer desk organizer thing and keep all those hard to find Lego items. Also mini figures and weapons and super tiny cool items..and that is the extent of my sort now. I do agree with the advice on some type of sort system earlier than later
Nicolette, thanks for sharing. LEGO sorting and storage is an ever-evolving activity, and it takes a while until you figure out what works best for you. Sounds like you have a good system! 🙂