What is the best way of sorting and storing your LEGO?
Frequently, as I browse social media, I see questions about sorting and storing LEGO. Often the question revolves around the best methods. I don’t know that a best method has yet been discovered. However, I will cover a few methods that I have used, and the relative success of each. This blog is about LEGO bricks.
One Big Bin
To begin, the LEGO builder does not particularly need to sort the LEGO elements. It really depends on how particular one is, and how large the LEGO collection. A simple plastic storage container may suffice for a smaller collection or for younger builders. I do recommend a lid to avoid spills and to protect from dust and other foreign objects. This method is cheap, simple, and involves the least amount of work. Simply collect all loose LEGO inside the storage container and voilà! Your LEGO bricks are contained.
Honestly, I used this method for years as an adult fan of LEGO and it worked well for me. I didn’t have a large collection of bricks, and with some rummaging I was usually able to find the elements I needed. Should you enjoy the feeling of running your fingers through LEGO bricks and the hunt for the right piece, then this may be all that you need. I do recommend a clear plastic bin or container, however. This allows for extra visibility and light penetration into the container for easier hunting.
Many Smaller Bins
If the collection of LEGO is a bit larger, and hunting for pieces is arduous, I recommend a variant to the “one big bin” method. This method of sorting and storing LEGO bricks uses several smaller bins. Again, I suggest clear plastic. This requires sorting; what works well is to sort by color. LEGO bricks usually come in the primary colors, plus grey/black/white and so on. Depending on the size of the collection, some colors may be combined into one bin, but generally speaking, a bin for red, green, grey, etc. is all that is needed. I foresee needing less than 10 bins, and they would be smaller bins as the collection will be broken up into smaller sections.
This method of sorting and storing LEGO bricks does not necessarily focus on types of elements, though I usually divide out wheels and tires and all transparent elements such as windows and cockpits. The wheels and tires are usually a small pile, but when I need them I like them quick to hand. Also, though the ABS plastic for LEGO is very robust, I find that having the transparent elements in with other bricks can lead to scratches and other blemishes on the windows. That’s why I keep those separate as well. Your mileage or needs may vary.
LEGO may need to be sorted if the collection has grown. Storing also requires more room. What I am about to propose may require a permanent table or other installation.
For the beginning of simple sorting, I recommend something with clear drawers, and several of them. I have found success with simple plastic drawer units from large box stores meant for paper, or other arts and crafts. Something without many dividers works well because many bricks are still stored together.
At this point, I usually separate out larger bricks from smaller elements. Usually 2×4 or larger go together; 1×4 or smaller are sorted together and so on. At this point I probably still don’t have many of each color, so I may group some colors together. A simple rule is to sort contrasting colors together. I usually put red, green, and white or black together; blue, yellow, and grey or brown together. This helps me to see at a glance when I open each drawer just what LEGO bricks I have available. Again, whatever works best for your collection is what works best for you, but differing colors helps avoid missing something you are looking for.
I then put smaller elements together, usually separating by types. I keep plates and tiles separate to avoid missing a tile hiding under what I think are all plates. If the collection isn’t large, group multiple elements together. It is up to you how much to divide the collection, but if you want to go further, there is another solution that works very well.
For very large collections, I recommend a permanent storage solution that is also the sorting solution. The LEGO enthusiast will need to devote table or desk space to this solution that will not be easily or frequently moved. I do this myself, and it is great!
I use small parts storage containers, usually found at hardware stores meant for nuts, bolts, and other small metal parts. These containers have anywhere from 9 large drawers to 40 small drawers depending on the size and grouping of drawers. This allows me to sort by color and type. Again, it really depends on how many of each LEGO element you have, but size and color sorting cuts down tremendously on search time. Dedicate each drawer to a single element type by color.
I have found storage and sorting grows with the collection. My collection is on the brink of really expanding what is possible. I still have some elements grouped with those of other colors, simply because I do not have enough of each color to need separate storage. However, I have seen collections that use this method of sorting and storing that take up entire walls, floor to ceiling. You mileage will definitely vary.
A word of caution: sorting can either be relaxing or tedious, depending on your personality, but it rewards the one who does it. A little sorting work goes a long way, and doesn’t need to be repeated. Once you already have a grouping of LEGO, it is much easier to combine or sub-divide. Stick with it, and maybe set aside a little time at the beginning of each build session to sort. I know many, many builders who are always sorting (especially if you are constantly acquiring LEGO like most fans I know).
One other thing is helpful here, and that is the design of the drawers. I was using one manufacturer, and over time I found that I had trouble seeing into the drawers. The problem was that the pulls were too large! Molded in clear plastic, the protrusion for pulling still obscured the contents. I switched to a different manufacturer that had molded the pulls differently, and seeing inside became much easier. Again, it is all about locating the parts you need for the build you are working on. That alone will dictate whether you use one large plastic bin, or a container with many, many drawers. As I’ve said, your needs will guide you.
Further, try something and don’t be afraid to change up the method you are using if it doesn’t work. So let me know, what methods of sorting and storing do you use? Do you have any recommendations for other fans of LEGO? Is there something I missed that really works wonders? Put it in the comments below!
However you sort or store your LEGO, it should help you in your building. And I look forward to what we can build together!