LEGO organization is can be a thing of beauty but it should never stress you out.
Important Questions to Ask Before You Organize Your LEGO collection
Do You Actually Need to Organize Your LEGO Collection?
Not necessarily. There is no law or mandate that says you have to organize your LEGO pieces. If you have young children or a small collection (a single bin or drawer) there is probably no reason to sort them. Just toss them in a nice-looking bin and go on with your life.
Do Your Kids Want Help Organzing Their LEGO?
If your kids enjoy free building (this is what I did mostly as a child) then let them be kids and play. I am a first believer that I shouldn’t be organizing or sorting my child’s collection unless they really want the help.
But I am guessing that if you stumbled on this post it is because you are looking for ideas on how to organize your LEGO collection. So brace yourself…here it comes.
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Should I Organize My LEGO by Color?
Sorting LEGO bricks by color is a popular method.You can find beautiful pins and images of lego sorted by color all over Pinterest. It is simple and beautiful. Sorting by color was actually the first method of LEGO organization that we ever tried. It took a couple of weeks (working when I could find a few mintues to spare) to sort our bricks by color.
Sorting by color is simple and undoubtedly beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. For smaller collections, and young kids, sorting by color can be a great way to go. Sorting by color makes it easy to create buildings and structures with a unified color theme. As you can see in the photo above our collection was relatively small and so it made sense to sort them by color groups.
Reasons Not to Organize Your LEGO by Color
One word of warning about sorting LEGO by color. If you have a medium or large collection, sorting by color actually makes finding the specific piece you need more difficult.
Think about this…trying to find one green 2×2 brick in a bin of all green LEGO bricks…or trying to find one green 2×2 brick in a bin of multi-colored 2×2 bricks. If you have them sorted by piece, it is easy to find a single green brick among the masses.
Once your kids are older and your collection grows it begins to make more sense to organize by piece or type than color.
When to Organize LEGO by Piece
If you have a larger collection (several large bins or tubs full) you may want to consider organzing by type or piece. How detailed you get is up to you and will depend on three factors.
- The size of your collection
- The space you have to store your collection
- How you plan to build
How to Organize LEGO Bricks by Piece
I have done a lot of reaserch about the “best” way to organize LEGO bricks (stop laughing at me). I personally was tired of helping my kids find one microscopic piece in a sea of thousands, so I decided to take action and sort by piece.
1. Seperate standard bricks and plates from any “specialty” pieces.
I recently bought a LEGO table off of FB marketplace for Apollo. It’s a cool little setup built from IKEA Trofast shelves. As soon as he saw the built in drawers he asked if I would sort his LEGO pieces for him. And because I somehow love sorting LEGO, I said yes. Here you can see I have sorted the typical LEGO bricks into loose categories. For a smaller collection, this is a great way to organize bricks. It isn’t overly complicated, but you can still find the bricks you need for your build.
I am not finished with this project yet, but will likely end up with bin of wheels and vehicle parts, and another for mini-figures and assessories. This is a simple system to set up and maintain.
For what we call our family LEGO (seen in the photo above), I have a more detailed system set up. Our family collection is large. Most of these bricks I have purchased from Craigslist, FB Marketplace, or consignment stores. You can check out my post on saving money on LEGO for some great tips on growing your collection.
2. Separate Your Specialty Bricks into Categories
Here you can see we have a bin for arches and one for inverted slopes.
And more categories….circles and round plates, slopes, 1×2 plates, etc.
My main goal for diving into LEGO organization was to help my kids build better. I love the creativity and spatial reasoning skills that are grown through building and wanted to encourage that as much as possbie. I also wanted to be able to rebuild some of the bajillion sets we own. As I said, most of this collection was purchased used and in bulk…which meant most of it was just tubs of peices with the books thrown in.
Once it was sorted to this level, I was still strugging to find itty-bitty pieces, so I started using the food storage containers to sort the tiny pieces. This worked perfectly.
Any system you have should be flexible and fun. Because we have significantly fewer of some new colors (pinks, purples, turquoise) I actually have these sorted by color. Recently Apollo grabbed the pink bin to build a disguised underground fort. He loved being able to keep with his color scheme.
Do You Kids Keep Up on the LEGO Organization System?
Not really and I don’t expect them to. I took on the LEGO sorting job because 1) I was tired of spending 45 minutes trying to help a kid find a teeny-tiny piece in a sea of a million LEGO bricks…
2) I wanted them to be able to sets back together
3) I find it very relaxing and cathartic (I know, it’s weird, but as my husband says, it’s cheaper than therapy).
So, if the kids don’t sort them, how often do they get reorganized and how long does it take?
While the original sort was a weeks long project (I did a ton while Chuck and Apollo were in New Zealand) it doesn’t actually take very long to sort LEGO bricks once a child is done with a project.
I simply start taking the project apart, and sort into rough piles as I remove pieces. Then it is just a matter of minutes to put the pieces in their bins. The initial sort was complicated, but now it is just a matter of returning the pieces to where they belong.
What Are The Best Tools for LEGO Storage?
These food storage containers are perfect for sorting pieces. They come in a pack of 50 in two different sizes (17 ounce and 25 ounce). I found that spreading them out on a table makes sorting easy. Once a container is full of any particular piece, I dump it into the actual storage containers we use.
I also use these bins to store pieces from sets that are ready to put back together. I put the pieces in, put the instruction book on top, replace the lid, then label them with the set number.
Pro tip: Label your bins with item number, then description. I do this because LEGO instruction books have each piece labeled by item number, and this helps me see at a glance if I have the right piece or not. If we are free buiding, then the description (2×4 plates) is more useful.
Use a Draw Organizer to Help Sort Pieces
I bought this drawer organizer off of Amazon when I saw something similar on Fox LEGO Masters. It is perfect for sorting pieces while I separate them to be put away (or for building a new creation). This isn’t something I would use to store LEGO bricks, but it is perfect for sorting them.
Sterilite Bins Are Perfect for LEGO Organization
I started buying these bins back in 2014 when we sorted the family LEGO by color. I have been so happy with these Sterilite bins I have added more over the years as our collection has grown.
We have these bins in four different sizes. Large, medium, small, and deep.
Here you can see a medium sized bin holding all of our 2×2 bricks. This makes finding a piece a breeze.
Here you can see two of the large sized bins. I use the large sizes sparingly. They are so deep they can make it difficult to find pieces. I use the large Sterilite bins for 2×3 bricks, 2×2 bricks, doors and windows, and other large pieces.
You can see the medium bins (in the middle) and the small bins to the right. The “deep” bins are the same length and width of the small, but are as deep as the large bins.
These small bins are perfect for smaller piece or pieces that you have fewer of. We use these for 1×1 plates, 1×2 plates, plants, etc.
Those colored bins you see behind Apollo are filled with less commonly used pieces such as our LEGO Technic pieces and any motors, lights, etc.
Suggested Resources to Make LEGO Organization a Breeze
These toy playmats are WONDERFUL! While they aren’t great for storage if you have a large collection, they are perfect for playing. Kids can spread out the pices and the raised edge keeps them all on the mat. This will also work well if you child has a small collection.
The Brick Architect has premade labels that you can print. If you are more tech savvy than me you can even print them directly to your label maker! I have used these labels extensively. You can see some of them in the photos above.
I frequently use the BrickLink website to identify pieces and find out the item number for sorting.
Okay, whew, that got much longer than I expected. If you have any questions please ask in the comments. You might also want to check out my LEGO category on this site for more posts.