Fun & Games

The advantage of Lego — their amazing durability — is also a limitation, because sooner or later you’ll end up with more bricks than you can easily store. And having formulated a way to store your bricks, is it in a manner that permits you to find just the element you’re looking for? Here are some suggestions for storing Lego, as well as some methods that aren’t so great.

The Bin Method

legobins.jpg

Grab every Lego brick you own and shove it in a big box — more of a storage method than a way to organize your bricks. Speaking as a parent of three kids, any organizational system devolves into the bin method unless Mom and Dad do the organizing.

The main disadvantage is it’s very hard to find that one brick you need. If you’re an AFOL (Adult Fan of Lego) you need to be able to find your elements quickly in order to maximize your hobby time.

Containers With Dividers

legosorting.jpg

The first thing that expert builders do is begin divvying up their elements into separate compartments. They might use tackle boxes, multi-drawer cabinets, or similar methods. Maybe one set of drawers for various flavors of Technic pins, another for gears, etc.

One problem with this method is that it works best for tiny pieces. It’s not like you’d need to keep huge plates or long beams in separate compartments — so oftentimes a builder will employ dividers for small pieces and bins for larger ones.Stacks

legostacks.jpg


This brilliantly simple idea by EMSL makes use of System bricks’ connection system to stack like pieces together. Need that 2×3 yellow plate? Reach for your stack of those pieces. Pretty much all Lego parts ranging from classic bricks to slopes, Technic beams, plates, and so on can be stacked — and the ones that don’t, like pins, gears and axels, can be stored in a divided box.

Kellbot’s Meta Lego Storage

metalego.jpg


Efficiency is great and all, but sometimes beauty is even more important. Who really wants an ugly bin of Lego in their living room? NYC Resistor member Kellbot’s Meta Lego containers are a beautiful and elegant way to store and display your bricks. Each one holds 64 of the element represented by the box — so a box that looks like a 2×3 brick holds 64 2×3 bricks. Best of all, as you add to your collection, you can make more of these stackable storage boxes.

Sort by Color
This is the most obvious way to sort your bricks. Yellow ones go in this tub, red ones in another tub. While this is a great tactic for finding the color you want, it’s a bad method for finding the brick you need. That is, unless you tend not to use “funny shaped” bricks. For instance, Lego artist Nathan Sawaya uses mainly classic System bricks, not weird-shaped ones, and this makes organizing by color a logical decision. Plus, it looks really great in the bins! Sawaya has said that walking into his studio, which has more than a million Lego bricks, is like walking into a rainbow.

Sort by Shape
This is the power method of organizing Lego. The human eye distinguishes between colors much more readily than it can pick out that 8×8 round plate out of a big bag of similarly colored elements. So store all of those plates in a big container and then pick out the color you want

Lego Room

legoroom.jpg


When all else fails, just shove them all in a room! A Lego room can be a glorious place, full of models, parts of models, bricks. The owner of this Lego room, Matt “Monsterbrick” Armstrong, has even resorted to a kiddie wading pool to store all his loot.

BAD IDEAS
I think these are some bad ways to store your Lego. If I’m wrong, feel to tell me so in comments.

1. Storing by Set
Some people store the bricks of the model in a ziploc with the instructions along with. Way to go, sapping all the creativity out of Lego! The sets you buy in the store are fun — I build every set I get, and I get a lot. But building the model is a starting point. Once you’ve completed the model, those elements need to be set free to be used in other projects. Keeping them all together will make you never want to create your own Lego models. If you want to rebuild the set again, you can download PDFs of the building instructions online. But for pity’s sake, let those bricks out of the bag.

2. Sorting Trays

box4blox.jpg


Sorting trays like Box4Box seem like a neat idea. They consist of a series of open bins with different sized grating on the bottom. You simply drop your bricks in the top and shake, and the small elements sift to the bottom tray. Voila, storage and sorting in one system.

I’m not a fan. First, you can only sort by brick size. That means if you have multiple bricks stuck together, they’ll end up in the wrong bin. And sorting purely by element size really doesn’t offer much help when you’re looking for one particular piece. Even worse, the system can’t ramp up — it’s not like you could expand to five trays.

3. Dedicated Lego Storage Furniture

This Lego table Ikea hack is, at first blush, a great idea. Turn a dining room table into a Lego-playing and storing table! Guess what? Don’t like it.

A Lego collection is constantly evolving. Could be you’re expanding by buying new sets. Maybe you built a beautiful model out of 40% of your collection and you want to leave it built for awhile. Or, perish the thought, you might want to throw your bricks into storage for a few months or years and focus on something else.

A system like this, as clever as it is, ropes you into a certain mindset. You must not add more bricks than the table will hold. You must build here instead of in the living room. And what do you do if you want to set aside your bricks? You have a huge table covered in studs and bins that’s useless for anything but Lego.

So there you have it. How do you store your Lego?

11 thoughts on “7 Good Ways (and 3 Bad Ways) to Organize Your Lego

  1. I’d like to suggest a modification to the “bin method”, primarily for kids.

    Knowing full well that all organization systems devolve into “bin method” when kids are involved and parent’s aren’t sorting the kid’s legos for them (who would sort their kid’s legos for them?!?), while I was growing up, we used this technique for keeping legos under control.

    Spread a large sheet out on the ground, then dump all the legos out onto the sheet. This way you can spread them around to find what you need, no need to “dig” in a bin which causes all the tiny pieces to fall to the bottom, just spread ’em around on the sheet. Then, when you are ready to clean up, grab the four corners of the sheet, hoist it up, and put the entire bundle right back into the bin, sheet and all. Next time you want to use the legos, just pull out the entire sheet, lay it out, and there are all your legos. Keeps them contained and out of the nooks in the carpet, but acknowledges the disorganized, freeform nature of childhood lego play.

    1. Sam, that’s exactly the system my younger brother and I used to favour. The only thing we used to deliberate over was that at 5.45am on a Saturday morning, was it quieter to flip the whole box over quickly in one go, or to really slowly tip it out…

    2. My own kid currently uses a quilt instead of a sheet, just to give me – I mean him – something softer to sit on.

      However, when I was growing up, my mom cut an 8′ diameter circle from an old pair of curtains, sewed brass rings at intervals around the edge, and threaded string through them, tying handles at 4 equidistant points. Then, to tidy up, you just pick up the 4 handles and hang it on a coat hook.

  2. My first ‘real’ (non duplo) lego set was a house/windmill that came out in the late 80’s. I had a tackle box, and I’d force Mom and Dad help me sort each color into each bin until it was all sorted. Really, I was just trying to get out of going to bed on time. I have the bin method now, I gave my 3 year old my old collection, minus the technic sets of course. I’d like to reorganize them now into the containers with dividers section, keeping gears, pulleys, connectors and other small parts in the top of a tackle box, and the larger beams divided below. I still rob parts from my son’s collection now and then, and he and I sure love playing Lego together. Though, he doesn’t like to share parts!

  3. I started out with Meccano and then Lego. Even with OCD there has to be a limit on how far you go with dividing parts up into ever smaller categories. Seperated by size and color might look wonderful and be really easy to find everything you want when constructing, but you will find putting everything away after taking a model apart again will suck all the joy from building, especially for enthuastic children.

    I’ve tried literally dozens of storage systems over the years, even to the extent of making trays and my own custom dividers. Great until you add significant parts to your collection and it all fails there.

    Meccano you do have to be a little careful with, as you do not want to scratch the painted parts any more than you really have to, but that is less of a concern with Lego of course.

    The only solution I’ve finally been happy with is the one industry uses for small parts storage – Stackable plastic storage bins (although mine are wall-mounted). I suppose if it is what industry finds most convenient, then it should not come as any suprise to me that I found it by far the best trade off of finding things Vs. sorting them out again afterwards.

    The sort of storage I mean are these sorts of bins:

    http://www.advancedhandling.com/containers/

    http://www.materialhandlingproducts.com/bins-parts.html

    But please note that many companies make and sell these sorts of plastic storage bins, it was just that these two companies had good pictures when I did a search…

    If anyone knows of a good and cheap supplier of them in the US though?

  4. As the inventor of BOX4BLOX, I have just found your post, and have to admit to taking some umbrage and question you categorizing our product as a “bad” way to organize your Lego.

    Firstly I invite you and your readers to “google” BOX4BLOX and read any of the many independent product reviews carried out on our product. Secondly, I invite you to ask any mother or parent what would be their preference in seeking suitable Lego storage. Hours of sorting each Lego piece into an individual container, or a quick neat organized solution that can be achieved quickly, in most cases less than a minute?

    I appreciate for the Lego enthusiast that the BOX4BLOX may not be large enough to store their many thousands of Lego pieces, but I know from our customer feedback from these enthusiasts, that the BOX4BLOX is invaluable as a way to help them sort their Lego, as mentioned by the AFOL BrothersBrick web site in their product review.

    However, our core market is your normal family home, with the biggest attribute of the BOX4BOX being that, because all the Lego does not get tipped out on the floor, parts don’t get lost from expensive Lego sets and this is the reason why LEGO hate the BOX4BLOX.

    Apparently the Lego company’s biggest competition is second hand Lego, so understandably, it is not in their interest for Lego sets to stay intact. Which, unfortunately for their sake, is something the BOX4BLOX is very good at and we can attest to.

    Yes, our kids are now past the Lego stage, but we do have two full BOX4BLOX in the attic ready for the grand kids, whenever that day should arrive.

  5. I don’t know, it just looks like an overpriced bin with holes. I don’t think I’d buy it either. I’d rather have my bricks sorted by type in a discount store tackle box.

  6. We have had a Box4Blox for a few years. My kids are older kids now (8-10) and their Lego building goes well beyond bricks. I like the idea of Box4Blox but it is only really good at sorting bricks. We need storage/sorting ideas for the myriad of tiny elements we’ve amassed. I know that you can toss elements into it and they’ll trickle down to the bottom but it really is mostly for bricks. In everyday use, once the unit is stacked up, only what’s in the top bin gets grabbed because the rest is out of sight, out of mind and when we separate the levels, bricks fall out which is kind of annoying (nobody bothers to shake the thing). My kids never had trouble finding and sorting bricks (that’s the easy part). I go in and sort my kids’ elements into storage bins but like the other commentor said, it really just devolves into the bin method. Unless you’re an adult Lego builder and/or have very careful and particular children, there seems to be no getting away from that giant bin of Lego.

  7. My brother and I had a large bag that Mum made.
    It was a round piece of sturdy material, probably 1.5m across, with a drawstring cord sewed into the perimeter.
    We used to open it out flat on the floor, then pull it up when finished.
    It was like a playmat storage system, and worked well for many years!

Comments are closed.

Tagged

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net

View more articles by John Baichtal