Sorting LEGO – how do you actually get it done?

Dunechaser's sigfigHaving a consistent system for sorting and storing your LEGO collection makes your pieces much more accessible while building. Most LEGO builders eventually figure out a system that works for them. In fact, it’s something we discuss at length among ourselves, both at conventions and on the web. Most people seem to sort by element rather than by color, for example.

What I don’t hear a lot of talk about is actually how to go about sorting one’s LEGO — other than sustained frustration about its necessity. At what point do you know you need to sort? When do you sort? How long do you spend sorting at one sitting? Where do you do it — in a dedicated LEGO space, sitting on the couch, at the dining room table? Do you have anybody to help you?

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m going through a major sorting phase, largely because my collection had outgrown the system I’d been using, and any creation not based entirely on a pre-sorted Bricklink order became painfully time-consuming.

Well, I started by taking apart the LEGO sets (and any models I don’t want to keep) that I’d built but never disassembled over the past three or four years, and dumped it all in bins. Next, my wife and visiting mother-in-law kindly volunteered to pre-sort what I’d taken apart into bricks (“Aren’t they all bricks?”), plates (“flat bits”), slopes (“slopey bits”), and “everything else.” (World Cup soccer and Seattle Mariners baseball have been good background entertainment for all of us.) When we had enough of each of these, I then “sub-sorted” into finer categories, like regular, inverted, and curved slopes.

The two major lessons I’ve learned so far from my ongoing sorting are that every extra pair of hands helps, and that the pre-sort/sub-sort approach gets pretty much everything but the “fiddly bits” where they belong fairly quickly. It’s also clear that you can never have enough clear storage bins…

So, dear readers, how have you overcome that mountain of unsorted LEGO?

48 comments on “Sorting LEGO – how do you actually get it done?

  1. Nolnet

    I like sorting. It calmes me :-)

    I sort by relevance, i.e. whatever method suites the amount and usefulness of specific types of brick. By part, colour, theme, size.
    The pre-sorting and an infinite supply of clear storage bins are, like you said, essential. Nicely done in front of the TV if you have enough space around you. Last time, the GF helped even a little bit. Yay.

  2. ClioC

    I sort all bricks by the date I acquired them, and use a cross-referenced filemaker database to track which are where and when they are used. Then when I am done, I use the same database to take apart the MOC in the order the pieces were acquired.

  3. worker201

    The key to easy sorting is to not let the loose bricks pile up. As a floor builder, unsorted bricks become a hazard and a nuisance, so I keep after them pretty well. When building, I pull a bunch of bins containing common parts out of the closet, so the first step of sorting is to extract the common parts from the sorting pile and return the bins to the closet. At this point, there are usually few enough pieces that a multiphase sub-sorting process isn’t necessary – I can just make little piles of similar parts, to be moved into the closet drawers afterwards. Job well done.

    I have found that sorting in the morning right when I get up is a good way to start the day. First thing – like on the way to the bathroom. It’s low-impact stretching for the brain. Plus, it’s nice to complete a goal/task very early – increases both confidence and productivity.

  4. Aliencat

    I have all my LEGO in one big bin. It’s about 18×10 feet and has a door and some windows in it :P

    My collection is approaching a million now, and I haven’t sorted since I came out of my dark ages. There’s LEGO all over the house now, but the brilliant part is that I know exactly where everything is (in theory at least, because I often end up ordering parts that I know I already have).

  5. WetWired

    I probably don’t have as much LEGO as some people here, but I have about 11 of these things…

    http://www.thetoolboxshop.com/ekmps/shops/adrcomponents/images/73508-5-to-26-compartment-plastic-organiser-490-p.gif

    Each one one contains a different colour (some colours that I have many pieces have 2) and then each divided area has a different type or group of types (ie bricks, plates, tiles, modified bricks, slopes etc)

    For colours that I have many pieces of, too many to fit in one or 2 containers alone, I restrict those colours to pieces under 4 or 6 studs and anything over that size goes in clear plastic tubs.

    I also have started branching out beyond colours for those sorting containers, for example I now have one that only holds windows and doors, regardless of the colours. Another holds various useful bits and bobs like minifig parts and accessories, animal parts, plants and fruit\foods.

    Works well for me at the moment but I can forsee it becoming difficult to manage as I acrue more LEGO :/

  6. JordanTN

    I think Andrew’s talking about the act of sorting the bricks, rather than the method/things you keep them in. This is an interesting topic I don’t think gets discussed very often.

    Personally, when I need to sort, I just put all the loose bricks in individual mid-sized Ziplocs and sort them one bag at a time, so it’s less overwhelming and I can come back to it later. This also has the added advantage of clearing off the table so if I haven’t finished sorting I at least don’t have a million bricks on my table getting in the way if I decide to build.

    This method doesn’t make it any less tedious, just easier to swallow.

  7. russtiffer

    i was lucky and my office was restructuring the office space it had, so i got a bunch of conference tables. i have 3 set up as my city and one as a work bench. they are not the really big kind but they work well in my basement. anywhoo. i have a hodgepodge of storage containers. some old clear plastic dressers for large amounts of stuff and larger things, some pencil boxes for all the little stuff. and the best ones that i have are the three drawer office supply things that i use to sort my 1X?. i do them all by color. i have my 2X? sorted by colors and then black and gray. i have all the bits and bobbles sorted by accessories, specific parts, and random studs.

    i usually just plop a huge pile down and zone out with the tv on. i find that when i am building i end up with a bunch of bins of stuff i was working with but didnt end up needing that i have to resort at a later date.

  8. Skorp2k9

    I have a pretty good system for sorting, I start with specialty pieces, such as 1×2 hinge or minifig weapons, etc..I am using 3 39 drawer sorting boxes that are typically used to sort bolt and screws, I found them at walmart for about 10 bucks each. Each drawer is labled with contents and if there are more than one type of element in a particular drawer then a divider is used that comes with the box. The drawers themselves “lock” into the closed position, and you have to lift and pull to pull them out, this was to prevent spillage in case of a tip over. for the “basic” bricks such as 2×2′s or 4×4′s I sort them by color and put them in gallon size ziplock bags and store them in a 28″ duffel bag.
    for all the other elements that have no real designation there is the “general population” this is no real sorting, just a place for large bases, odd shaped canopies, rc train tracks, and such as that. These I keep in the largest suitcase I could buy.
    Sorting is a nessesity when you have close to a 3/4 of a million bricks, it gets to be more of a job just getting things spread out to build not to mention space to build! I hope this helps anyone who is looking to sort and if you have any ideas on how to improve on my method please feel free to share it with me as I am always looking to improve my building skills. :)

  9. Overload

    Currently, I have piles of LEGO all lined up across my bedroom floor, which, as you can guess, does not go over well with my parents. So instead of getting out the big bins, I go for a different method than sorting.

    Instead of sorting, I try to use as many pieces as I can in one diorama, then use more of them in the next LEGO creation, until each individual pile is used up.

    I know one day I’ll be able to sort, but with very little space in my furniture filled 10′ by 14′ bedroom, I cannot start a project of that size or importance.

  10. Lee

    Thanks for the post. As a builder with a very small Lego collection, I’m fascinated by the way builders deal with much larger collections. I like to live vicariously, and, of course, plan for future growth.

    Thanks too for linking to Thanel’s post about storing, because I’d missed that. I loved the pictures of people’s work areas. I think the Brothers Brick ought to host a collection of workspace photos.

  11. Matt Hurt

    I found that the 1 quart sterlite tubs work well for standard bricks and plates. I sort them each into their own tub, 1×2 bricks, 1×3, 1×4, etc. Same thing for plates and I generally don’t separate by color, unless I have a lot of one color (such as a ton of 1×2 light bley bricks), in which case it gets put in a separate tub. Sloped bricks are separated by inverted vs normal slopes, with some of the specialty pieces like double slopes getting their own compartment in the bins described below.

    For much smaller pieces, I have several units that are usually found in hardware stores that have lots of little drawers that are designed for holding things like screws and washers. I also found that using plastic boxes with subdivided compartments work well. The ones I have are designed for holding needlepoint thread and you can find them at craft stores and they only cost a couple bucks each. They work great for mini-fig parts and accessories.

    For much larger parts that don’t get used very often such as burps, ship pieces, wall panels, etc, I have a big tub that everything else gets thrown in.

    My vintage parts (old gray, old brown, etc) are all stored in 1 tub and kept separate from the newer stuff. I really don’t have enough to make it worth sorting them further, but that may change.

    Instructions are all stored in 3-ring binders in the heavy duty plastic sleeve sheets and are sorted by type, (castle, pirate, city, etc).

  12. Ochre Jelly

    One way to cut down on the sorting overhead is not to let your collection get into ridiculous 6- or 7-digit counts in the first place! :-) No seriously, I keep mine at the 50k level and order only what I need for the MOCs I’m working on. Which of course is a whole ‘system’ in its own right.

    Anyone who says “don’t sort by color” is clearly a complete moron. Unless they mean “don’t sort ONLY by color”, that is. Because color makes re-sorting a lot easier. I accumulate unsorted bricks and MOC parts in one big bucket, then when it comes time to sort, I break them all apart, speread them out over the floor, then separate by color, in order of “most noticeable first”. So that would typically start with red/orange/yellow/white and end up with with the browns/grays/black. Which is a good thing because its a lot easier to distingiush between old dark gray and new dark bley if they are the only colors in play, and your eye is not being distracted by a bunch of lime green bricks. This method is also mother-in-law proof.

    Finally, to extract any stray MegaBloks, I recommend child labor: They’re eyes are much sharper, they are probably more familiar with that brand anyways, plus it avoids you having to contaminate your own hands with such evil!

  13. Mike Nieves

    I don’t have nearly enough elements to be considered in the 6-7 digit range but I found a pretty good way to sort. I start with the most abundant element (by color, type, or size) and start sorting that till it becomes noticeably smaller. Once I start looking for more of the similar elements I stop and start on the now most abundant. I repeat this till I get down to a manageable size, such that every piece is within view. The advantage is that you never have to spend time digging and looking or any piece. This can also be used for both sorting and sub-sorting. It may not be the best method, but I find it the fastest way.

    ~Retinence

  14. Catsy

    I just put all the loose bricks in individual mid-sized Ziplocs and sort them one bag at a time, so it’s less overwhelming and I can come back to it later. This also has the added advantage of clearing off the table so if I haven’t finished sorting I at least don’t have a million bricks on my table getting in the way if I decide to build.

    This is a really interesting idea. I may have to try it–the sheer volume of unsorted elements I have is really intimidating, and between work and family I simply don’t have the ability to leave a huge pile of Lego sitting out in the common areas.

    Because color makes re-sorting a lot easier.

    Yes and no. It might be easiest to pre-sort by color, but when it comes to actually finding the pieces you’re looking for, sorting primarily by color is a really bad idea. The human eye distinguishes color much more readily than shape. What this means in practice is that if you have a large bin full of many different elements in one color, it is much–much!–harder to find a specific shape that you’re looking for, than to look through a large bin full of many colors but only one or two shapes.

    There are exceptions to this–it can make sense to break out less common colors into their own bins (I’ve done this with silver, lime, dark blue and purple, for instance), and if you’re doing a lot of landscaping you may want to set aside your browns and greens. But the speed of color- versus shape-recognition is just human physiology.

    Then again, that’s getting back into the realm of storage-sorting rather than the sorting methodology itself.

  15. Paganomation

    My approach works thusly: When I’ve got MOCs or loose parts to sort, I toss them all into a “recycle bin” in the corner of the room. This keeps my work table clear, and is a pretty good measurement of when it’s time to sort (i.e. when the bin is overflowing).

    Then, for the actual sorting, I’ve taken to throwing “sorting parties” – I invite a few people over, provide food and beverages, explain the way I sort my pieces (or make it up as I go, in some cases), and then turn them loose. It’s relaxing, as someone already said, and a nice way to spend time with your friends while being productive at the same time. Here’s a look at the last sorting party I threw: http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=118611&id=23744283200

  16. ineti

    My wife and I have a collection that’s probably 30 years old. I have no idea how many pieces we have, other than “a lot.” We sort primarily by piece, but sometimes by color if we have a lot of one part (namely 2×4 bricks–we have so many of those that we have two large clear drawers full of them and it made more sense to break it down into colors).

    What we’ve done is store our Lego in large rubbermaid tubs, then gradually dump those tubs and sort pieces out. We start off by separating plates, bricks, slopes, tiles, printed pieces, wheels, minifigs and minifig accessories, and large BURPs and POOPs. Then sort each smaller chunk into specific parts, such as 1×1, 1×2, 1×3, and so on.

    We have a spare bedroom and its closet is full of Container Store shelving and sterilite stackable drawers. Each drawer has a sticker on it with one specific piece. The really small bits, like visors, helmets, different kinds of guns, etc. are in small drawer bins.

    Our collection is probably about 30 years old and constantly growing, and we’ve finally sorted it down to just two large rubbermaid bins left to sort out. It’s nice that we’re almost done sorting, but then we look at the new sets we just bought and realize we’ll probably never be done. And that’s OK. :)

  17. Dudley

    I sort similar to Andrew, separating into large groups first (bricks, plates, tires, plants, animals, etc). After that I sort each larger group down into smaller groups that fit into my sorting method (by part first and then color where needed).

    I sort the large groups in Ziploc gallon size freeze bags (very strong and don’t rip as easy). I’ve also been known to use large pretzel containers from Sam’s Club and Ziploc plastic storage containers from the kitchen when needed.

    I also try to sort individual sets when I want to add them to the main collection. One set at a time isn’t bad since they usually don’t contain a wide variety of parts. Also sorting one set at a time is fast and you can always find time to sort one set a day … at least I can. You can also do this in stages. Take a one set part and throw it in a ziploc bag, then do another set, once you get a bunch of these you start sorting one bag at a time.

    Here is my collection. I was working on a logo for a local entertainment magazine at the time … so it’s a bit messy.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/leggodt/4326904508/

  18. Peppermint_M

    Well, isn’t this good! I started my sorting last week (Brickworld meant all my AFOL friends were away from computer) What I did was get the large shallow SAMLA box from Ikea (The 55L one) and tip Lego into it until it was full.

    Once the SAMLA was full, I began sorting parts by “sort” (Brick, Slope, Plate etc) into smaller boxes that were an appropriate size to contain the volume of parts (on a personal estimate).

    Once I had cleared the SAMLA I emptied the rest of my Lego into it and began the process again. It took me a week of an hour here or there and one solid Saturday afternoon to sort all parts by “sort”.

    Now I am in the process of sorting parts by “type” (3×3, 2×1 etc) into Ziplock bags. In a scaled down version of the major sorting. If I have a major quantity of a certain type it will have its own box, but so far everything fits nicely into the bags I have purchased. These will be stored in a box by the same “sort” they were first placed.

    It is a long but rewarding process.

  19. greenskull139

    Well I am it is not complete, but I have a pretty decent way to sort.

    Step 1: organize your pieces by color.(This makes it simpler later when organizing)

    Step 2: Go to like a dollar store or some place where you can find cheap paper bags in large quantities.

    Step 3: Start with your largest color (work your way down through to the second largest and so on)and start with all the 1×1′s, 1×2′s, 1×3′s, and 1×4′s. Next, you would go to 1×6′s, 8′s and so on. Its easier to pick four different categories of basic bricks. EX: after finishing the 1x? bricks, you would go to the 2x? bricks.

    Step four would be to get organizing tubs or plastic bags.(The paper ones rip after awhile)

  20. cjedwards47

    I find it helps immensely if I don’t dump everything in a bin when I take apart old sets or MOCs. I find it a lot easier to sort pieces into piles immediately as I pull them off. I’ll even group like-colored sets (and/or sets with similar pieces) to cut down on the variety of pieces that I have to sort at any given time.

  21. Deathdog

    As of this moment, I sort mainly by element type, using large bins to store smaller bins. All 2×4 and above bricks of any color (except gray) go in the same bin. Same with 1×2, 1×4, and 1×6-n (1×1 and 1×3 bricks are grouped together) all have their own Sterilite containers, as do the 2×6-n plates. Larger plates (four wide and above) have a bin, as do any angled or wing-type plates. Accessories for the figs have a divided container, as do most of the smaller bits. One large tub is now filled with Technic stuff — any pins, gears, etc, are in that tub in small bins as well. Just yesterday I decided that all gray elements will also get their own tub, with smaller bins to keep the small stuff from sifting to the bottom. With the exception of the past week (post Brickworld) I sort when I break down a model. I usually keep a shoebox size bin handy for unsorted parts and when it’s full, I sort it. It’s essentially the house rule, that way my hobby doesn’t end up taking over the house. It keeps my wife happy and my sorting managable.

  22. LouisK.

    I’ve lately changed my sorting system. I used to sort by part, I didn’t have many parts and not many boxes. Now that my collection has become a lot bigger in a short time I do some kind of mix: All basic bricks (mainly smaller plates) are sorted by color, more “specific” bricks (like curved slopes) still by part, much better though.

    Everytime I build, a huge chaos comes into being. But fortunately I have my father helping me tidy up the place.

  23. Tagl

    About a year ago I found out, that I had more bricks than I could handle using my drawer system. I thought it over and came to the conclusion that the bricks in the drawers would be sufficiant and easy to use for most projects. So I started a second storage level!
    In the drawers the bricks are sorted by shape not color. I find it easy to pick out the bricks of the color I need. The second level storage is sorted in ZIPlock bags by shape and color. For each shape I have a cardboard box or more. Every time a drawer is missing a color I fill up. If a drawer gets too full I sort out and fill up the second level.
    When I have to sort dismatled MoC my wife always helps. I can’t tell how much I love her for this.
    We sort in several stages:
    1. big parts, big plates 4xn and larger.
    2. get out regular bricks and seperate 2xn and 1xn
    3. get out regular plates and seperate 2xn and 1xn
    4. get out slopes and wedges
    5. see whats left and deside how to go on
    After each step we try to sort away what we got out. But sometimes we just do the rough first.
    4

  24. buffington

    If I’m wanting to build something I start using one of the Lego CAD programs. I then send the parts list to my sorting team.

    The team is a dozen lightning fast pick and place robots that use image recognition to snatch pieces from my unsorted pile as they travel past on a conveyor belt. They place these in a bin. I could have them build it for me too, but since I’m describing the recurring dream I often have, it’s fair to point out that dreams often have weird incongruities.

  25. buffington

    Then there’s reality:

    I have bins roughly matching the major Bricklink categories. Liftarms are with other liftarms, plates with other plates. I do break a few of those down as well. For example, 1 by 2 plates are grouped with all n by 2 plates. 2×2 (and all n x2′s) are grouped. Anything bigger, like 4×4′s and up are in a single bing.

    To get things into those bins, is the hard part.

    So far, the most effective thing seems to be to gather up loose parts onto a big flat sheet, ball up the mass of pieces then take it downstairs where there’s room to spread it out. As it’s jostled going stairs the small pieces tend to gather at the bottom, leaving big pieces on top.

    Before spreading all the pieces out it’s pretty easy to gather up big pieces into their own pile. Plates especially.

    Getting plates into their own pile is important as they make it hard to see other stuff.

    Once we’ve tossed the big stuff into proper bins, my 6 year old and I get busy with the small stuff.

    We push everything to one side of the sheet, then grab a small handful. We say “let’s find only 1×2 plates, modified 1×2 plates, and minifig parts/accessories”. We pick out just those things from the pile, and push the rest into a new pile. We repeat this until we’ve gone through the entire pile.

    Then we do it again for another small selection of plates.

    The nice thing here is that it’s easy for two people to do it pretty quickly and it’s easy for a kid who gets bored. Picking a few parts (and not just one) means you get “hits” pretty often. Without finding your target pieces it gets boring really quickly.

    So far this is working. The only issue is that getting down on the ground and sorting for extended periods get very uncomfortable very fast.

  26. buffington

    And now, here’s my dream solution:

    Every Lego piece has a tiny RFID chip in it. To find parts, I send a list to my iPhone. The iPhone has an app that makes the pieces I need glow on the screen of the iPhone even if they’re buried.

    Perhaps if image recognition software gets sophisticated enough then you’d be able to at least see which of the pieces you needed were currently visible and have them glow on the screen the same way.

    Both solutions are possible with current tech, but the latter is obviously the easier one to pull off.

  27. Marin

    I sort my bricks when I decide to disassemble a MOC (while disassembling it). I do it one MOC at a time, except when I sort smaller MOCs. That way I never have large piles of to-be-sorted bricks. The bricks are sorted in the common type/color way. Right now is the first time I ever had a large pile of bricks (just got them back from Kockice EXPO 2010) but I’ll still do it one MOC at a time. The progress is much more visible that way and works good for the psyche. :)

  28. eilonwy77

    I am a rather obsessive sorter. Everything is stacked and placed into plastic craft containers. Some is by color, some is by element (some elements are useful no matter the color), and depending on the project I’ll reorganize things so that the pieces I need take up the least amount of space. I do all my work at the kitchen table, and so my containers usually live under the table. I’m trying to maintain the illusion that I don’t have that many legos, lest my husband blow a gasket (he’s not that impressed with this whole lego thing, I think), so I try to keep it all looking very minimal.

    Actually, I didn’t state that well. Almost everything I have is sorted by both element and color; but some containers I have are filled with certain elements (all sorted by color) and some containers are filled with certain colors (all sorted by element).

    When I build I keep all the loose pieces in a tupperware dish, and once it’s half-way filled I go crazy and have to sort everything again.

  29. gavinhunter06

    if there are any essential pieces in a set I pull these out first then I pour everything else into a bin.
    I dump half the bin onto a smooth blanket for easy viewing (I have a neon green blanket) and then I sort by color. I go for small piles within a pile as not to be overwhelmed. Small bright colors families first (easier to see), large bright families second and dull (tan and gray) last. I like to get the black out of the dull family first because it is hard to see the exact shape of black. I put each color in large gallon zip lock bags to save for later. I have a little desk basket porous enough to “filter” the small pieces from each bag so that I can keep up with my “greibles”.
    I tend to take the large plates out of each color bag to make picking easier. To further keep things simple I tend to separate the bags into plates and bricks (anything flat is a plate, everything else is a brick). I do have a few clear boxes but I normally just keep the zip lock bags in large plastic bins by color which saves space because the bags will form fit around each other (with the air removed from the sealed bag). When I need to pick out parts I just dump each bag in small dish bins and sort by bin then return the contents to the original bag. So far it’s a great system for a person that is meticulous but impatient.

  30. Benjamin P

    Right now my stuff is sorted by color. Almost every color fits into one gallon zip-lock bag, so it is easy to just grab two colors and start building.

    Recently (a year or so) though I have started sorting by piece. Within the color. So…plates are in a smaller baggie, bricks in another, and maybe a third baggie depending on how many tiles or weird pieces I have.

    Also, I have a few containers of tupperwear and PaB cups (both sizes) in which I keep “special pieces.” You know, those pieces that you would always put off to the side when building with your friends as a 5-year-old. Well now they are always on the side.

    I also have two cases from Home Depot for things like nuts and bolts, about 18 inches by 8 inches. These contain dividers, and I have in these technic pins/rods, beams of various sizes, minifig body parts and tools, and other small things that need to be more organized. Plus, this way they can travel between home and school, for I only bring my System to school and keep my Bionicle at home. (The Bionicle, btw, are organized by color and kept in their packaged tubes.)

  31. xadrian

    I used my kids to help at first. I had saved up sets from when I was 14 (which was the Futuron series) up until about 2007. So I had about 150 sets to break down. It all went into one of those giant green bins you get from Target or something. When it was full, I started going through and pulling out big bricks and plates and other bits.

    The problem I ran into was space to store it. I have a small bed room and really no other place for Lego. The garage is for tools and is pretty messy. The house doesn’t have an office I can use. It all went into a mix of those Akro bins, clear crafting drawer units, ziplocs, small cardboard boxes.

    Eventually I was able to sort through the big bin a couple times and into workable sections by part if not part-type. I have some great shelves from Ikea that are wire frame and in which you can put plastic divider shelves.

    But again, I’m running out of room. I can’t put in more shelves but I’m at the point where I need to break things down further. My girlfriend collected Lego as well and now that we’re combining our bricks, we need more space.

    Love it.

  32. tiffenyt

    I also sort by color- if you want a red house you grab the red bin for 1x brick, 2x brick or plate. It limits your use of brick to sort further than that, for instance you dont want to build a house only out of 1×1 and 1×2 or you wont have enough left for something else, or if you were to only grab the 1×4 bin, you dont have the pieces to properly lock in doors and windows =)

    This is my collection- http://www.flickr.com/photos/30428144@N08/
    I never had a dark ages, and if you look me up on facebook, I have links to ALL of my Lego endeavors.

  33. Creative Anarchy

    I have a slightly different approach to sorting that works well for sorting and maybe less well for building. I started out coming out of my dark ages with a vengeance picking up about 12 sets a month. Very soon my laundry bucket full of legos was overfull no matter how fast I was building and it was impossible to find pieces. Immediately I knew I needed two things. I needed shallow containers to till through to find pieces and I needed and I needed a segregation system. The center of the sorting system is a wardrobe roller lucite about 2 foot by 4 that usually sleeps under the coffee table I build on in the livingroom. Most often I break down builds I’m tired off and drop them in there for sorting or if I get sets for bricks only I just pour them in directly. About once a month or as needed I will pop something inane into the VCR and lay down on the floor with a couple of PaB cups and start sorting to dump into the storage tubs I keep in my lab. When those tubs fill up I either pour them into bigger tubs or I segregate them into separate sorts. Like most builders minfigs were never considderred brick stock and never saw the inside of a bin or tub. There were a few items I realized right away I needed to sort, printed elements and windows/cannopies were just to vulnerable to scratching to leave them to be pawed through constantly. Over time I found that some elements had to be separated for ease of building. Things like wheels and doors or technic elements that had very specific use in builds were best sorted out by themselves so that they could be looked through more easilly.

    Because of the variety of tubs I use and their tendency to segragate or expand as I bring in more bricks my system evolves nicely and sorts out pretty simply. The system isn’t very space efficient with all the different tub sizes stacked up in the lab and it’s not the best system for building. I still have very large sorts that I have to mill through in order to get specific pieces.

    My system just like everyone elses suits my style as a builder. I like the sensation of part-hunting and the sound of bricks rolling over each other as I till for parts. I like finding parts I hadn’t considderred using and thinking of ways to incorporate them into the build.

  34. gambort

    I sort like you. Multi-stage refinement and do the easiest parts first. It’s also a really good idea, as others have said, to never let it get out of hand.

  35. legokingpenguin

    I sort by color then type of brick. I snap same types of bricks together then put them in quart size zip lock bags. The bags are in topless 2′x2′x6″ boxes that slide under the bed between builds. Some bags have just one type of brick. Sets I want intact are stored in their boxes away from the build bricks.

    I do have some special bricks in their own bag regardless of color, i.e. headlight bricks are together or Plate 1X2 W. 1 Knob or Minifig accessories…

  36. TorGugick

    Sorting out the bogus bricks:

    Lego has a much higher kinetic coefficient of friction than Megabloks and therefore a lower aerial viscosity. If one neglects angular torque, which is negligible except at Planck lengths and speeds approaching the speed of light, a quick calculation using Tensor calculus yields the following fact: By simply tossing your collection out a window (minimum height: 512 feet) all of the Megabloks will clearly hit the ground first. Collect them quickly before the genuine bricks hit.

  37. Jojo

    I was lucky enough to have a mum who’s an organized person. So one day when I was a kid she bought two curver boxes and two boxes that are supposed to keep your forks, spoons and knives in (dunno if there’s a word for it in English), and she helped me sort my then relatively small collection. Those boxes are still part of my sorting system now, even if I added more and more different sorting bins to my system over the years. The key is: I never got back to the state of unsorted piles of bricks laying around, but I always kept my buidling space clean since then.

    When taking apart unwanted MOCs or acquired sets I already sort while taking them apart, by piling up elements of the same kind on my desk. After I have dismantled one or more sets/MOCs I transfer the piles to their respective sorting bins.

    When sorting acquired lots of unsorted Lego I first take out the larger parts that block the view, like plates, BURPs, other chunky prefab parts. After that I shuffle through the heap and concentrate on different kinds of parts, first the ones easily to distinguish, like basic 1×X and 2×X plates, basic bricks, basic slopes, and build up piles of them around the large unsorted lot. For example: I gather a handfull of 1×1 round bricks out of the lot, put them on a pile next to it. Then I concentrate on 1×4 plates, collect a handfull and put them on a pile. Then some 2×1 inverted slopes catch my interest, I gather a handfull of them and pile them up. Then I find another handfull of 1×1 round bricks, and so on. This way it’s not getting boring searching for the same kind of parts over a longer periode of time. I don’t separate the parts by colour, but only by shape.
    In the end there is a lot of small parts left which I sort the same way as the larger parts before.

  38. Tristan C

    What I generally do is sort only every three months or so, so it becomes a rather daunting task. I’ll pop in a DVD on my computer to play in the background (or watch when my fingers hurt too much to continue) and slowly break down all the MOCs/sets that I’ve decided are ready to come apart into a giant pile of bricks on a card table. Then, I’ll slowly pick through the pile, grabbing only a certain part: say, a 4×2 plate. I’ll put all of them away, then choose the next piece and pick all of them out. It’s very time-consuming, but if I only have to do it 3-4 times a year, it’s worth it.

  39. ColourSchemer

    I use 5 compartment IKEA sorting bins (I believe they are junk drawer bins) and LEGO Advent Calendar trays for my sorts and sub-sorts.

    I have a few rules for my sorting:

    1. If at all possible, sort the pieces from a decommissioned set or MOC while disassembling. This increases the sort speed, since a MOC generally contains a lot of similar parts and or colors.

    2. Sorting Hierarchy – with a large bin of parts and semi-MOCs, I perform a hierarchical sort:
    A) Really big pieces – baseplates, large plates, long beams, etc
    B) big chunks of MOCs- if there are any partially assembled chunks like walls, those get sorted and disassembled next, since they are mostly like-colored basic bricks.
    C) Then the sub-sorting begins

    3. Sub-sorting.
    A) Each ‘batch’ (a lap tray) gets sorted into basic categories first. Bricks, plates, technic, slopes, minifig accessories, hinges, etc.
    B) Each of those categories then gets sub-sorted into more specific categories 1x vs 2x bricks, 1x vs 2x plates, minifig body parts vs tools, technic I use a lot vs rare usage
    C) Finally, each of those sub-categories get sorted down to exact matches for my storage bins. That way I can dump each final sort category into the appropriate Stack-On drawer.

    This system does a few things that I really like.
    1. It gets the huge stuff out of the way quickly, making getting to the rest easier
    2. It reduces the overwhelming feeling of tackling an entire unsorted bin.
    3. It allows me to recoup some of the high priority parts that I may need for a current build before sorting is completely finished. (Cheese, hinges, SNOT bricks)

  40. jediknight219

    I hate to say it, but the best way to stay on top of sorting is to stop buying new sets. If you want more bricks, go to Bricklink or Pick-A-Brick.
    The shipments will probably already be sorted for you, and it’s easy to toss them into your collection.

    The only other time you’ll have to sort is when you’re disassembling a MOC or tablescraps, and this shouldn’t be a big problem unless you’re extremely prolific.

    Of course, I haven’t been doing this. I’ve been buying so many new sets that I always have a big pile of stuff to sort.

    I’m also one who sorts by color first. When I build, it doesn’t make sense to me to have all the colors on hand, just the few that I’m working with. But I’m too obsessive compulsive about sorting. Everything gets completely sorted by shape after they are sorted by color. This probably means that sorting takes far too long.

    Sorting stage 1 – disassembly, gives me a huge pile of stuff to sort.
    Stage 2 – sort into ziploc bags by color
    Stage 3 – sort by shape. Bricks and plates and large items get set to the side because they don’t fit nicely with the other stuff.
    Stage 4 – Bricks, plates, and large items(bigger than 6×6).

  41. Wusmand

    i try to sort about once a year, but then I get sloppy, don’t put stuff away, and then everything just ends up in random boxes

  42. Ricardo

    Well sorry to everyone, but there are just to many answers already to read all of them now lol…
    I kinda hate sorting… i prefer building… but since i dont have that many parts, i always have to destroy what i build (pretty much every set i buy is only build once) and then i have to sort them…
    i can only sort them if i have a lot of free time and nothing better to do… i do it in my bed room, where almost all my Lego is, i have a nice table for building (and destroying).
    I have a nice system, and i wasted like 200€ in this http://www.brickshelf.com/gallery/N19h7M4r3/OMeuCantinho/o_meu_cantinho_vazio.jpg (trying to save up 200 more for twice that amount). i had to optimize it a few times, and everyonce in a while i have to optimize it again for things i’ve noticed could be better. But i do it kinda often, since i need the parts to build new stuff and its more work to have a ton of unsorted bricks lying around.

  43. CatJuggling

    My problem no longer is how to sort, but where to store. Bringing in two kids into our small townhome lost me my office space until we find something bigger when it comes to living arrangements. I did carefully take what had been sorted and stored it in space saving baggies before they went into the large rubbermaid tubs, but I still have a number of bins unsorted.

    Then again, I now have two kids who love to help me sort Lego. :p

  44. Honroy

    I use the sort/sub-sort method as well:

    1. Sort into large general categories (plates, bricks, tiny parts, Technics, and slopes), one Sterilite bin per category.
    2. Sub-sort each bin into their appropriate bin/drawer.
    2a. For the small stuff, I will actually search the items by color, then type. For example, I’ll pick a color like red, then find all red tiles, then all red cylinders, then all red cones, etc. By picking a color, it essentially makes a smaller pile of bricks to select from. It’s easier on the eyes to find items by color first, and because they are spread amongst the other colors they are easy to spot.

    As far as where the blocks go, I have many different sizes of clear drawers. I try to break them up by size/type, but some items like plates are more general (2 x 6 in one bin, 2 x 4 and 2 x 3 in one, 2 x 2 in another). I shift the bricks around when the bin/drawer gets full or too empty).

  45. BlueCollarCritic

    Question – What about Cleaning of Bricks

    Anyone know of any device, contraption that can be used to clean your LEGO Bricks other then by hand? I persue Yardi Sales for used Legos and often they are less then clean and so while I have been washig them by hand with a soft brush I’d really like to find some faster, more effienct way to do this. Something like a Lego sized Washing machine. I had considered getting a sallad spinner and using it as a hand powered washing device but what I need is something that can do the brusging/scrubbing when its needed.

    Any suggestions?

  46. Catsy

    ^ For most elements, I just dump them in a big washtub with warm soapy water (be cautious about the kind of soap you use) and loosely wash them by hand. For easily-scratched elements like windscreens, I wash them by hand, and once they’re dry buff them a bit with a chamois cloth.

    There will be elements for which you’ll have to do individual scrubbing, but this will get most of the schmutz off.

  47. notenoughbricks

    Fascinating discussion. Many different methods but only 1 right method for each person, the one they use for their own collection. My method of sorting and storage works for me but might not for others.

    I will be sorting very shortly. I have an 18 gallon Rubbermaid storage container filled with recent LEGO acquisitions that need to 1st be cleaned and then sorted. I’ll clean the bricks with dish detergent and water, shifting them around to loosen the dirt and then washing them off in a 2nd container of clean water. Then I’ll either air dry them outside or place the LEGO in my basement in front of the dehumidifier to dry.

    Once cleaned, sorting begins. Like others I sort in several stages. First I sort by color. This is usually when I discover knock off brands and toss them in the trash.

    Next I sort by group (brick, slope, plate).

    Then I sort by subgroup (1xn, 2xn bricks, reg slope, inverted slopes, 1xn plates, 2xn plates, etc)

    Then the individual parts go in Ziploc bags and then are placed in my Sterilite towers for storage.

    Then I’ll build!

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