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Sorting and storing LEGO bricks and toys

If you have children at home, the odds are pretty good that you also have piles of LEGO lying around. Most parents will readily admit that few things are more painful on a naked foot than the sharp corners of a LEGO brick, but organizing and storing the heaps of pieces can seem like a daunting task. Luckily, LEGO sorting and storing is serious business for adult LEGO enthusiasts (known as AFOLs in the LEGO community), and anyone looking to sort and store large quantities of brick can borrow a few tips and tricks from the experts.

Tool storage containers work well for organizing LEGO bricks.
Photo by Jennifer Garlen

Key considerations are accessibility and transportation. Your builder needs to be able to see the parts he or she wants, and the containers should be easy enough to move from room to room. Look for pull-out plastic drawer sets, clear bins with lids and handles, or sturdy tool organizers that close securely to keep bricks from spilling out. If a container doesn't have clear sides, it should at least have a transparent lid so that the parts inside can be viewed without opening the box. It's best to keep all of the containers in one location to make big projects easier to start, and if you have the space a sturdy table of some sort will also be helpful.

If you are only dealing with a small collection of parts, a single large tub for the big bricks is probably sufficient, but you'll want to get a craft organizer or two for the small bits. Those swords, flowers, and round studs can easily get lost in the bottom of a big plastic tub, so sort them by type to help young builders find what they need to finish that new car, monster, or garden party scene. The best time to sort the small pieces out is when the child takes apart the original kit after building it. Make the sorting part of the play experience, and be sure to emphasize that taking the original model apart is not just OK, but a big part of the toy's intended purpose. LEGO sets are not really meant to sit on shelves and gather dust!

Small collections of LEGO can quickly grow, especially if your child gets serious about building. For medium size collections, plastic drawers from Target or Walmart can be handy to sort and store the basic bricks by color. Once again, you'll want smaller storage containers for the little pieces. Choose between small sets of plastic drawers for big handfuls of little items and the craft organizers for the odds and ends (like shiny gems, bottles, gold coins, and cherries). You can store shades of the same color family together in a bin or divide them up, depending on your preference. You can also separate regular bricks from plates. Store specialty parts, like windows and doors, together, where the builder can easily collect them for a project. Figures should also have their own storage container, and their tiny accessories are best stored in a container with lots of small compartments.

Most adult LEGO hobbyists have large collections of loose parts, and many invest heavily in sorting and storing their bricks. Once you hit the large collection phase, it's time to scope out the tool supply and hardware stores for some serious containers. Harbor Freight offers excellent containers in different sizes. Banks of sturdy tool bins above a table or on a wall can help advanced builders get complex projects off the ground more easily. AFOLs have many different preferences when it comes to sorting and storing their collections; some want every single piece in its own container based on type, color, and size, while others are content to take a more general approach. Of course, once you have amassed a large collection of LEGO it's also time to start attending LEGO conventions and building cool creations like the working LEGO car seen in the video at the top of this article!

In review, here are some container options to consider:

Plastic tubs - good for small collections that consist mainly of basic bricks or Duplo bricks

Craft organizers - excellent for tiny parts like guns and money; can be used for specialty parts of all kinds in smaller collections

Plastic drawers (small size) - Cost about $5 each at big box stores; can easily be stored on tables or shelves; good for small parts in medium and large collections

Plastic boxes - Shoe box style containers with clear sides can be bought in sets of three; good for basic bricks in smaller collections and also for storing figures or trees and other larger specialty items

Plastic drawers (cart size) - Cost about $10 to $15 dollars at big box stores and often have wheels to roll them around; good for medium and large collections of basic bricks

Tool organizers - Variety of sizes available; excellent for more complicated collections and builders who really want to sort their bricks carefully. Stackable or wall-mounted containers will make for a neater storage space.

Plastic bags and baggies can also turn a large, open container into a carefully organized group of items, although these are less durable and can sometimes spill. Buy the sturdiest freezer quality gallon bags for long term storage of larger bricks. Solid containers are better in the long run, but sometimes bags are a necessary and convenient alternative.

To learn even more about sorting and storing LEGO, read this essay from The Brothers Brick website. You'll also find LEGO storage ideas on Pinterest.

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