A well-organized LEGO collection makes you a more efficient builder. When you can easily access the exact LEGO piece you need without having to stop and search for it, you can more effortlessly translate your ideas into an awesome LEGO creation. There are optimal storage solutions for every LEGO collection, whether you’re bringing order to your kid’s sets strewn across the carpet, or a Master Builder with a basement full to bursting with bricks.
Before you invest in storage, remember that it takes a lot of time to sort a large LEGO collection, and a well-organized LEGO collection actually takes up more space in your home than a bin full of parts. We offer our strategies by collection size, but start small and err on the side of a less organized collection. When you become frustrated by your inability to find the piece you need, it’s time to upgrade your storage to the next level.
Small Collections (Up to 5,000 Pieces): Get them off the floor!
The first stage in LEGO storage is the most important—keeping those sharp plastic bricks off the floor. The best solution for many builders is a shallow, clear plastic bin that’s large enough for the pieces you already have, with some space to grow. A shallow bin is easier to rummage through to find the part you need, and a clear bin means you can look at the underside to find small parts that fall to the bottom.
You can estimate the size of your collection based on how much you’ve spent on it; LEGO sets cost about $0.10 per piece, so a $300 collection contains about 3000 pieces. To determine the minimum size of your bin, assume 250 LEGO pieces fill one liter of storage, then choose a bin about twice as big as necessary so it’s easier to dig around and find the pieces you need. A 3,000-piece collection takes up 12L and requires a 24L container.
If you would rather build on the floor, smaller LEGO collections are well-suited for a drawstring play mat—36” in diameter works well. These mats are big enough to spread out all of your pieces and still have room to build right on the mat. When you’re finished, you can pull on the drawstrings to scoop everything up without leaving any bricks behind. These are especially convenient if you need to move your LEGO bricks at a moment’s notice, or want to store your collection in one room but build in another.
If your LEGO collection lives in a bedroom, look for an oversized plastic bin with wheels you can roll under the bed. At about 60 liters, this is probably the largest option for “smaller” collections, topping out around 10,000 pieces (without becoming over-stuffed). Any larger, and it becomes too frustrating to find a specific part in the bin.
Medium Collections (5,000 to 10,000 Pieces): Basic Organization
As your collection passes the 5,000-piece threshold, sort your pieces into multiple containers to make it easier to build more ambitious models. While you can always buy a second drawstring bag or clear plastic bin, there are several other options which will allow you more versatility when sorting your LEGO pieces.
If you have limited space, a cart with clear plastic drawers is perfect. Be sure you can easily remove the drawers, so you can access them while sorting and bring them to your workspace. Carts designed for scrapbooking are perfect for this; the drawers are shallow and are usually 12”x12” or larger—big enough to hold a standard 32×32 stud LEGO baseplate.
Stackable clear plastic bins (11L bins work well) are another option when sorting your collection. It’s convenient to be able to add another bin any time your collection grows. Just look for products with tight-fitting lids, especially if you need to transport your collection from time to time. (If you want to be more precise with your sorting, you can use smaller bins.)
There are two common sorting methods for collections of this size—color and shape.
A. Sort By Color
Sorting your LEGO pieces by color makes sense for parents, because most young builders will just use their imagination with the parts they have, rather than fretting over missing a particular part. And since sorting by color is easy, kids might be more willing to help re-sort the pieces when both of you are done building.
For older and more experienced LEGO builders, however, sorting by color might not be optimal because it can be hard to find a particular shape. There used to be only six common LEGO colors—white, light gray, black, blue, red, and yellow—but now, the LEGO palette includes 14 “common” colors and more than 60 colors total (including rare colors, translucent colors, and metallic finishes.) Sorting a moderately-sized collection by color today means including similar colors in the same bin. For example, a single bin can include all seven shades of LEGO green: from the earthy ‘sand green’ to the vibrant ‘lime’.
B. Sort By Shape
More experienced LEGO builders should sort by shape rather than color because if you’re looking for, say, a specific small red part, it will be difficult to find in a sea of other red pieces. We can more easily perceive differences in color than differences in shape, so that red part will stand out more when it’s among other tiny pieces of various colors.
With a typical 6-drawer cabinet, you can dedicate one drawer to full-height bricks, another for plates, another for curved parts, angled parts, minifigures/accessories, and a “junk” drawer for everything else. As your collection grows, you can sort into narrower categories, such as separating bricks that are only one-stud wide from bricks that are two studs or wider.
Large Collections (10,000 to 250,000 pieces): Sorting by Part
If you’re using 10 or more drawers for sorting, your collection has probably grown to more than 10,000 pieces. That’s when you should consider sorting by part. The LEGO community calls each unique shape a different ‘part,’ and sophisticated builders have increasingly specialized parts at their disposal—even high-specialty parts in the SNOT (Studs Not On Top) category.
The dad’s basement in The LEGO Movie offers a realistic representation of this kind of part-based storage system: a large workspace covered with drawers and bins stacked toward the ceiling, each filled with LEGO bricks. It might seem extreme, but it’s modest compared to what many of us adult fans of LEGO (AFOLs) have in our homes.
Plastic drawer cabinets are by far the most popular option when sorting by part, because each drawer is compact and easy to remove. You can fit a huge number of compartments in a small space, and you can bring individual drawers over to your workspace. Also, since you will end up with multiple colors of the same part in each drawer, you can easily dump out a single drawer to find the color you need. To make it even easier to find the parts later, you can label each drawer with a picture of each part, and the unique Part ID. (On the underside of almost every LEGO part, you will find a tiny 4 or 5-digit code which will help you learn more about that part online.)
If you have a large collection spanning both traditional LEGO sets and LEGO Technic sets, you will need a lot of these drawers to sort your entire collection by part. There are over 1,000 different general-purpose parts in currently-available sets alone, and the number grows when you include retired pieces, minifigures, minifigure accessories, and one-off pieces used in licensed LEGO sets such as Harry Potter, Batman, or Star Wars. If the amount of drawers you need is overwhelming (or expensive), focus on sorting your most common parts first. You can scale up when your space, wallet, and collection permit.
For large-collection LEGO enthusiasts who need to be more space-efficient, tackle boxes are a good alternative, perfect for apartment or closet storage. A box with removable dividers allows you to customize the size of each compartment based on the number of pieces you own, but beyond that, a tackle box’s strong-latched lid makes it the best solution for carrying parts around your home or to conventions. The only downside: It can be cumbersome to fish out specific pieces from these tiny compartments.
Massive Collections (250,000+): Sorting by Element
Even if we exclude minifigure parts, hairstyles, and accessories, there are well over 1,000 unique shapes available in current LEGO sets, in more than 60 colors. It’ll take a dedicated home collector to reach this level—you might only see an entire collection sorted by element if it belongs to a professional LEGO artist working at LEGOLAND.
Nonetheless, when a serious LEGO artist accrues around 250,000 pieces, they end up with hundreds of the same common parts (a few include 1×2 bricks, plates, and tiles; the 1×1 30-degree slopes known as “cheese” pieces; and Technic pins—a full list of common parts is here). That’s when it makes sense to consider sorting some of your collection by both shape and color—what LEGO enthusiasts refer to as a unique ‘element.’ Remember, you can always leave less common pieces sorted by shape (with multiple colors in one bin).
If you have a dedicated LEGO room, the best option for most collectors are drawers with divided compartments. These are deeper than drawer cabinets (12” deep or more compared to just 5.5” for Akro-mils style drawer cabinets), so you can hold more compartments in the same amount of wall space. With at least 15 compartments per drawer, you can easily grab the drawer containing what you need, and have everything readily available in your work area. How you organize elements within each drawer is subjective—you could group elements according to which you use most often (fewer trips to the drawer cabinet), or which elements might be used together (like 1×1 clip tops and Bar 3Ls)—and the same goes for how many drawers you use. A hyper-organized collection of 250,000 pieces could easily exceed 1,000 drawers.
If you have a lot of wall space, you can also use the same drawer cabinets highlighted in the previous section, or tackle boxes if portability is a requirement for your collection.
Sorting as Meditation
One of the key considerations in deciding the right level of organization for your collection is whether you find sorting LEGO bricks relaxing or tedious. Some people see sorting LEGO as a mindfulness exercise, a simple and repetitive activity that pulls your focus away from the stresses of a busy life. Others can only tolerate the monotony of sorting LEGO by watching a TV show or listening to music.
Remember, the best way to store your LEGO collection will become clear as you focus on optimizing for your own creativity. LEGO bricks want to be played with, after all, so the correct storage solution is the one that encourages you to build something awesome!
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