This post was originally written in December 2016 and updated December 26, 2018.
One question that I have been asked several times since writing my LEGO book is how do we organize our LEGO® bricks? How do we avoid spending hours (on our hands and knees) hunting for one specific brick? Well, Christmas is over and kids everywhere probably have lots of new LEGO® sets, so I figured this was a good time to answer that question!
First of all, I’ll start with a tip. Are you having trouble getting your kids to clean up all the way? Are there little LEGO® bricks here, there, and everywhere? This tip came from a friend who also has 5 kids, and it has been the most helpful thing. Here it is: if kids are leaving things out when cleaning up, don’t take away the odds and ends that they leave out. Those are the pieces they don’t care about! Otherwise they would clean them up! Take away the entire category of toys. If LEGO® bricks aren’t being picked up, then put them ALL away for a week or two (or more) and then try again.
So… 1. Make them clean up. But, 2. Realize that you are going to need to drive a system of order for toys, especially if your kids are under age 10. They need to be responsible, but being able to take the lead in that takes years of character development.
Back to organizing…
The big question when organizing loose LEGO® bricks (we’ll deal with sets and mini figures farther down) is should I organize by color? Or organize by shape? Or by set?
Determine your organization goal.
First, think about WHY you want your LEGO bricks organized. Is the point to keep the sets from getting mixed to the point where it would take hours to ever build them again? Is the point to store a bunch of random pieces? Is the point to build more efficiently?
If your goal is to keep each set separate, I would recommend doing one plastic box to store each set and instruction manual. We have never taken this approach, however. While some sets are collectible and we never take them down, I don’t prefer a rigid approach to keeping sets separate. In my opinion, that makes kids less inclined to be creative and build their own creations!
There are pro’s and con’s to any organization system. Sometimes we want our bricks organized by color for the most efficient building. For example, when I was creating the monkey project for the book, I wanted a whole bunch of brown bricks in different shapes so that I could tinker with the design. Then there are other times when we want to design a project (like our circle drawing machine) where the function of the bricks matters more than the color. The best way to organize for the most efficient building would be tons of little containers so that bricks could be separated by color and then by type. But the drawbacks to that system are expense and upkeep. Who has time to keep a highly structured organization system under control, especially if you have multiple kids and the kids don’t care about organization?!
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So here’s our system for organizing LEGO® bricks.
I feel like it’s practical and makes building as efficient as it can be without spending a fortune on storage or spending all our time keeping it organized. We do still spend time searching for bricks – but it’s better than it would be otherwise.
The photo below shows our family LEGO® area. The kids also have their own LEGO® sets, which we’ll discuss in a minute. Yes, we own a lot of LEGO®. LOTS AND LOTS OF LEGO®…
Our family LEGO® bricks consist of sets that were taken apart and the kids lost track of which pieces were theirs, plus basic sets we have purchased as well as bricks from the brick wall at the LEGO® store. Etc, etc, etc.
We use IKEA Trofast storage. The square by the window is two Trofast units attached to each other. This was our original LEGO® table. Now I use it for photography – all of our blog photos that are on a white background are taken on this table, as well as all the photos for our LEGO® book. I use a tri-fold display board for the white background with a poster board on the table. The square table now holds lincoln logs, plastic animals, action figures, etc. all organized by bin.
This area holds the bulk of our LEGO® bricks. Each of the boys has a large black tub for their own sets and random pieces.
The rest of the bricks are organized by color. We have a bin for red, orange (a small one at the top), yellow, blue/green together, brown/tan together, white, gray, and black.
Now, depending on how detailed you want to be, you could easily break this down further. We have noticed that many of the moving parts in LEGO® sets are gray. In fact, we have more gray bricks than any other color (hello, Star Wars sets!). These also tend to be the smallest bricks. One option would be to separate out just the gray with bricks and plates in one tub and modified bricks and plates in a smaller bin.
Depending on how enthusiastic you are, you could easily separate out each color – one tub for bricks and plates (flat pieces) and one tub for small modified bricks and plates.
Here’s what makes our system work.
- Open Bins. Stacks of boxes with lids do NOT work in our experience! If kids have to unstack boxes and take lids off to put away one or two bricks they found on the floor, it’s not going to happen. With the Trofast system, you can easily toss in a couple of bricks on your way by.
- The UNSORTED BIN. Sometimes there are LEGO® bricks all over the floor, and clean-up needs to happen in a hurry. So we always have one bin that is just for random unsorted pieces. The kids put what they can into the appropriate bins and the rest gets dumped in the unsorted bin. Then when we have time (once a month or so) we sit down and clean out the unsorted bin and put the bricks back where they go. Janie (age 2) loves to sort by color! So cute. It’s kind of relaxing work, honestly.
If you don’t want to go with the Trofast storage, a plastic drawer unit works well, especially if your LEGO® collection is not as massive as ours. Here’s a Sterilite drawer option that looks good – but you’ll want to think about how many bricks you are organizing before selecting a size.
LEGO® Minifigures and Sets
So that’s the community LEGO® bricks. What do we do with minifigures and sets that we display?
Each of the boys has:
- A large black tub in the family storage area full of loose bricks that belong to them. (We talked about that already but just to summarize in one place.) It’s their job to make sure that these don’t get mixed in with everything else. If they don’t keep up with their stuff, it ends up in the community bins.
- Assembled sets displayed on their dressers and/or shelves in their rooms.
- An IKEA Glis box for organizing mini figures and small sets.
- One more tub with a lid for storing assembled small sets.
The IKEA Glis boxes are awesome or organizing mini figures and accessories, and at $3.99 each you can’t beat the price! Sturdy too.
Update: When we were writing our third LEGO® book, Genius LEGO® Inventions, I organized our Technic pieces into two more IKEA Glis boxes. It made it SO much more efficient for us to have gears, Technic bricks, axles, pins, and various joint pieces organized ahead of time. I also sorted out wheels, clear bricks, turntables, and hinge bricks.
Another fun option for minifigures is our IKEA frame display. We have had these for several months now, and they have held up very well! Super easy to switch out the minifigures. We dust it with canned air, which also works well for dusting sets that are on display. See how to make it here: IKEA Frame Minifigure Display
Honestly, I’ve started taking away the instruction manuals and storing them in a box in my closet for when the kids need them again. Aidan (age 13) keeps up with his, but the younger boys just lose them or leave them lying around to get ripped and mangled.
Need more ideas? Here are some other storage tips that are worth considering!
- Make an Under-the-Bed Rolling Storage Drawer
- Here’s a LEGO organization system that is perfect for a smaller LEGO® collection. I love the use of plastic tool bins!
We wrote a LEGO® idea book!
This book is full of 50 new project ideas, with parts lists and instructions! (LEGO’s own books do not have instructions – only finished projects.) The book has been very well received, and sold out the first print run in no time at all. I am hearing great feedback that the book is encouraging kids to build new things with the parts they already have! Obviously, it’s unlikely that kids will own ALL of the exact pieces we used, but the book is designed to be a springboard for creative building with instructions included so that it’s actually useful. It’s back in stock now, so you’ll want to check it out!
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