CHAPTER 1: Understanding your LEGO Collection

How many LEGO bricks do you have? What do you like to build? Let’s learn about your LEGO collection before picking the perfect storage solution.

Age of LEGO builder?

Very young LEGO builders do not need a lot of LEGO bricks or any organization whatsoever — they will create models which are inspired by the parts that they discover while building. Whether you are 5 or 50 years old, digging through a pile of loose LEGO bricks is an act of discovery. While older builders tend to prefer more organization, it’s fun for anyone to discover a brick that they have never seen, or haven’t seen in a long time.

Younger LEGO builders prefer little or no organization, while older builders prefer a well organized LEGO collection. (Very little difference in ages 30+.)

Younger LEGO builders prefer little or no organization, while older builders prefer a well organized LEGO collection. (Very little difference in ages 30+.)

Age of primary LEGO builders?

  1. Young Kids — All you really need is a container that’s large enough to store all of your LEGO bricks. Since no organization is required, look for a storage solution that is quick to set up and easy to clean up.
  2. Older Kids — As kids get older, their LEGO collection might become too large to store in a single container, or they might become increasingly frustrated searching for a specific piece. This is when you might want to look for a way to organize your LEGO collection into broad categories. While many people start by organizing LEGO bricks by color, most adults (and some kids) prefer to sort their LEGO bricks into broad categories (such as Bricks, Plates, Tiles, Slopes, Technic, Minifigures, or Other.) — Why? Because it’s really hard to find a specific small black piece in a container full of black pieces.
  3. Experienced LEGO Builders — As LEGO collections grow, and LEGO builders become more familiar with common LEGO bricks, they might want to sort their collection even further. The typical progression is to begin by sorting basic bricks, plates, and tiles by element. Eventually moving on to less common parts like slopes, wedges, tiles, and Technic elements. If the collection grows further still, it might make sense to sort the most common bricks, plates, and tiles by both part and color.

While the stages described above focus on younger builders, adult LEGO enthusiasts follow a similar progression. As your LEGO collection grows and your familiarity with common LEGO elements increases, you will probably want a more organized collection. Always remember that the goal of your LEGO collection is to have fun — don’t bother sorting your LEGO bricks if you are happy dumping them out on the floor and building something awesome.

Size of your LEGO collection?

Let’s start by estimating the size of your LEGO collection, since it is an important factor in determining the best organizational system and best storage solutions for your collection.

Estimating number of LEGO pieces:

  • Add them up – If you know which LEGO sets you own, you can look up number of bricks for each set and add them up.
  • By Volume – around 250 pieces per liter (250 pieces per quart, or 1000 pieces per gallon.)
  • By Weight – around 700 pieces per kilogram (300 pieces per pound.)

LEGO sets aimed at young kids have larger bricks that weigh more, and LEGO sets aimed at adults have lots of tiny pieces that weigh very little. As such, these methods of estimating the size of your collection aren’t very precise. Don’t worry, these estimates are just one of the factors we will use in Chapter 2: Organizational strategies for your LEGO Collection.

What do you like to build?

Do you build LEGO Trains, Great ball contraptions, Architecture, Miniland figures, Sculptures, Spaceships? Or maybe you build in a variety of styles?

With thousands of unique LEGO elements released over more than 60 years, sorting your LEGO collection can be a daunting endeavor. An important way to simplify the process is to focus on the LEGO parts you use most.

For example: If your passion is Technic, you might want a meticulously sorted Technic collection with drawers for each unique piece, while quickly sorting the rest of your LEGO bricks (that you rarely use) into broad categories.

If you like to build models across a variety of different themes, you might want a general-purpose storage solution that allows you to customize your work area by bringing just the parts needed for your current project. Plastic Drawers or removable containers are well suited to this.

Portability?

Where will you store your LEGO? Where do you like to build models? Do you need to bring your bricks to a school, friend’s house, or a LEGO convention?

Deciding whether or not your collection needs to be portable is a critical step in picking the right storage solutions. There are relatively few options if you want a truly portable LEGO storage solution.

  1. Portable outside of your home — If you take your collection to schools, LEGO conventions, or while traveling, you need a storage solution which has a tight fitting lid.
  2. Portable within your home — If your LEGO storage is in a different room than where you like to build your models, you want to make sure you can bring the parts you need to your workspace. Many storage solutions allow you to remove a single container, and bring it back when you are done.
  3. Not Portable — If you build in the same location as your LEGO is stored, you have more storage options.
Now that we better understand your collection and needs, let’s decide how to organize your LEGO Bricks…

12 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris says:

    Hmm. We, as a lego family have a TON of built sets. When it comes to complete sets, do people take apart complete sets to the distribute into their sorting system? Or do they have separate loose pieces? I ask, because we are currently the latter, which takes up a lot of space in the basement with little to no room for creative homemade builds.

    • Avatar Tom Alphin says:

      Chris,
      You should do what makes the most sense for your family, but since you asked, I’ll offer my $0.02.

      My general recommendation is to set aside your very favorite official sets and display them in your house. If there isn’t enough space to display all of your very favorite sets, you can carefully disassemble and put in a plastic bag (with the instructions in the bag, or in separate file cabinet).

      Sets which you do not have a strong affinity to should definitely get disassembled and added to your growing parts library, because these are the parts you (and your family) will use to build creative models of your own designs. Keep those favorite official sets as inspiration, but focus most of your attention on parts for free-building! That’s where the organization systems in this guide come into play, ranging from a large bag for small collections, to a half dozen drawers for a medium collection, and thousands of small drawers for very large collections!

      Sincerely,
      —Tom

  2. Avatar Patricia says:

    At what age would you recommend start organizing kids Legos?

    • Avatar Tom Alphin says:

      When they become frustrated trying to find specific parts. That will depend on how they build, how many LEGO pieces they have, and how old they are. As a rough guess, you may want to sort into broad categories around age 8.

  3. Avatar Greg says:

    My son who is 5 received the 1500 piece builder set. It came individually wrapped by colors in the box. Is it best to separate them into different bins by color or just pile them all into one big bin.

  4. Avatar Nadia says:

    I am an AFOL and now have an 8yo who loves building too! My current dilemma is whether or not to ‘release’ all of her sets into the proper organization I have. Should I leave hers in zipbags per set?

    • Avatar Tom Alphin says:

      Strongly suggest keeping a large pile of loose (or very gently sorted) bricks for her that’s separate from your AFOL collection. Most kids don’t care about the original set after building it a few times—it’s much more useful as parts to build something new!

  5. Avatar Jameson says:

    i love Legos but this website has ruined it for me!!Thx a lot Tom Alphin!!

    • Avatar Tom Alphin says:

      Jameson,
      You’re welcome?

      In all seriousness, once your collection is well organized, most people find it more fun to design and build custom models than when everything is a disorganized mess.
      —Tom

  6. Avatar Richie says:

    I dream of owning an 18-wheeled trailer truck that has my entire collection in the trailer with a tiny “bedroom.” It would be equipped with the “sliding tracked storage system” so I might store more stuff while keeping it safe during transport. I could drive to any convention and have all my parts ready for anything!

  7. Avatar Walter says:

    I am an AFOL with a large collection. certain parts that work best with other parts ( tires , wheels, and axles) should be stored together. Lego shows depend on moving a Lego display intact where Lego Competition like the first Lego League may benefit from a wheeled storage unit

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