Lego Otaku

The Evolution of LEGO sorting

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I thought it'd be worth mentioning here as I didn't see this subject when I searched. Lugnet post is a bit over 10 years old but worth reading for humor.

Here's a description of an evolution of lego collection sorting. It might

be yours, at least in parts. It's certainly been mine.

I might turn this into an essay some day, but for now it will have to begin

life as a series of unsupported claims. If you have any comments or

additions, toss'em in.

The Evolution of Lego Sorting


Let's assume you start your lego collection like most of us did: with one


1. You don't sort your Lego. You just keep them in the box they came in.

(Then, over time, you get another set, then another, then another.

And your pile of bricks grows. How do you cope?)

2. You start sorting your Lego. You sort it by set.

(Your collection grows.)

3. You give up on individual set boxes and toss all your Lego in a big

storage bin or a Lego denim bag, or a couple of your large set boxes. You

become very familiar with the sound of someone digging through large bricks

looking for a 1x1 transparent red plate.

(Your collection grows.)

4. You begin to sort your Lego by category: normal-looking bricks in one

set box, other pieces in another box.

(And grows.)

5. Ok, you realize you actually have to sort it. You decide to sort the

obvious way: by color.

(And grows.)

6. You keep sorting by color, but you get pickier about how you do it,

and you start filtering out by type for the first time: probably the

first things you sort out by type are minifigs and wheels. You realize

you already had baseplates sorted out separately.

(Let's just assume at this point that between every paragraph, your

keep adding lego to your collection.)

7. You cave in and actually get a storage system. Maybe it's rubbermaid

bins, or piles of blue buckets, or fishing tackle boxes, or ziplocks. But

now you've got a system.

8. You grow weary of digging through all the yellow bricks looking for that

one specialized yellow piece somewhere in 2 cubic feet of yellow. But you

think of how much work it's going to take to split by part and you don't do


9. Sorting becomes difficult enough that you decide, in some cases, not to

break some sets down and put them in your main pile of lego... instead, you

store them as a set, because that set is so cool just the way it is. (Ok,

so this set is from the 80s...) The pieces for that set are either in their

box, or in a ziplock or something. Congratulations, you've just invented

Set Archiving, and now you have two ways you store your Lego: broken down

by parts, and archived by set.

10. You give up and decide to sort your parts by type rather than by color.

You go get more bins or tackle boxes or whatever your container of choice

is, you dedicate an evening or a weekend or a month to it, and you split by


11. You have now invented your own Lego categorization system. You have no

doubt separated out bricks, plates, wheels, minifigs, slopes, and so on,

but you've also clumped "things with curves" together, and doors and

windshields together. You also have a category called "misc". Your

categories, amazingly, don't look much like the LDraw categories.

12. You realize you have piles of stuff that don't fit easily into the

categorization system: RCX bricks, train track, those huge A-shaped

pieces, monorial supports, and rubber bands. You get a different sized

drawer system for stuff like that.

13. Your collection is now clearly housed in many different types of

containers ranging from buckets to drawers to bins to individual tackle box


14. You begin to develop large piles of lego in various states of being

sorted, i.e:

the sorted stuff

the stuff you've kinda sorted and is ready to be put away

piles of lego you aren't going to sort because you think you'll use

it all to build something else anyway

lego sorted some other way than the way you sorted into drawers to see

if this way works better than that way did

your building projects

your new boxes of lego, some opened, some not

oh, and let's not forget your various models and MOCs

15. You begin to develop strong opinions on Plano vs. Stak-On and

Rubbermaid vs. Sterilite.

16. The original categories you made begin to follow this life cycle:

- They grow too large to fit into their container.

- You divide the category into two categories in order to get them

to fit into the containers... one for each category. (Now you

have windshields, doors, and windows, each as a different category

of pieces, each in their own containers.)

- You store those subcategories together, but as parts of them become

too numerous or too hard to find, you split them out. So your tackle

boxes now have a different compartment for each type of door.

You realize that at this point the endgame is that you will have a

different compartment for every type of piece you have.

16.5. Every once in a while, you open a drawer you haven't opened in a

while and discover that you've been sorting some piece into two separate

places in your drawers. This throws your categorization for a loop.

How exactly do you categorize the 1x2 plate with the little robot-looking

thing on it? Oh no... partsref doesn't have it either, augh!

17. You rearrange your house so that you can fit your storage system into,

hopefully, just one room.

18. You give up on the "one compartment for every piece" theory because you

can't keep up with that. Instead, you start putting some of the similar

things into shoebox-sized bins. The way you decide what to

compartmentalize and what to put into bins together is to think about how

long it takes to find an individual element. It's ok to dig through a pile

of windshields looking for the trans yellow blacktron hood. It's not ok to

dig through a pile of slopes looking for the specialized corner cap slope.

18.5. You document your categories so you don't get lost.

19. You develop a multi-stage sorting system. It may take a piece several

hops before it ends up in its final resting spot, but it's a bit more

efficient to sort this way, and you can do some of it while watching a


20. Bizarrely enough, you actually give up and go back to sorting by color.

Only this time, you sort by color after sorting by piece. So you now have

a bin for yellow 1x3 plates, and a bin for black 1x3 plates, and so on.

21. Finally you create an "overflow" system of buckets, where, if the bin

of 1x3 yellow plates is full, you just any additional ones into that

overflow bucket, along with other plates. (One of the first indicators that

you should do this was that you didn't have a compartment big enough to hold

all your Lego horses...)

22. You begin to toss most pieces directly into overflow.

23. You now have what, to a stranger, would be a bizarre sorting system. You

have some parts thrown together in bins by type. You have some parts split

out with a separate bin for each part. You have some parts split out with

a separate bin for each color. You even have some parts split out by how

old they are: red 1x2s from the 60s, red 1x2s from the 70s, new red 1x2s

that hold really well, and all the other red 1x2s. And you have an

alphabetized pile of large buckets for the overflow pieces and another one

for the 1st stage of sorting.

23.5. That stranger would also think you were certifiably insane. Or at

least retentive.

24. You start looking for a new house. One with a large basement.

25. Vision recognition becomes interesting to you.

26. You begin to long for the day when you could sit at your desk and

actually reach every piece you owned without getting up.

27. You decide to keep a special set or two at your desk, away from the

huge sorting system, just to play with a few great sets without having

to sort them. And then you add another cool set. Pretty soon

you're digging through 3 inches of bricks trying to find that 1x1

transparent red plate and you think about sorting your bricks...

Of course, somewhere along the way, you probably quit buying just sets, and

started to do things like:

- Buy lego sets in bulk, to the point where you have 10s to 100s

of unopened boxes.

- Work on very large construction projects.

- Acquire other people's collections.

- Run large auctions over the net.

And those bring up entirely new sorting challenges.... but those won't

be written about tonight, at least not by me.


Remy Evard / evard*

I'm on 14 BTW

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I'm at 16.5/17, 22, I have overflow bins for all my Pick A Brick, and with a bit of step 23 (I sort out vintage bricks, Pat Pend, rare. CA etc.)

Step 24... I'm lucky I have a large basement. :grin:

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OMG this is very funny. :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

I`m grateful for not been in any of those steps, my collection is small and the sets I have for luck are all assembled, and they don´t consume any significative space from my room, I guess there are not two glories together, I want more sets, but I wouldn`t like to get nuts sorting all of them. :angry::hmpf_bad: Well a sacriface will have to be made then in sorting pieces. :sadnew::laugh: :laugh:

Edited by Niku

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:laugh: Most intriguing. I'd say I'm around 16.5, with a little bit of #17 in that I rearranged one room to fit my LEGO, but nothing on the scale of a whole house.

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hm... i've gone full circle, i'm afraid... sitting at my desk with this great Santa Fé on my table, thinking "i really neeeeed to sort some more bricks soon, whenever i pass the legoroom..." funny to see that so many legofans all over the world go through the same stages of dealing with their growing collection

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What does it say if I remember reading that over on Lugnet?(when it was first posted no less)

No matter, it's still funny :)

Me too... though it gets more relevant every year :grin:

God Bless,


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Oh, what a nice and true list. :laugh: I'm currently at a stage where I move at least the normal bricks and plates from "sorted into small containers (drawers) by color group + overflow polybags" to "big container by color" (with special bricks and plates still nicely sorted)...

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...and I'm at the stage of planning the new house around my lego room!

all old lego sorted by shape, not color, all unopened sets not sorted, but piled in my small lego room (cannot get inside the room anymore, and cannot close the door as well!), and all the once built sets now inside ziploc bags inside big storage boxes ready to move... and last, bricks ordered from bricklink for my next projects, all mixed together inside ziploc bags ready to be built in the not so near future!

omg, it seemed to me that my lego were so well organized before reading this post!

have a nice sorting lego day


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oh, I'm either on 14 or 17 myself......gee a glass of wine does help though ! :rofl:

Keep on sorting.....and drinking wine ! :drunk:

Edited by lightningtiger

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I think I am around step 14,but thats how I want my collection sorted! In fact, I actually spend more time sorting than building nowadays!

Edited by krystalKING

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I'm on step NA :iamded_lol:. I don't sort them out. I have two boxes one with MOC's in and one with lots of bricks in. I have a relatively small collection so the sorting isn't so much of a problem, anyway everyone knows that rummaging is half the fun :wink:.

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anyway everyone knows that rummaging is half the fun :wink:.

Not if you are trying to find one part for a MOC before a deadline or show.

"Gah, I cant find that one part!?!, Oh wait, shelf 4 row 13. :grin: "

I remember a time where I had bin upon bin of mixed bricks, now with everything sorted, I look back on the unsorted days and think how I was ever able to build out of those.

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I'm currently wondering if I am really ready for all the stages ahead of me... currently I am a tame 7. Oh dear... it wouldn't be so frightening if it wasn't for my library that also wants attention! AAAAARGH!!! :iamded_lol:

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"Gah, I cant find that one part!?!, Oh wait, shelf 4 row 13. :grin: "

Hmm it was in the left corner near some yellow 2x4's and probably attached to a window piece, that's the way to look for things :grin:.

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I'm on step 13, although I have been there since I was about 13years old, I was quite OCD as a child when it came to Lego. I totally skipped the sorting by colour stage, never saw the point in that :hmpf_bad:


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Here's my experience post-Dark Era:

1: Buy some sets, build them.

i: Stack the packaging in a corner.

2: Run out of desk to display them on. Keep favorite sets displayed, dismantle others (kept in bags)

3: Buy some plastic tubs. Sort by very broad type and then within types like brick or plate, sort by colour for the main colour (one "mixed colour" for the remaining plates/bricks/small pieces).

ii: Store boxes inside boxes.

4: Buy some organiser bins when they are on offer in the budget supermarket. Better organise small pieces in particular (minifig accessories, modified 1x1 or 1x2 plates/tiles).

5: Buy some drawers. Put the larger quantities in these (e.g. black or grey bricks, plates, slopes each get one).

6: As bins get full, move contents to a not so full tub (contents either reprocessed to bins or other tubs). Ditto for full tubs -> drawers. As drawers get full, split the contents and recategorise to fill less full bins/tubs.

7: This cycle only works so far. Buy some new larger tubs, start filling these.

a: Less space for display, start packing Lego shipping boxes with intact sets.

iii: Store packaging in parent's attic.

8: Continue with cycle, start filling cardboard boxes with larger parts (BURPS, etc.)

b: Running out of space for stacked shipping boxes, start disassembling "intact" sets and keeping them bagged up together.

9: Start modifying "the sorting method" to rely more on colour and size than type.

10: Add about 8 huge tubs (vehicle structures, "bionicle" bits, panels/castle wall, etc.)

c: Still run out of space in shipping boxes. Start packing smaller boxes and filling nooks/crannies.

iv: Getting tired of lugging boxes up to an attic, start accumulating stack of boxes again.

11: Buy more large tubs.

12: Buy loads of little organiser drawers for e.g. minifig accessories.

13: Buy some huge drawers.

14: Ummmm... running out of space here!

v: flat pack major boxes, bin city/Lego theme boxes, box in box for smaller franchise boxes

d: Getting sick of managing "sets", whether dismantling, storing, dusting (post or during display), etc.

15: Stop buying so many new sets!

THE FUTURE: Buy a house (helped by not buying so much Lego!) with a room for Lego.

THE FURTHER FUTURE: Build, buy or rent a space just for Lego (possibly a shed).

Edited by brickzone

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I am in multiple stages at once.

I have like 5 sets unopened, and ordering some more. A box for regular bricks and grill/technic/log bricks (I just stack them by color and type but all in the same box). A box for sloped/angled/curved bricks. A box for plates. A box for horses and other mountable animals. And the rest are separated into bags in 5 other boxes. Most of my sets are dismantled and sorted, but some sets are still built in some plastic bins which I will dismantle and sort someday. I also have a box for pieces that I am unlikely to use ever again (when I was buying sets from different themes before I settled into castle/fantasy)

But now that I am focus on army building, I am mostly buying the 20 dollars or less sets for minifigures/horses and weapons. Specifically the sets where its a ratio of 5 dollars or less per minifigure.

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When I first saw this post, it was shortly out of my dark ages and very quickly I got to Step 13. Now, I'm at Step 19...but always there was Step 23.5...except when kids coming over to build are looking for something specific, and I can tell them exactly where it is without needing to show them in the Lego room...then they have an appreciation.

I laughed as I realized my Power Functions box evolved to also become my over-flow box.

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