Saturday, September 22, 2012

LEGO Organization - Repost

The LEGO organization post was one of the earliest on Flotsam of the Mind, on January 5, 2012, and has been one of the most popular.  I have always been bothered by the low-quality iPhone photos I used in the post, because photos are important to me.  Here it is again, with more and better quality photographs and an update at the end.

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Like most little boys, my son becomes absorbed by his current interests.  Unlike most kids, his interests each last for a period of years.  In nearly eight years, he has been interested in cars, then dinosaurs, then Legos. The whole Lego thing has lasted for three years and shows no signs of abating.  It's a hobby that I'm happy to encourage, but the volume of Legos is rather overwhelming.

It was his idea to begin organizing them.  It started with, "I really need some trays to sort my Legos."  Then the trays multiplied.  Then the trays became drawers, and the drawers multiplied.  The desire for organization is his, but the maintenance of the system seems to fall on me, as he can't seem to look at a pile of Legos on the floor without building something.  Secretly, and when not under the time pressure of an imminent visit from our housekeeper, I rather enjoy color-sorting Legos.  Adding order to chaos is a good thing.

Knowing my son's passion for Legos and my passion for organizing, several people have asked me how we organize Legos.  For those inquiring minds, here's the answer.  Don't judge.

1.  The Legos are organized by color into 10-drawer rolling craft carts.  I recently labeled them, as they weren't usefully translucent, and I couldn't resist alphabetizing the drawers (I doubt this will last).  The benefit of the craft drawers is that they can be easily removed and moved to a work area.  The unit also is on casters, making it easy to move it (or remove it, when the Lego aficionado misbehaves).  I bought ours at Sam's Club, but you can find similar ones at Michael's, Jo Ann Fabrics, and a bunch of other places.

ten-drawer cart for LEGO organization

2.  Other drawers (yes, that's a second cart to the right in the above photo) contain divided trays for separating and containing colors if there are not enough to warrant an entire drawer.  I bought these at Target.  I believe they are the Itso line.

itso divided trays for lego organization

3.  Instructions are kept in plastic sleeves in three-ring binders.  They appear in the order of the index at the front of the binder.

three-ring binder for LEGO instruction storage

plastic sleeves in binder for lego instruction organization

4.  Each binder contains an index, which is alphabetized by theme and in numerical order within theme.  The index is also helpful for letting shopping grandmothers know what he already has.

LEGO index in binder

5.  The binders are kept with the other Lego books and reference materials. (The cubes also are Itso from Target).

Itso cubes as bookshelves

6.  Current completed work is displayed on shelves. 

LEGO Display shelf IKEA Lack

LEGO mess on floor

Unfortunately, the child is also into Lego Bionicles.  His "big gift" for Christmas was an 11-pound box of miscellaneous Bionicle parts I bought on eBay.  The number and variety were enough to tip him over the organizing edge.  The Bionicles, which used to exist in a single box, are now sorted by color, type, and (I think) release date--the little general directed his grandmothers in that sorting process--and we are awaiting our next two sets of craft drawers.

So, there you have it.  My husband thinks that we are both lunatics, and he's probably right.

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The system has not changed since the original post, but it has grown.  We now have three sets of 10-drawer craft carts, with an extra still in a box in the closet.  The Bionicles are also organized by color and type.  There are now many Hero Factory pieces, which only a novice would confuse with the shockingly similar Bionicle line.  For now, they remain intermingled in a single box, which makes clean-up quite easy.  I'm certain that it is only a matter of time until the fourth craft cart comes out of storage and is filled with color-coded Hero Factory pieces.  As I predicted, the drawers did not remain alphabetized.

We have three cubes (formerly two) filled with LEGO-related books and instruction binders.  The binders have now increased to four--two 3-inch binders of standard LEGO instructions, one one-inch binder of Bionicle instructions, and one one-inch binder of Hero Factory instructions, each with a separate index. 

We've added a wall shelf from IKEA above the bed for the few very large items that are never dismantled.  I've added two sets of cubes from Target under the windows to serve as both bookcase and LEGO display area.

Despite all the effort, most days the floor looks like this (and this is a good day).  At least we have somewhere to put everything when it's time to vacuum.


  1. Cynthia: You need to come to my house and organize my things.


  2. I'm glad I re-read this post. I need to do something to reorganize D's legos. This might do the trick.

    1. Always happy to help. If you need a consultation, C and I could always fly down and set you up. :)

  3. I feel we are living parallel lives.

    Though our Legos cause me many organizing and cleaning headaches -- and some foot injuries, as well -- I love the joy and creativity they ignite in my own little Lego-obsessed general, who I'm sure would laugh with yours about the mistakes that novices make in confusing Hero Factory with Bionicle, etc.

    How can they remember this stuff, but not remember to pick up their dirty underwear off the floor?

    1. I sense we would have a lot to talk about. Weirdly, I'm proud to say that I now can distinguish between a Hero Factory and a Bionicle--Hero Factory plastic is smoother and shinier (although I'm sure my son would scoff at this facile distinction).