How to get started sorting your LEGO parts

There are a couple of schools of thought about how to go about sorting your parts. The first, and probably most commonly used, is the ‘colour’ system. This works extremely well if you have a small to medium number of parts, and only requires a few containers. Additionally, this is a great system for kids as they can put parts away easily.

But how does this go as an option if you have HEAPS of parts, particularly small ones?

tray of red plates tray of red plates with greeen 1x1 stud

On the left is an example of where this system can fall down… I have placed a red 1 x 1 round plate into my container of 1 x 2 plates. Can you see it? I assure you it is in there.

Now, looking at the right, if we take a DIFFERENT colour 1 x 1 round plate and add it to the same container, can you see it? This one sticks out like a sore thumb!

Our BrickLink store currently has well over 100,000 parts, and we need to be able to locate pieces quickly. So, rather than basing our sorting on colour, we choose to sort by element type. As mentioned before, if you have a much smaller collection, this many not be the solution for you as it requires many more storage containers, but for ease of part location it is a much easier system.

LEGO Creator Toy Store

So, for the purposes of this exercise, we start with the set we are going to sort. In this case I will be using the new LEGO Creator Toy Shop set as it has a variety of parts without being overwhelming! Obviously this system can also be used for used lots as well.

Sorting containers

Organise the boxes you are going to sort into. In this case we are using a couple of Fischer storage boxes, but you can use anything that has multiple compartments and fits within your budget.

We also need a tray to put our unsorted parts. This isn’t a big set, so I have chosen a smaller tray than normal, but as a general rule we use an A4 size tray (the sort you usually get in plastic stationery drawers).

Loose LEGO parts in tray

Start by unboxing your set and grabbing one of the larger bags of parts. These are the parts that will likely require the most room for sorting, so we use the bigger container for this. If there is a smaller bag inside, put this to one side for later.

It depends on the set you are sorting, but at an absolute minimum, we make sure we have a compartment for each of the following element types:

  • 1 x plates
  • 2 x plates
  • Larger plates
  • Small modified plates
  • Large modified plates
  • 1 x bricks
  • 2 x bricks
  • Modified bricks
  • Slopes
  • Windows & doors
  • Car parts
  • Minifigures & accessories
  • Other

Additionally, if your set has lots of plants, tiles, brackets, etc, set aside a compartment to sort these into as there is no point in double handling if you don’t need to!

kas-sorting (10)

Start parting the larger elements into the major groups. As you can see by the photo, above, we have the main groups (listed) as well as a compartment set aside for arches and tiles. We have also separated the different types of windows as there are quite a few of these and we have the room. Not enough compartments? Just sort them all into one compartment in the first instance. It doesn’t really matter, it just means you will need to touch these parts again when you go to ‘sub-sort’ them.1 x plates sorted into individual elements

Once all of the large parts are sorted, grab all of the small parts and start the process again. I tend to place 1 x 1 plates (normal and round) into a separate container as these can be a bit fiddly.

Continue to sort, and sort a bit more! If you stick with it (and don’t go make a coffee out of boredom) you end up a lovely set of containers with each of the main elements.

On to the next step!

Put away any elements that are already as sorted as you require. In this case my windows and doors can go straight into their allotted place as I had already sorted them into type (see, no double handling!).

Next, pick a compartment (any compartment) and start your sub-sorting.

Each of the different size plates can go into a seperate compartment. In this case I have sorted by 1 x 1 round, 1 x 1, 1 x 2, 1 x 3, 1 x 4, 1 x 6 and 1 x 8. Note that at this stage these are NOT specifically sorted by colour. This is also an opportunity to pick up on any parts that may have been incorrectly sorted into the wrong element box (I found a sneaky 1 x 2 jumper plate and 1 x 1 round tile). Grab these and put them into their correct element type.

If this is as complicated as your sorting system requires, once they are sorted into element put them into their box and give yourself a pat on the back. Then go back and grab the next element type and repeat.

Sorting into colour

For us, because we have so many parts, it actually pays to further sort a number of our parts into colour, so we now grab each of the elements and separate accordingly. One of the benefits of this is that if you accidentally drop one into the wrong storage compartment you can easily see it to move it to the correct spot. It happens way more than you expect!

Once complete, go back to ‘put away – pat on back’ step, and repeat. Keep going until every compartment is empty and you have a fantasticly organised LEGO collection!

The other benefit of this sorting system is it’s flexibility. We started our store by sorting into zip lock bags and as each part grew we just grabbed a bigger bag. At the point the parts were too big for a large bag, we started to separate by colour. We still have a number of large tubs in our store with zip lock bags, particularly for larger parts (LEGO Technic Volvo tyres are HUGE!).

So there you have it – a lovely sorted LEGO system!

Happy sorting!

Food for thought

How do you sort your LEGO parts? Colour, type, some completely different system? What have you found works well? What would you consider doing differently in future? Comment below and let us know.

This post was originally posted on the Itty Bitty Bricks Facebook Page and republished with permission.

Southern Bricks Admin

Southern Bricks LEGO Users Group is a community of LEGO fans from Adelaide and across South Australia.