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The sorting methodology thread!!

WillhornerWillhorner Member Posts: 36
edited December 2012 in Collecting
I'd like to hear how those out there with large collections store and sort their lego. And how it affects your build methods.

I'll start. For large collectors I have a medium size collection (about 500 lbs).
I store all my Lego in sterlite craft carts. Specifically the ones with the drawers with lids, that slide out of the cart as a stand alone sealed plastic boxes.
I first have them all separated by color, each color gets its own cart. i then segregate each color along the lines of the brickset categories with a few small differences.
For minifigs I use the acrylic cases from the container store. Both the 2x7 and the 3x9 cases and display them on the wall.
This allows me to find whatever part i need fairly quickly, but does mean that to build anything i need access to allot of drawers of lego. How do you guys sort and store?


  • 50missioncap50missioncap Member Posts: 96
    edited April 2011
    How do you sort? I tend to sort by color and then by plates, bricks and wedges...

    How do identify a set you want to keep for display vs ones that you part out for MOCs?
  • jatonazjatonaz Member Posts: 7
    Sorting-wise, I think it depends on what you usually MOC...

    From my experience if your MOCs usually cover about 2-4 colors, such as most castles, you're better off by brick, plate, tile blah blah blah because the colors are easier to judge quickly than say a black 1X1 and a black 1X2 in a black pile that cover over each other.
  • PaulTRPaulTR Member Posts: 115
    Well, you're far ahead of me: my collection is all mismatched into bins without ryhme or reason. The only thing I'm absolutely specific at sorting is keeping minifigure accesories and minifigs themselves out of the rest of my bricks :)
  • rocaorocao Administrator Posts: 4,290
    Sorting-wise, I think it depends on what you usually MOC...

    From my experience if your MOCs usually cover about 2-4 colors, such as most castles, you're better off by brick, plate, tile blah blah blah because the colors are easier to judge quickly than say a black 1X1 and a black 1X2 in a black pile that cover over each other.
    I second this. For common elements, it's a lot easier to parse out a specific color+type when sorted by element type regardless of color. When sorted by like color with general disregard for element type, everything looks the same
  • jayr17jayr17 Member Posts: 9
    For those of you who regularly MOC, do you get spare sets/bricks or PAB at LEGO stores? I have been working through a modular building in the Lego design by me for a while (off an on) and it just doesn't seem reasonable to buy it from LEGO (though the box and directions would be definately worth something). I think the building will run about six hundred for three floors when LEGO does them for $150, does mass marketing really make them that much cheaper?
    Anybody sell Legos by the lbs/kg? I have seen some auctions on eBay but they are usually for a rediculous amount and no guarentee of the type of parts (photo is general).
  • 50missioncap50missioncap Member Posts: 96
    Speaking of, I'd like to jump on the grand emporium before it's gone... going to Chicago next week and might hit the store in Schaumberg.
  • rocaorocao Administrator Posts: 4,290
    @jayr17: Are you familiar with I think that would be the best way to satisfy your specific part needs.
  • jwsmartjwsmart Member Posts: 298
    I've taken to using the various sized tackle boxes from Wal-Mart to sort. They're relatively inexpensive, easy to see the contents even when they're full.

    I also sort by size/shape. I try to separate grey/bley whenever possible. When I have to mix colors, I also like to mix contrasting colors. I'll have one compartment with black & white, maybe the next will have red & yellow. I only mix colors if I have a roughly equal amount of each.

    I'm always moving things around - and I'll guess you'll do the same until you like hoe everything is organized.

    This system works great for anything smaller than a 1x2 brick or 1x6 plate.
  • meyerc13meyerc13 Member Posts: 227
    I have a lot in common with the previous post. For bricks (1x1 and up) I sort by color, usually mixing two contrasting colors in a small clear plastic bin. For plates, anything bigger than 2x4 are all mixed in a big ziplock because I don't have as many as I'd like right now.

    I just finished sorting all my small plates, tiles, cheese, and useful bits into some of the plastic tackle boxes mentioned above (Fleet Farm, a regional store, had them on sale this past week). You'd be amazed how many you'll need to sort out once you start building a decent collection of these.

    It's interesting, now that they are sorted I find that I'm set on some colors, but really in need of other colors in certain parts.

    And I'll agree with what someone said above, for small bits like that, sorting by element is more useful than sorting by color. For bricks, I find the opposite to be true (mixing all 1x1 and up in one color is more useful) because when you're building in one color it's useful to have a variety of sizes to alternate for stability.
  • Si_UKNZSi_UKNZ NZMember Posts: 4,179
    For the general bricks, I sort into 2 colour groups: 'Natural' colours - black, brown, greens, tans, greys, and then the rest, which is pretty much "primaries and white".

    Then I sort into broad shapes and leave it at that; flats, 1-wides, 2-wides.

    For the themes, I just shove everything for each theme loose or built into a big box, sometimes grouping similar themes into the same box.
  • PacotheDuckNinjaPacotheDuckNinja Member Posts: 5
    I don't sort by shapes at all: I just have a number of bins with each main color (red, black, blue, etc.) with similar colors (dark blue, turquoise, lime green, etc.) being mixed in.

    For minifig accessories / often used parts for MOCs (bushes, trashcans, etc.) I'm planning on buying a tackle box or two.
  • rocaorocao Administrator Posts: 4,290
    Do you have any pictures? When it comes to organization methods, a picture really is worth a thousand words.
  • WillhornerWillhorner Member Posts: 36
    sorry the pictures aren't wider. my lego room is embarrassing right now. there are about 3x that many stacks of drawers, plus bulk brick and unsorted boxes. That help?
  • BrixnutBrixnut Member Posts: 1
    My wife and I have found it to be beneficial to sort by size and shape over color. For example 1x2 thru 1x6 tiles go into one bin regardless of color, 2x2 thru 2x6 bricks into another and so on. We find easier to look thru similar shapes than the same color because once all the colors are dump together they all start looking alike.
  • korkor Member Posts: 392
    I sort by color then size on things like bricks, slopes and arches. Example: I have a large container that holds all my standard black bricks(1x1, 1x2, 1x3, etc). Inside that container I have all the different sizes sorted into ziplock bags.

    For most other things I sort by size then color. I have a bunch of the mulit-drawer Stock-On cabinets that hold things like tiles, mod pieces, round bricks, etc.

  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,942
    edited April 2011
    The key to a good storage system is having everything to hand, and easily accessible. Given that most of us have finite room for building in, one means of ensuring this is to have a two-tier system whereby small quantities or everything are nearby in first-tier storage and the overflow from that is in a second tier. This is pretty much how it works at LEGOLAND model shops: their second tier is a warehouse!

    I actually have three tiers. The first tier is in storage cabinets 9 drawers high, of which I have 30-odd. There's one per colour (15 colours I think, bricks, plates, slopes, tiles, other common modnfied bricks) and the rest for specialist parts.

    The second tier is bagged up by part and in chests of drawers.

    The third tier, the stuff rarely used, is in various wardrobes around the house (much to my wife's dismay) or in the garage, in plastic boxes.

    You can get a feel for the system in my Brickshelf gallery,, but those pictures were taken 5 years ago when I'd just moved into my new house and I suspect my collection has at least doubled since then. I must take some more sometime...
  • beegeedeebeegeedee Galway, IrelandMember Posts: 380
    Found this interesting PDF on one way of sorting when looking for something else:

    I usually sort by size and colour or for smaller lots like orange or light green blocks I keep all together. Not that I have that many bits to sort...
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 10,219
    edited April 2011
    My wife and I have found it to be beneficial to sort by size and shape over color. For example 1x2 thru 1x6 tiles go into one bin regardless of color, 2x2 thru 2x6 bricks into another and so on. We find easier to look thru similar shapes than the same color because once all the colors are dump together they all start looking alike.
    This is what I have started to do, especially when I am rebuilding sets and find it makes thing alot easier, but takes up more space.. I used to have each color separated only.. then got sick of trying to find 1 x 1 'eye' clips, so I have those sorted in part bins from Ace Hardware.. but digger parts are always an issue, just because of space..
    I finally got around to sorting all of my plates into bargin bins I bought from Home Depot for a 1 buck a bin... So While I have these sorted and organdized (roughly anyway) by part type I find I have less space...
    Plus having a GF with minor OCD helps too :-)

  • mbellismbellis Member Posts: 2
    For a large collection of over 1 million bricks, I do sorting in two stages, the first by category:
    Bricks (maybe 1-wide, 2-wide and larger), Plates (usually 1-wide, 2-wide, larger and special shapes), utility bricks (including bricks or plates modified), people and tools, Technic, roof tiles and arches, wheels, large parts.
    Each category has a drawer in my set of 123 drawers, which are each about 30cm square and 15cm deep. I put Ziploc bags of parts in the drawers and sort a drawer when it gets full. I also go to those drawers if I want 1 or 2 of a piece, to see if there is one there and hence save on sorting. Otherwise I go to a deeper store for a larger quantity.
    I keep some parts that I use regularly in small drawers on my building desk. Deeper stores of these parts and stores of rarely used parts are in monotype or few-type bags in the other big drawers. I sort first by type, then by colour if I am likely to use a quantity of a single colour of that piece; otherwise most colours together will do, perhaps with black in a separate bag for frequent use. For the little drawers I might have a few of each colour one side and more black and grey the other side, deep storing the rest. This tells me I have some parts of each colour that is in the drawer, but I usually use black and grey more, especially for Technic models. If I buy PaB then monotypes can bypass the first stage and go straight into deep store.
    I also have dedicated brick supplies for my railway layout, where bricks were bought specifically for that application. This uses large crates for bags of parts. Other similar crates, as well as boxes from Shop-at-Home purchases, are used for exhibition track and model transport. I also use smaller crates, especially for 1-wide bricks and for sorting, and also 2-litre ice cream tubs, though I am increasingly bagging parts that I stored in those and keeping them for sorting and for railway building (local supplies brought out of railway deep store to build layout modules).
    Some pictures here:
    The last pic shows the little drawers.
    I recently started bagging set models more, to reduce the accumulation of dust from extended display prior to dismantling. If I buy a few of a set I would build one, sort the others and then dismantle the one before storing the bricks.
    Recently I have also reduced bag sizes in the drawers so that it is easier to see bricks rather than bags. My system keeps evolving but unfortunately my purchasing manages to stay ahead of it so it's never completely sorted!

  • thesinisterpenguinthesinisterpenguin Member Posts: 96
    I'm always interested to hear about/see other people's Lego layouts!

    As I'm fairly new back into the Lego game, I don't have too much. I have a few stackable boxes (clear shoe storage boxes from Sainsburys).
    - One has minifigs/accessories in.
    - One has small bits (wedges/studs/printed tiles) in small boxes and base plates in.
    - Another has all my PotC sets partially broken up in (as they are my newest sets, so I haven't mixed them in yet)
    - The last one has all the other Lego bits in, all mixed up.

    I'm fairly quick at picking out the pieces I want by eye, and have a bright green blanket to pour the tub out onto when I'm building.

    There is another tub, but that contains a secret project I'm working on!
  • wander099wander099 Member Posts: 114
    ^ just wait, it's easy at first when you have a smaller collection, but as you accumulate more pieces it gets much harder and time consuming :) I had all my pieces jumbled up and it took weeks to sort out.

    I sort by set and store them in ziploc bags inside drawers (grouped based on theme and size if possible) except for my Death Star, which gets put away in the original box. One drawer contains all my minifigures except for the Death Star ones, which remain with the Death Star in the box. I am running out of room though and I will have to come up with another storage method.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 10,219
    ^I still have that occur.. I have a table that just gets increasingly cluttered until I get sick of it, then sort.. kind of clear off the table but then leave it and it happens all over again..
  • princedravenprincedraven Essex, UKMember Posts: 3,768
    People, I am in the process of sorting a huge amount of LEGO and really would appreciate some advice, I have started to sort into color for the moment but have read some good arguments about sorting by type (i.e. easier to find a black 1x2 in a box of multi color 1x2's, than in a box of mixed black).
    One thing I am struggling with a little is greys, I dont know if its my eyes or if some of the bricks i have are discolored or what but there seems to be lots of different greys, and I am finding it hard to differenciate between them. I have heard the term Bley and things which I assume means a bluish grey, but wondered if there is any kind of reference to the greys (not little alien men!) that may help me out, I tried googling but didnt really get far.
    My concern is if I sort by type I can see me picking the wrong shade of grey brick and having it stand out like a sore thumb and having to dismantle/rebuild.
  • sidersddsidersdd USAMember Posts: 2,432
    @princedraven - recent post on the topic of greys at Bricklink

    Also, a timeline of colors (using Bricklink names for the colors):
  • princedravenprincedraven Essex, UKMember Posts: 3,768
    ^ thank you, those links should help, didn't realise there were so many greys.
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    Just a slight tangent on this topic, how do people store their instruction manuals? When I was a kid I had them all in a ringbinder (holepunched!!!), now I have them in a clearfile, but the smaller instructions move around a lot and could end up getting squashed or bent up.

    Anyone have a better way of storing manuals?
  • EricEric Queensland, AustraliaMember Posts: 376
    ^ I used to have in a clearfile too, but found that the big heavy ones, flopped around too much. I now have them in clear plastic boxes/shoe boxes, all stacked up on each other according to size. (A4+, that 1/3 of A4, and then the tiny fold up ones.) A bit impractical if you use them all the time (ie having to flick through the pile of books), but a practical and safe way no less.
  • wander099wander099 Member Posts: 114
    ^^ I have expandable files and I have one tab per theme or subtheme.
  • WillhornerWillhorner Member Posts: 36
    i have a small file cabinet and they are in order by set number
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,233
    ^^^^^^ I'm in the process of sorting and storing my loose bricks for like the first time ever. Only now do I truly appreciate how many freakin Greys there are! :o)
  • thewerewithalthewerewithal Member Posts: 28
    This is a great thread. My collection is semi sorted... I'm in the process of moving to a bigger house and once that gets settled I will certainly use some of these ideas for sorting...

    Something along the lines of what mbellis said - bricks, plates, utility bricks, minifigs, technic etc - sounds best.
  • princedravenprincedraven Essex, UKMember Posts: 3,768
    I have bought a load of 9lt boxes with hobby storage trays and am sorting each colour into its own box and then trying to seperate parts into the seperate storage tray compartments. Sorting by 2x?x? bricks, 1x?x? bricks, 2x?x? plates, 1x?x? plates, 2x?x? tiles, etc, etc.
    Proving pretty hard work. Think I should probably generalise more and sort by brick, plate, tile, slope, arch, but will see how things go for now.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    Isn't it easier to sort by type first and by color second? I can imagine it is hard to see the different types among in a sea of one-colored bricks. On the other hand, I imagine it is fairly easy to see the different colors among a sea of different-typed bricks.
  • WillhornerWillhorner Member Posts: 36
    I personally sort by color then by type, but as for whats easier, you might be right. I've never tried it the other way.
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    I've currently got mine sorted by colour, but I'm starting to think type would be better. Its getting pretty hard to find tiny black pieces in a mountain of black bricks! Not so bad for some of the colours I havn't got too many of, but my greys and black are getting very large. I do have my technic and minifigs bits and pieces sorted separately, and I must say its pretty easy to find stuff that way.
  • bkprbkpr Texas, USAMember Posts: 295
    Just reading this thread is doing my head in :(
  • georgebjonesgeorgebjones Member Posts: 224
    I am in the sort by type camp. I have all mine sorted by type. There are some times when building that I wish I had them sorted by color, but it is pretty easy to find the color you want when all the pieces are the same. Those times are fairly rare, though. I like to be able to open a drawer and have it full of the piece I am looking for.
  • princedravenprincedraven Essex, UKMember Posts: 3,768
    If you sort by type, how many 'types' roughly do you have?
    Sorting by color would mean ending up with, what 12 different boxes, but there are literally hundreds of types, so not sure how that works.
    From what I read most people sort by type, but think I would need dozens and dozens of storage boxes if I sorted by type..
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    There are more than just 12 colors. I believe the 2011 color palette has 58 colors. Of course only a portion of the color make up the bulk of the bricks. So I could see putting together dark brown and reddish brown. Or perhaps lumping all the transparent colors together. Likewise, you can lump large plates together. Or blocks 2x2, 2x3, 2x4, etc. bricks together. Or beams 1x4, 1x6, 1x8, etc. bricks. Or specialized bricks. I think 12 useful categories can be devised to make it easier to find that one brick you're looking for. If your collection of loose parts is big enough, then dozens and dozens of bins is actually a practical option as well.

    The main point is I think I can find a red 1x1 brick faster in a system that has 12 bins sorted by size and shape than I can in a system that has 12 bins sorted by color. In the color system, I might get to the right bin really fast, but then I can get slowed down hunting for the right part. I have a hard time discerning the shape of the brick when all of them are the same color. The edges are harder to see. In the type system, I'll get to the right bin relatively fast and then finding the right part is likely to be fairly quick as well. The different colors will create enough contrast in the bin to make quick visual identification of the shape easy. With different colors I quickly exclude the wrong colors. And with the things being the same size, the small parts don't get lost tucked between other pieces.
  • prevereprevere North of Bellville, East of Heartlake, South of Bricksburg, West of Ninjago City Member Posts: 2,923
    Nobody really likes sorting, but it's a necessary evil. I run a small part-time aftermarket LEGO biz (Paul Revere's Brick House), so I have what would be considered a large collection to say the least.

    I sort for about an hour every day, truly (while watching movies of course). So here's my 2 cents for those medium to large collections...

    Overall - sorting by color is a poor idea. Especially for black and white.

    Step 1: I separate parts into 15 categories (Minifigs & Accessories, Bricks, Plates, Vehicle Parts A [wheels, windscreens, car parts, bases]; Vehicle Parts B [boat, aircraft, train], slope/wedge, inverted slope/wedge, modified bricks & plates; doors & windows; technic; bionicle; decorated parts; connectors (all the little clips); other A [tile, space parts like antenna, bars & fences]; greenery; animals; etc.)

    Step 2: These 15 categories are then re-sorted by specific part types. Common parts get large Sterile pull drawers; all brick & plate sizes get their own space; the rest are given ziploc baggies by part type. For example, we use Sterile bins labeled Windscreens 1, Windscreens 2, Windscreens 3. These bins are stacked up for miles...

    Minifig Sorting: Minifigs are really a whole separate subject. But here's how I do it.
    Heads are put into those 20-compartment craft cases: Yellow, Multi-Color; Flesh separated. Then yellow are separated again by eyewear, multi-colors, white, then brown/gray decoration.

    Torsos are separated by color (more 20-compartment craft cases); and then by theme - town, space, castle, sw, etc.

    Legs - by color.

    Weapons/Accessories - headgear (then by theme); city tools; swords, guns, headgear accessories (plumes, feathers), and the list goes on and on.
  • korkor Member Posts: 392
    ^ I actually love sorting almost as much as I do building.
  • WillhornerWillhorner Member Posts: 36
    ^ I actually love sorting almost as much as I do building.
    Same here. As a matter of fact if you add up the time I've spent sorting vs building i imagine sorting wins by an order of magnitude. My 5 year old and I can spend 6 hours on a Saturday siting and sorting bins of brick and be happy as clams.
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    ^ Ha! We're a funny lot, us AFOL's! I wonder if thats a common character quirk in us, that we like things ordered and catergorised. Anyone else enjoy the sorting aspect as much as the building/collecting?
  • princedravenprincedraven Essex, UKMember Posts: 3,768
    I did like sorting, then got to grey's....
    Sorting a light grey from a light bley is not that easy in the wrong light.
    This is one of my concerns with the whole sort by type not color, surely if you are looking for a light grey 2x2 tile in a box of multicolor tiles, or at best multicolor 2x2 tiles it would be easy to pick a light bley out in error.
    Maybe it is just me as I am still quite new out of the dark ages and maybe after a while it is quite easy to tell, but can imagine getting 1/2 way through a build and having to dismantle as I used the wrong shade of grey... :s
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    ^ Good point. I struggle to tell them apart when they're in the same box in artificial light.
  • korkor Member Posts: 392
    ^ I don't collect loose old light and dark grey for that very reason.
  • dimefielddimefield Edmonton Alberta CanadaMember Posts: 314
    Im just starting to sort by colour and im rethinking it already... took five minutes to find a black 2x4 brick!!
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    I've just built my old Eldorado Fortress, and while it was a bit of a pain sorting through same-coloured containers of bricks, it was great that I could just pull out my black, white, yellow and grey containers and grab the parts, rather than dozens of containers of different brick types if I had it sorted by type. Not so bad if you've got them all set up above a desk, but I had them laid out on the floor.
  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    edited June 2011
    If I've got a lot of elements to sort, I'll first sort them by colour, as (for me at least) this is the quickest way to split it down into manageable piles; I treat all trans parts as a single 'colour'. I then take each of the piles & split onto categories of part type (e.g. short 1x plates (1x1, 1x2, 1x3, 1x4), long 1x plates (1x6, 1x8, etc), panels, large plates, etc.), and then take each of these piles in turn & split them down into individual element types; they then all go into individual storage containers. Larger elements (that I won't be using very often) tend to go into zip-lock bags, which them go into large storage tubs (tying to keep elements of the same colour together); smaller elements go into clear take-away containers that I buy in bulk from catering equipment suppliers. This makes it easy to find the parts I need to build, especially as I normally know what colours I'll be using before I start :-)

    I'm a genuine believer that there is no 'right way' to sort; we all have our own preferences & needs, and we all need to find whatever way works best for each of us.
  • princedravenprincedraven Essex, UKMember Posts: 3,768
    ^ you touched on a question I was going to ask and this seems about the best place to ask too. I want to get some zip-lock bags and was wondering if anyone can recommend any particular ones. I like the idea of the ones with actual 'zips' if you know what I mean (slides along the top of the bag to seal). Had a look on eBay and there are so many didn't really know where to start so if anyone could suggest a size or make or something that would be appreciated. Or a seller they have used.
    May sound silly as a bag is a bag, and they seem really cheap, but would rather not buy 5 lots before getting something that fits the purpose.
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