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Sorting a LEGO collection is an integral part of an AFOL's storage system, the bane of many fans existence and sometimes a running joke. All those who choose not to store sets in the original boxes have to decide what method they will use to sort their collections.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb sort as follows:

To arrange (things, etc.) according to kind or quality, or after some settled order or system; to separate and put into different sorts or classes

Sorting and storage are deeply intertwined with one influencing the other and vice versa. Deciding to sort by one classification system may require one type of storage container. Conversely the availability of specific storage containers may limit the number of categories that can be used.


The Evolution of Sorting

In 2001 a LEGO fan named Remy Evard posted to LUGNET his description of the stages that someone goes through as they acquire more and more LEGO. This humourous list often results in odd declarations from AFOLs like, "I'm at stage 18" when discussing issues of sorting and storage.


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.
- from the evolution of lego sorting

Colour vs Element

The most basic choice when begining to sort LEGO is whether to sort by the colour of the elements or by their shape. This is usually described as colour vs element

Colour Element
Method All pieces grouped by colour. ie. all red pieces in one container, all blue pieces in another, etc. Elements grouped together by other characterictics. ie. all plates of whatever colour in one container, 2x4 bricks in another, etc.
Advantages Very easy to sort thus reducing time spent sorting. More flexibility, especially as a collection becomes larger the classification system can be adjusted ie: slopes can be further divided by angle, footprint, etc.
Disadvantages When a container has only one colour it can be difficult to spot shapes in a large quantity of elements. This method of sorting is more time-consuming and requires more containers in a variety of sizes. It also requires a varying amount of effort to estimate beforehand the containers rerquired for the chosen level of classification.

Other Sorting Methods

Sort by set

Place each set in a seperate box. The boxes they came in are usually larger than necessary. Very good storage boxes can be purchased at a discount department store. Be sure to get a box that is large enough to accomodate the original instructions without folding them if that is important. Clear boxes make it easy to tell which sets are in which box. Alternately, labels can be applied to the boxes, or images from the original boxes can be taped to the outside of opaque boxes. This method is ideal for builders who enjoy building the sets from the original instructions over and over again. One variation on this method is to combine multiple sets from the same theme into a box.

Sort by size

Since all the smallest pieces usually find their way to the bottom of the box anyway, make it easier to find the smallest pieces by seperating them from the larger pieces. This can be done by hand or Box 4 Blox has an product that sifts the elements through a series of grids, effectively sorting them by size. This method is perfect for collections of up to around 10,000 pieces.

Sort by category

BrickLink has a database of LEGO pieces sorted by categories such as: bricks, plates, slopes, tiles, wheels, etc. It might be a good place to start developing your own system of categories. This method is ideal for collections of more than 10,000 pieces. At this level of sorting lots of containers are needed. Many collectors develop very finicky habits about the containers they use.

External References

  • The Evolution of LEGO Sorting by Remy Evard, Jan 5, 2020
  • Fishing for LEGO by David Bau, Jan 6, 2020
  • How I sort and store my LEGO toys by Christopher Phillips
  • How I sort and store my LEGO toys by Eric Harshbarger
  • How I sort and store my LEGO toys by Robert Carney
  • How I sort and store my LEGO toys by Tom Stangl
  • How I sort and store my LEGO toys by Adrian Drake
  • 16 LEGO Storage Options by Jeri Dansky, professional organizer, Sept 21, 2020
  • LEGO Sorting (Taylor Swift's BLANK SPACE) Parody on YouTube