How do you store your Lego?

Some time ago, an AFOL called Remy Evard wrote an article on sorting lego, and it has become a classic. We republished it on our website (here) with a link to the original item on lugnet.

This is a note about what you keep your lego in, rather than about how you sort your lego, although the two are closely connected. And the life of an AFOL is 99% sorting and 1% building…

Let’s start with that first set you got. You built the model, and then you found that there were some small pieces left over. Cheese slopes, most probably. Did you throw them away? Well, as you’re an AFOL reading this page, my guess is that you kept them. That meant you had to find something to keep them in, and so you found a small box. Remember tobacco tins? Something like that.

Then you got another set, and another, and pretty soon that tobacco tin wasn’t big enough for all the extra pieces. And when you took apart one of your built sets, it all went into the box the latest set had come in.

As your collection grew, you found that the latest set box wasn’t big enough, and along came a shoebox, the cardboard box that came with your last pair of shoes. Maybe you splashed out and bought a plastic box. I did, and I now have a collection of Really Useful Boxes (that’s the company name). They come in clear plastic, so you can see what’s in them without taking off the lid, and they stack neatly too.

That’s the next problem. Whatever you’re building, the part you want next is always in the box at the bottom of the stack. This is known as the ‘Towers of Hanoi’ problem.

Also, about this time you invest in some inserts for your boxes, so as to sort out the lego according to whatever sorting stage you have reached on Remy’s list.

But it’s still inconvenient, so you start sorting into smaller groups of pieces, and you buy takeaway boxes. You can get them in Home Bargain without having to actually eat a huge number of chinese meals. These have the advantages that they stack, they sit on your bookshelves neatly, and you can see what’s in them. About this time you begin taking books to the charity shop.

It’s now easy to find a part when you are building, but here you come across the Lost Space Problem. Not Lost In Space, that was a 1960’s TV series. If you only have enough 1×2 plates in red to half-fill a box, you have either to mix in parts of another colour, or accept that you will have a lot of boxes taking up more space on the shelves than your collection requires.

You start investigating bags. Bags have the advantage that if they are not full, they squash down and take up less space, just the space of the contents. You can get gripseal bags from several places on the internet, or Home Bargain sell resealable Food & Freezer bags in two sizes that close with a ziplock.

You start checking out the other discount stores, and looking at the kitchen accessories aisle in your local supermarket.

You find that bags don’t stack very well. Also, the first time you dismantle a model with your new filing system, you find that putting the bricks away in the right bag or box is a slow process, as you have to open and close each box. You set aside a box for dismantled sets, which you think of as your ‘to sort’ box. This box gets full and you spend a weekend sorting your lego.

Now you begin thinking about the attributes your lego storage system should have. It should let you find the part you want easily and quickly. And it should be quick and easy to file new parts into your storage system.

The answer is drawers.

You buy some clear plastic drawer units (Really Useful again) and transfer your collection to these. Drawers have the advantage that filing pieces is easy. Some of your drawers have dividers in them, and some have bags. You can leave the bags open in their drawers too. About this time you start taking furniture to the charity shop.

That’s where I’m up to at the moment. The thing is, I know that the system will change again the next time I get an addition to the collection. People further along this path than me have told me that the next stage is to move house! And then there will be another instalment to this story…