LEGO Storage

Organization, containers, storage of things… these are a few of my favorite things!  One of my boys’ favorite things is LEGOs.  This Creative Solution offers suggestions for LEGO organization and storage.

Rather than a “formal living room,” we use this space as the kids’ playroom.  THIS is where they play with toys.  Not in the family room.  Not in the bedrooms.  For toy storage, we use some old bookcases that line the walls.  That’s my starting point.

Now, a reality check.  My kids’ playroom almost always looks like this:

photo 3

It is very,very played in.  Actively.  Always.  By my two boys and their friends.  Let’s be real: organized does not mean “always clean.”  So as I offer these organizational strategies, remember that it’s not going to miraculously translate into a tidy room.  What it will be is a room that should be logical to straighten up in about 20 minutes.

Reality check in place, let’s ground ourselves in a few guiding principles:

  1. Location: The goal should be that everything has a place  so that when it’s time to clean up, there IS a place for everything.
    • If kids need to dump stuff out to find the thing they’re looking for, unnecessary mess is being made.  Ideally, I like to avoid that.  So when I suggest “a place for everything; everything has a place,” there is a golden zone of efficiency that we’re aiming for.  Less dumping; more playing.
  2. Self-Sufficiency: The kids should be able to easily find what they’re looking for and put it away themselves
  3. Form and Function:  The storage containers you use matter.  For the most part, I’m going to recommend clear containers that are not too tall/deep.

We have a lot of LEGOs.  Here’s how we organize them:

Loose Bricks

IMG_1075One of the two ways we organize loose bricks is by color.  I bought a bunch of these storage bins at the Dollar Tree a while ago, and have since ripped the lids off each box (I’ll explain why in a moment).  Clear shoebox sized containers should also work for this.  It’s important that the bins are clear so kids can see what they’re looking for without pulling things out.  It’s also helpful to label the name of the contents.  In addition to colors, we have one box for wheels and pieces of vehicle (like steering wheels), another for trees and flowers, and another for doors, windows, and glass.

IMG_1076

The second way we organize loose bricks is in one big box called “Random LEGOs.”  This really helps make cleaning up random bricks on the floor quicker and easier.

photo 1 (1)

Why even bother to sort by color?  We have far too many bricks to for us to just have boxes of “Random LEGOs.”  Additionally, sometimes a set will fall apart and my older son–the 7 1/2 yr old Master LEGO Builder–will need to rebuild.  Or while building a set, one piece will get lost.  Have you ever spent an extended period of time looking for a gray piece the size of your pinky finger nail… the one that’s the flat slant… or the square with the u-shape connector that goes sideways, not up and down?  Right.  That’s why we primarily have color sorting… for FINDING those pieces.  Our house rule is once the Random LEGO box gets full, it’s time to sort into colors.

Some criteria for a good “Random LEGO Box” 

♦ A clear box – so if it’s on a shelf, it’s easily recognizable.  Avoid fabric bins.  

♦ Low sides – makes it easier and more functional for smaller hands to reach in, grab what they want, and build.  (Less dumping.)

♦ Large surface area – while you don’t want it to be too deep, you do want as much surface area space as possible.  Way easier to find what you’re looking for.  Avoid shoe-box sized containers… too small.

The most ideal container I have found for the Random LEGO Box is the Snapware Snap ‘N Stack Sqaure Layer Storage Container, 12-Inch by 12-Inch.  I purchased mine at JoAnn’s on one of their regular 50% off sales for $17.49.  It comes with one lid and three latching containers.  (We use the lid and the other two latching containers for keeping their LEGO train sets safe from “rough play” when not in use.)  Like I said, we intentionally limit the Random Box to one bin because that’s the Creative Solution that works for us.  Maybe all you need is one of these for three bins of randomness?  

Pro-tip: if you’ve got regular LEGO builders, do not try to store the lid on the Random LEGO Box.  The kids will rip it off and leave it on the floor.  It gets in the way.

LEGO Sets

photo 5We have lots of sets.  I’ve got two boys who have basically requested LEGO sets for every gift for every holiday from everyone for the past four years… and spent their own money on sets… and have sold old toys to buy sets…  My boys play with their sets in-tact.  Some kids enjoy building and destroying.  Mine enjoy building and playing with the buildings. It doesn’t matter which ethos your kid employs.  Just organize around their preference.

When a set is not being used, store it on a shelf.  We have added a layer of shelves to the bookcases to make better use of the unnecessary “tall” space.

photo 2 (1)

We have also hung random shelves at varying heights for additional “safe” storage.

photo 3 (1)  photo 4 (1)

Instruction Manuals

photo 1

If you’ve got sets, you’ve got instruction manuals.  Originally, in my “less unnecessary stuff” mode, I’d suggest tossing the manuals after the initial build, and just accessing them (if needed) through the LEGO website.

We currently have over 3300 building instructions available online which date back to sets packed in 2002…

To search, enter 4 or 5 digit set number or a keyword e.g. airplane, car or hero.

You don’t have to know the set number… just enough descriptive words for you (or your kid) to recognize the set through their website.

For us, sets break all the time, and it’s a lot easier for my 7 1/2 yr old to be able to grab the instructions book when he needs it.  So alas, we are using them and I must store them.  First I stored all the books in one box.  Now we are at three categories: City, Creator/Technic, and Star Wars/Ninjago/Characters.  We have them in three open lid bins.

A side note about the instruction manuals and LEGO customer service.  If you’re ever missing a piece, you can find the piece part number in the back of that manual where it lists all the pieces.  Then call customer service or use the website.  Sometimes they’ll mail it out for free.  Sometimes you’ll need to pay a nominal fee.

Mini-Figs

My kids play with mini-figs like they’re action figures.  They. Love. Them.  We have so many that get played with so regularly that they need a place to live.

photo 1 (2)  photo 2 (3)

I am just using an old box that possibly had a Melissa and Doug toy in it years ago.  The separate compartments might be good in theory (if your kid is like me and likes organizing… my boys could care less about that, so they all just get thrown in together).  But what’s most important is that the edge of the container is only a couple inches high.  The kids can see what they’re going for, which means less dumping on the floor.

Ideas Evolving to Meet Needs

My organization of LEGOs has definitely evolved over time as our collection has grown.  Deciding how to adapt these ideas to work for you begins with assessing:

  • What’s your starting point
  • What’s your goal

My goal of a clean playroom needed to be adapted to become a playroom that could be cleaned (or significantly straightened) in 20 minutes.  Every time we encountered an obstacle to that goal, we work on finding another Creative Solution in response (hang another shelf, find another box, etc).  It has evolved, and keeps evolving.

With that said, I hope you find a Creative Solution that works for you!

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