Organize it? Don't bother!
That's the response I got when we first started getting sets and I put the question out there. I agree it shouldn't be sorted by set and kept separate - then you only ever build what's on the box. But we soon had WAY too many pieces for me to find anything when the 4 year old said, "Mom, can you find me a...?"
Searching for a particular piece is not my favorite part of playing with Lego.
It made the most sense to me to sort by type - all the similar blocks together, so if you're looking for a red 2x2, you look in the right bucket, look for red, and you're good to go. After a few months of tweaking, we have a system that works great.
We got a new *BIG* set on Saturday and weren't around to play with it till Sunday, so after Nolan went to bed I tidied up so we'd have space to at least dump it out and do a bit before church. I snapped a few pics before the tidy got destroyed again because I've been meaning to share this for a while.
The system breaks down into big buckets and little buckets. I've got two silver boxes that are a bottom and top from a sturdy gift box, and three Ikea bins that I found on VarageSale from someone who ordered too many. We don't use lids, because they are always out in play, but they still stack neatly and there is room under the table to tuck them away.
In the big bins are:
- bricks. The 2x2's, 2x3's, 2x4's and longer.
- plates. All the flat ones.
- 'one by whatevers' (half width bricks)
- 'ones and twos'
- angles and slopes
The little boxes are Ziplock - I have the lids stashed away with some Lego set boxes if we ever need to store them.
- tiles (flat plates with no bumps on top)
- people & their accessories
- vehicle stuff
- technic pieces
- 'attachers' (the ones with dots on more than one side)
- windows and doors
Sunday after church we ended up with Grandparents, an aunt, and uncle, and 3 cousins over for the day, which was great. I checked with Nolan to see if we should tuck the new set away until he had a chance to make it himself, but he was happy to let them play with the new set, too. So proud of our little sharer.
There are a few more ways I'd like to divide up some of our sections; the bricks are 3 deep and tough to root around in, and the specials is getting pretty full and could easily make 3 buckets if I took out say the 'attachers' (all the ones with joiners other than dots), and the jumper plates. Or separate the wheels out from the other vehicle stuff, because that one is overflowing, too. But it will stay this way for now so it fits well on our table. We first got Lego for Christmas last year and for his January birthday, and it's been put away maybe twice. It doesn't get used every day, but often enough to give it prime real estate in the living room.
Nolan took this one of his favourite piece, and why he wanted this set: the awning. The camper, the boat and the cabin all incorporate it, and he loves it.
Random side note - apparently when you order from the Lego website, you will get a catalogue in the mail for the next season's release. We were both eying this set up and - did you know - if you click on building instructions at the bottom of Lego.com, you can enter any set # and see how to make it? We did that last week (before we knew we were going to get it!) with this set to make the bear. We were missing a bunch of the pieces, of course, but improvised a pretty sweet polar bear.