How we fixed our Lego storage problem

2014-04-20 at 15-12-04

I had known we had a Lego storage problem for some years, but it wasn't until I took this photo that I realised (a) how bad it was, and (b) what we had to do to fix it.

For about two years, we used these huge red boxes to keep it all in. They were good in the sense that we could get all the Lego in them, but they were also terrible because we couldn't find anything.

Building something - anything, whether it was an official set from the official instructions, or something original from our imaginations - took hours, because we could never find the pieces we wanted.

So we'd hunt for them. Bent over this massive pile of Lego on the floor, scraping and scraping and peering and poking. It was horrible. It was uncomfortable. It did awful things to my knees.

It wasn't just uncomfortable and hard work and ugly, it was also taking the fun out of Lego.

As soon as I noticed that, I decided: we have to Fix The Lego Problem.

We had to sort the Lego so that it would always be easy to find the bits you wanted.

But how should we sort it?

A few years ago, we tried sorting it by colour. This was a disaster. Look down into a plastic bag full of black Lego and it's like looking into deep space. You can't see anything useful, just endless black. You still can't find the piece you want.

Back in 2009, I wrote A common nomenclature for Lego families, an only-partly-serious article for The Morning News about the words different families use to refer to different Lego pieces. "Pass me that four-er," we say in our house - and we all know exactly which piece the speaker is asking for.

I realised that the way to Fix The Lego Problem was to create a storage system that works the same way. When your brain says you need a four-er (or whatever your family calls it), you can reach out to the thing you keep the four-ers in, and grab the one you want.

So that's what we did. We sorted the Lego by shape or common theme.

So we had all the 2x4 blocks together. All the 2x2 blocks together. All the wheels in one place. All the "slopey bits" in one place. All the wings in one place.

Here's how we made it happen.





The next day, Barney got up early and went downstairs to build. He started on some old Mars Mission sets, and built one in almost no time. It was like having it new, all over again. He was so happy. So was I. Despite the pain in my knees.

(3rd July 2014)