From buckets to bins: How to sort a lot of Lego

You may also like...

30 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    as an AFOL with a 5 year old son and 8 year old daughter, this is useful info for me! I am the sorter/organizer of the house. I also use drawers similar to yours, but I also use some of the larger “file” sized drawers for bricks, large plates, wheels and so forth. Found it at walmart and the drawer sizes are something like 9x12x3. I would love it if you could share the images you used for those stickers, my son is constantly pulling drawers because he can’t see what is in there.

  2. Jason Mork says:

    Great set of articles on this topic. I found your site through the Brickset forum. I’m looking forward to using the sorting sheet and your sorting method on a future Craigslist haul. Will you be continuing this series and allowing for us to know how you pieced sets together and eventually sold them for profit (I hope)?

    • Tom Alphin says:

      Will you be continuing this series and allowing for us to know how you pieced sets together and eventually sold them for profit (I hope)?

      Glad to hear you are enjoying the articles!

      Yes, I definitely plan to complete the series of articles. I expect at least three more articles, one looking at the process of determining what sets you have and separating out all the parts, one looking at how to efficiently buy missing parts to complete your sets, and one looking at selling the complete sets and potential returns.

  3. Shane says:

    Great article. your method is remarkably similar to mine. For my first pass i used a few less categories than you. For example i put all bricks together regardless of 1x or 2x. Same with plates etc. Also for 1st pass sorting i use cardboard filing box lids (which i have access to for free) i lay 12 of them on my dining table around my unsorted lego (about a kilo or two at a time). The large squarage area of the box lids means i dont have to carefully place lego, once i’m in rhythm i have lego flying thru the air like a ninja 🙂
    just the lid from this pic:

  4. Norberto says:

    Thanks for the suggestion on the label, I too just bought the Brother label printer, I would like to know how you got that bricklink photo’s done on the label. Also thanks very much for the guides to measure the plates and technique parts those are useful. You are right about akro mills , they fit perfectly for legos. I find it helpful to sort the pieces according to sequence, ie I have 6 AkroMills boxes one box are just for 1×2 and its variety, 1×2 w/ 1 hole, next 1×2 w/ 2 holes, 1×2 with studs, clips, cross hole etc. This is really dependent on the amount of legos we get. I too need to read your tips on CL deals . will go thru that soon. thanks again.

  5. Norberto says:

    Tom, can you please send me the file you used for printing please? I am following your organized example.

  6. Tom Alphin says:

    I will try to share out the files early next week. Thanks for your enthusiasm and appreciation 🙂

  7. Phineas Bresee says:

    Hey Tom,
    I officially exited my “dark ages” with your help. Gotten back into it now that my 6 and 3 year boys are getting up in age where we can enjoy these together. My mom gave away all my sets so I have been on eBay buying bulk and a few old favorite sets. Appreciate all your labels and suggestions. Been printing for my AkroMills boxes. Great suggestion! Thanks and keep the blog going!!

  8. Tom Alphin says:

    @Phineas Bresee, Glad to hear that these articles have helped you get started, and that the labels have been useful. I will definitely keep posting interesting LEGO articles here on the blog!

    Happy building!

  9. Matthew G. says:

    You are my soulmate! I went through the same process you did, even down to rejecting the “by color” sorting method. I use Sterilite 1.8 qt plastic shoe boxes that I modified with cardboard and a glue gun; I can get 2, 3, or 4 compartments from each box. I sort by type, ignoring color, and I then use a “math” solution for storing them – 1X’s first, 2X’s, 3X’s… I did not label them yet, as I keep findiing types I need to insert into the system.

    In fact, I am starting a charity – The Giving Brick, Inc – that will attempt to collect donated used LEGO, clean and sort them back into sets, just like you did, only we will gift them to needy kids. As I plan for funding options, I think I may add a plan to sell sets too, depending on the used LEGO we can get and if we can put the models back together in the right color.

    For our pilot year – this holiday season – we packaged 10 sets all over 400 pieces. Some of them are in a different color theme than the original, since we are working from donated pieces. Still, we package them up nice, with instructions, and give them to foster kids caught in the system who have very little during the holiday season. We hope to gift 15 sets next year.

    Anyway, you are a kindred spirit. Please let me know if we can “converse” more so I can learn from your experiences.

  10. Dustin says:

    Tom, thanks for that template. It works wonders. I went a different approach for finding sets. I used a four pass sorting method, and finally inventory. By creating an inventory on rebrickable dot com, the website actually tells you what sets you are close to having by the percent! It is very time consuming but I am developing my own patterns as I go. I did however sort by color first, then stacked all the bricks and plates together from large to small (leaving gaps in the plates in a fan like pattern) after that it was a matter of sorting all the small and odd pieces. This process makes it very easy to inventory finally. Only problem after doing all that inventory is not wanting to part with them! My main goal is to build the super star destroyer by buying a lot, sort, sell lot….. repeat. It is just taking longer than I thought but I am still having a blast doing it. I will use your tips to keep funding my habit!

  11. Justin says:

    Great article. For the pre-sorting, I have a collection of those plastic containers from my local Chinese Takeaway. They are cheap, and really helpful for sorting into categories – eg 1×1, small technic, minifigs, small plates etc depending on what you’re sorting. Also helpful for sorting after dismantling my MOCs. Just wash them thoroughly first!

  12. Mike says:

    I’ve used the same method to sort large bins of legos. Another tip that I use is to pull aside any unusual pieces and look up the item numbers on to identify the set that it came from. You can also print out a parts list from a site like this or even from lego’s site and then put together a complete set. Lego’s site also allows you to print out instructions. I’ll typically go to bricklink to buy the remaining pieces that are missing. I once bought a huge bin of legos that ended up having Green Grocer, Market Street and about a dozen other sets that were nearly complete. I ended up making about $2000 on it.

  13. Cynthia says:

    I am inappropriately excited about finding your site!
    I have been in search of a lego management solution for a long time and find your approach to be the best I’ve found. Thank you for sharing the files for the labels!

  14. Morry says:

    Great Article really looking forward to the follow up articles that you mentioned.

    “Yes, I definitely plan to complete the series of articles. I expect at least three more articles, one looking at the process of determining what sets you have and separating out all the parts, one looking at how to efficiently buy missing parts to complete your sets, and one looking at selling the complete sets and potential returns.”

    • Tom Alphin says:

      I probably won’t be writing any follow-up articles since I have been extremely busy writing and supporting the release of my new book, The LEGO Architect. More info about the book at

      Maybe someone else will write articles explaining tips for using minifigs and obscure parts to guess which sets you have, or tips for finding the missing parts for the best price using Bricklink and Brick Wizard tools.

  15. David Shorr says:

    Tom, I recently filled 16 one-gallon bags with blocks only. I sorted all bricks by color only. Was this a
    mistake? I have all manuals, bricks are pristine and I have about 50 mini figures. Do u feel I will have
    trouble selling these? Let me know when you can.

  16. David Light says:

    Hello, Tom. I am a 68 year old retired high school principal who has been working with Legos for the past four years. I have three grandsons who have joined me in assembling Lego City sets. I recently became interested in Lego Architecture sets because I wanted to build “buildings” and not just vehicles, which seem to populate Lego City sets. I had previously assembled a few Architecture sets with the grandsons and recently purchased the Lego Architecture Studio set, Lego Architecture: The Visual Guide, and your book, The Lego Architect. Reading your book inspired me! It fired me up! I bought two Akro-Mils storage units for the Architecture Studio set, and will soon be purchasing the label maker you recommend. Your website is great! You have turned me on to Lego Architecture.

    • Tom Alphin says:

      David, I love hearing stories about how my web resources, printable labels, and my book have inspired others to build LEGO creations of your own and explore the world of Architecture. I hope you stick with it, and share your MOC’s with the world: Online, or by attending your local LEGO conventions!


  17. Doug says:

    Quick question, I see you used 5 of those Akro-Mills storage units, about how large is your collection?
    I have about 110 pounds of Lego and I am trying to figure out roughly how many I would need for my Lego.
    Thank you so much! Your articles are really helpful!

    • Tom Alphin says:

      Doug, I have a lot more cabinets than seen in these photos, check out for more current photos showing my 12 cabinets which all have labels!

      If I were to guess, 100 Pounds of LEGO will require about 10 cabinets, plus a few small rubbermaid bins for your most common parts, and another small box for extremely rare parts that you have only one or two of.

      Good luck and happy sorting!

  18. Boston says:

    You are brilliant and so generous. Thank you!

  19. Brian says:

    maybe it’s a stupid question, but how do I pdf into my p-touch 2420PC

  20. Mike Propp says:

    This site is an example of everything that is good about the internet–a talented guy with passion and ideas willing to share what he’s made to help others grow in his passions and learn from his experience, while at the same time tastefully, and honestly making known that there is a commercial product (book) available. Thanks for being a point of light on the web!

    • Tom Alphin says:

      Thanks Mike. I try to ensure that all of the content I post online is of high quality, and try very hard to make people aware of my commercial projects without making it seem like a sales pitch. I’m glad to hear that you think I am balancing these goals well.


  21. Kent Slocum says:

    Thank you so much for this site! My brother and I are interested in starting a small business buying and selling used Lego bricks, but we have been trying to figure out the perfect system for a long time. I appreciate that you are willing to help others. Your article is very clear and concise.

  22. Nick says:


    Great stuff on here, looking forward to dive into some big lots in hopes of finding sets to sell. I’m curious what you typically end up doing with all of the sorted “extra” pieces that don’t belong to set? Do you sell them at all or just hold on to them to augment the incomplete sets you come across? Thanks for sharing.


  23. Chris Appleton says:

    Where’s the best place to sell LEGO pieces

  24. Peter Morris says:

    Interesting stuff – I was looking for sorting tips (I have storage sorted) and this was very useful. I was searching for advice on whether it was easier to do several passes when going through a bulk lot and you seem to have confirmed that it is!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please solve this math problem * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.