On Legos, or How an Archivist Mom Organizes Toys

My kids have Legos. Tons of Legos. And, like most kids’ Legos, they’re everywhere. It’s really hard to find the pieces they need when inspiration strikes and everything is in a giant vat (or vats) containing a jillion bricks.

This is where being an archivist comes in handy. Because I can’t just put bricks in one bucket and mini-figs in another. No. I need to organize that mess.

If this was a collection of papers to be arranged, I’d use folders and boxes. The boxes would be labeled appropriately and a finding aid written up. This collection, however, consists of Legos and is for a partially illiterate audience. Acid-free folders and Hollinger boxes are out. Hard-to-break plastic storage containers and easy-to-comprehend pictures are in. Note to parents: Akro-Mills makes some sturdy hardware cabinets that can take an ass-kicking from a couple of toddlers.


Photos for drawer labels are from the incredibly helpful Brick Owl.

I arranged the standard bricks (the ordinary rectangles and squares) by color in rainbow order (ROY G BIV, as requested by my five-year old), then subdivided by shape if there were copious amounts of a particular brick type (2×4, 1×1, plates of various sizes, etc.). The reds and grays (both dark and light) are separated into brick types; the other colors are not because of the small quantity of each.

Specialty bricks (like the axles, couplings, hinges, thingamajigs, and thingamabobs in the above right photo), were given their own drawers. Both large and small drawers can be subdivided for space or thematic purposes, as seen in the above left photo.

Micromanage much?

Why did I do this? A few reasons. First, I’m tired of having my son dump a huge basket of Legos on the floor just to find a single brick. Second, those scattered Legos end up camouflaged and hiding in the rug and I’m tired of stepping on them in the dark. Third, I’m bored. I am mentally unchallenged and needed something to dwell on. This did the trick. Sorting, sifting, devising an arrangement scheme (still to be determined, but I’m considering vehicle, architectural, mini-figures and accessories (shown above), decorative, and “ummm, random.”

Ordinary document boxes would be labeled with text to help users identify contents and their place in the group. My current “users” are two children, one with rudimentary reading skills, the other who just knows what an A looks like. Photo labels are perfect for this audience: bright, easy to understand, and covered in water-resistant tape to make clean-up a snap. Plus, labeling the drawers this way helps the kids know where to put the Legos when they’re done playing. In an archive, I wouldn’t dream of having researcher reshelve materials. At home? You take that toy out by yourself, you put it back by yourself. The photos help.

Micromanagement? Absolutely. But I’m an archivist. And a parent. That’s my job. And I like it.


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