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We typically tip our box of Lego bricks onto a giant sheet (so that it can be easily picked up) but searching for bricks becomes really tricky and time consuming. You often remind yourself, "you'll find it once you stop looking," but is there more to it than that?

Are there ways to look through the collection more closely? I guess in a sense, are there ways of skimming the collection that help you spot that particular piece? The easiest trap I find is to look for colours because there aren't that many colours... looking for the shape would be better, but it doesn't seem to help.

Likely the best option would be to spread the pieces out so that they are all visible, flat on the ground, but that isn't practical space wise.

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I wasnt sure of the correct tags, is someone able to edit appropriately...Wasn't able to create any yet either... –  davidsleeps Nov 26 '11 at 1:17
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Actually just noticed this in the instructions for one of the items...although it won't necessarily scale for a crate of Lego !lego instructions –  davidsleeps Nov 30 '11 at 5:53

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Properly sorting is the best solution, although it doesn't seem like that is what you want.


Before starting, it helps to have a quick look through the pile and pick out any interesting bricks you might use. If you don't have your mind set on an exact design, it can be just as much fun to build using parts picked out before hand instead of constantly searching.

Once you start building I recommend building as much of your creation before searching - keep track of a list of pieces that you need. If you can't immediately find an important piece, then use a temporary one that has the same functionality. Once you're done, go through the pile looking for each piece you need. It will be faster to look for several pieces at the same time as opposed to one.


For the actual sorting, I use the most distinguishing feature of the piece. If it's a unique color, then use that. If it's a strange shape look for that. The method I use for searching in a random pile is to focus on a small area - once I have verified that the piece isn't there I'll separate the area from the pile and move onto the next area. This prevents looking over the same area twice.

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One thing you could do is to presort your Lego bricks. Take your giant pile of Lego bricks and try to split it up into 5-10 categories.

Those categories could be color, size, or any other features, it doesn't really matter. (I'm a Technic builder, so I would sort them into axles, pins, pin-connectors, beams and gears for example.) To get the best results these categories should be as close to equal in size.

Presorting might seem to be a bit of work, however next time you need a brick it will be several times faster (roughly equal to the amount of categories) to find it since you only have to look through a subset of bricks. One you have done the presort, you don't need to do it again (until you trow them back into your box) so it makes most sense to do this during a building session where you might need to look after another brick in the near future.

Remember that your piles could contain sub-categories, if you had sorted after color you could use size to skim through the pile in order to find that brick. You could also split those up into even more sub-piles if you wanted. The more you sort, the less time you need to search after bricks, however you will spend more time during your presort. Try to experiment and find a balance between sorting and searching that you like.


In order to not presort more than necessary, do the presorting while you are looking after a brick. Like Pubby suggested, take a small area and look through that. However instead of simply trowing them into a separate pile if you don't find it, sort them into your category piles. Continue this process until you find the brick you were looking for.

Next time you need a brick, look through the incomplete sub-piles first to see if it is there. If not, continue with the giant unsorted pile like before, presorting your bricks until you find the brick.

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Some hints that work for me:

  • Get to know your lego. There is no point looking for a component that isn't there.

  • Get someone to help you. Sometimes other people can spot what you've missed. Small people often have sharper eyes than big people. My 7 year old son can spot things far more qickly than me.

  • If you're looking for a small piece, it is almost certainly at the bottom of a collection of larger bricks. So, for small components, dig deep. This should also work when you've spread the components out, but is especially useful if you're searching through a big box. In fact, if you gently shake a box of parts to encourage the big ones to rise and then rapidly invert the box onto your play area, you'll probably find that you get a nice layer of small bits on the top of the heap.

  • Store parts in a big plastic container rather than a cardboard box. Otherwise you'll eventually find the part you're looking for under the flaps at the bottom of the box.

  • As others have said, you can't really avoid some kind of sorting, even if it is primitve on-the-fly sorting. For this reason, some of thie ideas in this answer could help, even if you implement them as you're looking for parts rather than when you store your lego.

  • Pull out the big base boards and any instructions etc. that get in the way of your looking for parts. It is also worth pulling out any cables or string as they can be annoying to look through, too.

  • When you see pairs of parts that belong together, stick them together. For example, wheels and tires, windows and glass, aircraft wings etc. That way, when you've found one you've found the other.

  • Similarly, when you take things apart, leave 'interesting' assemblies partially built. It is sometimes easier to find what you're looking for when it is stuck to something else. For example, leave minifigs assembled, even if you anticipate needing their parts in a different configuration in the future.

  • When you're looking, look for several parts at a time.

  • If you find an interesting part, pull it out and keep it separate, even if it isn't what you want at the moment. Chances are, there parts will stimulate your imagination and you'll want them anyway.

  • Start building a proper system for organising your parts. For example, my son keeps his minifigs and their gear separate from everything else.

  • Sometimes you can't help but look through every part in the heap. If you end up doing that, divide the heap into smaller, more managable sections and paw through them one at a time.

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+1 great tips, particularly the divide into smaller portions of mishmashed bits –  davidsleeps Nov 30 '11 at 5:55

You may want to use a smooth surface on which elements can glide easily without being scratched This allows you to move unwanted parts around quite fast so that you can find the one you're after.

But I agree with others, ultimately you'll need to sort. The smooth surface can help here too, and one good trick is to focus on retrieving elements which are abundant first. But don't over do it, if looking for, say, 1x2 blue bricks is easy because you see a lot of them, fine, take them out first; but don't try to catch them all, these are no pokemons. Once you don't see them so easily anymore, switch to something else.

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