Monday, June 4, 2012

Taming the Toys, Part 1

The building toys were beginning to take over the basement. When my older two children, Matthew & Mary Alice were younger, LEGOs and K'NEX were a huge part of their play. They would disappear for hours together building intricate cities, stadiums and vehicles. Slowly, through donations, gifts, garage sale finds, etc. our collection grew. The sets got mixed together and ended up HUGE. That was okay for Matthew and Mary Alice, but an impossible amount for Megan & Shanna, who are on a much more beginning building level. I decided that sorting was in order to get a select few complete sets for the girls to work on at a time. Here is a before pic of the LEGOs, as I started the sorting project. At first, I made the mistake of starting to sort on the floor (thinking maybe it would go faster than it did??), but then I brought a big folding table out, and that saved my back.

Starting the sorting

 My husband estimated about 7 pounds of LEGOs. It seems closer to 15! About 15 different sets are contained in the pile, including several basic brick buckets. I started the sort with paper lunch bags, taping a type of brick on the bag to identify it. I used broad categories to begin with, then started to narrow as the bags became fuller (i.e. first all roof pieces in the same bag, later separated by color).

As the pile got smaller, I sorted into finer detail, as shown below. I used large and small muffin tins to keep the smaller bits organized. I used muffin liners so that dumping into the larger bags was easier.

Muffin tins are great for sorting in smaller categories. Use liners to make removing easy.
Mini muffins are easy to use for the very tiny pieces or small groups of pieces.

At the end of the broad sort, this is what I have.

Use paper lunch bags to collect the larger groups, then sort into smaller categories, when the bags get full.

Now, I am ready to start to put the set back together using the parts list. I am a keeper, so I actually had most of the instructions, but several of them did not have parts lists included. Very annoying. So after a quick trip to the internet I found that the official LEGO site offers "over 3300 building instructions available online which date back to sets packed in 2002. You can search for replacement instructions by set number, key word or brand". I was able to identify a kit I did not have instuctions for, simply by searching the word "pink" due to the pink bricks it included. Six or so choices came up and a few clicks later I had identified the right set and printed the instructions.

 As I said, for some of the sets, the parts list was not in the instructions, and not available elsewhere on, so I searched further and found this amazing site has a reference section where you can find complete information and parts info for any set, simply by putting in the product number or descriptive words.
Lots of Legos!

Not quite as impressive (nor as time consuming) was sorting the three K'NEX sets we have. They were easy to sort and I thought they looked pretty cool afterwards. I found two complete sets, and the third had several missing pieces, most of which I found mixed in with the Legos!

One set of K'NEX, sorted according to the parts list
Inviting and ready to play!

Although this project seems like is an incredibly obssessive task (and not necessarily suited to all personalities), I felt the payoff was worth it, as it is truly a small fortune in LEGOs and the girls would really enjoy seeing and playing with the results. Plus, as I sorted, various family members joined me to explore, no one more than Shanna, who squealed with delight at each new discovery of interesting parts! And to be honest, it makes me HAPPY to sort the Legos! It is the kind of soothing and compulsive activity that orders my brain and kicks in the endorphins.

Stay tuned to see the final tamed LEGO project.

Click here to go to the updated post

For assistance with playrooms or any other organizing project,
simply call Linda, 631-5619.

Happy Organizing!

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