My Biggest Collection

In the ninja vs pirate debate, this is the side I am on!

In the ninja vs pirate debate, this is the side I am on!

Last weekend I spent 12 hours on my new household inventory, which was enough time to finish detailing the furniture and appliances (including all the little ones, of which there are many.) This weekend I wanted to inventory my collections, half a dozen or so.  However, I got carried away reorganizing our LEGO. I knew my household inventory would get seriously stalled by doing this, but as Rom helpfully pointed out, it is a 4-day weekend and I was having fun, so why not? Therefore I spend the better part of two days playing with LEGO!

I had some sort of “interlocking brick set” when I was a kid, and I remember using them to make houses and doll furniture. But LEGO wasn’t a brand-name phenomenon then as it is now. My first foray into LEGO world was buying Duplo for Link at age 1. This was a huge hit and we moved up to regular-size LEGO at age 3. From that point on, every birthday and holiday included LEGO among the gifts.

A lot of parents stop buying LEGO after the first set enters the house because they hate cleaning it up. And you know how excruciating it is to step on pieces in your bare feet! We had a little system. There was a 5×8 foot play mat on the floor surrounded by bins of toys. Any tiny toys that were used had to stay on the mat. It was OK to leave a LEGO project in progress for days at a time and not put any of it away, as long as it stayed there. When the space was needed to play with something else, such as puzzles or board games, then the LEGO would be thrown into its own bin. Since I enjoyed LEGO so much myself, and it was a major family bonding activity, I was patient with the clean-up involved and never swept or vacuumed it up!

A Real LEGO collection (NOT MINE) - Photo Credit: 2much2often@ flickr

A Real LEGO collection (NOT MINE) – Photo Credit: 2much2often@ flickr

We continued this system for a few years until we started caring more about the big models we’d built, and didn’t want to lose any of their specialized pieces. I had to make a decision about whether we were “real” LEGO collectors or not. If yes, it was a big commitment – we’d need to keep all the boxes, instructions, and inserts; and keep each model or set separate. We’d have to think about buying each model in a set. We’d need a plan for displaying and storing them. Would we buy and keep sets unopened so they would be “mint” and retain their value? On the other hand, there wasn’t much point in buying complex models and then throwing them into a bin with all the other sets, where the unique pieces could go astray.

I would say we are modified collectors. We have kept all the sets we’ve ever bought, discarded the boxes, and kept the instructions. After LEGO was not being played with on a daily basis any more, we rebuilt all the models and put each one into a separate bag with its instructions.

I would have liked to keep buying LEGO once or twice a year, forever, but we lost interest. The first reason is that the sets started  getting too easy – not because we were so experienced, but because of the toy design. For example, you used to have to build the hull of a ship with bricks. Now it comes as one molded piece and you just add some trim to it. I expect that LEGO did market research which showed that parents were too busy or impatient to help their kids that much, and wanted projects they could finish quickly!

Older style LEGO mini-fig

Older style LEGO mini-fig

Newer style LEGO mini-fig

Newer style LEGO mini-fig

Next, LEGO used to invent its own themes, such as oceans, Arctic, aliens, or space. Later, most of their sets were licensed from movies, such as Star Wars or Harry Potter. Now they’ve got Ninja Turtles and DC Superheroes! We didn’t like the licensed sets as much. Finally, LEGO lost its innocence. It was bound to happen. All the mini-figures used to have dot eyes and grins. Sometimes a bad guy had a smirk. LEGO is still tame compared to action figures, but I got tired of every set being full of scowling men with stubble!

Nevertheless, our house was full of LEGO for 15 years, and it provided endless hours of fun together.

Without further ado, here is our collection of almost 80 sets (!) I have added a few notes on how we organize and store it.

Double-click the first photo to start a slideshow, if you like

Do you, your spouse or your kids have toy collections that require organizing and maintenance? Do share!

This post is dedicated to GMZ, my companions in LEGOdom for almost 2 decades!


  1. I wish I’d had you around when I was packing house, reorganizing and downsizing. 🙂

  2. Fiona

    Ahhhh – LEGO 🙂 I read this with great delight! We are also LEGO lovers – for years, Mr. 8 has received LEGO as gifts for birthday and Christmas at his request. Like you, we’ve kept the instructions but not the boxes (in most cases.) Our LEGO has been built, pulled apart, re-built…and now jumbled into 2 huge tubs for lots of creative “free-building”.

    I’ve been wondering what to do next with organising it. Not sure if it’s “mission impossible” to find all the original parts/sets, but I was going to try to re-build the Castle set these school holidays!

  3. EcoCatLady

    Gosh, I guess I’m behind the times. I remember legos from when I was a kid, but there were just squares and rectangles… I guess that’s what’s now called “freestyle?” I don’t remember these “sets” like you’re describing with instructions and the like. I’m assuming you buy each one to build a specific thing? Hmmm… I don’t think I’d like that… too many rules! Guess I’m just a “freestyle” kind of a girl! 🙂

    • Yes, most of the LEGO kits build one specific model which is shown on the box, and they give you detailed instructions. We would normally build them once and then use all the pieces to add to the general play collection. I think they came up with names like “Free Style” and “Inventor” because they needed to brand “playing,” LOL!

  4. My boys loved Lego and had plenty around. Unlike you we couldn’t leave them set up on the floor as works-in-progress because our lab (no matter how old he got) believed they were perfect chew toys and would quickly claim them, even when we were sitting right there playing. We tried to close a door to him but he would cry so. We got so tired of chasing him down to retrieve pieces the Lego was a table or top bunk bed activity.

  5. todadwithlove

    Wow, I wish I were a fraction as organised as you are. Sigh. You are amazing.

    • You’re too kind! The LEGO organizing system didn’t get started until AFTER Link was finished playing with them on a daily basis…before that, it was a happy mess!

  6. I loved lego as a kid, and I think I am old enough that most of it was just bricks rather than big moulded pieces (at least the stuff we owned was). Now my cousins have the sets and they just don’t seem as fun – I guess they’re more for playing with than building. My sister and I used to make the Lego Melbourne Cup every year when we got the day off school for the real Melbourne Cup.

  7. Mel

    If you EVER want to rid your home of this collection, you know who to call, right?

    • I would love to see an inventory of your collection!! I have appointed myself the “owner” of all the LEGO until when/if Link ever has specific plans for it.

  8. I love that you taught Link where to play with Lego – if only my parents had instituted that with my brothers! I always wished for a lego vacuum when it came to pack up time! Gosh how I remember the stepping on lego pain!

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