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My Massively Bad Idea

Every so often, I get an overwhelming urge to purge all clutter from the house.  The piles of papers get sorted, the plastic trinkets from goody bags get tossed, and unused kitchen equipment gets donated.  If I don’t have this urge, it is impossible for me to declutter.  I talk myself into keeping everything.  I tell myself that if I throw out a baby item, it will be like admitting to the universe that it has won.  So I keep all the baby clothes and toys, neatly labeling them and filling the storage room, as if they’re a promise to myself.  I can’t let them go.

But when the urge comes, I can clean unemotionally.  Or, at the very least, I can clean unemotionally in the moment, and then cry later after the kids have gone to sleep, when I am cuddling on the sofa with Truman, waiting for Josh to come home.

I decided that yesterday would be the start of one of those purges even though it’s a completely inopportune time for me, work-wise.  Who cares.  I don’t need to sleep.  I convinced the twins that we’d start with their toys.

“No mercy,” I told them.

All toys that we loved and wanted to save for a future child or pass along to a niece or nephew got placed on the sofa.  All toys that we wanted to donate got placed next to my desk.  And all other toys were placed back on a shelf or in a bin.  They sorted unemotionally.  We were able to place two enormous boxes in the storage room, neatly labeled.  Two bags of items — almost all unopened — were packed up to be donated tomorrow.  And two enormous black trash bags were filled with salvageable items.  Four toy bins were completely empty.

It was time for Operation Lego.

At six o’clock, I made them dinner and pointed out a flaw in the new-and-not-so-improved world of Lego.  When I was a child, we simply had Lego blocks.  They were in an enormous tub.  We took them out and built cities.  We played with said cities.  Then we disassembled said cities and broke up the blocks so we could begin anew next time.

Now they have Lego sets.  You buy a Knights Bus Lego set and a Ewoks in the Forest Lego set and a race car Lego set.  You make these Lego creations according to the instructions that come with the set.  Then you play with them once, set them gently back in the box, and never touch them again because they’re a lot more fragile than the blocks we played with as a kid due to the oddly shaped pieces adding to the realism.  The Deathstar crumbles if you touch it too much.  Hagrid’s Hut has been known to split into chunks if Hagrid gets too rowdy.

So they build Lego sets and then they rot in a storage box.

I told them that I wanted to take apart all the sets, saving the instructions.  The sets could always be rebuilt — think of them as 3D puzzles in that manner — but in the meantime, we could use all those blocks to make new things.  A few more nudges about how great it will be to have Legos to play with again, and they decided to go along with this idea despite their anxiety in undoing all their hard work.

“We can divided them up in one of two ways,” I told them.  “Either we can group all the red ones together, the orange ones together, the yellow ones together.  Or we can divide them up by size: all the tiny squares together, all the four dot squares together.”

“Let’s go by colour.  That will be easier,” the Wolvog said.

Oh?  Will it?

So we started by dumping out projects and breaking them into bits.  Most contained one colour, but almost all were oddly shaped.  Very quickly into the sorting, I realized that we didn’t have the standard blocks necessary for making buildings.  You can’t make a house out of Aragog’s legs, you know?  Beyond that, we had 16 pink blocks… were we really going to start a new bag for 16 pink blocks?  But if we’re not, where do they go?  With the reds?  That bag is sort of overstuffed already.  With the oranges?  Well that looks atrocious.  Do the light greens go with the dark greens in one bag called “Greens” or do they each need a separate sack?

On our third hour of breaking apart and sorting (we don’t actually have that many Legos; we’re just really really slow plus we took a break to have s’mores — why?  I have no clue), I looked up at them and said, “Why did I think we had to sort these?  Why didn’t we just pour them all together into this bin?”

“You know how there are those record books?” the ChickieNob said, pulling apart two blocks.  “This should be entered in there as the worst idea ever.”

But we were so close to the end.  So we dumped the big pieces into their correct bag, and I swept up the rest into a bag that we were calling “weirdos” for the pieces that didn’t seem to be any discernible colour at all.  I told them we’d deal with the weirdos later.

I kept them up an hour after their bedtime for this.

And now I’ve ensured they’ll never ever play with the Legos because can you imagine resorting them every single time you play with them?  Mind-numbing.

But touching all those blocks made me remember how much I loved playing with them.  How much I loved building cities.


1 Tiara { 04.29.13 at 8:16 am }

I use to love building Lego cities too! I was a sorter & my brother was not. It frustrated me to no end when I would sit down to start a new city & the pieces would be a mess. I think I enjoyed sorting Legos as much as I enjoyed building with them.

2 Chickenpig { 04.29.13 at 8:32 am }

There is a couple in the state of CT that has an entire basement filled with Legos sorted in clear bins by color, size, and shape. In the center they have tables for their creations. They build and sell or donate their creations to various organizations. Lego used to do this (they made a giant whale for the state capitol) but their headquarters is no longer in CT, so these people do it now. They get most of their Legos at tag sales. Can you imagine? You too could be a professional Lego builder 🙂

You can tell your kids that it is NOT the worst idea ever. If you are going to make anything from your imagination with Legos, the first thing you think of is “what color do you need?” I, for one, think that they should start selling Lego blocks by color. Buy a brick of red or a dozen black. That would be cool!

3 Lucy { 04.29.13 at 8:45 am }

I love the Freudian slip in the last paragraph 😉

4 a { 04.29.13 at 9:22 am }

We just went to a robotics competition this weekend, so of course Lego had a booth there – they had a large bin of Legos sitting on the floor. Putting them in the bin unsorted meant the kids made themselves rakes (out of Legos, of course) to shove those Legos around without scraping fingers. That’s what I hate about Legos these days – massive kits to make one complex yet delicate thing. We do have some small bins that have multiple options, but my girl would rather play with her dad’s old stuff from the 70s.

5 Mel { 04.29.13 at 9:39 am }

Ha — Lucy — I didn’t notice! Now I want to leave it with the error.

In case I change it, for everyone else, it said: “But touching all those blogs made me remember how much I loved playing with them. How much I loved building cities.” Do you see the error 🙂

6 Ana { 04.29.13 at 9:39 am }

I am the same exact way with the decluttering. I occasionally get (as my husband calls it) a “bug up my a&&” and it HAS TO HAPPEN NOW. But sans bug, no amount of logic, planning, etc… will render me able to get rid of one single thing. This is why our closets are literally bursting with outgrown clothing and tiny baby items.
I also loved the last line….such a great analogy.

7 ANDMom { 04.29.13 at 9:45 am }

I hate legos now – they are, as you said, so fragile. I remember having to use my teeth to pry them apart, and now it’s like you look at it funny and there it is, shattered.

It’s ok though, because my husband saved every lego set he ever had. We have a massive bin of loose legos (unsorted) for general building, and then 3 more bins of the more complex technic sets sorted into ziplocks by project. The kids will have no shortage of lego fun, and we won’t spend hundreds of dollars on sets that just fall apart.

8 loribeth { 04.29.13 at 9:57 am }

I had no idea how frickin’ hard it was to buy just plain ol’ Legos until last Christmas. I got it into my head that we could buy some for stepMIL’s 4-year-old grandson. I found kit after kit after kit, but it seemed like nobody had a bucket of plain old un-kitted Legos… and when I did find them, I could not BELIEVE the price!! In the end, we found something else to buy him. :p

9 Pepper { 04.29.13 at 10:13 am }

I love to declutter. It was the best part of moving, hands down. So much got sorted, trashed, and donated. Ah, it makes me so happy to think about. My husband, on the other hand, needs to be in the right mood or he will keep every. single. thing. he. has. ever. owned.

We are not into Lego yet. Oh what a day that will be.

10 Alexicographer { 04.29.13 at 12:22 pm }

We have mostly not ventured into the world of new Legos because — how brilliant is this!? — my mother saved all my childhood Legos. Also my only sibling moved with his entire family to Europe, which is annoying in so many ways (kid birthdays, getting together for holidays) but does have the distinct advantage that, well, no one is going to cart a suitcase full of Legos so I GET THEM ALL!!! Ooh, I didn’t just that, did I?

I kind of feel like I shouldn’t give this away even though I have to admit I have never actually employed it, but it appears one can buy pretty vast sets of (old?) Legos on Ebay pretty affordably (those appear to be listed by color, if classified at all 🙂 ).

11 Alexicographer { 04.29.13 at 12:25 pm }

er … didn’t just SAY (or type) that … Sigh. Proofread!

12 Cristy { 04.29.13 at 4:05 pm }

Honestly, I miss the big boxes of Legos where one could assemble anything they dreamed up. Though the kits are nice (Grey and I built a Millenium Falcon this holiday session), not being able to rapidly disassemble the blocks nor having things be quite as sturdy for long-term play is a pain. Maybe we need to start a campaign for bringing back the old sets?

13 May { 04.29.13 at 4:24 pm }

We have bought massive numbers of Lego “city” sets and have them sorted by color in what used to be our Thomas the train table. I got a piece of plywood, cut it to the size of the removable “Thomas” tabletop, and glued on road and green Lego boards to make a Lego table surface. The I went to home depot and bought shelf stock, cut half-lap joints, and made inserts to fit inside each of the two wheeled drawers that roll under the table. Think tic-tac-toe style inserts. This divided each drawer up into sub-compartments. One for each color, plus one for “weirdos” etc. Cost a fortune, but very functional, and much admired by our friends!

14 Amy { 04.29.13 at 4:33 pm }

we have the same problem. we have david’s big old bag of legos from his childhood in a big bin, and then the lego sets get built and then destroyed when breathed on too hard. so frustrating.
I like the idea of using bins to keep all the colors separate. But I think it would take a lot of lobbying on my part to get my HUSBAND to agree to it!

15 It Is What It Is { 04.29.13 at 5:15 pm }

I’m not sure how this is a massively bad idea unless by that you are referring to the continued need to keep them sorted (again, not massively bad).

My older son is a Lego buff and some 4 dozen sets in addition to smaller mini-figs, etc. Before Christmas, I explained that unless and until we got his current Legos under control, he would not be getting any more (at this point, they were all in various stages of being put together or taken apart. Then, he didn’t leave them put together to play with them…he would take them apart, pirate their pieces for something else he wanted to build). Now, like you, they are sorted by color, in bins (and, yes, we have gold/yellows together, and black and greys together and a separate bin for mini-figure pieces or accessories (dog, money, scorpions, weaponry, plants, etc). Every so often I have to go into his room and require that he clean it up. Every time I am met with MUCH whining but he does it and life goes on. I just do not want to live in a house taken over by Lego. The good news is that he is quite the imaginative builder and uses what he has to build way beyond his kits.

Also, Lego stores (we have one locally) have brick walls where you can get every size and color brick imaginable for a flat fee (whatever will fit into a container). This has helped augment what he gets in the kits and allows him to build cities or jails, etc.

16 persnickety { 04.29.13 at 7:07 pm }

Ah Lego, I used to sort by colour and shape- ie all of the red 8 bump bricks together (I would stick them in stacks of 10), and then have misc piles of the ones that didn’t work at the end. And even then, there were non standard pieces, like all of the castle walls.

You can buy boxes and tubs of just bricks, but the tubs are very expensive compared to the boxes.

I can’t do the fell swoop declutter anymore- threw away too many things I regret. So now I move slowly but steadily, throwing as I go. Drives my husband nuts, as he is a fell swooper, and his declutter swoops drive me nuts.

Also have you seen James May’s lego house?

17 GeekChic { 04.29.13 at 8:04 pm }

I have just over 300 Lego sets (yes I’m a freak). But they are all put together and on display at my Dad’s house, friend’s houses and my various homes over the years.

I’ve never had the problem of them being fragile – my Death Star (about the size of a medicine ball) has even survived three moves intact. Maybe I’m buying different sets than you though as I don’t have any Harry Potter. I do remember using spray fixative on a couple of sets – but that precludes taking them apart.

18 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.29.13 at 11:11 pm }

I read this this morning and caught the “blog” thing, too, and smiled to myself.

I’m in total favor of color-coding blogs 😉

19 So You Think Parenting Is About The Children? { 05.01.13 at 12:00 am }

What I love is that you found a piece of yourself that had been tucked away from all this. So not a bad idea at all. what bag will you put that in I wonder 🙂

Isn’t it amazing how everything about parenting, starting from losing control over whether you can even get pregnant or not to sorting Lego with your kids can bring long-lost pieces of yourself home to you? Granted some of them you really wish would have stayed lost – but still…

Parenting can give you back to yourself while driving you nuts. A very special and maddening experience I say.

20 Justine { 05.01.13 at 7:12 am }

We have a rule about dissembly of Legos in this house. We have a large container; all of the Lego construction needs to fit into it, and if it doesn’t, it has to be taken apart. Every once in a while we do a complete overhaul. And Ian gets really creative as a result. 🙂

21 JustHeather { 05.01.13 at 3:32 pm }

I love Legos! I’m also determined to get some for my little guy as he gets older. It is sad to read that it is so hard to find plain old blocks anymore. Sure, we had some sets, but we still has more plain stuff than anything else. Legos are also insanely expensive!! I’ve been playing with the idea of getting some of the legos my siblings and I had growing up shipped over here, if they are still around. We had a huge tub or two of them!
I remember our entire family sitting down to play with them. so much fun!

22 Amber { 05.02.13 at 11:28 pm }

Haha! I love that she thinks you should be in the record book for the worst idea ever! Kids are funny. Lego cities are the best.

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