Seriously? I can’t tell you how you should do it! Whichever way works for you is how you should sort. Or not. You may be a scrabbler who likes to root around through the box to find pieces, or someone who doesn’t sort at all and just lays them all out. Whichever way works best – that’s what you should do.
I dislike posts that tell you how you should assemble, sort, or work on your puzzle; it’s not my place to tell you how to do something. Everyone has their own way that works, and for them that is the perfect way to do it. But if you’re just starting out and looking for suggestions I’ll tell you how I do it and maybe something might work for you.
I use a strainer (shown above) to get rid of puzzle dust as I’m sorting. I dump the pieces into it while it’s sitting in the box, and as I grab them to lay out on trays most of the dust falls to the bottom and out into the box. Cookie sheets from the dollar store that I’ve lined with paper are my trays where I lay out the pieces.
I use plastic containers to hold pieces that I pull out to work on after the edges are assembled, but I let the puzzle tell me which pieces/sections to pull out. It could be a pattern, a color, or pieces with words – it all depends on which puzzle I’m assembling. Sometimes I go into the sorting with an idea of what I’m going to pull, but that usually changes a bit once I’ve put a few handfuls of pieces on the tray and see what I’m working with. Whichever pieces I don’t pull I lay out on the trays. I’m a bit OCD, so they’re laid out in orderly rows so that I can compare shapes and colors when I’m looking for a piece.
Most of the time I pull out the edges as I’m sorting, so when I’m done I have the edge to assemble, and also the sections that have been sorted into containers to begin working on once the edge is put together. Sometimes with a shaped or wooden puzzle the edges aren’t easy to find or assemble, so that isn’t where I start. The puzzle leads me in both the sorting and assembly, so each time is different – that’s part of the fun of jigsaw puzzles!
Sorting isn’t something I actually enjoy doing, but I find that in the end it helps me and works best for the way I puzzle. Many people don’t sort at all, so you have to find the way that works for you. You may be a sorter, a scrabbler, or a lay them all out kind of person – you just have to figure out which one.
A sorter, a scrabbler, a lay them all out-er, or something else altogether; which one are you?