Sort First, Puzzle Later

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life46 Comments

It started innocently enough…


Dan returned home from a business trip with a box of fun for the whole family (or at least 3 of the 4 Zielskes.) Me? Let's just say you wouldn't exactly describe me as puzzle nuts.

First the Dump and Sort.



Then let the puzzling begin! Or not.

Dan is of the belief that you Sort First, Puzzle Later. And so the next day, Aidan was the benefactor of his careful late-night groupings and added her puzzling expertise to the ongoing process.


The way puzzling goes at our house is probably the way it goes at yours: people stop, drop and puzzle when the spirit strike them.


Wine never hurts, either (if you're over 21, of course!)


And so it went. Slowly and steadily, the ill-fated Titanic rose like a phoenix from the ashes…or like a sunken ship from 14,000 feet below the North Atlantic's icy surface.


Of course many other things happened during puzzle assembly time. I mean, it's not like we just sit around doing puzzles all day over here. Geez! There was school, and work, and Aidan even performed in a play.


Dan and Cole managed to take in the St. Paul Saints Ice Ball game, braving about 14 degrees at an outdoor ball park. Dan even won the Frozen T-Shirt Contest. I'll let your imaginations run wild with that one.


Chester even dropped by for a visit.


And me? Well I just focused on good clean livin'.


Still, the puzzle beckoned, and the three Zielskes heeded the call until finally, the homestretch was in plain sight and a 10-year-old boy was there to take the final honors.


Just one—


more piece.


Ahhhhh. Puzzle nirvana. Fait accompli!


Bravo 3 of 4 Zielskes! Bravo!

Now could someone be so kind as to clear this puzzle crap off of my scrap table? Oh, come on now! Don't be too sentimental, Zielskes. I took pictures for cryin' out loud.

Love, Mom.

Cathy ZielskeSort First, Puzzle Later

46 Comments on “Sort First, Puzzle Later”

  1. #1

    Wow! 3 of 4 Zielskes have patience! I’m not a jig-sawer…well not unless they have 25 pieces and are made for the under 3’s.

    Way to go 3 of 4 Zielskes!

  2. #2

    Yep.. I’m a clost puzzle-doer and 5 of us 6 are (not big son). We sort but I must say the sorting in your place is off-the-scale (I’m so impressed). It makes our puzzle sorting look like vage sprinklings of messy piles. Cool puzzle too. (Yes I know I’m sad.)
    Mandy (UK)

  3. #4

    LOL! Love the puzzle story. Reminds me of when my son and I used to make puzzles all the time. BUT one of us always “stole” a piece at the beginning and hide it so we could later have the honors of putting in the last piece. So naughty we were!

  4. #5

    LOL i love puzzles, but never know what to do with them afterwards:) this is why i’m working on baby number 1 – so that i can a)educate someone else in the magic and beauty of Neil Finn, but also to inflict puzzles and board games on them. is that wrong? 😉

  5. #6
    Valerie Spence

    That made me laugh. Dan is right – sort, then puzzle is the proper sequence. (Although I did notice his sorting took on a new level I had not known existed. Check out those cute little piles!)
    In our house the jigsaws tend to surface at Christmas/New year and you’re right about the dropping by to just add a few pieces and then go again – although 5 mins can turn to 50 pretty quick!

  6. #7

    That takes sorting to a new level! I only sort the “flat” pieces for the outside. I am suprised you didn’t grab a piece and stick it in your pocket for a few days to drive them nuts near the end. 😉 LOL

  7. #8

    i kept thinking – “Wow I wonder what table they are using? That’s a big puzzle!” Your last few lines cracked me up!!

  8. #9
    Madeline St Onge

    You are not seriously taking that puzzle apart I hope?? Love doing puzzles myself, I have even framed a few

  9. #11
    Sonja Chandler

    We love puzzles! Growing up we always had a puzzle going. Me being the “one upper” that I am, always had to be the one to put in the last piece and would hide one till the end. Without anyone knowing of course. This made everyone really happy of course.

  10. #12

    I laughed at your comment at the end of the post ‘I took the pictures’. I am always asked to take a photo of a something my boys have made, usually a Lego model before they will break it up.

  11. #15

    Hey Cathy. I did notice from the first picture that the puzzle was on YOUR scrap table. Amazing. You are so generous. And you did take pictures after all…

  12. #16

    So THATS what Ive been doing wrong! Sorting looks like its the key! So who is going to glue it all down and frame it in a 10 yr old boys room?

  13. #17

    Oops forgot to add…wish we were closer! Id have dh come sand you hardwood floors! Hes a professional! Seriously we own our own floor sanding business. Id love to hang with your quirky family. Were an odd lot as well!

  14. #18

    Love this puzzle. Our family is a 3 out of 4 too. Dad as the one not that wild about them. We sort first, then put the frame together then tackle insides. Cabin is where we do most of them like on a good weekend when all are present we do like 5 or 6.

  15. #20

    Oh my gosh I am rolling with laughter! I have a 12 yr old puzzle nut – 1 out of the 4 of us. My hubby and I will drop by and help her as needed. But seriously once the dang thing is done get rid of it!

  16. #21
    Amy Anderson

    My fam is/was kinda puzzle crazy, at least back when my grandparents were still alive. When I was a kid I figured out early how important it was to be the one to put in the last piece and I started hiding one puzzle piece – and it didn’t matter which one because if there’s one missing, it’s gonna end up the last piece, isn’t it! – so I could be the one to put it in. Ahh, stolen accolades!

  17. #22

    You need to get a large piece of plexiglass and then you can put it on the puzzle so that you can see it as you scrapbook. Yup, that’s what you need to do.

  18. #23
    Joy M.

    We are jigsaw puzzle nuts here, so no sympathy from me today, Cathy! LOL I even got a table that was my mother’s just to put the puzzles on (believe me, if you do a lot of puzzles, you need a separate space for them). DS was putting together 100 pc puzzle at three, and he’s still going strong at 12. Funny, he always starts with the inside. I begin with the edge like most people. I hope this is indicative of his creativity and unique perspective!

  19. #24

    Pull out your Mod Podge, slide the puzzle onto your Tim Holtz mat, paint all over the top and let it dry REAL well, then flip it over and do the same with the other. Most puzzle lovers don’t like to do the same one twice, so this solves the problem of having the puzzle hogging up scrapping space and the fact that it won’t be put together again 🙂

  20. #26
    Jaana Olsen

    My sister and I did a puzzle over the holidays… first time I’d done one in years. And it was fun! I’m a sorter, too. No one is allowed to work on the puzzle unless they’ve helped turn and sort pieces. I’m kind of a puzzle Nazi that way.

    I did a puzzle by myself one time called “hay in a needlestack”. It was only 550 pieces but it took me months of picking away at it, here and there, to complete. Only to find out there were two pieces missing. No last-piece satisfaction for me. (check it out! I just found it on Craigslist… )

    And after just re-reading this post, I have come to the realization that I am, indeed, a big ol’ nerd.

  21. #27

    Wow, sorting, now there’s a good tip! I do remember sorting the edges, but nothing else. Probably why we don’t do many puzzles in this house…

  22. #31

    Too funny. I can so relate. My daughters got puzzle crazy last summer with extra time on their hands. I couldn’t wait until they were finished and put away, although I did enjoy seeing them enjoy themselves with the puzzle. I tried to join them for some quality time, but I just couldn’t get into it. I guess I just don’t have the patience for it…

  23. #32

    Dear Cathy- Mod Podge the top and it’ll keep. Then you can hang it anywhere. Like someone else’s house. ha.

  24. #33

    Yep, I’d be there with a whole bottle of something, not just a glass! Very restrained and understanding of you to be so supportive of their dedication. Puzzles are NOT my thing.My great uncle was a cabinet-maker for the Titanic (wasn’t on board when it sank). Totally useless info, but there you go!

  25. #35

    We also are a “puzzling” family. We usually do them in the winter when it is too cold to be outside. I got a big folding display board to keep ours on so that we can slide it under a bed when needed. We also don’t do the same puzzle twice. We only sort the outside pieces at first but then we sort by color once we get started.
    You are brave to let them do the puzzle on your scrap table, don’t think I would do that! Enjoy!

  26. #37

    Holy Crap! I didn’t know puzzl-ing was so cut-throat that people were hiding pieces from their families. I guess you really do learn something new every day! As for Dan, I am a sorter, too, but the little piles of like-shaped pieces? Yeah, that screams OCD, man!

  27. #38
    Margy Eastman

    1500 pieces! Holy crap! We’re still tackling the 60-piece Thomas the Train puzzle here. Instant gratification:)

  28. #39
    Jennifer Larson

    I’m totally with you on the puzzle thing. I love taking pictures of my boys doing them, but I hate doing them myself. Unless they are occupying space I need, in which case I help a lot.

  29. #41

    Well, not sure if it’s the same over there, but from over here in the UK it looks like Aidan just made a slightly naughty word out of those puzzle pieces in picture 4..

    Oh, and I always sort first too x

  30. #42
    Heidi in South Africa

    That just ROCKS my day!!!!!!!
    So so so cool …
    heh heh …
    Just LOV’N’ that (& the expression!!)

  31. #43

    We brought a puzzle to a weekend mini family reunion… It was great fun to see multi-generations engaging– it gave the older folks something to do when they got out of the sun– the younger kids were great at sorting colors– and everyone chit chatted throughout the weekend… and you never knew who you would see at the puzzle table… because yes people do drop in and out!

  32. #45

    I do like doing puzzles, it helps my son sit still and concentrate on something and shows him patience while doing them. I always take a picture of it when he’s done and he’s always so proud. I actually leave it out for a couple days then say “it’s time to go “. I love how they did it together and it’s a beautiful puzzle by the way. I always sort the pieces first.

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