08 January 2013

Keeping board games organized? Talk amongst yourselves.

At Amazon: Sterilite Mini 3-Drawer Organizer, 6-Pack
At Amazon: Sterilite Mini 3-Drawer Organizer, 6-Pack
Tracy Hengst -- a rockstar hack contributor over the years -- has a board game organization question:

I'd like to know if any parents out there have an idea for game board boxes that might have seen better days. I've written to several companies that make clear plastic storage containers and they've all indicated that they are not interested in this market/product because it does not appeal to the masses.

So... anyone out there have any ideas ?  For both long rectangle and chunky square game boxes.

Amy Allen Clark, creator of MomAdvice and author of the new book The Good Life For Less, recently wrote a brilliant post about how to organize your board game collection. She made great use of Sterilite pull-out plastic drawers (among other things). Check out her post for an array of great photos.

IKEA also sells a number of paper and media storage products that would play nicely with a board game collection.

Can you help Tracy? What's your tip for keeping board games organized?

Related: My family's favorite board games

Your comments

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It's not a tip for board games, exactly, but I use zip top bags for puzzle storage. I cut the puzzle photo out and tape it to the exterior of the bag. They travel and store nicely, and compactly. I'd imagine it would work for board games also, but you might have to invest in some larger size bags, depending on the board size. Gallons work well for most puzzles, though.

The container store used to sell game storage boxes in different sizes. They currently have office storage boxes and art storage boxes that would probably work pretty well.

Cereal boxes can often be manipulated/reinforced for things like the boardgames or wooden board toddler puzzles.

I don't have the storage down, but I will add a general tip. We are game people too, but found that the volume was getting too high and that many weren't getting played with. I instituted a "play every game once and vote to keep" rule. So we took all the games out of the shelves and then started playing them (we rotate who picks the game for family game night). After every game we did a thumbs up / thumbs down. Majority wins, but I think we allowed one "save" for each person. (I don't care if anybody else likes it, I WANT TO KEEP THIS ONE.)

It allowed us to get rid of many of the losers and some of the baby ones that had gotten stuck in the back. It was very informative when we got to the dregs of the pile that on a few we just gave a few of them away. Good luck!

I use Ziploc bags for games as long as the game board fits in the bag--but there are 2.5 gallon size bags that will fit most anything. I also use Ziploc bags for puzzles. Big hint--pay the little bit extra for the "zip top" stye so that kids can easily put the game/puzzle away and you don't have to spend your day sealing the Ziploc bags.

Ziplock for puzzles & other smaller things...Or those clear bags that sheets & blankets come in. But if I want things to stack nicely in the closet, I have been known to duct tape the heck out of the box & use a sharpie to write the game name. When no more fits in the closet or the boxes are beyond repair--goodwill/trash time happens!

I too <3 ziplocks; I just stack/stuff/carefully place in a basket. The Game Basket! (which fits on a bookcase shelf).

We have some vintage board games from when my husband was a kid in the 70s (original Candyland FTW!) whose boxes are either in the process of disintegrating or have already done so. The boards are too big to fit in gallon ziploc bags, and the Super Ginormous Size ziplocs are too unwieldy, so I'll be watching the comments on this post with interest.

I like the idea of duct-taping the bejeebers out of the box, but I think I'd go one step further and use transparent acid-free library/archival tape, specifically designed for repairing paper and cardboard. It helps that I work in a library and can, ahem, "borrow" small quantities when I need to, but I'd imagine that the same tape is available through online retailers, or even the major library vendors (Gaylord, Demco, etc.).

Toss out the original box and put the board/pieces/parts in clear plastic containers. I bought several at Ikea recently for cheap! Stack the containers on a shelf with a label facing out so you know what game is in each container. Easy! The rule in our house is only one game out at a time so there's never a chance of games getting intermingled.

I'm with Catherine. We repair our game boxes with 3m book tape (available on Amazon).

We're game junkies, so we're probably more obsessive about, er- attentive to our boxes than most.

As soon as a new game hits the house we put the small parts and cards in zip bags in the original box. That way, should the box be dropped and spilled, the components won't go everywhere. The practice also reinforces to our kids that all the parts have a place (in the bag and in the box). Even our two year-old helps put game parts away.

Most board games can last generations with good care, so I like to help the games be welcome to other families when we're done with them.

We put hung a large clear pocket shoe organizer in the inside of our game closet, and that is where we store lots of small games and card sets.

Adrienne! I was just going to tweet @GreatBigTable to tell you this convo was right up your alley!

We still have a lot to do to organize our games better, but I don't think we'll ever turn to throwing away the boxes and stuffing everything in bins. That's not a criticism of those that take this step, but the boxes serve multiple purposes in my book. As physical objects, board games (especially hobby and designer games) are partially in many instances playable art. I enjoy looking art of the boxes and taking in the graphic design when we pull them out to be played. Their purpose in the store is to attract the potential buyer and, as we run multiple gaming groups, having the box on hand helps to attract potential gamers. They are conversation pieces and those conversations sometimes turn into enticing more players to the table. Also, should we want to sell or trade games, the original boxes are generally required to be intact.

As far as our storage solution goes, we have a game closet that is just bursting at the moment and the tops of two IKEA bookshelves that are stacked high. It's not the best solution. However, part of the reason for bringing the games out of the closet was to remove a barrier for play. Out of sight is often, literally, out of mind and the whole reason we have games is to play them. Having them out in common areas means that they hit the table more often with family and friends and makes it easier to scoop up a few for any particular gaming event. The clear shoe hanger in the game closet that Adrienne found does a world of good keeping the many small box and card games accessible and organized and, more importantly, out of the way.

Our shelves are the square sectioned black Ikea Expedit model. This is a model that seems pretty popular among a lot of gamers that I follow online. They have a nice depth and look quite nice with the games stacked on their sides next to each other in each shelf section. Ultimately, I think we might be able to reclaim some of the cubes for more proper storage down the line. We've also talked about adding some type of shelving in a larger closet with lots of unused dead space as a future project. Even if we go this route, however, I think I would ultimately like to maintain at least some of our collection (perhaps on a rotating basis) in a publicly visible spot so that they get asked about and played more often.

Which reminds me of one point that should be brought up in this discussion. If you feel that your game storage is a problem, one way to make more space is to do away with games that aren't being played as often. Donate them to a community gaming group, give them to your library, drop them off at a thrift store, sell or trade them. Someone else will play those games and you'll get some much needed space back or get a game you are more likely to play than let languish on a shelf.

And Adrienne is correct, the first step after pulling off the shrink wrap of a new board game is to punch all the pieces and unwrap the cards and organize everything into ziploc bags of various sizes. Then all of that goes in the original box, though we do combine expansion components into the original box if we can. That may seem crazy to some people, but it does make sure that the games last (with all their pieces) a lot longer and make setting up and tearing down the games a lot easier. We don't go so far as using Plano tackle boxes for organization in the original boxes, though there's a big contingent of hobby board gamers (including some family members) that do. The appeal of these tackle or bead crafting boxes is that they make game setup and management of more complicated games quicker allowing players to spend more time playing the game. In the end, playing together is the reason to have games in the first place.

My problem really is with the boxes falling apart and not having a suitable container to put "the remnants" of the box and the game board pieces into. Ideally they plastic companies would just make a container that's about the same size as the "long" board games and the taller square ones (as these seem to be the most popular sizes) and that there would be a pocket or window in the front for you to slide the name of the game into (worst case, i could just tape a name to the outside). I was just wondering what other people do in this situation, since there are just not suitable containers in the marketplace. I will go check out the container store again... however at the time i submitted my hack question (during summer) they did not have anything; sterlyte, rubbermaid and a few other companies i contacted all said there's not a big enough market to produce these.

Thanks for all the additional ideas. Keep 'em coming :)

If the board game box is truly gone and not salvageable by 3M book tape, I believe there are card board boxes of various flat sizes available at office supply stores like Staples. Most modern (non-mass market) board games square fold to fit in more square boxes, so they should fit in most any plastic container. The problem is mass market games sold in the US, like Monopoly, that only single fold length-wise. Those are a difficult challenge that I don't have a good answer for.

Tracy- I think these are what you seek- Game Saves by OBH Enterprises: http://www.obhenterprises.com/GameSavers.html

Maybe we could talk them into a Parenthackers' discount?

Hmmmm, Adrienne. Let me look in to that!

We've got a nice little game closet, one shelf for square shaped game boxes, one for rectangles! This seems to be working. If it doesn't fit on the shelves, its out of rotation for awhile.

I love this idea though of framing game boards on the wall.
http://www.infarrantlycreative.net/2010/01/game-board-storage-art.html

This doesn't help with the original box issue, but I like to tape a ziptop bag into the lid of the box to put the instruction paper in. (I miss the days when the rules were printed here!) This keeps it in the box for when it's needed, but it doesn't fall out every time the kids get the game out, thus getting lost.

Also when we do have a rogue game piece, we put them all in a drawstring bag that we keep with the games. This way the piece is contained (rather than stashed NEAR the game box and inevitably falling somewhere...) until we need it the next time. Then it can be retrieved and put away easily.

We play a lot of CheapAss games, which are games that have unique boards/cards and instructions but assume you already have dice, money, counters/tokens, etc. We have a small bin that has ziplock baggies/small containers with various counters and tokens, a wooden box that looks like a big die that contains all the dice, another small bin that contains card games, etc.


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