Organization 101: Board Games

Organization 101 – Game Organizing

I may have slightly dreaded the summer – keeping the kids occupied, well behaved and being able to maintain household harmony (on all levels for everyone – mental/emotional, verbal, physical). But, I do like that the summer is more relaxed and there is less rushing around for drop offs and pick ups. While I encouraged the kids to entertain themselves as much as possible (seriously!),the normal house “keeping” routine suffered. Hey, it’s just what happens…and I know I am not the only one, so I don’t feel really bad about it. But, as we are now into single digit days until the first day of school, I am ITCHING to restore order to the house.

Confession Time: Martha Stewart is my idol. Well, one of my idols…and not in every sense – just her decorating, organizing, crafting, gardening, home keeping, and cooking/baking sense. I also love shopping at The Container Store – and the thought of working there has crossed my mind MANY times. The reality is that I have kids, limited time, skill and money – I will never be Martha Stewart. My home will not look like hers or a page out of the Container Store catalog – I am also okay with this. But, I always strive to make the house cleaner, more organized, so that the necessary parts of life are easier and more efficient.

So, from that hefty introduction, I can lead into a moment a few weeks ago when my anxiety had reached a high. I somehow managed to overlook all of the crap my kids had strewn over the floor and caught a glimpse of the games they keep on the shelf in the living room. I know the manufacturers mean well – they use very hefty cardboard and reinforce the corners so that they are meant to take some wear and tear. Inevitably, it is not the sort of wear and tear that comes in my house (and many others…I know, I’ve seen). The corners crack and break, pieces roll out of the semi-flattened box, and they can never be stacked in an even remotely neat pile (not like this is achievable with brand new boxes in my house…but whatever). I wish to God that I had taken a before picture, but once I found the appropriate supplies, I was way too excited to get this done.

Fast forward to my inspiration – a photo I saw in a Family Fun magazine. They took all the game pieces out and stored them in individual containers (in this case they used glass with screw-on lids). The game boards were then lined up on a shelf – they used a magazine holder to corral theirs. (See the photo here as well.)

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Our games were in dire straits – a few pieces have already gone missing, the boxes were very sad – it was time for some help. I figured it was a small-ish sort of project that could be tackled in a trip (or two) to The Container Store. And, most importantly, the kids were on board with this project (like the unintentional pun?). Oh, sure, one child mourned the loss of the boxes…but since getting recycled, I haven’t heard a peep or seen a tear about them.

To make this work for our family, I decided, first, NO GLASS if at all possible. Sure, my kids are old enough to handle it, but why introduce the potential of broken glass unless necessary? If you are not opposed to using glass in your home, canning jars (such as Mason or Ball) are inexpensive and would work. I would recommend getting the wide-mouth jars, so that small people can get game pieces into and out of the jar easily. Once upon a time, I saw those jars used in Family Fun’s living room at Target (look in the kitchen/dining section by the glassware and vases). They weren’t terribly expensive, and are wide-mouthed as well.  (Here they are at The Container Store.)

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Another key part of the project, and really any organizing project, is to make the “system” simple – especially if you expect people (young or not) to use it. The more parts or steps it takes to use a system, the less likely it will be used in the intended fashion. (God bless you if you and/or your kids are compulsive.)  Divided containers would be ideal in this project but, besides not being easy to find (or budget-friendly), they don’t always come in the sizes needed. There are ways around that – rubber-banding money or game cards together, putting small pieces (like all the monopoly houses, game pieces, and dice) in a small container.  As a sort of compromise, I lumped all the cards together (so, for Monopoly, the Community Chest, Chance, and Real Estate cards are all mixed and banded together) rather than separating them. This still may prove to be too complicated for my little cherubs…I suppose time will tell.

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Being Montessori-lover, I know the value of storing items (toys, educational materials) in clear containers as it helps to easily identify the contents and invites more frequent use. This could be what also drew me to the inspiration project. I suppose you could use an opaque container with labels, if you want to create more uniformity and don’t want the game pieces visible on the shelf. The labeled container “system” hasn’t always worked in my house, but I also don’t mind the sight of game pieces (or, at the least, I mind that less than a slip-shod pile of broken game boxes).

I also wanted a container that would open and close easily, to be used with little or no assistance. Of course, containers that open too easily, so that the contents fall out, are not helpful either. A screw-top lid would work, but there is always that chance that the threads don’t get matched up and the lid gets stuck. A snap-on lid works, but be sure that it can be removed with minimal effort – we’ve all struggled to remove a tight-fitting snap on line, only to have all the contents fly out once we finally do yank it off.

Lastly, but certainly not least, the containers obviously need to fit the shelf and the contents.  If possible/necessary, it would be helpful if the containers were stackable.

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I really didn’t know if there would be anything that would fit my vision or specifications. I have learned that the best spot to shop for containers is…well, where else but The Container Store? Disclaimer: I am not an employee and am not getting paid for this endorsement. I really just LOVE this store. I am lucky enough to live within a short distance from one, as I like to see and touch…and they don’t give me crazy looks when I bring in my stuff to find the perfect product for my project. Now, I appreciate that the store can be overwhelming. Look at the wall of options of clear containers…holy crap! The sales associates are helpful.

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After a little bit of looking (I looked in the food storage area and collection area before going back to food storage containers), I settled on these. They pretty much met all of my specifications and were available in many different sizes.

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This is what the final project looks like on the shelf.  (Note that the shelf has not been completely tamed yet…hey, we’re a real, hard-working and hard-playing family.)  Happy Organizing!

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