Today, I’m breaking down one of my very favorite organization projects…possibly ever! I gave our disorganized, shameful mess of a game closet a good hard look and identified some storage solutions that are not only easy and inexpensive but totally effective too! If your board game collection is in need of some serious sorting, let me break down everything that’s working so well for us!

Organized game closet with board games standing on their sides

Our Board Game Storage Closet | Before & After

When we move into a new home, it takes me a while to thoroughly work my way through each and every room, shelf, drawer, and closet. And so with only months to spare before we move again, I finally made my way to one of my final spots: our horribly disorganized and quite-shameful game closet.

Messy game closet with stacks and stacks of disorganized board games

When we first moved in almost 2 years ago, our (extensive) board game collection was loaded into this tall, deep hallway closet. But since I never put any good systems in place, it quickly fell into total disarray (especially since our kids pull out games on an almost-daily basis.)

Messy game closet with stacks and stacks of disorganized board games

I really wanted to organize this game closet because it was becoming rather frustrating to deal with. But I also wanted to do so in a way that would translate to whatever home we find ourselves in next.

After considering lots of board game storage ideas and vetting many other bloggers’ choices, I landed on some unique solutions that not only work (and work well!) but are inexpensive and look good too.

Have a look!

Perfectly organized game closet with games standing on their sides

You’ll quickly notice that I landed on a hybrid of keeping original boxes AND re-loading some things into fresh storage bins.

Organized game closet with board games standing on their sides in color order

The result makes it easy to see what we have, get out what we want to play, and best of all…put it all back without too much effort!

Organized game closet with board games standing on their sides and smaller games inside clear bins

Choosing NOT to Unbox Our Board Games

If you search for board game storage solutions, one of the biggest trends you will see is to un-box them from their original packaging (either into large zipper pouches or matching plastic cases). I certainly understand the allure. Not only do matching containers make any space look instantly tidy, but it solves two of the biggest problems with board games:

  • All the various sizes and shapes make them hard to stack.
  • They take up a lot of space thanks to their bulky boxes and packaging.

Considering I un-box practically everything I own, you might be surprised I didn’t jump head-first into this solution too. But I actually gave this project a lot of consideration (probably much more than it warranted), and I ultimately decided against unboxing for the following reasons:

  1. Like book covers, a game’s box is what catches your attention and makes you want to play it. Reducing everything down into clear/matching containers felt like it was taking something away from the game-selecting experience (especially for my young kids).
  2. When I unbox items, I like to do so into identical matching containers. But when it comes to games, you will be very hard pressed to find envelopes or cases that will fit every single game in your collection uniformly. From long boards like Monopoly and Life to bulky block games like Quirkle and Uzzle, there is no one box that will hold them all just right. And so if I couldn’t have everything matching, why bother at all?
  3. Sometimes the internal packaging is really useful (e.g., Monopoly, Life). If using the included tray is part of playing the game, I didn’t want to get rid of it.
  4. I read a few “testimonials” from fellow bloggers who actually regretted getting rid of the boxes. Remember: once the boxes are gone, you can’t replace them without buying the full game again.
  5. Finally, the cost. I don’t mind investing in good, solid plastic containers when they are warranted. But in the case of our games (which are technically already loaded into the “ideal” boxes), purchasing containers quite simply felt wasteful and unnecessary.
Organized board games standing on their sides with larger games in plastic bins underneath

What We Did Choose to Unbox

Now, all that said, we did choose to un-box two distinct “categories” of games. Here’s what and why…

Playing Card Games

Even though small card games are all generally the same size, they still come in various sized-and-shaped boxes (which can make them a headache to organize), as shown below.

Two white baskets crammed full of small card games

Moving our various decks of cards into uniform plastic card cases allowed us to significantly streamline these smaller games and make them much easier to find and play.

You can read all about this particular part of my game closet storage here: Practical Playing Card Storage (That Looks Great Too!)

Playing card games organized into clear plastic boxes, labeled with bright squares, and loaded into a large bin alphabetically
Small card games loaded into plastic card cases and organized alphabetically

STEM Games

We have a few STEM-style games (e.g., Marble Run, Lincoln Logs, gears, etc) that feature large, chunky pieces. Very rarely do these games load easily back into their original packaging, and we determined they are much easier to play with (and clean up) if they are in more user-friendly containers.

So these four games were loaded into my favorite Sterilite bins and stacked on the closet floor for easy access by little hands.

STEM games loaded into Sterilite plastic tubs
STEM games loaded into Sterilite plastic tubs in the bottom of an organized game closet

Why Stacking Board Game Boxes Doesn’t Work

Because board games include so many small pieces, most people tend to store them in vertical stacks, one on top of the other. (This is actually how I’ve primarily stored our games for most of our marriage.)

Make play time quick and easier with these tips and tricks for organizing board games!

This solution certainly keeps games in good “order” (inside the box). But without extreme diligence in putting games back just right, stacking can quickly fall into disarray (especially if kids are involved). In fact, stacking our games is precisely why our closet ended up looking like this:

Messy game closet with stacks and stacks of disorganized board games

I ultimately determined that the way to really keep our board games completely accessible was to place them like books…on their end. This not only looks really nice, but more importantly: you can pull out just one without disrupting the rest.

Three shelves of organized board games standing on their sides in rainbow color order

The Secret to Standing Board Games on Their Sides

But I know what you’re thinking: “If you store games on their sides, the lids will fall off and all the various pieces and cards and accessories will become a MESS!”

You’re quite right! After experimenting with a few games on their sides, here is how our Apples to Apples game came out:

Apples to Apples card game in a mess

So there are two integral steps to storing board games on their sides:

  1. Corralling all internal pieces via rubber bands or small plastic bags
  2. Banding the boxes shut

For this particular game, I rubber-banded all the cards into stacks…

Apples to Apples cards bound with rubber bands loaded into box

…and added a large rubber band around the box.

Apples to Apples game held shut with a larger black rubber band

By following these two simple steps with every board game, you can store them on their sides while keeping everything inside neat and tidy!

Board games standing on end with large rubber bands holding them shut

Best Supplies for Board Game Storage

Ultimately, getting our game closet perfectly organized came down to these two very inexpensive products:

  • 3 Sizes of Re-Sealable Plastic Bags – This specific set of sizes was perfect for holding all the various pieces, cards, and accessories you’ll find inside your various board games.
  • XL Rubber Bands – These bands are large enough to easily fit around any game you have but also tight enough to keep lids and boxes firmly together.
Small plastic bags and large black rubber bands

Video Tutorial

Ready to watch me organize our board game closet from start to finish? Here’s the entire process condensed into a short-and-sweet video. (Video not loading for you? Watch it here.)

Vertical Board Game Storage | Step-By-Step

Step 1 – Empty Your Board Game Storage Area

Like any organization project, start by fully emptying out the spot where you store games (e.g., playroom, living room, shelving units, closet, storage coffee table, etc). Also, if you store games/puzzles elsewhere, gather them all into one spot so you can adequately assess what you have, how much, and each item’s condition.

Empty hallway game closet

Step 2 – Assess & Purge Game Collection

Whether you are short on storage space or not, this is an excellent opportunity to assess your game collection and purge out anything not worth keeping.

Consider getting rid of games that are:

  • Incomplete
  • Duplicates
  • Significantly damaged
  • Too young for your household
  • Never played with

Our game collection hasn’t been decluttered in quite some time, so we were able to identify two large baskets full of games we no longer need.

Random board games and card games loaded into baskets for donation

Step 3 – Prepare Board Game(s) for Vertical Storage

Next, you will need to prepare each game you want to keep for vertical storage. This may appear tedious, but once you get into a groove it actually goes quite quickly.

Repairing a broken Trouble game box

First, repair or reinforce any game board box that has fallen apart. I find (several layers of) clear packing tape to be the best way to reinforce corners, seams, or gashes in the cardboard packaging.

Repairing a broken Trouble game box with clear packing tape

Next, load any and all small game pieces, cards, and accessories into the appropriately-sized plastic bag(s) and seal shut.

Trouble board game pieces loaded into small plastic bags

Load everything back into the (repaired) box (including any boards, dice, pieces, and instructions) and secure with a single large rubber band.

Trouble board game with a larger rubber band around it

Most games have the label on all four sides of the box. So give some thought to how you’ll place the box on your shelf when determining which way to place the rubber band. I chose to wrap mine vertically so that the names are visible from the side but the bands are not.

Board games standing on end with large rubber bands holding them shut

Step 4 – Repeat with All Games

Systematically work through your entire board game collection, assessing the nuances of each game individually.

Monopoly game pieces all a mess inside the box

I mentioned above that this particular set of plastic bags really is a great choice for this project. The size variety allowed me to perfectly store every single piece, card, cash, etc we had within our boxes.

Sorted and organized Monopoly game pieces into small plastic bags

A Note On Interior Packaging

Sometimes, the cardboard/plastic trays within the board game boxes are worth keeping, especially if you need them for the game (like in Monopoly).

Monopoly game pieces sorted and organized inside the box

But if the cardboard is loose or only providing structure for the pieces you’ve now bagged up, you can likely toss the inserts.

Discarded board game inserts and packaing

Step 5 – Place Games (Vertically) on Shelves

Once all your games have been purged, prepped, and banded, they are ready to be placed on your game closet shelves…just like books.

An entire board game collection standing on their sides with rubber bands holding them shut

How you sort your games is entirely up to you.

Options include:

  • Alphabetically
  • Categories (e.g., party, strategy, etc)
  • Audience (e.g., solo, kids, family, adults)
  • Color/Size

I ultimately decided to arrange our board game storage shelves primarily by color. Not only does this look the cleanest, but you also tend to remember games by how they look (another win for keeping boxes!)

Three shelves of organized board games standing on their sides in rainbow color order

NOTE: We did have to place some games on the very top shelf due to size instead – they were just too tall for the other shelves. So no matter what order you choose, size will ultimately need to be considered as well!

Organized game closet with board games standing on their sides and smaller games inside clear bins

Step 6 – Enjoy Finding & Playing Your Games

With your game closet now perfectly organized, it is truly a breeze to pick a game to play, get it out, clean it back up, and put it away. It’s now been a few months since I organized this closet, and our shelves are as neat and tidy as the day I snapped these pictures. I can’t tell you how great it feels to have the games organized in a way that is truly user friendly and totally maintainable!

Perfectly organized game closet with games standing on their sides

This project ranks among my very favorites for a few reasons. First – doesn’t this closet just look so great? I mean…who doesn’t love an organized game closet? I may or may not just open it for a moment of zen from time to time!

But more importantly, I feel like I really took the time the figure out the right board game storage solutions. I could have tossed all the boxes and invested in some containers (that may or may not have worked out) just to have a beautiful display. But instead, I thought about how games really need to be stored in order to be played, and found inexpensive products that ultimately provided the order we needed.

I genuinely hope the ideas and strategies I employed here give you some fresh perspective on organizing your board games once and for all!

See You Soon!