All Fun & Games: A Game & Puzzle Storage Solution That Takes Up Less Space

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I can be a little OCD:


I was the girl whose Barbie dolls sat perfectly arranged on the shelf wearing not only their original, untampered-with hairstyles, but the apparel they came in, as well.  Oh, I dressed them in different clothes when I played with them, but always made sure to put their original outfits back on when putting them away for another day.

I never messed with their hair, because I knew that once you undid a Barbie hairstyle, you could never put it back exactly how it was.

That's why what I did with our game and puzzle storage came as such a shock to G.

Remember that scene from Along Came Polly , where she liberates him from the bed pillows?

Well, that was me a few weeks ago with our game closet.  (I still spend the 8 minutes a day with the pillows, which continues to exasperate G).

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I love to play games.  Board games, card games, acting games, word games, trivia games, drawing games, alphabet games, you name it, I'll probably be up for playing it.   

So you can probably guess that we own quite a few games and puzzles in our house.  Games and puzzles that have been taking up two shelves in our guest room closet, which amounts to about a third of the total six-foot-wide space in there that we could use for, say, more books, since we don't have many of those around this place.

This idea probably began brewing in my little brain at the end of last summer.  I'd had to pack up my entire classroom and bring everything home from school, since I was taking an extended maternity leave.  Oh, the amount of stuff in that filled two SUVs and a minivan and I still had to give up and just leave some things for the next teacher to (hopefully) use.

Once I got it all home, it filled our garage, driving me nuts with the need to organize it and put it all away somewhere as quickly as possible.  (Which was not that quick, since I had newborn Gv to look after feed nonstop while doing it!)

My mission was to pare down as much as possible, and to pack away what I was keeping into as small a space as I could.

I'd had several games and puzzles in my classroom (imagine that!) and unfortunately, most of the boxes were pretty well beaten-up by years of use by teams of first- and second-graders.  I didn't want to toss the games, so I grabbed some plastic storage bags and a pair of scissors and came up with a solution.

I stuck all the game "innards" into a bag (usually one-gallon-sized) and then cut out whatever portions of the box were necessary to stick in with it.  Not all games needed box-cutting, but some games had their directions on the back, or I'd want to include the picture from a puzzle box.

This turned my classroom game and puzzle collection into such a manageable grouping that I was able to fit it all into one small dresser drawer.

In the ensuing months, I would think about what a difference that storage trick had made whenever I opened up our guest room closet and felt overwhelmed by the amount of space taken up by all those game boxes crowded up on those two shelves.

Finally, I decided to take the plunge and treat them the same way.

There was a lot of grimacing and unease in the process, but I am so glad I didn't let it hold me back!

I now have:

One small, skinny reusable shopping bag full of puzzles:

One larger reusable shopping bag full of board games:

And one small drawstring backpack full of card and travel games:

I chose bags to store everything in because it's so easy to just grab a bag to bring out into the family room and then everyone can see what games there are to choose from.  As Gv gets older, however, I might switch to storing them all in one storage box.  We'll see, but for now I'm happy with the bags.  I especially love how I have the drawstring backpack set up, because it's so simple to grab and bring with us if we're heading out the door for a picnic at the park.

How much is in each bag?  Well...

The puzzles bag holds 8 puzzles (like this one and this one and this one ). Some even fit into sandwich-sized bags!  I also have one of those Melissa & Doug Magnetic Dress-Up Sets in here.

The board game bag holds 17 games.  One board is too long to fit in a plastic storage bag, so it sits to the side of the smaller bags.  The rest of the games all fit together in their own individual bag.  Some of my favorites in there are this, this,  this one and this .

I loved when I would open up a game box and discover a board that was folded into quarters, because that meant it would take up less room:

The travel bag holds 10 card games, a Velcro ball and catch game , a Frisbee , 10 decks of regular playing cards , a dice game , a set of regular dice , and our awesome game books.  I also keep a small pad of paper and some pens & pencils in the pocket for every-ready score keeping, along with a playing card tray .  I think the games in this bag are my absolute favorites.  I don't know if it's because they're so portable, or because I play them more often, or what, but here are my favorites from this bag: 

& this version of Trivial Pursuit

And I have to say, there are still four games that I kept in their original box up on the closet shelf:
  1. The original mousetrap game, from when I was a kid (this is a newer edition)
  2. A very old Scrabble game that has this really fancy board, from G's childhood
  3. A fancy anniversary-edition of Monopoly
  4. Rubik's Race , which has a large game tray and was one of my favorites as a kid
Remember, this storage tip is coming to you from the gal who hyper-organizes her closet (and, uh, maybe everything else, too) in ROYGBIV order.  So liberate yourself from bulky boxes and try this idea out for yourself!  You'll be amazed at how much space you gain in the process!

What do you think?  Crazy idea, or borderline genius?  Do you like the idea of storing them all in bags, like I'm currently doing, or would storing them all in one large box work better for you?  Let me know - comment here or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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