The Busy Girl’s Guide to Game Shelves…

Shelves of Shame. Kaelex. Oversized Boxes. Shelfies. BoxThrone. Custom Inserts. No matter how you stack it, board game storage is a big deal. What does how and where you keep your board games have to do with the busy girl. Girl, EVERYTHING. Proper organization and storage of your games makes choosing, finding, setting up, and putting away a snap, making more time for playing and less time digging through the chaos to try to find that one deck builder everyone likes. Here’s our tips for having a place for everything, and everything in its place.

1 – Create a system – You need a system. What makes the most sense to you and fits with the way you game. If you’re likely to want to find a game by name, shoot for alphabetical. More of a browser, think categories. Examples – do you usually have to choose based on number of players? Are certain genres (heavy euro, wargames, legacy) limited to particular folks in your group? Size/spread matters more if you frequently travel to game. Family games vs casual games vs hardcore games? Whatever your ‘mechanic’ for choosing is, you can build a system around it!

2 – How many similar games do you have? I have loved many a heavy euro game. And for a long time I kept every one of them. Until one day we realized there was almost one full shelving unit dedicated to heavy euros… Evaluate your games! Did something you formerly love get replaced by a recent edition with a slightly better twist? Do you really need every single Ticket to Ride map (be honest, you’re probably only pulling out the same couple maps every game night.) How many deckbuilders/worker placement/hidden role games do you pull out regularly for your game group? Keep 3-4 of each type (maybe even 5-6 of your favorite mechanic) and bless someone else with the spares.

3 – Find a reviewer you trust or a great borrowing library – Sometimes we wind up with an expensive purchase taking up valuable space because of buyers guilt; you spent $60 on it and hated it but its staying on that shelf til you’ve looked at it sixty bucks worth. Avoid the game regret blues by finding a reviewer that you agree with most of the time. Going in open eyed is so much better than carrying home a new purchase, opening the box, and realizing just the 30 page instruction book is a huge ‘Nope’ for you. Even better – find a great borrowing library at a FLGS or local convention and try before you buy.

4 – Share the wealth – Most folks game with a fairly consistent circle of friends. Or a regular circle to play XYZ games with (your war games group, your legacy fellowship)  Does every one of you need a copy of Castles of Burgundy? Who plays what the most often, or whose house is it usually played at? Designate more than one keeper of the games and you’ll make everyone’s shelves a little lighter.

5. Recycle/Up-cycle extra boxes- You don’t need every box that every expansion ever came in. No really, you don’t. Lots of boxes are being made with space for expansions now, and with the number of insert manufacturers its super easy to store three, four, or even five expansions safely and comfortably in the base game box. Biggest advantage? No trying to hunt down that somewhat smaller box that got put elsewhere because of its size and is now shoved behind another stack of expansions. (Hate the thought of just tossing the box? Frame the cover as art for the game room or reuse the box for storage elsewhere in your house.)

6 – When’s the last time you played… – Is something gathering dust on your shelves? The board game industry is not just constantly producing lots of new games, but lots of games that are improvements on established favorites. Has Viticulture replaced Stone Age for you? Do you prefer the stations in Ticket to Ride Europe over the America board? Take a page from professional organizers – keep track of what you’re using to see if its still useful. Take a few games and put them in your bedroom closet. If you don’t pull them out in the next three month there’s a good chance they’re not coming out at all.

7 – Game Apps – While we’ll never advocate going fully digital, there are some phenomenal apps that make player your favorites a breeze. I’ve converted entirely to Twilight Struggle through Steam solely because I can skip the 15 minute set up, cruise straight into playing, and when I’m done there’s no cleanup! Add in that extra space I have on the shelf and its a win/win overall. And there’s apps on just about any platform for a number of popular games.

8 – Alternative shelving and storage solutions – Hard to keep your shelves neat and organized? What solution does work for your lifestyle? Bins of each genre in a closet? Different games in the rooms they’re more likely to be played in? Purse games with your bags, travel games with your luggage? Converting the coat closet to board game storage? Pretty hobby shelves that alternate board games and related books and crafts? Giant behemoth spread games near the biggest table in the house? Think outside the box when it comes to organizing your collection.

9 – The bits box – We’re all put things carefully away on game night, only to step on a loose meeple two days later. If your first inclination isn’t to put it away, designate a special place for ‘bits’ – half a leftover expansion box, a dice bag that sits at eye level on the main shelf, whatever – just be sure its noticeable and that you’re consistent about putting things there so you’ll know where to look the next time you pull out the game.

Organization may not be the first thing that comes to mind when I say time-saving, but you’ll be surprised how many hours you gain when everything is in proper order and you can put your hands on it quickly and easily.

A stitch in time saves nine!