Some families have a tradition called family game night. It goes something like this: you get together with your family, play a board game, and (hopefully) a good time is had by all. Sounds awesome, right? Sign me up! I’m all for giving this a try and getting my kids away from their computers and game consoles for a little while. My only problem was that our board game cabinet was a mess. It was a scary avalanche situation. It wasn’t pretty. Not to mention, we couldn’t really see what was in there because of the mess. It was time to clean it out and organize.
Want to watch my process? In this video I walk through what I did to achieve an organized, useable space.
Setting My Intention: Less Is More
The photo below was my starting point. I decided that my goal for this project was to a) start a fun family tradition and b) only keep the games we actually play. This was a good time to remind myself that I needed to declutter and simplify in order to reach this goal. The fewer items we have the easier it’ll be to find the games we want to play AND the more room we’ll have in case we want to add new games to our collection.
I also wanted to complete this project without having to buy anything because simplifying kind of implies having less stuff. So here’s what I wasn’t going to do: buy board game storage containers. I’ve seen organizing bloggers do this and it really does look lovely and Pinterest-worthy. It probably also makes things easier to stack and retrieve. But I’m not a fan of plastic and I really like the original game boxes (more on that later). Plus, I had some containers that I wasn’t using so I thought I’d try using those and some creativity to make this work.
The plan was simple–remove things from the cabinet and have more room to store what was left. We have limited space (i.e., the size of the cabinet) so we could only keep as much as we could comfortably put into it. Unfortunately, simple isn’t always easy. The hard part was going to be deciding what had to go.
Getting the Kids Involved (Maybe)
I’m fully aware that people follow different schools of thought when it comes to whether or not to involve their kids in an organizing project. Some people are for and other people are against. I’m in the for camp. At the end of the day, this particular cabinet holds items that belong to them because we either bought it for them or they received it as a gift. I believe they should have a say or at the very least be informed about what happens to their stuff. Even if we end up not keeping everything they want to keep, I think it’s important that they get to make some decisions. I see it as a potential life lesson and a skill building exercise. They will need to learn how to make decisions about their things eventually.
But if you’re the type who prefers to clear things out in the middle of the night and hope your kids don’t notice then I understand. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
My little one is like me–he gets attached to stuff for sentimental reasons. His older brother doesn’t really care about parting with his stuff at all. My boys have very different ways of dealing with their things. We needed to work together and be realistic about what we would actually be using in this cabinet. This was going to take some serious teamwork! So one lazy Sunday afternoon, I decided to take a look through the cabinet and figure out what the boys actually wanted to keep. This wasn’t organizing day; I was just testing the waters to see what reaction I got and what they would be willing to part with.
I assumed we could get rid of things like Candy Land and some of the other younger kid games. Nope! Even though I thought my boys had outgrown some of these games, they wanted to keep them and play with them….that same day. You just never know, which is why working together is important.
There were some other games my little one was on the fence about, but from his reaction I could tell that if these things went away, he probably wouldn’t miss them.
Sentimental Stuff (aka My Kryptonite)
There was some stuff in there that was hard for ME to part with! If you’ve read my blog post about sentimental clutter you know that I have a hard time getting rid of my kids’ stuff. Every item has sentimental value so this was a challenge for me. We still had toddler games in there and an alphabet puzzle given to my 12-year-old when he was a year old. Just seeing the box made me emotional. It didn’t really matter that there’s a letter missing or that my boys will never want to play with it again; the thought of letting go was painful. But the reality is that I have hundreds of items from that phase of their childhood and I know I can’t keep them all. It was time to let go and the game cabinet was a good place to start.
As I took everything out I was shocked by the amount of stuff in there. It was like a clown car; I counted 41 items in total! I don’t even know how it all fit. I’m sure things may have started out somewhat organized but when you have that much stuff in a space it’s bound to get messy. Keeping all these games meant constantly rearranging things to get them to fit. And honestly, nobody has time for that.
Once the games were out and sorted, putting things back was easy because when you remove a quarter of the stuff you have (11 items!) you’ll probably have a lot more breathing room. Also, some of the items in this cabinet are consumable, so once the items in the box are used up the box will be thrown away.
I’m a big fan of keeping original boxes for games because they take up less space. It would have looked better if I had gotten matching containers, but the boxes the games come in are the perfect size to fit all the pieces. So if I keep the original boxes (and tape them up when they rip), I’m ahead in terms of not using up more space than I have to. Cardboard game boxes are great; they’re environmentally friendly and efficient!
Unfortunately, not all the game boxes survived. There were some that were beyond repair. And there are games you can’t put back into the box once you assemble the pieces. So I ended up using some plastic bins that I bought for another project and never used. I actually felt bad about buying those bins and then running out of time to return them. Being able to use them for this project was a win!
How Long It Took
With everything that needs to get done at home on a daily basis and the occasional freelance gig, I generally don’t have time to dedicate hours to an organizing project. It has to fit into a one or two hour (if I’m lucky) time slot. And this one took just under two hours. Most of the that time was spent negotiating what we were going to keep and tidying up the game pieces that my kids just kind of throw back in the box when they’re done playing.
Here are a few valuable takeaways I learned during this project:
- Less is more. The fewer board games you have the easier it will be to access them once it comes time to play. Plus, having too many choices is just overwhelming.
- It’s a good idea to have a pre-organizing day. Talk to your kids about what they want to keep. It’s much easier to go back later and organize when the kids aren’t around.
- When it comes to decluttering, teamwork is key especially for your kids’ stuff. Get their buy-in to avoid the tears and complaints later.
- Cardboard game boxes are awesome! As long as you keep them in good shape they do the job they’re meant to do.
I hope this motivates you to start a game night tradition in your home. We’ve definitely been playing a lot more board games now that we have fewer to choose from and can see what we have.
If you have any suggestions or think there’s something I’ve missed, feel free to leave a comment. I’m always looking for ideas to make my organizing easier.