Storing board games and puzzles

Storing board games and puzzles can be an unnecessarily cumbersome task. The cardboard boxes are easily damaged and there isn’t a standard size to make stacking simple.

If board game and puzzle organization has you stumped, here are some suggestions for getting your games in order:

  • When acquiring new board games, consider purchasing games in “library” or “book” style boxes. They easily fit on a bookshelf and their standardized sizes make cupboard storage convenient, too. Hasbro has numerous classic games in its library series (Risk, Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry, Clue, Stratego, Life, Jenga, Memory, Chutes and Ladders, and Hi, Ho! Cherry-O). And, many of the Rio Grande games also come in bookshelf-friendly boxes, like Carcassonne and Puerto Rico.
  • To avoid losing pieces, bundle everything but the game board and box into zip-top bags when the game is not in use. It’s a lot easier to find a bag of men, dice, and cards than it is to find a single piece.
  • Use gallon size zip-top bags for puzzle pieces if the puzzle box is damaged. Take a picture of the puzzle box top and put it in with the pieces in the bag. Or, if you’re up for a challenge, just write the name of the puzzle on the bag with a permanent marker and don’t have a picture to follow.
  • If your child is a fan of wood puzzles, the Wire Puzzle Rack can hold more than 10 wooden puzzles of varying sizes.
  • A puzzle mat is good for storing puzzles when you need to put it away but aren’t yet finished working on it.
  • If the box for a game becomes so damaged that it is no longer containing a game, these plastic project boxes hold the pieces and most boards.

How do you store board games and puzzles in your home? Let us know your suggestions in the comments!


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2009.

43 Comments for “Storing board games and puzzles”

  1. posted by Kathy on

    Thanks for this! As a grown up, we don’t have a lot of board games, but we do have plenty of card based grown up games. It drives me crazy when i open up a large box for a new game, and in it is a deck of cards and a timer, and all this cardboard to cradle the 2 things. I find a disposable tupperware or a ziploc bag which fit the pieces, label it, and store them that way, in about 1/10th the size. I keep them in a canvas tote in the closet. SO much easier to deal with, to bring to friends’ houses, etc.

  2. posted by molly on

    I suggest storing them in a closet like in the movie, The Royal Tenenbaums. It was the coolest looking closet ever seen in film! It really isn’t clutter-free but it looks cool.

  3. posted by BigFatDave on

    we stash games in tins whenever possible.
    Chessboards come in roll-up versions, and the pieces fit in a pasta tin or similar well.
    If you’re willing to only have a few score sheets in there, Yahtzee fits in an Altoids tin for travel.
    Some games are fine on a computer as well, anything that doesn’t require hiding your position/options [scrabble, poker or clue] don’t work, but open games like monopoly or trivia games work just fine. Load them up on your laptop, or go extra compact and load them up on a thumb drive for trips, depending on a computer at the destination.

  4. posted by MissPrism on

    I recommend anything by “Cheapass Games”, which not only fit well with the unclutterer ethos (they’re inexpensive and don’t come with men, timers or dice because you’ve probably already got those) but also fit well on a bookshelf.

  5. posted by Rita - Creatively Domestic on

    My post today is about my attempt to organize those darn children’s puzzles. 🙂 My son isn’t old enough to really have gotten into board games, but this gave me great ideas to save for later!

  6. posted by Peter on

    One tip to keep the boxes in better condition is to stack then from small to large… putting larger ones on top of smaller ones. If you do it the other way, the small game might dent the top of the large game. If it dents the bottom, however, it’s less of an issue.

  7. posted by Gumnos on

    We’ve got a trunk (serving dual-purpose as a coffee-table) in which we store our games. It just makes for one more game: a 3d game of Tetris trying to fit them all in there. But they all do.

    Now if only a solid/completed level would remove a row of games, leaving space behind… 🙂

  8. posted by aftermath on

    My problem isn’t storing board games (which we have on our bookshelves) but all the deck of cards that I have. I hate to get rid of them since having 10 decks of cards does come in handy every now and then, but where do they all live in the meantime? For now, they are in ziploc bags.

  9. posted by Allison on

    We have a major board-game collection that we have to store. My husband is a BGG (board game geek)–and I’m one by extension–and we have around 100 games in regular circulation. I found a great wrought iron and wooden shelf at a yard sale, carried it home with a small army of friends, refinished it, and set it up in the game room, which is the dining room. Now we are able to fit all the games, library style, on the shelves. Most of our games come in pretty sturdy boxes (we don’t have many kids’ games yet that come in those terribly flimsy boxes).

    We also took the precaution of buying two boxes of zip-top sandwich and snack baggies, and bagging all the pieces before we set up this shelf. It took two of us working through a whole movie, but we did get everything bagged up properly. Not only does it keep the pieces from falling out all over the place, it makes set up and clean up of all the really complex games we have much simpler (way less sorting). I highly encourage the baggie route.

  10. posted by Peter on

    Is a relatively plain corner couch from Ikea, and the corner piece folds up like a lid to allow storage. We’ve found it perfect for all the monopoly style boxes.

  11. posted by purlyshell on

    Even the regular sized games (the long rectangular boxes) we store like books on a shelf. It makes it so much easier to get them down. Like mentioned above, we put the pieces in baggies so that they won’t scatter all over in the event the box opens while getting it down.

  12. posted by Houston on

    Instead of photographing the puzzles, I just cut off the puzzle box-top and drop it in the bag with the pieces.

  13. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    We have a designated cabinet in the basement for games, otherwise they’d get thrown all over the place!

  14. posted by Hippykidz on

    For the board games and the like I bought some adjustable wire shelveing. It just fits in the closet in our L/R. All of the games with boxes in good shape get satcked there with the “Mom and Dad” games on the upper shelves. I use shoe boxes to keep the Zip top bags of games without boxes and stack the boards. The puzzles go in a zip top almost as soon as they come in the house. I too just cut the pic. right off the box. Those in turn go in a huge canvas tote that hangs off the closet shelving. And as long as I go in once and while to combat my kids organizational skills. Things stay pretty tidy.

  15. posted by momofthree on

    We have replaced worn out favorite games with the library style or wooden boxes. These are a little more costly, but the containers sure last a whole lot longer.

    My china cabinet has become the games and book cabinet: board games are stacked in the bottom cabinet. the two drawers for silverware and/or linens hold all the smaller games and deck of cards and the upper glass door/wood shelves display space hold three shelves worth of our favorite paperback/hard cover books. Also in the drawers is a small ziplock bag ™ with an assortment of playing pieces in case we should happen to lose one along the way.

    Kids puzzles–cut the front off the box and used clear contact paper ™ to attach it to a zip lock bag. All bags, same size, were then placed in a rubbermaid ™ latch top container. I used the smaller pictures from the sides of the puzzle box and more contact paper to label the box, so the kids knew what puzzles belonged in which latch top container.

  16. posted by Kat on

    I’m a big fan of storing things in zipper bags that sheets and pillow cases come in (not Ziploc bags). Kids puzzles are perfect for this (adult puzzles too). If you’re an organizing freak you can even rig a wire or narrow rod to hang the bags that have a hook on them.

    I’ve also found that the box that a Zune comes in makes a super strong, superior box (though I don’t know where I’ll come up with more than 2). It’s a perfect fit for Connect 4 and the plain white is very easy on the eyes.

    As for board games I plan to have a game room someday where all of our older style boards are displayed on the wall (Sorry, Parcheesi, Chutes and Ladders – I have about 8 and I’m still collecting). Then we’ll just keep the coordinating pieces in zipper bags in our trunk.

    ‘Love the ideas – keep ’em coming!

  17. posted by Brian on

    On the advice of a board-game-addicted friend, I recently started using boxbands (four way rubber bands). Lets me keep everything the same box without worries about it coming open and spilling the contents.

    We use the upper shelf of a spare closet, so other than making sure everything stays closed, not much worry about storage.

  18. posted by Jesse on

    We have a game table, it’s the size and configuration of a side table so it sits next to the couch. It looks great (dark stained wood), and contains all the pieces and boards for Scrabble, Monopoly, checkers, chess and Backgammon. There’s room in the drawers for a couple decks of cards also…all neat and self-contained!

  19. posted by Squash on

    If you keep games in boxes, you are mostly just storing air. Board games must be among the most over packaged things out there. For most of our board games , we have thrown away the box and keep all the boards stacked together. We then bag up all the components for each game and put it in a ziplock bag with the rules, label it, and keep all the components in one plastic crate labelled, “board games”. This takes up about half the space of all those game boxes.

    Another plastic crate labelled “cards, dice, counters, dominoes” holds all the card games, etc. some of which I keep in their small boxes, and some of which are just kept in an elastic band with the rules.

    Children’s games with larger plastic components are more difficult to store, as they are bulky whatever way you keep them. They tend to be the games with flimsy boxes too. Again, I bag up the components and put them in a plastic crate labelled “Large parts”

    Having said that, some of our newer, higher-quality games, which come in sturdier boxes, which we keep in a neat stack. I guess I just can’t bring myself to throw out the box when I have paid $90AUD for all that packaging!

    My only reservation in throwing away the boxes is that it may make the games less attractive when they are given to an op shop/thrift store at the end of their life.

  20. posted by MrPages on

    We too use large zip-top bags for puzzles, but we have an added step: We number the bags. When the puzzle is completed for the first time, we flip it over and write the number on the back of each piece with a ballpoint pen or a pencil. This way, when we inevitably find that single piece under the piano, we know exactly where it belongs. We also keep notes on every puzzle bag with a sharpie telling how many pieces there are, and if there are any missing and where the missing piece goes (“left hand border”) to prevent later frustration. We either cut the top off the box and put it in the bag so we can follow the picture, or scan the box and print it smaller so it will fit better.

    Unless a board game comes in a good bookshelf box, we often put the pieces and cards in a zip-top bag (with an index card that lists an inventory so we can count to be sure) and then we store the game boards separately. We have a stack of boards and a rubbermaid container of bags containing game pieces. Far less space used that those horrible, poor quality game boxes.

  21. posted by Connie on

    This is a good idea. Has anyone tried the Puzzle Mat? They seem flimsy.

  22. posted by just me on

    We store the pieces in school boxes inside our coffee table. School boxes stacked on one side, boards on the other.

    Some pics:

  23. posted by ns on

    i agree with squash. all of my board games are stacked together, with the misc. pieces, cards, etc. in a ziplock bag. no need to store air or awkward-sized boxes!

  24. posted by Elizabeth on

    I actually have been storing my board games in what I think was intended to be the pantry of my condo. It’s a deep cabinet with a very short space between the shelves, so it’s rather perfect for board games. But I’m getting a little frustrated because I have them double rowed to fill the space, and it makes it awkward to get to the ones I want, since those are always in the back.

    I’m going to be changing them over to some shelving in another closet instead so I can grab them easier, but I have taken all of my different versions of Trivial Pursuit and combined them into one box so that those aren’t taking up as much space anymore. I plan to go through and see if there are any others I can do that with sometime soon.

  25. posted by tabatha on

    if the box to a puzzle is damanged and you have a big enough bag you can just cut the top and any intructions that might be on the box out and put those in the bag with the pieces as well. or i am sure there are probably plastic totes that will hold board games. they come in every other size.

  26. posted by tabatha on

    my brother use a puzzle mat and they are flimsy but thats so you can roll it up when you are not working on the puzzle, the pieces stay together, he never seemed to have any problems with it, and he did a lot of puzzles.

  27. posted by Zora on

    I’ve never been much for board games with friends. I used to play online games (Ultima, Puzzle Pirates) but I don’t have time for them now. I play games I can play by myself, on the computer. No need to store game boards or game pieces.

    I don’t need cards because I play computer solitaire. Also computer mahjongg solitaire (the current craze). I don’t need jigsaw puzzles because I bought Brainsbreaker, a shareware jigsaw puzzle program that can turn any jpeg (a kind of computer image file) into a puzzle. You get to choose the kind of pieces you like and the number of pieces. I have harvested dozens of interesting pictures from the web and use them as jigsaw puzzles. What works are pictures with a high pixel count and clear, bright colors. Anything too fuzzy, dark, or murky doesn’t work well in a puzzle.

    The best things about doing jigsaw puzzles on the computer are 1) you can never lose a piece, and 2) the cats can’t jump onto the puzzle and slide it off onto the floor.

  28. posted by Another Deb on

    I have had good luck using clear packaging tape to reinforce the flimsy boxes on children’s games ahead of the first use.

    There used to be 30 kids in my classroom for half an hour every morning, rampaging through the boxes to get their favorite games out, then rushing to put them away. Baggies were great for the pieces and the tape held the boxes up for about a year’s worth of this constant use.

    I stored them on shelves stacked 3-4 deep only.

  29. posted by Taylor at Household Management 101 on

    My son loves puzzles, and has lots and lots of them. We have stored them all in a big plastic tub which he keeps in his room, and he gets one box out at a time. He gets out his “puzzle board” to work it on, since doing it directly on the carpet can be frustrating for him because the surface is not completely flat. Puzzle boards are just some small painting canvases we bought and store behind the tub of puzzles.

    Some of the puzzle boxes, with use, start to get worn. He likes to look at the picture though, so we just reinforce the boxes with clear packaging tape. Then they are quite sturdy and he can look at the picture as he works.

  30. posted by Cassie J. on

    A neat way to decorate the game room: Velcro the game boards onto the wall. Store all relevant game pieces and instructions in baggies.

  31. posted by Jen on

    I purchased a plastic storage container with tray drawers–like you would buy for nuts and bolts in the garage. I take the pieces from a game, place them in the drawer, then label it. The boards are stacked flat in my games cupboard along with the storage container. When we want to pull out a game, we grab the appropriate drawer and board and off we go. Some games require more than I drawer, but that’s not a problem. It’s easy to find a piece to “borrow” when a game is missing something, too.

  32. posted by Melinda on

    why can’t they sell board games with plastic or tin boxes? The cardboard always falls apart.

  33. posted by Sarah on

    Although the board games are creeping over into my craft storage (I surrendered a shelf after Christmas, and will likely lose another one after the husband’s birthday), I would never consider separating the board and pieces from the box. The value of keeping a set together is a higher priority for us than how much space it takes up on the shelf. If that means I’m not allowed to read Unclutterer anymore, so be it!

  34. posted by terryann on

    I put them in a single closet too… on a metal shelve unit… it also keeps our christmas wrapping supplies… it is actually fun to go in there and try to find just the game you want… No light however, so bring your flashlight! ?

  35. posted by Dave on

    Game boxes… One of our favorite games is the Settlers of Catan, and we bought all the expansions, so we actually have six of the Catan games that are played together (Catan, Seafarers, Cities & Knights, plus all the 5-6 player expansions for each). I took a collectible card case (about the size of a small toolbox or tackle box) and cut one side for the long pieces, while everything else fits in the slots. Six games, one box, with a convenient carrying handle!

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  37. posted by Covarr on

    While I like the suggestions, I followed the link to Stratego book and found that it seems not to be made anymore. This is a pity, because Stratego is my second favorite Hasbro game, behind Catch Phrase.

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  42. posted by addictive games on

    It’s only 20$, has about 50 games on it, and the cost of that game plus a brand new DS is still cheaper than a DSi.

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