Thursday January 12, 2006

A More Compact Disc Collection

Over the years I have owned various amounts of music. I think I bought my first cassette tape sometime in 1985, and before that I had gathered a small home-brewed collection of stuff copied off my dad’s vinyl. And I’ve always been down with music organization. Even when I was 14 years old with only a dozen or so tapes to my name, I still invested in those little wooden crates which I carefully repainted to my liking.

As my cassette collection plateaued and my CD collection grew, I bought various crates, racks and shelves to stay the onslaught of thin plastic cases. For most of the 90’s, this regular rotation of storage vehicles wasn’t terribly inconvenient and I rather enjoyed proudly displaying my impeccable musical taste to anyone who visited my humble abode. But, alas, there came a time when the display became an eyesore. Perhaps not so much an eyesore as much as visual clutter in the context of my cozy (read: small) apartment spaces. Growing amounts of actual furniture left little space for CD racks and shelves. It was time to simplify.

I had a few particular things I wanted to achieve with my new CD organization system. First and foremost, I wanted the collection to be easily accessible. The CD sleeves/inserts had to accompany the CDs so that I could reference them when needed. Lastly, I wanted a dignified, simple, modular and accessible storage solution for my empty CD cases.

An Easily Accessible Collection

I remembered a friend who had displayed her CD cases out on a shelf but stored the actual CDs and sleeves in binders. Binders!, I thought. Of course! A few bucks later, I had binders in which to transfer my CDs. Whereas my friend had been using each binder pocket to store both a CD and its sleeve/booklet, I chose to reserve the top pockets for sleeves and slip the associated CD in the bottom pocket below the sleeve. The reason for this was two-fold. Some CD booklets are rather thick, and this prevented sliding a CD behind them. Additionally, many of my CDs have great artwork screen printed on them, and I didn’t want that hidden.

This method naturally cuts the binder’s storage capacity in half, but I think it’s well worth the tradeoff in presentational value and consistency. In addition, I left an empty page every 5 pages for future expansion.

Storing the Skeletons

I was still left with all of my CD cases to deal with. For a while they remained on display, which defied the very reason I had adopted the binder system. Then we moved, and they spent months in a nondescript cardboard box. Though they were out of sight, I felt bad about putting them in the same storage caste as my mothballed GI Joe collection and Christmas decorations. This was still part of my music collection, albeit the remnants. It was not the dignified solution I wanted for them. Though they would not be on display, I still felt it was important to keep them organized in some fashion, not just piled in a box..

Fueled by the promise of a new year of clutterless living, I resolved to find a storage solution I could live with. I had looked at various storage cabinets and other furniture-like pieces that would keep the cases well-organized but behind closed doors. The problem was that none of them were scaleable or modular. I knew I would surely outgrow the storage space eventually, and then what? Buy another cabinet? That would put me right back at the beginning.

No, I had to think smaller. Of course the idea of shoebox-size boxes had crossed my mind many times, but there was always a hitch when I came across something along those lines. Either the container was too expensive, too ugly, or not suited for CDs. With the opening of the IKEA store in nearby Frisco last year, I should have known that the my perfect box would have been just a short drive away. Alas, it took me a few months to investigate IKEA’s offerings and finally come across the KASSETT box. At an affordable $6.99 a pair and a capacity of 23 CDs each, it is my ideal solution. They can be arranged to fit in a variety of spaces, and are attractive enough to be stored out in the open if desired.

Everything In Its Right Place

Now that I’ve achieved this state of Zen, I can move on to loftier goals, like lying on beds of nails and fasting for 6 months at a time. Aside from a few hiccups in the system (like figuring out the best way to integrate CD artwork from sleeveless digipaks) and ongoing organization (ah, the joys of alphabetizing a collection), this system is really working for me. My visual space is less cluttered, I don’t feel guilty about where my jewel cases are stored, and I can easily look through all my CDs. Mission accomplished!


Mat » 5729 days ago #

Great setup. I’m looking to rearrange mine shortly so this will help greatly.

Can I ask how you’ve ordered your CDs? I’ve used categories in the past but I tended to struggle remembering what went where so that didn’t last and, ofcourse, alphabetically which is great but when you get a new addition to the collection, you have to take all the cds out of the sleeves to push them down one.

Jared Christensen » 5729 days ago #

Yeah, I do the alphabetical thing. Which can be super time-consuming, but it’s the easiest way to find stuff. I’ve started keeping a blank page every 5 pages to minimize the time it takes to shuffle CDs around when new ones go in the binder. It’s kind of like a fire break, if you will. It keeps the collection broken into smaller, more manageable sections.

Pierce » 5728 days ago #

My favourite is the cronological ordering the main character does in High Fidelity. Your CDs in the order in which you aquired them.

Hard to do, but tells the story of your entire musical history.

I’ve never done it, but it’s good to have some big ideas floating just out of reach.

Josh » 5726 days ago #

I went to the binder system about a year ago, and I haven’t looked back. However, I had the same problem you had. All the cases are stored in a plastic bin in the garage, and now I have to look several places in order to find a case when I need to, not to the mention the fact that any new CDs end up stored in various locations around the house because I don’t feel like rifling through the garage for the bins. This is the second post I’ve seen today recommending IKEA as a storage solution, so I guess I need to take a look! Thanks for the info.

Ben » 5725 days ago #

It does seem like a great idea, however, I’m just hesitant because I have so many CDs to organize. I buy CDs so often that even with a few pages in between, I don’t know how long it would be until I had to move the CDs over and add more pages.

So if you don’t mind me asking, how many CDs do you own? Obviously, an estimate is perfectly fine.

The idea is very appealing though, because this system is extremely portable, clean looking, and well organized. Not to mention that you can seperate them into genres, categories, and things like that.

Jared Christensen » 5725 days ago #

Ben – I’ll just say I have more than one binder. ;) For the audiophile who buys CDs constantly, I think any system other than the ol’ shelf-based system is going to require some extra attention. The great thing about the binders is that the collection is essentially broken up into blocks of 4 (4 CDs: 2 on one side of the page + 2 on the other). If you plan ahead and invest in a couple of empty binders, you can more easily shuffle a few CDs around (for alphabetizing/chronology purposes) and then add another blank page and keep expanding. Then you simply move pages instead of CDs.

Stuart Frisby » 5724 days ago #

Man, that is awesome. Since I moved house my CD collection has been in boxes in my parents attic, which sucks, but, like you, space is at a premium – I may have to follow your example.

James » 5724 days ago #

sorry off topic here but i’m loving the design of this site :)

beth » 5723 days ago #

If you have the space you should consider an Expedit bookcase from Ikea. They come in 5’x5’ and 6’x6’. I have the latter, and it’s ideal for storing vinyl and my cd collection. You can get drawer inserts, and various other accessories to store even more cds in one of the compartments.

counselor » 5697 days ago #

Well I’m going to go to a binder system myself within the next few months as I’m moving and want it done in conjunction with the move.

I have a collection of several thousand discs and have a few plans but also a few questions.

First, I plan to do a modified alphapbetical since I also plan to number each cd, and use an orginaztion system on my computer. That way you don’t have to aphabatize on the fly.

Second, I’d been planning on actually getting rid of the jewel cases themselves (although I haven’t figured out the digipak problem yet) but still need a way to display the back cover art from under the tray.

All the 4 slot to a page binder pages I’ve seen are too small to fit the back cover art.

Any thoughts?

Jared Christensen » 5696 days ago #


You may want to take a look at Volkher Hofman’s CD Sleeves article. He’s found some items that solve the CD back insert issue.

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