Reader Nancy submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I’m about to finally get a storage unit for music CDs; it resembles an old-fashioned library card catalog. Should I organize the CDs by composer, performer, genre, piece type (symponies, concertos)? What makes the most sense? Almost all are classical but there are some “easy listening.” Many thanks for considering my question.
Your question is about music CDs, but my response can be applied to organizing many other types of physical materials — especially papers and books. And, the answer is simple:
Organize items in the way that makes the most sense to you.
If you’re the person retrieving items and also the person who is putting them away after you use them, you’re much more likely to maintain order in the system if it makes complete sense to you.
How would you want to search for the CDs so you find the exact CD you want exactly when you want it? For me, that would be according to genre (all classical together, all easy listening together, all rock together) and then subdivide according to composer (all Mozart together, all Beethoven, etc.) and then subdivide by work (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik) and then alphabetize by performance group or performer or conductor. I’d organize the CDs this way only because I usually have a desire to hear a particular piece of music. If you’re someone who usually desires to hear a particular performer or conductor, you would want to arrange to reflect that search preference.
I also recommend labeling your system well so if someone else approaches your CDs (or files or books) he or she can locate items and put them back.
If you’re not the only person regularly accessing the CDs, you need to develop the organizing system with the other people who will use it. Find the most agreeable solution and then make sure everyone is trained on how to organize the materials so things are returned after use.
Another good idea is to always leave room for growth and change. You don’t want things so closely packed into a space that it’s difficult to put items away or to move items around, if necessary.
Finally, you might also consider digitizing your CD collection. I realize this would take a considerable amount of time and expense, since I doubt you would want to compress the files. But, it’s definitely something to consider if you plan to expand your collection. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that people are very emotionally attached to their music collections and suggesting digitizing it can be taken as offensive. However, it does make storage and retrieval extremely simple, and you never have to worry about a CD getting scratched or something not being returned to its storage space after it is used.
Thank you, Nancy, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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