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I have a CD collection of around 500 albums. They are placed alphabetically by artist on around 10 shelves (shelves are vertically aligned one above the other, and are bounded on the sides). The first CD is on the top shelf in the leftmost position. The next CD is to the right of it. When a shelf is filled, the next CD goes on shelf below, again on the left. A nice and simple solution. Everything is already sorted, and I can find a specific CD really quickly this way.

The problem is that when I buy a new CD, I need to stick it in its correct alphabetical position. To make room for it (as the shelf is already full), I need to remove the rightmost CD from the shelf, and move that removed CD to the leftmost position in the next shelf. As there is no room either, I need to repeat this process shelf by shelf until I get to the bottom. Effectively shifting around tens or hundreds of CDs each time I need to insert a single one!

This is really annoying me. One solution I've tried was to leave an empty space of around 5-10 CDs in each shelf. Things got better, however it is only a temporary solution. Soon enough these gaps got filled again and I am back to square one.

I wonder if there are any suggestions for getting around this problem permanently (and, no, starting to buy digital albums online isn't an acceptable answer :) )? Surely I'm not the first one having it.

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There is no way you can keep them alphabetically sorted which doesn't require resorting (and/or reorganising) from time to time. Your best option in the physical realm is to leave room at end of shelves, like you described. But it does require a reorganisation from time to time. When reorganising do remember to start at the last shelf.

To avoid reorganising the shelves, you'll have to forego alphabetic order. An option then could be to number each CD, and have an alphabetical list next to your shelves for easy lookup.

My alternate solution has been to buy CDs, digitalising them, and then let my music player sort albums automatically. If you extend this with assigning a number to the CD when importing them, you could store them in sequential order, use the music player (of your choice) to sort the albums and play them, and get the cover for extra information by number if so needed.

  • Very nice ideas. I like the numbering system - I think I'm going to give it a go. BTW - I also digitalize every new album I get - however I still need to play the actual disk once in a while (e.g, in the cd player of my car) – Legato Aug 24 '15 at 14:36
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As holroy says in his answer, there is no "permanent" solution which will keep you from ever having to reorganize. Eventually, you'll fill all the shelves and need a new CD rack.

Leaving space at the end of each shelf is about the best you can do. You can do that a little more intelligently by estimating how often you're getting CDs from artists whose names start with a particular letter. Look at your CD rack as it is now, and make a histogram of artists by first letter. Leave the most space on the most common letter, and the least space on the least common letter. Suppose you've got 100 empty spaces on the rack in total, and 10% of your albums start with A - leave 10 empty spots on the shelf with A. If only 1% of your albums start with X, just leave a single empty spot there. That way, you'll avoid reorganizing when you buy 10 A albums before you've bought your second X album. It's a little more complicated with multiple letters on the same shelf or multiple shelves for a single letter, but you get the idea. Of course, you might run into trouble when you discover a pile of CDs by Queen or ZZ Top in the bargain bin...

  • awesome answer! :) a bit of an overkill for me, but very creative. Indeed the lack of 1:1 ratio between shelves and letters makes it harder to implement. – Legato Aug 24 '15 at 14:41
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I scanned all my CDs into lossless FLAC files on a file server, and stored the origianal discs in plain flat plastic envelopes that are archival quality for that purpose.

Each track or album has metadata attached, and I used different directory structures for each genre as appropriate. The computer can search based on any attribute, and I can make playlists and symbolic-link directories to organize how I want on dumb players that just show the directory structure.

The entire original disc set (sans jewel cases) fits in a nice wood and leather chest. Another program called Readerware keeps an inventory I can search by any field: once I find the disc by any way of searching, I can see the actual disc name (say, an anthology collection) and a storage field can remind me where I put it; e.g. is it in the Christmas collection or the Chinese collection etc.

I use Readerware for books too. If you don't scan but need frequent access to the hard media, that's what I do with books and DVDs. The storage field tells me which box it's stored in or which shelf it's kept on.

enter image description here Note that envelopes in a tray is much easier to insert things into that Jewel cases! I use DiscSox products. For my 500+ DVDs I have pull-out trays with flat envelopes that are 1/5 the bulk of DVD boxes. Tall index cards for each letter of the alphabet, and inserting a new item is no big deal, unlike re-arranging hard jewel cases across shelves!

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easy way for me (1000cds):

shelfes are 10 columns x 7 rows x ~20 cds in each compartment

from top to bottom roughly by genre (pop -> rock -> electronic -> hiphop), from left to right roughly quiet to powerful, artist and bands with connecion stay together, whatever their name may be. so in the middle right is a place, where the white stripe stand next to the raconteurs, the dead weather, jack white, the kills and queens of the stone age.

this system may not be the most obvious, but it works great for finding a special music in a mood. there is plenty of space in the shelfes, new bought cds mostly fit in easily.

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