Organize Books, CDs, & DVDs

Create a personal library system

Do you love your books? Do you have hundreds? Do you find yourself occasionally buying a book only to discover that you already have it? Even if you have only a few books, you might have hundreds of CDs or videos. Or you might collect specific magazines. If so, you're overdue for a media organizing afternoon or weekend.

Most organizational books propose a single method of organization for everyone, but one size rarely fits all. To get the most out of an organizing project:

  1. You need to know yourself and your preferences.
  2. Edit your collection.
  3. Take a complete inventory of the material in and range of your collection.
  4. Establish a process to maintain your collection.

You can edit your media collection first, before inventorying it, or you can inventory it and use the inventory to decide what to get rid of. It's a personal choice and different people take alternate approaches. Either one will take you to the end goal.

About various media

One source may suggest organizing your books alphabetically by title or author. Another, might suggest organizing by activity and location—that is, putting the cookbooks in the kitchen, professional reference books near your desk, and light reading in your bedroom. You can organize books to promote good feng shui or by Dewey decimal system. The point is not what system you choose, but that you choose a system that makes sense to you, and which is also practical and easy to maintain.

Typically, the more organized among us store their records and CDs with their music systems, videos with their TV or theater system, and computer games and software with their computer. However, there are many of us who have no system and we're lucky if the media end up in the same room. The kids (or significant others) cart music off to play on the computer or load into their iPods. It's easy to invest hundreds of dollars in CDs and videos, yet not know where to find a particular piece when you want it. Software should be stored so it's clear what it is, version, and systems it may be loaded on. Drivers for various peripherals should be collected and stored for easy retrieval.

Weeding out your media library

A critical part of organizing your library is establishing a process to edit your material. You'll need to come up with a series of questions you'll use to decide whether it's time to liberate an item by donating, selling, or disposing of it. Every one is different. The key to success is to make sure your questions apply to you. The important questions might include:

Deciding to get rid of CDs, books, and videos can be disconcerting for audio- or bibliophiles. Still, there is nothing more liberating than having enough space for those books that are important to you or music that you never grow tired of. Books that have outdated content such as old computer books can be recycled; the same goes for software applications. Unless you need them to write the history of computers, the chances are good you won't be using them again anytime soon. Other criteria for getting rid of books includes damage; marginal content when you have other similar, but better, books; and books you've never read and KNOW you'll never read, music that fails to inspire you, or B-grade videos you know you'll never watch again.

You may think of other reasons to retain or discard material, but unless you have endless amounts of shelf space for books, CDs, and DVDs or tapes, you need a good personal system of acquisition and disposal. Storing books in boxes just doesn't work.

Give your functional castoffs to any organization you can think of who might be able to make use of them either through resale or use. Host a book exchange or donate to a shelter. The only limitation of where to send them is your imagination.

Cataloging and keeping track

If you have only a couple shelves of books, organize them according to your preference, dust them well, and call it a day. If you have a variety of books, CDs, and videos scattered throughout your home, you may have a secret desire to establish your own library in one location or maybe several small collections depending on how you use them. Many professional organizers encourage clients to put like items together close to their point of use. However, with multiple systems it's possible for family members to take a CD or book that disappears into the black hole they call their bedroom. Good luck finding it again. There is a case for organizing everything in one place if you're so inclined.

Some people are content to create an Excel spreadsheet with title and author. Others like a more robust database approach. And still others want a software application that allows them to use a bar code reader to scan the UPC code or ISBN numbers.

Software applications are available that make it possible to input just an ISBN number and they will do the heavy lifting by searching specific locations like Amazon or the Library of Congress for information pertaining to your books, music, and videos. What might have taken days, takes only hours and the result is pretty comprehensive. Most applications are relatively inexpensive. Depending on the software you choose, you can create book lists for insurance or export to a PDA so you can see what you own as well as sort by a number of fields. Most even give you the ability to track loans.

Organizing your media

Once you've sorted your media, established a location and cataloged each piece, you've probably come up with a way to organize that suits you. Approaches to organizing material include the following variations:

When you are finished you will be able to find what you want when you need it, provide a location for each piece, and simplify your life by creating a maintainable system that works for you. Weeding out the nonessential and maintaining what you have liberates you to do more than search for books and CDs knowing that they have to be there ...somewhere.


Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life —This is one of the best books available on getting organized, but the motivation still starts with you.

Do you need a finish carpenter to help you create the storage you need for your library? Find a qualified pro through ContractorNexus .

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