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Does Anyone Still Have CDs?

By Dave Fooshe

I may be the only person on the planet who has not converted 100% of my CDs to mp3s. I must admit to a strong reluctance to let them go. I have an iPod shuffle with about 100 favorite songs that I listen to on airplanes, but for most listening I still prefer the sound of CDs played on my stereo system. I also enjoy the process of putting the CD in the player, closing the drawer, pressing play and listening while reading the liner notes or admiring the cover art.

What I do not enjoy is searching through five or six stacks of 20 to 30 CDs each in search of Coltrane’s, ‘My Favorite Things’ or a Chopin Prelude that I heard on the radio and want to listen to again at home. I’ve tried various CD organizers and they all suffer from the same problem: lack of organization. Imagine a file drawer full of files with no labels. Perhaps it’s a problem that will eventually be solved by Musicmatch, WinAmp and the other mp3 players and organizers when I move everything to the computer. Meanwhile, I decided it was time to do something about the stacks.

There are various CD organizers and holders on the market. However, I’ve not seen any that address the real problem of how to find what you’re looking for and, more importantly, how to “file” it when you’re done so that it can be easily found another day. Multi-CD players are popular and some hold 100s of CDs. I have one that plays cartridges of ten CDs. I’ve never been a huge fan of the multi-player. It’s convenient to put in several CDs and let it play, but often you just want to hear one or two songs. Also, unless you have a small collection of music, it doesn’t really solve the organization problem.

As my music collection has grown in recent years, I decided it was time to get serious about the CD situation. As with many problems, it’s worth asking, “How do the experts do it?”  The experts, in this case, being the record stores. They store thousands of CDs that must be available to customers for easy perusal. The usual process involves picking one up, deciding not to buy, and putting it back. This requires a very obvious system for where to put it back so the next customer can find it. In thinking about how this might apply to my situation, I decided to look into storage trays and labels. 

After some searching, my wife Cindi found some very attractive wooden trays that hold about 60 CDs each. We bought four as an experiment. The trays are each 11”W x 13.5”D x 4.5”H.  The standard CD jewel case is about 5”W x 5.5”H x 3/8”.  This size tray allows two rows of about 30 CDs each. 

The next step was labeling. I bought a package of 4” x 6” blank index cards and used a p-touch labeler to create a label for each composer/artist. With the label attached to the end of the card it can be inserted between CDs so that the label sticks out above the CDs. Now I can see very easily where to find each CD, grouped by composer and artist, and where to put it back!

The process of setting up this new system for about 200 CDs took 4-5 hours. Most of the effort went towards creating and affixing labels to the index cards. Now that it’s done, it should be easy to maintain. If I buy a CD by a composer or artist that’s in the collection then it already has a home. If I buy a new composer or artist, it’s a simple matter of creating a label, putting it on the index card and inserting the card and CD alphabetically into the proper tray. As the collection grows, it’s easy enough to add another tray. Finding a suitable home for the trays might be a topic for another organizing article, but I’ve found the trays easily fit on a work table in my office and on shelves in my stereo cabinet.

Total cost for this project was approximately $12.99 x 4 (trays) + $1.99 (index cards) + $29 (if you don’t already have a p-touch) = ~$82 or the cost of about 6 or 7 new CDs, or $55 if you already have a p-touch or similar labeler.

An advantage of this system is it’s very easy to see what you have and therefore avoid buying duplicate CDs. It’s also easy to see how many duplicate or similar CDs you’ve purchased over the years and make the appropriate donations to your friend’s collection or the next garage sale.

After all, how many versions of Beethoven’s Fifth do you really need?


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