Getting Organized

There’s no question that streaming has made significant inroads into the enthusiast market but many of us grew into this hobby through physical media alone, building extensive collections of discs that need to be stored and (hopefully) organized in a way that makes sense to you.

If you’re like me, your collection probably includes high-definition Blu-ray Discs, 4K Blu-rays, and maybe even some older DVDs. Not all older video material, released originally on DVD, was later remastered for Blu-ray. It all depended on how saleable the licensed owners or distributors of the material deemed it to be. Nor can all long-time collectors justify replacing more than a few of their older DVDs with available Blu-rays. Some folks might even believe that DVDs, like Blu-rays, are high definition. Of course, they're not, though they can still look surprisingly good on a reasonably sized projection screen or TV.

I don't claim that my collection is anything but typical, though with a single exception. In the early days of A/V publishing, video content producers would flood Sound & Vision (and other similar publications) with all manner of video discs, hoping for reviews. I reviewed many of them myself, and often scarfed up many of the remnants lying around awaiting reviews that never materialized. I built up a significant collection that way, often using many of these discs for source material in hardware reviews. In the past 10 years or so, however, few such freebie discs have been available for the scarfing. With rare exceptions my collection, as yours, expands today only via a personal credit card and Mr. Amazon!

But when Blu-ray more or less replaced DVD as the highest quality source material, only a few DVDs remained on my shelf. When I lived in Los Angeles I donated hundreds of them to a local assisted-living facility that just happened to have a modest home theater for the residents (only in LA!!). In my current location, many of the unwanted extras now go to my local library, which maintains an extensive disc collection, and not just from me. With the wide range of content now available via streaming, many casual A/V fans are unloading their disc collections, which is a step many of them might well regret.

Nevertheless, like many of you, I have a substantial and still slowly growing collection of movie discs (plus more than a few music Blu-rays and DVDs). I'm estimating it's now at roughly 1,000 titles, most of them Blu-ray or 4K, though I've kept some nostalgic DVDs, certain that I might eventually get around to re-watching them. Many of the latter are sci-fi TV classics such as the full series runs of Farscape, Battlestar Galactica (the new version, not the creaky 1970's production), Star Trek Voyager, Stargate SG1 and even Sliders!

My CD music collection is also large, though I'm now scaling it down a bit. I also have a few hundred LPs, though they get little use today (sorry, vinyl fans). There are even a few dozen remaining Laserdiscs. I still have two Pioneer Laserdisc players stashed in the garage. Older fans will remember when Laserdisc trounced the quality of VHS tape! It can even be said that home theater got its start with the Laserdisc format, and perhaps would never have become a thing if the only source available was lowly VHS tape.

But I digress…

My Disc Storage Strategy
If your A/V collection is of any size you'll need to find a way to store it for easy retrieval of a given title. For years now I've used IKEA's (Billy) bookcases. They allow individual shelves to be easily removed and rearranged. In addition, I also cut several 2x4s to the width of the IKEA shelves and positioned them behind the discs. This made it possible to move the discs a few inches closer to the front of the relatively deep IKEA shelves. Hint: you can also position the 2x4s differently for each shelf (no 2x4, a 2x4 laid flat, a 2x4 upright, or even two 2x4s for a single shelf). This enables titles to sit slightly closer to, or further away from, the front of a given shelf. It allows for positioning discs on higher or lower shelves to sit closer to the front where they'll be more easily visible.

Consider leaving the lowest couple of shelves unused unless you enjoy crawling around on the floor looking for a title. On the other hand, those bottom shelves are great for storing rarely played discs such as those old TV series or even books (books on a bookshelf, what a concept!).

Having now used this filing system for years I recently felt the need to tidy it up and at least slightly modify my filing arrangement. The issue for me was the 50 or so titles I had pulled out to watch for pleasure or use for hardware review fodder that were now scattered around the room. On top of that, some rows of shelved titles were full to overflowing with no room to add more titles. I also had enough as-yet-unwatched new titles to fill an entire shelf so they wouldn’t get “lost” among the hundreds of older titles.

Making room for all of these scattered, unshelved titles required some re-jiggering. I had already shelved my other discs alphabetically, though only in ABC...Z order, and continued that arrangement here. I made no attempt, then or now, to alphabetize all of the titles within each major letter category as that would be obsessive! After re-filing those loose titles, I moved the discs around as needed to maintain the alphabetical arrangement but left enough space at the end of each shelf for two or three future entries. If you don't do this you'll find yourself having to constantly shuffle titles around, which can easily lead to misfiling.

CDs were yet another issue. Half of my collection of around 1,000 discs had been boxed and stored in a closet for years, so I rifled through them, deciding which to keep and which to donate to my local library. More than half of them ended up in the donate pile. The librarians there will either be elated or panicked, since I also have a stack of books to unload on them as well.

I plan to file all of my remaining CDs onto my few remaining, empty shelves, though I haven't yet decided on which arrangement to use (chronological, alphabetical, or autobiographical — to paraphrase one of the best lines from the 2000 movie High Fidelity!)

While I haven't yet gone all in on streaming for music, the time will soon come when I add a suitable music streaming device (more convenient than my phone or computer) to complement the 300-500 or so CD titles that remain in my collection. But a recent editorial in our sister publication Stereophile pointed out that streaming can be dicey, not only in locating titles you want (particularly difficult with classical music) but also because you can never know when a particular streaming service might delete a favorite title, or even all the titles from a favorite artist. That's why you’ll want to keep hard copies of your favorite music. The A/V police aren't going to barge in to seize your collection of movies or music. At least not yet!

PatrickBrown's picture

I recently went through all my CD's and bought 6 of those large 200-disc binders. Grouped by genre I put the booklet on the left and cd beside. works awesome and easy to find what I want. at first I recycled the jewel cases then realized I could sell them. I sold my last box of empty jewel cases for more than I paid for the box of CD's lol

barfle's picture

I’m fortunate enough to have taken up woodworking as a hobby once I retired, so I built shelves for my 1,300 disc LP collection. I built drawers for the smaller digital discs and 45s.

I’m probably buying more media now than at any previous time, and so far there’s plenty of room.

I also blocked the back side of the shelves so the LPs wouldn’t get too far back, and I added LED strips above each shelf so I could actually read the spines.

The setup pictured looks good, but drawers will quadruple your storage space.

Lane's picture

Even though everything is going digital there is always room for nostalgia - after all those of us old enough keep 8 track tapes and LP's. In the same way I suspect DVD's and Blue Rays will be kept of favorite movies and music. In fact we've seen a couple of wine bars installing banks of dvd sleeves beside their wine dispenser. Pretty nice look actually when done nicely.

cap33444's picture

Funny article - I have 6 BILLY's used to store discs and books (and a few VHS tapes). 500++ CDs, but now 480 stored in 4 large CD "Wallet" cases. With a large DVD and Bluray collection taking up too much space about 5 years ago, I got some Case Logic DVD cases, dumb in the begining I shredded the original DVD covers and slip cases & cut them up and folded them into these large binders. Now I'm a lot smarter and only add Blurays (w/o slips) into the case. Box Sets, anything with a slip (or DigiBook) and all UHD discs are on the shelves and w/o some work I'm due to run out of space (maybe by Prime Day)! No room for more Billy's. May have to add non-slip UHD discs to the Case Logic containers. Really funny was that I thought I invented the 2x4 thing for Billy!!! And now, anything I add into a case, I rip to my Plex Media Server, so I only need to go into a case for the old stuff that predates PLEX. Really enjoyed the column.

DeanValley's picture

Even though streaming is increasingly popular, I still believe that physical collections will survive and continue to grow. We can enjoy the amazing picture and sound quality of Blu-ray, merge fruit and 4K discs, along with the convenience and flexibility of streaming services.