Over the years I’ve accumulated a few CDs. And while I once proudly stored my collection in a classy little case with glass doors and chrome handles, those days of modest numbers and persistent caretaking have fallen by the wayside. And while I do still curate my DVD/BD collection #LikeABoss, the CDs have long been relegated to massive storage bins. They’re in no order. I can never find anything. And when I do try to find something I inevitably get crabby, scrap the whole idea and put the iPod on random.

Thus, I bring you the life and times of 30Hz: The Great CD Organization of 2013

CD Organization - The Bins

One of the three bigass bins.

The closet/storage area that houses the CD bins has become a touchy marital subject. While I see it as out-of-sight, out-of-mind storage, my wife (and her x-ray cluttervision) sees a reservoir of unused garbage. While I’d never admit to her face that she’s more right than wrong in this debate, she is, actually, on the side of reason here. I don’t use most of that stuff in there, but I’m a nostalgia junkie and, like any self-respecting alcoholic who keeps some Bombay Sapphire in the toilet tank, I’ve got to stash the goods somewhere.

So as part of a birthday/Christmas gift to her, I’ve promised to exorcise the storage area, throwing away or donating unused stuff I’ve stashed, removing the garbage, really just putting things where they belong. As I began to tackle the project, I again came across those three bins of CDs and decided that something had to be done. This time, for my own sanity.

I searched the web for CD organization ideas. It seems most people these days just want to drop their CDs off at the nearest dump. Since when have we become so obsessed with purging clutter that innocent tunes had to suffer? After some digging, I finally came across an old post on Making It Lovely, a blog dedicated to decluttering that also, apparently, appreciated the appeal of keeping physical media. It’s rarer than you think. Most of these sites want to send their CDs to Walmart to have them all ripped onto a hard drive for a small fortune. Forget that.

I adjusted some of the recommendations from the blog to fit my own collection and my own varied needs, needs which also included space for some classic NES and Genesis video games and some podcasting/computer add-ons that needed to be handy, in addition to the 700+ CDs.


Here’s my recipe:


Hopen dresser from IKEA

Ikea Hopen dresser

The dresser really fits the bill. It’s neutral, inoffensive and actually passed the wife-appeal test. Anything above “It’s not hideous” totally passes inspection.

DiscSox CD Pro sleeves

DiscSox CD Pro

I went with the DiscSox Pro CD organization sleeves over some of the competing sleeves because the DiscSox are made with enviro-friendly polypropylene and the polypropylene fabric backing means the information side of the disk shouldn’t stick or degrade as a result of contact with the sleeve. There are a number of options. I liked these because I could also insert both cover art front and back. The back sticks up and can be used for cataloguing/identifying in the drawers. I had a very strong recommendation for the product and the good folks at mmdesign. (And my experience with them backed up that recommendation. I emailed questions and had answers within minutes. They also gladly extended a sale price for me when I missed the end date by a couple days.) But feel free to do your own comparison shopping. The Jazz Loft cases also came highly recommended.

¼” wooden dowels, cut into 17” lengths

Solved this with a trip to Michael’s. And true to form, I got seriously “Michaeled.” There were 20+ people waiting in line and only two cashiers manning the register. One was tied up with a return. It took me 15 minutes to pay $4 for 8 dowels. CURSE YOU, MICHAELS. (Three out of four times you go into Michael’s, you will get Michaeled. It’s law of physics established by Sir Isaac Newton, right alongside gravity.)



Inserting the sleeves into the cases became a massive undertaking, thankfully it was mindless and could be done while watching a movie. I do recommend that you keep some bandages handy to put on the fingers that contact the backing as you insert the CDs and cover artwork. I needed one on the thumb that pried open the back of the CD jewel case and one on the middle finger of my hand that slid the CD into the sleeve. After one session I tore up the skin on both fingers. Prevention is wise, my friends.

The next question: what to do with all of your jewel cases?

All of my CDs resulted in approximately 4 contractor bags full of plastic jewel cases. Here’s the tricky part. Most recycling centers do not accept jewel cases because of the material used in production. Make sure to check, though! If you’re rich AND green-conscious, there are some very expensive options. You can send your jewel cases into companies like GreenDisk and pay a hefty fee for being an awesome human. Alternatively, you can contact your local used CD shops and ask if they’d accept a donation of jewel cases. They can reuse them to replace trade-ins with broken cases. I’m still working on distributing the last of mine. So. Many. Jewel. Cases.

30Hz tip: be sure to keep some for yourself. If you ever want to trade or sell some of those CDs still in your collection you’ll need a jewel case. If, after all this, you don’t have a jewel case on hand, you might blow a gasket. Seriously. You can rubber band them together and use them as spacers at the back your rows. Even with the drawers fully extended it’s difficult to reach the back. The jewel case spacers prevent you from overstuffing the drawers.


The drawers of the Hopen dresser measure 17” from front to back. Cut your dowels accordingly. Cut your dowels a smidge too long and then shave off the ends with some course sandpaper. This way you’ll wind up with better fitting dowels. The ends will be flat and you can use tension to hold them in place.

Once you have your dowels cut and measured, place unused dowels at the front and back of the drawer. Measure 5.6” from the left side of the drawer and place a mark on the small ledge at the front of the drawer. I used a silver sharpie to mark the spot. Now place your cut dowel in the drawer so that it rests on the top of the horizontally-placed dowels at that mark. I held the dowel in place and put hot glue around the circumference of the dowel to secure it. Repeat three more times across the width of the drawer every 5.6”.

CD Organization - Dowel placement

30Hz tip: place a CD down in the drawer after every dowel so you know you made your measurement marks correctly.

All that I have left to do is create alphabetical tabs and finish the sorting. I turned three massive bins, plus another big case into two dresser drawers. TWO DRAWERS. I’m still shocked at how little space they all took up. That even includes the cardboard CD cases. I elected to keep those in their original case because they’re generally slim and more often that not, the artwork is part of the packaging and cannot be removed.

The whole process wasn’t cheap. The CD Sleeves can be expensive when you’re condensing large collections. But the cost of the sleeves is relative. Now I can actually find the CDs I want, when I want them. They weren’t being used because I couldn’t stand the search. Before I might as well have dumped them all at my local used media store. Now I can use and enjoy them. Also, from now own when I’m deciding on whether or not to buy (or even keep a CD I already own), I’ll ask myself if that CD is sponge-worthy. And by sponge-worthy, I mean sleeve-worthy.


Hopefully this inspires some of you downsize your media AND maintain that library of killer jams you’ve worked decades to curate.

UPDATE 12/13/13

Here are a few pictures from the completed project.

CD Organization - Finished drawer

Finished top drawer with dividers

CD Organization - Finished drawer (w/ supplies)

Finished third drawer. Room for extra dividers, sleeves.

CD Organizatoin - DiscSox back

Sleeve back (which I use for the front so you can see the spine label)

CD Organization - sleeve front

Sleeve front (contains slip, CD between two plies of polyethylene fabric)

The Great 30Hz CD Organization of 2013

by jdp time to read: 6 min