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Your Problem:

CDs piled everywhere

Guy McCarter’s wife, Joanne, describes her 44-year-old husband variously as a music aficionado, collector, and fanatic. She brought 10 CD’s to the marriage; he brought a meticulously alphabetized collection of 800. Ten years and two children later, alphabetizing is a thing of the past and CDs are piled two deep on the shelves of a floor to ceiling closet in the couple’s New York City loft, along with cleaning products, toys, and craft projects. Although everyone in the family loves music, they play the same CDs over and over again because it’s too hard to find the ones they want. Guy works in entertainment marketing, and if he needs a specific CD for work, “we go out and buy it rather than try to find it,” says Joanne.


Does the idea of throwing out the plastic jewel cases that come with CDs make you cringe? If not, then zippered CD notebooks with plastic pockets for the discs and liner notes are the easiest, most space-saving system. On the other hand, if you can’t bear to part with the jewel cases, you’ll need shelves.


Whether you opt for notebooks or shelves, you need to order your CDs. Pull them out in batches and sort them into piles. All of Joanne and Guy’s CD’s are rock, so they are sorted alphabetically. If your collection contains more than one type of music, sort by genre, then sort each pile alphabetically by artist. Once you’ve established your piles, determine how many notebooks or shelves you need.

NOTEBOOKS Keep in mind that to prevent damage, each CD requires two pockets; one for the disk and one for the liner notes. Leave empty pages at the back of each book for new purchases, then integrate them every few months.

SHELVES Many CD racks and shelves not only waste space but also make rooms feel like a college dorm. Instead of investing in cumbersome freestanding furniture, look for an adjustable bracketed shelf system that you can conceal inside a closet.


  • If every member of the household has his or her own music, organize CD’s by person, assigning everyone a different colored notebook or a shelf.
  • If you can live without your jewel cases, use Koskin CD wallets (208 CD capacity; 104 with notes). If you’re having separation anxiety about your jewel cases, keep in mind you can buy new ones at record stores for about 50 cents apiece.
  • If you’re ready to part with at least some of your CDs, sell them on the Web. Best bet: amazon.com. Go to “Sell Items” to register and list your offerings. Amazon collects 99 cents plus 15 percent of the sale price, and then credits the rest into your checking account. You’re required to ship the merchandise to the buyer within two business days.
  • An adjustable wall-mounted Elfa CD and video center (measures 8 feet tall by 24 inches wide) holds CDs in their jewel cases.

Real Simple

Keep new and favorite CDs close at hand for easy access.

Real Simple