Any organization monsters out there? Got any tips?

Vinyl, originally uploaded by Sumlin.

So this weekend my special lady friend (h/t Lebowski) is dancing across the water to Cortes Island for some Permaculture-type meeting, organizing and learning… Leaving us Lamb Boyz to fend for ourselves. I have a few household tasks I hope to tackle while she’s gone, but none more daunting than getting the vinyl organized.

We don’t have a massive collection but it is sizable enough that I can’t accurately estimate how many records are on the shelves. My best guess would be just under a thousand LPs. Multiple moves and countless booze-fueled late-night spinning sessions have thoroughly randomized them all. Not so bad for serendipitous browsing but a nightmare when looking for something specific.

So my plan is to put the boy to bed tonight and whip myself into a vinyl listening/organizing frenzy. But I am haunted by the fear that I will waste hours of time with inefficient sorting methods. My mind does not naturally lend itself to establishing sound processes. I did some searching on terms like “alphabetizing process” or “organize albums” but mostly come up with techie gooble, library documentation or furniture ads. What I want are three or four simple (they have to be simple given the mental state I’ll be in) effective steps and principles that will get me though this.

As of now this is what I got:

* Pull about 1/4 of the vinyl off the shelves so there’s room to work, and set them aside

* Set up simple categories (I think I will go with rock/weirdo/blues as one, since they blur together so often; jazz; and classical)

* Use cardboard dividers to break down the sections a bit (A-C; D-F; etc…), and roughly sort what’s on the shelves

* Do a precise alphabetization of each section

* Shelve the 1/4 of the collection that was pulled aside

And when I’m done, I’ll alphabetize the books! [Cue maniacal laughter]

Does this make sense?

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Any organization monsters out there? Got any tips?

  1. I’m not sure that it will HELP, exactly, but it’s important to keep in mind the relevant material from High Fidelity, extracted at

  2. tannis says:

    Hmm, I love stuff like this, although you’d never know it from looking at my house.

    The initial organising part is easy, but it’s maintaining the system over time that is hard for me. Colours work for me, so I would give each category a colour and if I was feeling super nerdy I would put a coloured dot on each album to indicate the category I felt it belonged in, and to speed up refiling. Plus it makes it *fun* for your offspring to help you clean up because they can follow the colour scheme. I would skip on the precise alphabetisation (b/c who has time to maintain that?) and just keep an A-B-C section in each category. A letter on the coloured sticker might also help junior with his early literacy skills as he’s helping you maintain order.

  3. Brian says:

    Hugh — thanks, I do love that section of the book, which is a real comfort read.

    I can’t imagine how long it would take me to do an autobiographical sort — especially since I’ve merged my collection with my SLF, and we’ve received some significant donations over the years (100 lbs in a locked crate by bus about 18 months ago from a wonderfully kind soul).

    But I do expect some serious nostalgia jags to get kicked up in any event. It’s kind of like organizing old letters.

  4. Brian says:

    Interesting suggestions Tannis, the coloured stickers are a wrinkle worth pondering. I have to confess, I find it hard to let go of the idea of alphabetizing, even if I won’t be able to maintain it. I’m imagining a tremendous sense of aesthetic satisfaction, though I doubt the payoff will be anywhere near that…

  5. Brian says:

    And do I need a separate section for folk/world music? ARRGGGHHHHHHH

  6. Peter Rock says:

    Does this make any sense?

    A “booze-fueled late-night spinning session” makes perfect sense. I suggest you start there and THEN make decisions about organization. 😉

  7. Gardner says:

    Augh–I have so much post-due work to do, and you’re going to blog about vinyl NOW? Right there, second vein from the left, nice ‘n easy….

    I have (I’m guessing) about 1500 LPs, although that number may be low because a) I bought a record-cleaning machine a couple of years ago (Nitty Gritty brand) and b) that purchase made me a LOT bolder about buying used records and c) I have a favorite record store just down the road in Richmond that has a lot of pristine and interesting albums from one to three dollars a pop, so I can finally get into early Andrew Gold, and d) I hang out at the Steve Hoffman forum (, where anyone with any kind of vinyl or cd or really and kind of recorded music collection should go for truly scary obsessive endless time-sucking pleasure.

    I alphabetize my albums thus: rock (broadly construed as largely electric popular music), jazz, classical, folk/blues/acoustic, Christmas, sound effects/comedy/novelty/spoken word. I think that’s it. Within each category I will come up with some completely ad hoc scheme for organizing multiple copies of albums: date purchased, condition of cover, country of origin, mono/stereo (crucial for Sgt. Pepper’s), and now matrix numbers (the stuff scrawled or stamped in the area between the grooves and the label). I like to do acts of small defiance here and there, like filing Mike Oldfield under classical. A friend once noted that and said, “that’s quite a compliment to Mike,” thereby justifying the entire experiment for me.

    If you pose your question to the Steve Hoffman forum, you’ll get tremendous entertainment value. Try it today!

    Also, for some reason there are a LOT of Canadians on the forum, and they’ll be tickled to welcome you.

  8. Keira says:

    Our old system, which was a system I had also maintained for 15 years before we met, had 3 categories- jazz, classical, “rock” (folk, blues, reggae etc), alphabetized by last name. We did fine with that for years. It was the H-bomb that really broke down the system.

    But I think he’s far enough along, as are we as parents, to maintain that again. The real question is where do we get more space? There are no more walls for books or records. It’s time for a vinyl cull.

    So how do you know when it’s time to give up a record? Some of the cheesiest are the most delightful to pull out occasionally.

    But there’s going to be more records to welcome in. Romina, the turntablist []/permaculturist/nexialist [ who I drove up to Cortes with yesterday got me excited about buying electronic and dance music on vinyl.

    Beyond the undeniable pleasure of the medium itself she views it as a kind of quality control- people have to really, really want to make a record these days to make it happen. And usually to believe in it that much, a lot of other people have had to dig it too. I’m revising my stance on keeping “digital” music to the digital realm entirely.

    So maybe make a cheese pile as you go along. We can put it aside for a while in the laundry room. Later on we can check in after a certain period of time and if we still feel like ditching them, we send them off into the great, big spinning world. More shelf space!

  9. Amy says:

    We used to try and sort the CDs and the vinyl by music type, but that never worked out. Is Johnny Cash only categoized in Country? What about his later albums?

    In the end we two categories: Jazz and Everything Else. From there it’s alphabetized by last name/band name. That way it’s still organized enough to find items, and Blue Rodeo can sit next to Beck and the Beatles.

  10. Brian says:

    Gardner — Love the comments. There’s no way I could sustain that degree of management, but your riff illustrates how organization can be an art as well as a science. And there’s no way I can avoid checking out your vinyl or that shop someday!

    Peter — you and your blog do indeed Rock.

    Keira — I’ve finally figured out a way to get my special lady friend to favour my blog with a comments. Don’t worry hon, I won’t tax your mommy brain with a new system.

    Amy — you hit on why I did not go too deep with subcategories. For country — what about the Flying Burrito Brothers? For blues, what about ZZ Top (how about early or late ZZ Top)?

    I think that subcategorization does allow for a certain amount of expression in its own right, as Gardo illustrates. But really, I’m just trying to reestablish some semblance of order. So I went with the old system — classical, jazz and everything else… but I am adding a section for “unclassifiable” (spoken word, story albums, some soundtracks).

    So I got about 80% done, but as the shelves fill out, it definitely slows down and gets more grueling.

  11. Brooks says:

    my question is, does j. giles band go under j or g?

  12. Brian says:

    Brooks – J. Geils was an actual person in the band, so I’d say G for sure. But Lynyrd Skynyrd goes under L.

    One that I struggle with: Captain Beefheart under C?

Comments are closed.