How to Organize Your Media Collection

Are you a DVD junkie? A music hoarder? Magazine collector? All of the above? Read on for tips to getting all that stuff in order.

Find an organizer

Whether you choose to raid The Container Store, build shelves or designate a dresser or bookshelf—you'll need a place to store your CDs, mags and/or DVDs. Make sure it can fit your entire collection…or get ready to start tossing. Once that's done, we can move on to the actual organizational part…

Divide and conquer

If you've got a collection of CDs (from the pre-iPod days) that's still taking up space in your closet, how about spending a Sunday afternoon uploading the ones you like to your digital libes and then tossing them all? Got some sentimental attachment to that dusty Pearl Jam album or think your kids will actually want it? Buy a CD tower (if they still sell 'em, otherwise, a DVD tower will also do) to house them, store them in a “save for kids" box or better yet, see if mom or dad will hold onto them.

Organize Your Music Library!
1. Consolidate Artists: It's great to browse your library by artist name, but many albums may list guest appearances too. To remedy this, highlight these featured artists, and cut and paste the information into the song title.

2. Combine Genres
Do you really need to differentiate between alternative, alternative & punk, punk, rock and punk rock? Just keep it simple. Highlight all of the corresponding files, go to "Get Info" under the file menu, and change the genre field to rock.

3. Pick Your Favorites
Don't fill up your library with music that you don't like. We all have albums that we consider masterpieces from the first track to the last, but you don't need to import everything off of that Spin Doctors album you still have lying around. Import only your favorite tunes and forget about the rest of them -- your hard drive will thank you for it.

4. Conver to AAC
All songs are not created equal: MP3 files are significantly bigger than AAC (or M4A) files. iTunes favors AAC, so when you import a CD (or buy it from iTunes) the songs are compressed to AAC. If you download something from a website, chances are, it's an MP3 or an even bigger MPEG file (highlight a track and click "Get Info" to check its format). TO save space, highlight the tracks, click "Advanced" and select "Convert Selection to AAC." Audiophiles claim you lose sound quality when you convert files, but the difference is hardly noticeable.

5. Bring Back the Art
Album artwork is one of the reasons we still cherish our CDs, and you don't have to lose this in the digital world. Typically updated versions of iTunes will automatically add album artwork to your library. These pictures are the perfect size to simply click and drag into the album artwork space of a selected iTunes song.

6. Back It Up
We've all heard the horror stories about hard drives crashing. Do yourself a favor and back up your music on an external hard drive.

Now on to the rest… Gather all your DVDs, Blu-Ray discs and Xbox games, tossing any broken ones. Next, decide how you want to organize them—by alphabet or genre? Create piles according to your chosen organizational method and file them into the organizer you chose in Step 1.

If you're still a print gal or guy (or Aunt Ruth still gives you magazine subscriptions for your birthday), we're gonna bet that you've got mag piles on the coffee table, near the toilet and in the kitchen. We're also willing to bet that by now you're already up to spee with the celeb gossip in last May's People magazine (and if you're not, hopefully you don't still care because everyone's dating someone new now). So it's time to be ruthless with what you toss and what you keep. Get rid of any magazines that are more than three months old—if you didn't have time to read them before, you're not going to have time to read a bunch of old issues and this month's issue. If there's an old issue that you're holding onto for a reason, maybe it's an old LIFE mag that your dad gave you or the New Yorker with your favorite essay of all time, considering finding a home for it on your bookshelf. Then, organize the remaining mags however you want (by title, by month, etc.), and display them in a basket by the couch, a bookshelf or the nifty organizer you found at The Container Store.

Also check out How to Organize your Mail.