What is your single most important tip for keeping your books, magazines, software and other physical media organized? (549)
The key to keeping your physical media organized is to have as little as possible. Only keep the absolute essentials and either trash or convert to a digital file what you want to keep.
For example, I don’t purchase any fiction books– the library is perfect for that. I only keep books that I will either read again or reference in the future.
CD’s and DVD’s are easy to convert to digital files and centralize on an external hard drive (be sure to back it up!)
Basically, if you drastically reduce the amount of physical media in your life the problem of organizing it will resolve itself.
Sam’s answer was the highest rated from this question. Using the library is something I often overlook. I have converted almost all of my CDs to digital and I now store them in a large box in a barn.
Purge! You can’t organize clutter…and clutter is stuff that you don’t use or love.
If you haven’t read a magazine in three months, throw it (and consider your total amount of subscriptions).
If you clean out your computer, purge the software.
Give yourself permission to never read the stacks of books that have piled up and get rid of them. If you decide you really want to read it in the future, you can get it from the library or buy it again.
LJ from simpleproductivityblog (rss)
With the second most popular answer, LJ encourages us to get rid of stuff we don’t need. With the cost of books being so low (especially getting things used on Amazon) it can make sense to get rid of something and just buy it again when it is needed.
My secret trick to keeping physical media organized is to have as little of it as possible.
I don’t buy books very often–I check them out from the library, so I don’t have to worry about storing books. I used to get a number of magazines, but this year I unsubscribed from all of them. I’ve kept my old magazines (they’re on a shelf in my closet), and I still enjoy looking through them sometimes, but I don’t have to deal with a constant influx of reading material.
Just streamlining possessions really helps cut down on clutter.
Sharon Sarmiento from eSoup
A related tip is to only buy something when you are going to use it immediately. If a book looks interesting, but you won’t have time to read it right away, just write the title down and keep it in a list of things to read later. When you have time to read it you can purchase or borrow the book.
Get the digital versions if possible. If they are not available, using magazine holders and having lots of book cases are what works for me.
Oh and… when in doubt… throw it out…
John Richardson from Success Begins Today (rss)
I don’t mind digital versions of magazines, newspapers, and fiction on my Sony Reader, but I tend to want hard copy of books that I might use again or loan to someone else. On bookshelves, I bought a bunch of folding wooden bookshelves when they were on sale for half price. They fold up so they are easy to move and they are real wood (not particle board) so they tend to outlast other shelves.
Digitize it. If you can get it in a digital format, you’re off to the races.
If you can’t, the traditional old bookshelf or filing cabinets are a great start, as long don’t give yourself too much room to expand. This sounds counter-intuitive, but if there’s a space, something will fill it, and you’ll end up with more clutter. Having just enough room to contain your essential physical media without much room for growth forces you to get as much done or acquired digitally as you can.
http://www.joelfalconer.com from Joel Falconer (rss)
If you have a bookshelf with extra space, consider putting a plant or picture in the extra space. You can remove it when you need the room, but it will help keep you from just throwing something else in the space because it is empty.
I think the best way you can keep your books and magazines organized is by arranging them according to topics and subjects and then keeping them in order of their priority. Like , if you read any particular book or magazine frequently, keep it on top of the pack or in front portion of the shelf. This way you won’t need to disturb the pile of books when you want that particualr book.
The same goes with softwares and physical media. Here you may also consider sticking small labels onto them which can help you identify them easily when you need them.
Topical organization for books is a great idea. If you have a house with bookshelves in various places you can arrange topics based on location. Cooking books near the kitchen. Business books near the office. Picture books near the den.
For me, my biggest struggle with physical media is the sheer amount of information contained in the books I read that needs to be used in my blog. I use sticky notes and mark pages with the info I want. When finished reading a book, I record all those notes into a spreadsheet.
Later, when I’m creating a blog post and I’m trying to remember where I read something, I search the spreadsheet, locate the page number, and have the full reference in front of me. It has saved me tons of time.
Jason from World Fitness Network (rss)
Jason has a great method for keeping track of information. I’ve heard some other people say that they read a book with a voice recorder handy and note the page number and any thoughts they have as they go. They then send the audio file off to have it transcribed.
The biggest tip would relate to books. I like reading books a lot, but don’t have a lot of space, so I check books out of the library. I take notes on the books I read online, so I can refer back to them later.
Anne from Writers Cabal Blog(rss)
Another vote for making better use of the library.
Don’t have too much of it! Set limits on how much of this stuff you have and then it’s easy to organize.
Ariane Benefit from Neat & Simple Living (rss)
Getting rid of things that you don’t need any more can be very valuable. That book on photoshop might be worth $7 now, but will be worth nothing in two years. Selling the extra items on Amazon helps move things out and gives you some cash as well
Forget about alphabetizing. It can drive an obsessive person crazy, and alienate everyone in your home and office. If you have an extensive collection of “things”, I would recommend software called “Paper Tiger.” It’s an all-inclusive product with multiple licenses where you just place your media/books/magazines in a row, enter the location and place a number on the item. When you are looking for something, you simply check the program. Our company has implemented it for a Sony design library and a Natural Foods Bakery accounting office. Does away with the need to alphabetize and you can check things in/out which works well for architectural and interior design firms with extensive collections of drawings and samples. http://thepapertiger.com/
John Trosko from OrganizingLA Blog (rss)
I haven’t ever used The Paper Tiger, but the idea sounds interesting. Unfortunately all I can find is a PC version.
Purge your media! I use the library and SimplyAudiobooks.com as much as possible, taking notes and then returning the books in order to keep clutter to a minimum.
Eva Holtz from College Admissions Secrets (rss)
I use to use Audible back when they had a really good subscription plan. I could get all the books I could listen to for about $20 per month. This worked great until they changed their plans.
I use a relatively unconventional method. I have 3 stacks (literal stacks) of books. If it’s on or under my nightstand, it needs to be read. That is my primary stack. If it’s something that I’ve read and I think it has great information that I think I will reference frequently, it’s in a stack nearest my desk. The third stack are those books that don’t fit on my bookshelf :)
Nathan Snell from The Technopian(rss)
This is a new method I haven’t heard of. I’m afraid my stack of things to read would topple. :)
Thanks for publishing my answer and thanks to anyone who voted for my response. I really enjoyed reading everybody’s methods and techniques.
I can see the point of a lot of this, but getting rid of a book on the grounds that one can just borrow it from the library only works if one reads solely classics or up-to-date pop fiction. Even repurchasing can be a problem for some kinds of books. I love FH Burnett’s adult novels–but try finding most of them at all, let alone at a reasonable price or in decent shape. Same goes for many of the children’s books of my childhood. When I want to reread those, I can go straight to my shelves. If I had to find them again it could take weeks and more money than I can afford…
James @ Organize IT says
Some interesting points here but just because getting rid of your physical media and putting it on your computer might give you more space it won’t necessarily mean you are any less cluttered. Physical clutter, digital clutter… it’s all the same thing and you can follow the same rules about de-cluttering. I suppose I’m still quite old fashioned when it comes to physical media (I’ve detailed some of the reason why at my blog), I just like to have the actual product in my hands, particularly if it’s an album or film that I really appreciate. If it’s not something I especially care about I can sell it on and keep my media streamlined.
Mark Shead says
@James – I would argue that a directory of 1000 searchable PDF’s is less cluttered than a box full of 1000 sheets of paper or booklets because the time to find an item is significantly less because of search.
Joel Falconer says
Thanks, Mark, for publishing my response again! These interviews have been great reading and I love the insight into the way various people work.
It is exactly with these thoughts I started kind of cataloging all that I own, from CDs to books to every damn physical thing I can lay my hand on. Only when you look at it from a holistic perspective of why you have all those things that you have, an answer will come. In all probability you will want ot purge a lot of your stuff. Paperbacks, old mags, product manuals, even my classics collection was the first to go. But If I do intend to read something, ebooks just dont cut it, Paper is the only way. And those are the one that will stay in my collection. With 2 or 3 books by my bediside.
I work hard to avoid being a pack rat. Technology books are generally out of date after 2 + years and I don’t have to show off to anyone how smart I am by having a wall full of books that are out of date.