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Mar 30, 2009 posted by Matt
It’s Gotta Be Easy
Last time I was talking about what happens when you have a bad organizing principle. Knowing what’s broken is good, but it’s not the same being able to fix it. What makes up a good organizing principle? Let’s start at the start.
It’s Got To Be Easy.
Let me illustrate. When I was in high school, I lived in the boonies. This mostly sucked, because I had to get up early every day so my mom could drive me to school. The day I turned 16, my parents gave me the keys to the old minivan and told me I was now free to drive myself to school. Apparently, they also thought it sucked.
The bonus here (other than having a sweet ’92 Plymouth Voyager as my ride) was that the minivan used to be my Dad’s work car, so I got the CD player he had installed. It still had factory speakers, so it wasn’t blowing anybody away, but at least I didn’t have to listen to… the radio. You’re picturing it now, aren’t you? Me, driving around in my sweet minivan with the windows down blaring Metallica and driving way too fast for my own good. I can tell you are in awe of my high school self, that’s not the point.
The point is that I started putting a lot of CDs in my car. Hundreds of CDs. Which needed organizing. I bought a giant CD binder and got to work tirelessly putting my CDs into the binder in alphabetical order. “What about adding new discs?”, you may be smugly asking. That’s why I bought the binder. When I bought a new album, I’d just insert an empty sleave at the appropriate point and shift a few discs.
This worked great, as long as I was the only person who used it. It’s not that other people didn’t understand the system. Even half-trained monkeys and freshmen could see at one glance that it was alphabetical. It’s that it was too much damned work. It was really my clever “insert an empty sleave” strategy that turned out to be my undoing. Every time I added an empty sleave, people had to think harder about where exactly a CD went. Nobody likes to think, so they’d just throw their hands and stick it in the first empty slot that had the same first letter. Or adjacent letter. Or some letters in common. Or on the back seat.
It really didn’t work out. I thought that as long as everyone knew what the system was, I’d be fine. No way, Jose. Everybody knew how it worked. It was plain as day. It didn’t matter. Too much work is too much work. Unless you’re carpooling with the OCD club, it’s not gonna fly.
I tried unsuccesfully to solve this problem for awhile, but ultimately it got solved for me. At the start of my Junior year, my car was broken into and all my CDs were stolen. When I started building back my collection, I was pretty wary of putting them back in my car lest they get stolen again. That’s when I started making copies my CDs and putting the copies in my car. After a few weeks of this, I realized that I had removed the need to keep things organized because I didn’t need to care what happened to them. If it got lost or scratched or stolen, I’d just burn another one. I could make many copies, so it was easier to find. Ultimately, I brought the whole system down to the level of effort that normal people were willing to put in (nothing).
You might be thinking at this point “I don’t think this applies to me.” You could be right, but I doubt it. Everybody overcomplicates something. Here’s a simpler, if less interesting example.
I’m at a friend’s house and I go to her room. There’s a mess on her desk: balled up paper, some candy wrappers, some napkins, etc. Trash. In the opposite corner of the room sits the trash can, mostly empty. When I asked her why she didn’t move the trash can to her desk, she explained that she used it as part of her morning routine and didn’t want to move it to an inconvenient spot.
Solution: Buy Another Trash Can.
It will cost you $10, but you use that desk every day and every piece of crap on it inconveniences you more than you know.
The moral here is that it doesn’t matter if your system has 2 steps or 20, if it’s more work than people are willing to do then it just isn’t going to work. You need to make it easier. Way easier.
posted by email@example.com on Jan 28, 2010 at 5:28 pm
I understand the frustrations of organizing CD’s.
I have approx. 700, mostly metal. I keep them in a bookcase in the closet, but it’s full, so there are stacks beside it.
For my car, I do this:
My stereo died (it played cassettes anyway) so I replaced it with a CD/CD-R/CD-RW player that can also read .mp3 discs, as well as having an input for an .mp3 player.
I basically rip my CD’s to .mp3 format, and cram as many as I can onto a disc. I usually can get a band’s entire discography on one disc, though a few have required two. I made a folder for each album, and put the songs in the album order by naming them with 01, 02, 03…at the beginning of the song. If I let it play through, it will start with the earliest albums (or demoes if I have them) and play on up to the newest material.
It’s time consuming, but I have a lot of songs at my disposal, and if they get lost or stolen, no problem: the originals are home safe.
For ones I haven’t gotten to yet, I’ll just pick a few CD’s to listen to and take them with me. When I’m done, I just rotate them back. That can sometimes force me to listen to ones that would otherwise get neglected.
The stereo also has a remote which actually is usefull. I can advance tracks, albums (folders) and adjust the volume without leaning forward or looking at the stereo, which allows me to keep my eyes on the road, and mirrors in view.
I’ve been pleased with this set up. I sometimes miss my old cassettes though. Something about playing them in the car…
BTW, your collection is impressive!