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The Ultimate Guide to Organizing Your Vinyl

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Cardboard box? No. Tall stack in the garage? Definitely not. A very special corner of the attic? Strike three. When it comes to storing and organizing vinyl, some of the most cliche spots are actually the worst offenders in causing warping, scratches and cracks. Give your vinyl collection a little love this month by taking the time to properly store and organize it. Here’s a simple guide to get you started:

Four Basic Laws of Vinyl Storage

1. Store in a temperature-controlled space: By now you’ve probably seen those little Pinterest bowls made of vinyl records heated in an oven over a bowl. Sure, they’re cute – until you accidentally make one of your own by storing vinyl in a hot attic, your car or even the garage. Vinyl does best at around 65 to 70 degrees, so keep it inside with you in a cool, dry place to prevent warping and moldy covers.

2. Avoid proximity to heat sources: When choosing a place to store your records, avoid anywhere that’s close to direct sunlight or a radiator or heat source. Even if your collection is lovingly displayed indoors, heat from any of these things can just as easily damage your records.

3. Never stack your records: Creating album piles is a cardinal sin of vinyl collecting. Always store your records upright, as even leaning them heavily on one another can create too much pressure, causing your records to warp or scratch. Plus, when you want to find one to play, it’s much easier and less damaging to just slide one out than to have to dig through an entire stack.

4. Replace old and damaged sleeves: It’s usually recommended that you remove the plastic wrap from records as soon as you get them so it doesn’t shrink or damage the album cover. You’ll also want to keep some acid-free plastic inner sleeves handy so you can replace damaged or moldy ones and keep your collection as clean and safe as possible.

The Best Containers

You know you need to store your records inside and keep them in an upright position, but what are some good options for album storage? Thankfully, it’s really common to incorporate vinyl into the overall decor of your space, so the options are pretty limitless. Of course this will depend on the size of your collection, but here are a few cool options that caught our eye.

1. The DIY Record Shelf

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If you scan Pinterest or take a look online, you can find tons of great ideas for DIY vinyl shelves made of everything from pallets to crates and plywood.

2. The Magazine Rack

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As long as it doesn’t have a serious slant, almost any magazine rack or magazine holder will double brilliantly as great LP storage space. We found this one on Etsy but you can get as creative as you want.

3. The Cube

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Whether it’s a cubed shelf or a bench like the one pictured above (found on Apartment Therapy), open-faced cubes make a perfect nest for your albums, as they divide them into groups and prevent the pressure that comes from one long line of leaning LPs.

4. The Drawer Method

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Also found on Apartment Therapy, these drawers by designer Kenneth Brown are enough to make any audiophile drool. Whether you have something built in like this or you just find a properly sized filing cabinet, organizing vinyl in drawers is another great option. The only downside of this one is that you can’t easily see the records’ spines so you have to thumb through them from the top (unless you have something like Brown’s design that features a clear front).

5. The Library

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Even if this photo from House to Home doesn’t seem like a reality for you, consider finding a bookshelf or open space where you can store your records in a library-like fashion. This is a definite plus for accessibility, practicality and organization.

Organizational Strategies

Before you rip all the books off your shelves and start stashing your vinyl, you’ll want to give some thought to how you want to organize them. The big question here is practicality and personal preference. How do you listen to your records? Do you go through phases when you get on a kick of one genre or style or are you more apt to want to locate a specific artist at a moment’s notice? Here are a few options to consider, though you’ll have to make the final call.

1. Alphabetical by Artist Name

This one is pretty straight to the point. If you just want to be able to find any artist at any time (or you want your roommate to understand your system and put your albums back in the correct spot after borrowing them), you may want to consider a super simple system like this. If you do this, you’ll probably want to take advice from the library and catalogue by last name.

2. In Subsets By Genre

If you want to emulate the record store experience, consider cataloguing your vinyl by genre. Feel like listening to something jazzy? Rather than wracking your brain for the exact artist you want to hear, you can just peruse your jazz section and see who strikes your fancy. And if you’re really into organization, you can always organize them alphabetically within each of those genre subsets.

Organize by Label or Year

If you find you care more about the year an LP was created or the label it came out on, these are also possible ways to organize your albums. The important thing is to shoot for practicality – choose something that allows you to easily find a specific album right when you need it.

Consider Music Organizing Software / Apps

If you’re a vinyl collector with thousands of albums, you may need to spring for something a little more formal than an alphabetical or genre-determined system, especially if you buy and sell vinyl on a regular basis. This is a good option when you want to know exactly what you have in your collection and then you want to be able to quickly find not only the album but every detail about it. In fact, there are also some incredible apps you can use to keep this information with you at all times.

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Discussion

Brittany Cooper

Brittany Cooper commented

Good question! Some of the apps that come more highly recommended include MilkCrate, Discollector and Crate Digger.

Salvatore Buscemi

Salvatore Buscemi commented

What are those apps that the author or fans here use? Why couldn't the author mention a few?

Ron Rawski

Ron Rawski commented

Great question. Don't tell the reader in a how-to about a solution and not give examples.

Kevin Dunlap

Kevin Dunlap commented

There are a lot of software programs that you can use for sure. I like Music Collectorz. (http://www.collectorz.com/music/) It give you plenty of search function but also is very simple to use and import music with.

Marilyn Stella Sowa

Marilyn Stella Sowa commented

Milk storage containers seem to work for me! :)

Aaron J Poehler

Aaron J Poehler commented

"Never stack your records" is kind of BS. If you have them stacked horizontally there's very little chance any properly sleeved record will be affected negatively in any way--leaning like the "DIY Record Shelf" pictured is far more likely to warp vinyl over time.

Michael McKenna

Michael McKenna commented

I can tell you, as a collector for more than 20 yrs, stacking your records is the worst thing you can do to store your precious vinyl. Uneven weight distribution has lot to do with it for a start. Guaranteed way to warp your vinyl by staking them. Also, if you are using the Expedit (IKEA) style way to store your vinyl, make sure you leave plenty of space. Do not jam them all in tight. They need room!

Mike Roki

Mike Roki commented

Yep, I remember how my parent's records looked like when I digged them out from under the old bed in our summer house. I could almost eat a soup from them, if not for the hole.