How To Contain A Collection…

contents of Record Cell
The contents of my Record Cell have taken a slight vacation…next door

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we live in a small home. Two bedrooms, one bath. Maybe 832 square feet in the interior, once the wall volume is subtracted from the 24’x36′ footprint. Last year, we painted the entire home interior for the first time since moving in 18 years ago, save for the bathroom, which was done maybe 12 years ago. We took a week off work and did it ourselves, but the fine details took further weeks to polish. We conspicuously decided not to paint the Record Cell.

Doing so would have required another week of work just to prep the space. The walls are all but invisible in there. There are hand built CD racks that were once five feet high but have since been extended to nearly eight feet high. There are sundry bookshelves and two huge record racks that have 1,000 disc capacity. We waited for another time to paint that room, which was almost a moot point since only 10-15% of the walls were actually visible in the approximately 12′ x 12′ room.

A Change Is Gonna Come…

We have wanted to re-floor the home since moving in and in the next 4-6 weeks, this will finally be happening. The mixture of linoleum and berber carpeting was never likable, but now we are installing laminate wood flooring and finally need to move the contents of the Record Cell out of there to allow the work to happen. Before the flooring is to be installed, we will be taking another week off to:

  • patch/paint the room ourselves
  • get a crew in there to remove the popcorn ceiling and plaster and paint that
  • move all of the small furnishings and china, etc. into a storage pod in the front yard
popcorn ceiling

So-called “popcorn” ceiling texture is rampant across American homes due to its ease of application [it’s sprayed on] and its ability to gloss over numerous construction sins. The random texture makes the uneven qualities of the ceiling less noticeable. This is the time to make any and all changes once the estimated ton of contents were out of there. So I have been spending the last few weekends packing up all of the records/CDs/DVDs and taking them to our neighbor’s home, who graciously/naively offered their finished basement catch-all room to store the things I might not want in a humid storage container outside the house. Since I have spent many hours getting the contents next door, this seemed like a good time to discuss the storage of all of this music. A practical matter that every collector deals with.

The Early Days Of The Record Cell

Thirty years ago, I moved into a large, three-bedroom, two bath apartment. I slept in the smallest bedroom and the largest room was used for the music collection! My first [and most spacious] Record Cell. In 1993, I was only just a few years back into buying records. I had “gone CD” in 1985, and had traded in a lot of the record collection for CD trade value. But by 1990, I began to grasp that not everything would be coming out on the sliver disc. And I began buying records again. But in 1993, I had maybe half as many as I have now. I needed a storage system that was flexible and economical. I was never one of those people who if given $1000 would buy an exquisite shelving unit for $800 and be left with $200 to buy records with! I was always all about the software. So I needed a storage system that was sturdy, reasonably attractive, and above all, affordable. I was a Costco member at that time and they had chrome steel baker’s racks that were once very common but now are hard to find for some reason.

This is smaller than my racks…but you get the idea

I bought two baker’s racks which were 16″ x 36″ x 80″, but don’t quote me on that height measurement. I’m estimating there. These had five shelves on them, the bottom four of which would be holding lots of records. But the racks has parallel wire welded vertically that would be a harsh surface to keep records on. I would need something else to protect the record bottoms. I thought about buying sheets of clear plastic lucite and cutting them down to size to fit on top of each rack, but then I would still need some bookend-like device to maintain the records vertically. I then came up with the notion of those plastic milk crates that were so useful for storing records.

Plastic “milk crate”

These would hold the records up to prevent slumping. But if I used them in the normal fashion, I would have to pull a 50 lb crate of records off the rack any time I wanted to play a record. Tedious. I then realized that I could put the crates on the rack with the opening front side out instead facing upward. The record spines would protrude through the open face of the crate for easy access. Each crate held approximately 80 records and would fit three astride each shelf. The crates had interlock pins on two sides that interlocked and kept them from drifting and each crate at the end of a shelf would lop over the shelf edge by and inch or so. Perfectly acceptable. So I bought two of the racks, which were <$100 at the time, and 24 of the plastic milk crates. A dozen each in black and white. I would alternate the crate colors for a Ska-inspired checkerboard effect. The crates were <$5 each.

The two decked out racks had a potential to hold nearly 2000 12″ records. But not all of the crate contents would be records. I also had hundreds of laserdiscs. These would also get racked with the records. They would use maybe a fourth of the storage capacity. These racks moved on to our first home, and then to our second, third, and finally the home we live in now. They take up the space of an entire wall in the current Record Cell and here is a drawing of a full one to put it all across.

record rack drawing
Almost a thousand records in slightly more than three square feet of floor space

CD storage in the first Record Cell was down to those all-media cheap dowel racks that were everywhere, and affordable [back then]. I see that being made of wood, they cost a small fortune now! I had a dozen or so of them since they were only five or six shelves high. They held 250-300 CDs [as I recall] and at a certain point I needed more storage, once we were in our first home. Also, the Record Cell there was going to be a small bedroom that was a far cry from the master bedroom used in the apartment for media storage. I would need taller racks that didn’t waste so much wall space. At that same time, my friend chasinvictoria was consolidating his Condo of Mystery® after marrying and had a spare CD rack that was taller, and held at least 500 CDs. He named a price and I paid it; taking it home to replace two dowel racks. Wheels started turning.

I designed a plan to replicate the rack I had just bought using wood I would buy and cut myself from a building supply store. For a finish I rubbed tung oil into the wood. The store would provide a certain number of cuts for free on their panel saws, leaving me to make only a few cuts with a jigsaw to finish the job. I made three more of these racks and the cost of materials was modest; about $80 at that time. These replaced the dowel racks and used the space more efficiently in my second Record Cell. They came with us to another state and have been the racks ever since. But once we were in our current home, the drip feed of new acquisitions meant that I was running out of room to store the CDs I was still buying. A problem.

Growing The Racks

empty CD rack
I could not get far enough away from the CD racks to photograph one full frame in the tiny Record Cell

I realized a few years back that the current racks were only 66″ high. The walls were 84″ high. Space was being wasted. I then hit upon the idea of making rack extensions that I would screw into the tops of the existing racks that added four more rows of storage. Maxing out my wall-to-CD-storage ratios. Toppers for all four of my huge racks were finished by a year or two ago, but the reality was that I still have at least 500 CDs [mostly singles and legacy copies of albums I re-bought for bonus tracks] stored in cardboard CD boxes that hold 25 CDs which are stored off rack. Mostly on the top shelves of the record racks. It would be nice to have enough rack space to have everything accessible. Meanwhile, CDs were still getting bought and ended up being stacked precariously on the floor in the Record Cell! Something had to give.

The last rack I have any room for in the Record Cell

Then, two years ago, I found a black 24″ x 24″ x 60″ spin rack at a tag sale for a pittance. But the unit was missing shelves and pins for half of its space. I was out of wall space, so a rack that could sit on the floor was paramount. I bought it thinking that getting replacements might be possible. It was not. I had to end up making the shelves myself earlier this year. I found the correct thickness of wood and sawed it down myself and applied black contact paper to it, ending up with shelves that looked very close to what the unit had, though the black melamine looked tighter than the adhesive vinyl, which tended to unpeel slightly on the sharp corners. But once the CDs were sitting on it, that took care of that problem. So four square feet of precious floor space in the Record Cell was finally the home to this, the latest CD rack. And the bitter irony was that, even with another 800 slots to fill, I still had at least 300 more CDs off rack that would not have a home for browsing. If I were to fill the spin rack, then I’d have no more “room to grow” the collection. So the 20 boxes of 500 discs off rack were still off rack. And I have 200 slots available for the inevitable growth to come.

empty record rack
A very rare sight in the Record Cell…empty racks

As of yesterday, all of that music is sitting in my neighbor’s spare room. And the racks are currently bereft of music. We have about 50 CDs pulled that we were listening to and that is the music we have to listen to for the next one to two months. I have about a dozen records pulled that I might be digitizing for CD burning purposes during this period. Any music I am going to write about for that time had better one of the pulled CDs or otherwise on my 4TB media drive where the digitized records live or in my iTunes. So we’ll see how this goes for PPM. I don’t plan this blog very much at all. As if you couldn’t tell that from looking at it. usually, each new day brings a topic that was chosen sometime minutes before my lunch hour. So this has been my roundabout way of telling you that there might be larger gaps between publishing than usual here at PPM. Wish me luck.


About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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28 Responses to How To Contain A Collection…

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Steve Shafer – Thanks, friend! It has been a lot of work moving all of that, but the act of touching so many discs was pretty gratifying. Not the least of which was coming across albums [Eyeless In Gaza, Modern Eon] that I was certain that I had sold off years ago! There was also the effect of looking at so many large collections that still delight me. I may not have everything I want, but there’s so much that I already have, and I’m so grateful for that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH says:

        I still buy too much but am not going to worry about it, life is too short. I am careful about what I spend and I don’t automatically buy everything that I would have done a few years back. I’ve come to view my collection as the best record store I’m ever likely to visit:) I’m getting a lot of pleasure from rediscovering albums, so much buried treasure in there!

        Liked by 1 person

        • postpunkmonk says:

          SimonH – “I’ve come to view my collection as the best record store I’m ever likely to visit.” THAT is words of wisdom! Especially in the Hellscape of the Now, when modern record stores actually cause me pain. None of the formats I want to buy [used LPs, old 7″/12″ singles, CDs] OR the music I want, either. Coupled with outrageously high prices. In contrast, handling my collection to move it was a joyful experience that made me incredibly happy. The one time I encountered a record store fully as good as my collection was a life-changing experience!

          I fantasize about being retired [not likely to happen] and just feeding and watering what I already have. I have no problems not buying anything since I have so much that I’ve never played; owing to the fussiness of playing records. And I’ve never been a guy to just play records. In the old days, i would play a record once and tape it to a good cassette. In the last 25 years, It’s been play it once into the computer for digitizing/denoising. Denoising used to take forever. Now there’s great software that does what use to take hours in seconds, but it’s still 2-4x the time of simply pulling a CD and playing it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • SimonH says:

            I mourn the loss of my old record shop frequenting life, but it just doesn’t exist now, very sad. My two main options here are pale shadows of pale shadows…
            Agree though, realising how much great music you have already is a great feeling!
            I hesitate to say this but I have this year retired early… work became too toxic and choices had to be made!


            • postpunkmonk says:

              SimonH – Oh you Brits and your Socialist Pensions! None of that Communist Claptrap in America! Nosir! Here in America, we sweat and toil until we drop!! And if we have the temerity to actually retire, we [have to] get an honest job so that we have health insurance! MMMMMMMMMMM…[inhales deeply] Just SMELL THAT FREEDOM!!!!

              But if you really want to hear me give a bitter rant, just get me started on the state of record stores in the 21st century! A store that opened in 2006 and I have shopped at for years gets worse, and worse with each semiannual visit. Until the last 5-6 years, I could still make one trip there a year where I was compelled to spend upwards of $100 on music. Now I own about 18x the CD stock they deign to carry. Only the large used bookstore carries CDs in any number in my city. What kills me is that it’s all about LPs now. New, expensive LPs or old, really expensive LPs! Singles [7″ and 12″ which are my main focus of collecting] have vanished. Where they went I worry about. I have mental images of all of the 12″ singles I want being dumped into landfills to make floor space for more copies of Fleetwood Hack’s “Rumours!!” Don’t get me started… too late!

              Liked by 1 person

          • Tim says:

            I echo your retirement comment.
            There’s a certain tres-nerdular project that I aspire to working on that would require a sustained stretch of time not being someone’s by the hour biatch to complete.

            Liked by 1 person

  1. alonewithstrangers says:

    Our house is only slightly bigger so thank god for storage units that keep the overflow CDs, LPs and camping equipment, plus whatever guff our kids won’t take to their own houses. All told about 2.5k records at home/2k at the lock up storage. CDs are roughly evenly split between the two locations.

    Fortunately, youngest son has just left home so I can probably be a bit more creative with storage….if allowed.

    What I do not relish is ever having to move all this stuff again: last time with only a quarter of the current collection was bad enough so I feel your pain, both physical & emotional.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      alonewithstrangers – I have a friend, chasinvictoria, who moved to Canada from Florida in 2007 and into a small 1 bedroom apartment. So for the last 15 years he’s had his entire pre-2007 collection [which I can assure you, was large as he used to DJ] in a storage facility…over 3000 mile away in another country! We used to have a storage unit where we live but the costs were onerous, so we sold off anything we were keeping in the unit in case we got a larger home later [not likely] and haven’t paid a dime in storage in over a decade. I find it onerous enough to have things stacked in front of my racks in that room, preventing easy access to come of the records. Invariably, I always want to pull a certain title which will necessitate moving 100 lbs of stuff piled up in front of the rack! I can’t imagine having any music offsite…and with a monthly bill!

      I really want to thin out my collection. I used to sell chaff on Discogs, but they have made the shipping policy thing so complex, I’ve avoided any sales for the last year or two due to how it would take me a full weekend to figure out how to apply the labyrinthine rules. As most of what I want to buy is from foreign sources, thus too were most of my customers from other countries. I was put in a difficult position since I didn’t want to make or lose money on shipping. And that’s s delicate balance these days.

      Liked by 2 people

      • alonewithstrangers says:

        A different country is a little extreme.

        I too would like to thin out the collection and avoid storage costs but a) the ones in storage are the ones no one else would want & b) I just find it so hard to let go of them: they all mean something to me in some way or another.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We did a full-on renovation in 2016, which required me to pack up all the LPs and CDs, not to mention cassettes and Laserdiscs, and put them in storage for a few months, so I know what you’re going through. The best part of that was when I brought everything back, I was able to easily eliminate 18 linear inches of LPs that I no longer wanted in my house – the benefit of absence! I still have room on the shelves for both CDs and LPs, but the space for the latter is now down to 2-3 inches thanks to a fairly torrid acquisition rate over the last few years. While that’s slowed down a little this year thanks to financial concerns, something will eventually have to give! Albums with 3-star or lower ratings in Discogs – your days are numbered…

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jeremy Shatan – 3-Star or lower? That’s medieval! There’s a space for 3-star albums. My problem is my collector’s sickness. In a fit of pique, I sold off albums I hated by artists I collected 15 years ago. Off went titles like “Pleasure One” by Heaven 17. “Go Bang!” by Shriekback. “Outland” by Gary Numan. And within 10 years I was thinking that I needed the Shriekback and Heaven 17 so that I could do a Rock G.P.A. on PPM! I eventually got the H17 in the “Play To Win” box. But even 15 years ago I couldn’t bring myself to unload the terrible albums I hate by Ultravox, Simple Minds, or OMD!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. thxdave says:

    I had to move across town about a year ago and had about 2000 records to move. I needed to store them (like you) in a friend’s house for a while. The one thing I did differently from you was buy a bunch of “S-Crate”s. They’re VERY sturdy and they are deep enough to allow the albums to sit down inside allowing safe stacking. The cheapie plastic crates are too flimsy and cannot stack without damaging the albums below. Dave

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      thxdave – Well, the crates I use are actually rectangular. About 1-2″ wider than the records, with the width extended above the top of each crate. The crates hold slightly less, but there is no pressure on the tops of records possible. The crates have two tabs on two faces, to allow them to nest securely in a vertical or horizontal orientation.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave Turner says:

    Same problem hear, constantly moving things around to store my CDs. Nearly 4000 now plus box sets… Still, what price can you ever put on a good song?

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Dave Turner – I would like to have a week off of work to simply, enter my collection in Discogs accurately, so I would have a more accurate record of what and how many releases I have. In many cases, I’ve been building my collection in Discogs from 2008, and in many cases, I have indicated the wrong copy due to the exact one I had not being in the database yet. And if I bothered to enter each release not in the Discogs database back then, I’d be about up to letter “M” by now! So my collection is only ballpark accurate.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. negative1ne says:

    hi mr monk,
    nice to see everything at once. and glad you are
    able to do the renovation, and hope it goes well.

    i’m in the major process (for the last decade) to sort out,
    store, and organize my collection of 6000+ items (maybe half is vinyl).

    i have the cd part down. by the way, tons of places, amazon, home depot,
    lowes and target all sell those steel racks, and addons, which is what i am
    using for the shelving.

    i am currently using plastic tubs for everything, all the cds, vinyl, etc.
    i have a dresser and bookshelf that i used for all the cd and vinyl boxsets.
    i posted pictures of most of them over at the steve hoffman forums.

    i am fascinated by what looks like mini milk crates for the 7 inches.
    do those exist. because i’ve never seen them in person, and have
    no luck finding anything online. where would one get the from?

    call me curious.

    anyways, once i get my collection up and sorted, i will be able to
    post pictures of them too. maybe i should go the crate route, because
    moving the plastic tubs stacked on top of each other is tricky. although
    i don’t access them very often.


    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – I neglected to mention the 7″ crates, but yes! Those were everywhere in the early 90s. Any drugstore would have them. Sterilite still make them, but only in clear and black. The design has changed, but they still have the alignment pins to lock together in rows.
      sterilite 7 crate

      I neglected to talk about how in the first home we bought it had been renovated to add a huge master bedroom suite. So what was once a window in a wall was turned into a set of inset shelves that were a perfect place for the 7″ collection. Currently, the 7″ single crates sit on a simple steel + wood book shelf unit.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Shelf says:

    That’s a challenging project, for sure – you have my sincerest empathy, Monk. My wife and I moved last December, which required me to pack up all the CDs and DVDs. The immediately accessible part of the collection is contained on two Ikea racks containing 1,200 CDs. To pack and transport them, my wife found CD storage bags made by Evelots – each bag can accommodate 48 CDs in standard jewel cases. They are very sturdy, including the handles, and the bags are clear plastic, so you can easily see what’s stored in them. The bags aren’t cheap, but they’re more practical than a cardboard box.

    Fortunately, I already had hundreds of overflow CDs and box sets packed in ‘Really Useful Boxes’ – storage products perfectly designed for archiving CDs, DVDs, LPs and other media. It’s a UK-based company and I believe that the products are manufactured there, as well. Like the Evelot bags, they’re not inexpensive, but the quality is excellent, and similar sized boxes stack together nicely. (

    Good luck, sir!

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Shelf – You moved last December?! No wonder my xmas card was returned!


      • Shelf says:

        ‘Twas a terrible time to move house. Missed your seasonal greeting, and we didn’t have the time (or energy) to produce our own traditional e-card :-(

        And six months later, the CDs are STILL in those damn bags!


  7. Hugh Hall says:

    Nothing better than a sizeable record/cd collection. Unless moving it! It’s been a good read and I wish you all the best in your endeavours! Oh to have the luxury of a real man-cave!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Hugh Hall – I wouldn’t call it a man cave! It’s the catch all room for everything. All media and computer. But also all of our free weights and my wife’s exercise/yoga gear. Another 120 square feet would really be nice but that’s not happening.


  8. Pingback: Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Music? | Post-Punk Monk

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