How To Organize CDs and DVDs in Standard Binders

Apartment Therapy Tutorials

I have a fairly extensive DVD collection, and for years I've been keeping my discs in storage binders. While it's a fairly practical storage solution, the binders have always irked me. On top of having zippers that get easily stuck, they're bulky, unattractive, and too deep for a normal bookshelf, and since I like having my DVDs near at hand, I didn't want to tuck them away in a cabinet somewhere. Follow along for my solution and the how-to.

My method involved discarding most of the inserts for my DVDs, but if you're attached to them, or if you have a tendency to resell DVDs, then I'll also include a tip that will let you to keep those inserts near and dear.

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Materials list
Binders: I wanted something neutral and durable with the possibility of spine customization, so when I found the Eames binders from Naked Binder, I knew I had a winner. I got a couple of 1" binders and three 1.5" binders, and the larger ones are perfect for holding television shows with a lot of discs. I wouldn't recommend getting binders any larger than 1.5" though, or the binders will be overly bulky. Any decorative binders would work for this purpose, but if you're looking for some options, here's a roundup of good-looking binders.

CD storage pages: It's easy to find CD storage pages, but finding ones that fit in a normal binder is a much harder task, and I felt that resorting to a 12x12 scrapbooking binder defeated one of my main criteria: to have the binders fit neatly on my bookshelf. I'm sure there are more options out there, but in my scouting, I came across two good solutions. The Container Store makes CD storage pages designed to fit in their Stockholm Binders (10 sheets for $10), and these Innovera CD storage pages are easily available on Amazon (10 sheets for $7). With the Container Store option, you can fit eight discs per sheet. With the Innovera sheets , you can only fit six discs per sheet, but there are special slots for labels, which really appealed to me.

Dividers: I went with these plain dividers, but they are slightly smaller than the disc sheets, so I'd suggest something larger if you decide to use dividers and want to see the tabs. Look for wide dividers designed to be used with sheet protectors (like these).

Spine labels: My Eames binders have an inset for a 4x6 label, but you could customize your binder's spine with whatever size label suits your needs.

Page protectors, double stick tape (optional)

Zip pockets (optional)

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1. Gather all your DVDs in one place, and figure out a rudimentary organizational method. If they aren't already, divide your discs into categories.
First, I separated my DVDs into TV and movies. Then, I created the following categories:

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2. Place the disc sheets in the binder, and start arranging the discs by category. A few words of advice:
• When I placed the TV shows in, I put a divider between each show so they would be easier to find. This means that sometimes you won't fill all the disc pockets, which might initially seem like a bit of a waste. Ultimately, though, it will make your life easier if you decide to buy another season of the show; then you just start inserting the discs and additional pockets where you left off, without having to shuffle around DVDs for another show, which are inhabiting the same sheets.

• With the movies, I decided against an alphabetical organization for much the same reason. If I bought a new movie, it would require moving everything else around. Instead, I opted for thematic organization and more subcategories so that discs were still easily locatable, but continual rearrangement wouldn't be necessary.

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• I placed dividers in as I went, and where necessary, I also put a small post-it note on each divider so I remembered what the subcategory was.
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3. Make disc labels. Having some sort of disc label is helpful so that it's easy to figure out where to replace absent discs. With the Innovera sheets, the labels are included. For TV shows, I included the show title, season, and disc number.

If you opt for storage sheets that don't have a place for labels, you can clip the DVD insert such that a picture or the title is showing, and you can either place that in the pocket with the DVD (in front so the disc won't scratch), or if you have ample space and plenty of pockets then you can place it in an empty pocket beside the DVD.

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4. Deal with the DVD inserts. Some of the DVDs with TV shows have inserts that describe the episodes on the disc, a feature that I always find helpful. Instead of discarding these, I placed them in page protectors near the discs, so they were still accessible. For some, like the Seinfeld insert below, the insert was sufficiently large to leave as is. For others, I cut out the relevant information, and, using double stick tape and printer paper, I made a new sheet to insert into the protector. If you're into scrapbooking, this could be a fun activity, and there's no end to how pretty you could make these with photo corners or washi tape, but for myself, I left the pages pretty basic.

If you don't want to cut or discard the inserts, then you can place a zip pocket at the back of the binder, and keep them all in one easy-to-access place. Alphabetizing them makes them easy to find. If you decide to sell a DVD, then cases are easy to find cheaply — the dollar store is your friend! — and you can just locate the insert, pop it in a new case, and you're good to go.

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5. Decide on a binder label method. The obvious way to approach the spine binding is by listing what shows or film categories are inside the binder, and if you aren't planning on moving your movies around very much, this is probably a very good method to follow.

Personally, I decided to go with a numbered binder system. I have a tendency to buy TV shows, and with one purchase, I could foresee one of the binders getting overfull, in which case I'd have to rearrange and relabel everything. With this system, I can just keep the labels static and reprint a new Table of Contents (see optional step 7 below), and I don't have to make any new labels. Also, I have a memory for numbers, so this is an effective mnemonic system for me. Ultimately, though, you have to go with what works for you.

6. Create your spine labels. Let the fun begin! I had such a great time scouring the internet for fun background patterns for my labels. Some good places to look are fabric, paper, and wallpaper websites. Some of these fabrics and papers are designs that I have previously purchased, and I'm using the images for noncommercial use, so I felt okay about using them. To give credit where credit is due, here are the ones I used: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

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I saved all the images in a folder on my desktop, and using a label template and Photoshop, I resized them for printing and superimposed the numbers. Naked Binder has some helpful label templates on their site, but templates should also be available on the website of whatever label company you buy from.

Print, carefully place them on the spines, and look at how pretty they are.

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7. Optional: Make a table of contents This is helpful if you go with a numbering system like I did. The table can be as rough or as detailed as you want, including titles or just a simple genre breakdown. If you want to make a table for each binder, this can fit in either a page protector or a pocket at the front of the binder. With my numbering system, I wasn't sure that I would remember which binder to look in for which discs, and I didn't want to have to look inside each one if I forgot, so I grabbed a spare report cover and put an overall table of contents inside. It's thin, so it doesn't take up shelf space, and now I can just grab that folder, glance inside, and know right where to go.
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Because I am a label fanatic, I also decided to make table of contents labels for each binder (using these Martha Stewart labels I got on clearance). They're removable, so if I decide to shuffle things around, the dividers won't be ruined. This is probably an unnecessary step, but there's just something so satisfying about labeling things!
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8. Admire. To some, it may not seem like a huge change, but for me, the "after" picture is such an improvement! No more bulky binders, random boxes, sticky zippers, and ugly black fake leather bindings. The clean, color-coordinated binders fit so much better with my decor, and there's the added plus of knowing precisely where everything is. I got some immense satisfaction out of this project, and I keep glancing over at the binders and smiling, which seems to me to be a sign that it was worth it.

A note about cost: We all know that cost is a serious factor in any DIY project, so here's the rundown of what my project cost. With five large binders of DVDs, the project totaled about $100, so it wasn't incredibly cheap. That said, the cost will obviously vary depending on how many DVDs you have, and it's also possible to save some money on the binders or other supplies, since I didn't always opt for the least expensive route.

On the bright side, this process is eminently customizable. Your binder choices, organization methods, and storage options may not be the same as mine, but hopefully my process can provide some helpful ideas, sources, or motivation. I scoured for a long time for my ideal materials, but I'm sure there are more excellent sources out there that I missed; if you have any suggestions, please feel free to list them below.

(Images: Carolyn Purnell)

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Main, DIY, Tech, Home Tech, Media Storage, Organizing

Carolyn is a freelance writer and photographer, as well as a lover of all things colorful and quirky. She grew up in Texas and settled in Chicago by way of L.A., England and Paris. Currently, she is a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology.

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