If you’ve established a sizable record collection of any kind, there’s a good chance you’ve had trouble locating a particular record at some point.
Organized chaos only gets you so far, and once you reach a collection of, say, 100 or more, it’s definitely time to establish some sort of system to organize vinyl records.
If you manage to get into the multiple hundreds (or even thousands) without a system in place, well, then your memory is clearly a lot better than mine!
The question of how to organize vinyl records is as old as the hills. Every record collector has their preferred approach, and in many cases, collectors will change their system multiple times before deciding on a habit of a lifetime.
We’ve compiled a list of the different methods to help you decide on the best way to organize your vinyl records:
Method 1: Alphabetical Record Organization by Name & Band Name
This is perhaps the most common approach, as it works for collectors with a very specific taste in music across a defined genre. It’s the easiest method to understand and very simple to implement.
For most, this simply means buying record dividers and breaking down a collection (regardless of genre) based on first or last name and band name.
If you’re ok with mixing genres and your OCD tendencies can tolerate having Miles Davis in the same section as Marc Bolan, then this approach to vinyl organization is probably as far as you need to go.
There’s always some debate between first name and last name – let us know which you prefer in the comments.
Method 2: Split Genre Alphabetical
As your collection grows, and if you’re a record collector with a particularly diverse taste in music, the simplicity of alphabetical categorization can quickly get confusing.
If this is you, it might be time to consider splitting first by genre and then alphabetically.
The only downside is genre grey areas. Do you place Radiohead in rock or electronic? The same goes for bands like Depeche Mode, who changed their sound dramatically from typical 80s pop to more experimental atmospheric electronic music.
How granular do you want to go with genre categorization? This is the question you want to ask when considering splitting alphabetical organization by genre.
Method 3: Organize Vinyl Records by Album Title
If method one and two doesn’t sit with you, consider organizing by album title instead.
This removes the debate of genre or first name/last name altogether and could work for record collectors with an eclectic taste that feels more affinity with albums than artist or genre loyalties.
The system can fall down if you’re the type to easily forget the actual titles of albums, and instead just have a weird photographic memory that remembers album covers more than titles… (I’d put myself in that category, to be honest).
Method 4: In Order of Personal Purchase (Autobiographical)
O.K, so record collecting tends to attract quite passionate individuals. And, dare I say it, at times, quite eccentric characters.
My wife always laughs at me for my weird autobiographical memory, whereby I can tell her exactly where I was and who I was with when I first bought any particular album.
I’d never dream of organizing my collection in this way, but I know a lot of collectors can relate to the personal memories associated with every album or a particular copy of a record.
You just don’t get this level of attachment with modern streaming services – that sense of personal journey and walking the road of life.
This idiosyncrasy was, of course, caricatured in the movie High Fidelity. Check out the clip below if you haven’t already seen the movie. If not – where have you been!?
Method 5: Chronological
Gradually, as we go through the list, the methods (admittedly) become a little more obscure.
Although, for many collectors, chronological order is a very popular option.
Albums tend to define eras, and I know many rock albums I own from the 1960s/70s just don’t sit well next to albums considered the same genre 40 or 50 years later.
Ultimately, the method you choose to organization your vinyl records depends greatly on how your brain works logically.
Method 6: Organized Chaos – You Don’t Organize Them At All!
For a very long time, I fell into this category. Organized chaos – I used to call it. I have one of those weird memories where I can roughly remember, almost photographically, where I last placed a record.
Similarly to my odd, elephant-like ability to remember the exact date and location of most of my record purchases, I often remember very clearly when I last played them.
You could, in some ways, call this “order of last played? The further back they are on the shelf, the longer ago it was. For a long time, I ran my collection like this due to a busy lifestyle and, yea, I’m going to blame them…. (kids!)….
Method 7: Organize Records by Mood or Vibe
Another way to organise vinyl records is by mood or vibe. This categorization approach is another deeply personal approach that will vary greatly from one record collector to another.
Let’s take Norah Jones for example. You could easily categorize her music as Jazz… but then again, it would also very easily sit in a personal mood category of relaxed, chilled, or easy listening.
This one could take you a while as you ponder over how each album in your collection makes you feel, or what occasion it suits best.
PART 2: How to Organize Your Vinyl Records – Storage Techniques
Below is a crash course summary:
Always Store Your Records Upright
When organizing vinyl records, always be sure to store them upright in a vertical position. Never stack them in large horizontal piles, as this can encourage warping of the records over time.
Make Sure Your Vinyl Shelving is Up to the Task
Vinyl records are heavy in great numbers, so as your record collection grows, you’ll need to make sure your vinyl record storage or shelving is up to the task.
Small compartments or dividers can help here, as they not only help you compartmentalize a collection, but they also help spread out the potential for excessive leaning.
Excessive leaning can lead to warped records if left for a long period of time.
Separate 12-inch LPs from 7-inch Singles.
As a rule of thumb, when organizing vinyl records it’s best to avoid mixing record sizes. It might seem obvious to the seasoned record collector, but not only does this make records hard to find, it’s also not good storage practice for avoiding damage or warping.
Store Your Records in Appropriate Conditions
Once you’ve decided on how to organize your vinyl records and where to store them, it’s imperative you store them under the right conditions if you want them to last.
Keep them away from any extreme heat or strong fluctuations in temperature, and to be extra careful, consider monitoring the humidity/temperature of your storage environment. Too much humidity can encourage mold growth, and naturally, high heat will warp records very quickly.
In the meantime, remember to enjoy the music, and don’t get too hung up if your organization methods collapse into organized chaos when life gets on top of you. Happy spinning.