First by artist, then by original release date.  An island of control in a sea of chaos.

I am not an obsessively organized person, but I will acknowledge a few quirks that, to some, may represent an unnecessary attention to detail, if not a hint of madness.  Although many facets of general housekeeping escape my devoted attention (just ask my wife), there are certain areas in which I am particular.  None of them are of great importance, but they are distinct preferences nonetheless.

For example, I usually take care to sort the money in my wallet by denomination, from smallest to largest.  While I’m at it, I would prefer that all bills face the same way.  Never would I intentionally insert any currency into my wallet “head-first,” as I should not like to encounter an upside-down image when fishing for cash.  Not that I couldn’t deal with it, but I simply would rather not, and I don’t mind taking the few seconds to put a buck in the right way.  Okay, once I did further organize my ones by serial number, but that was when I was saddled with a few minutes of unoccupied tedium, and though it did provide me a tiny amount of mental satisfaction, trust me that you could take a peek inside my wallet right now, and I guarantee that if there’s any money in there at all, the serial numbers are all mixed up.  Not that it matters.

Then there is the question of compact discs and the manner in which I would like them to be stored.  My general preference, as established years ago with my collection of record albums, is to sort each item by artist and then by the original release date of the recording.  Furthermore, solo ventures from the members of established groups should be filed immediately after their respective bands.  Thus, you will find my Brian Wilson CD’s just after The Beach Boys and just before The Beatles, which in turn precede the works of Paul McCartney (solo McCartney, then Wings, then Paul by himself again, as chronology would have it).  I used to separate the broader collection by the genres of Rock/Pop, Jazz, Country, Classical, Soundtracks, Comedy and Miscellaneous, but now it’s pretty much just Classical, Soundtracks, and Everything Else.  That might sound like maturation, but actually it’s because it bothered me whenever an artist straddled more than one genre.  Even now, I’m just the slightest bit annoyed that I must decide whether to file Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet’s The Juliet Letters in either Classical or Everything Else, and likewise I am forced to shelve Peter Gabriel’s Passion:  Music for The Last Temptation of Christ in either Everything Else or Soundtracks.  But then it would be even less tolerable to interfile the classical and soundtrack recordings among the remaining titles.  Again, not that it matters.  But still.

Now, I happen to know of someone who takes the trouble to ensure that the slots on the heads of the screws that secure his electrical face plates to the wall are all similarly aligned.  This seems to me to be excessive.  However, I suppose it’s not so terribly different from my habit of taking a moment to rotate a CD to its correct orientation on the retention hub before closing a jewel case.  But then, would you really care to open that case again some day only to find its disc askew?  I mean, would you ?  Of course not.  You would rather unhinge the album with a sigh of satisfaction and a silent thank you to your former self for preserving your media with that little bit of extra care and attention that makes all the difference.  If you care about these things, that is.  And I don’t know why you wouldn’t.

And then there are those recordings that have been packaged with an environmental conscience, such that the jewel box has been bypassed altogether in favor of some less durable cardboard approximation.  Not only are their flimsy spines vulnerable to deformity, but their matte finish among all those shiny jewel boxes robs my collection of its otherwise attractive bookshelf homogeneity.  It’s a small point, I’ll grant you.  Alright, it’s absolutely trivial.  But I would change it if I could.

You might think that my acquisition of an iPod would have been the digital balm to sooth my organizational sore spots, but it has merely presented me with novel frustrations.  Unless I am willing to spend hours tweaking the tags of every recording to reflect their true date of release (and not their date of reissue), I cannot scroll through my virtual titles in the same order by which I would shelve their physical counterparts.  Oh, and this idea of adding guest players on an album track to the artist name, resulting in some albums being diced into several sections under the “artist” file – that drives me crazy.  And don’t even get me started on vanishing cover images.  I hate seeing generic covers among my album art.

Among my three brothers and me, I am the only one who seems to possess this preference (they might use the word compulsion) for organization.  The four of us truly span the gamut from methodical filer to organizationally challenged.  Let me put it this way:  the one who is at the opposite end of the scale from me once bought a book called Getting Organized.  He lost it.

I enter their homes and look askance at their media collections.  One brother excuses his desultory DVD shelves with the pretense that he prefers to browse his titles with the maximum probability of a serendipitous discovery.  I, however, hold fast to the quaint idea that I would rather know where something is.  To my knowledge, he has never created even one categorical folder for his internet browser bookmarks, whereas I keep most of my favorites tucked away within a hierarchical system of increasingly specific subfolders.  He excuses his non-system of bookmarking in the name of serendipity as well.  Well, why stop there?  Why not maximize everything for random pleasure?  Just dump your furniture here and there, for example, and soon you’ll serendipitously find something to sit on.

They find my systematic approach amusing, of course.  But when they visit me, and the conversation turns to a certain book we’ve read, or the need arises for one of several Scrabble reference volumes, I can descend into the basement and reappear with the desired item inside of a minute.  And what do they say when presented with the same challenge of their home turf?  Let me see if I can find it…

It’s not like I’ve arranged my bookshelves by the Dewey decimal system, you know.  I just like to separate my books by genre and then by author.  And magazines should be filed in chronological order of issue date.  Does that make me some sort of obsessive-compulsive, Felix Unger neat freak?  I think not.

Anyway, I’m not sure I care for the way that Dewey guy categorized things.