10 Ways to Simplify Your Music

As you donate clothing and clean your closet, empty your junk drawers, and maybe even sell your furniture in a quest for more space, do you ever wonder where to draw the line? Is there something in your home or your life that you will never get rid of? (not talking about pets and children here…please don’t get crazy!)

One of the things that I don’t want less of, is music. Music has always been a part of my life. I have been alive long enough to collect albums, cassette tapes, compact discs and all the things that play them. I remember a few 8-tracks kicking around when I was growing up, but never owned any of my own. Music inspires us to be creative, make change and take action. Music tells great stories that we incorporate into our lives. It makes us remember certain things. Have you ever heard a song that brought you back to a high school dance? A great road trip? Your wedding?

As evidence that I have been leaning towards a minimalist lifestyle for longer than I thought, about 7 years ago, I took all of my CDs out of their jewel cases and put the CDs together in leather cases. I couldn’t stand the clutter. Sure, I missed the artwork and the lyrics, but not the mess. And really, how many times did I get out the lyrics to sing along?

Now, like most of you, I am an iTunes girl, but even there, things get complicated. With digital media, you can have every song you ever thought about, and you rarely simplify or pare down your music. Like everything else, if you have too much, you miss the good stuff.

10 Ways to Simplify Your Music

  1. Albums – If you still have albums, you haven’t fully embraced the be more with less concept, but don’t worry, this is a work in progress! These albums may have sentimental attachment, so use this mini-mission to hold on to the memories.
  2. Cassette Tapes – There are companies that offer to transfer your cassette tapes to digital media but let’s face it, the quality of the cassette tape was never very good to begin with. Toss them!
  3. CDs – Transfer your CDs to iTunes, but only the CDs that you actually listen to. You do not listen to or like all of your music. Why save the stuff you don’t like? Donate the CDs you don’t like to someone that might.
  4. Jewel Cases – There is no reason to hold onto jewel cases, album artwork or promotional material that comes with your CDs.
  5. Boom Boxes – Even the name “Boom Boxes” is outdated, so unless you still take yours camping or to the beach, please, get rid of it.
  6. CD Players – Your CDs are now all on your iPod so why do you need a CD player in your house? Don’t get me started on cassette or 8-track players!
  7. Playlists – If you put all of your music into iTunes, the only way you will get to hear your favorite tunes is by creating playlists. Your playlists can be situational (dinner music, running music), seasonal, or organized by time (high school favs).
  8. Don’t save music on your desktop – Use external hard drives to store your iTunes Music and remember to back up your playlists and library. If you have to switch computers or reinstall iTunes you will lose your playlists!
  9. Shuffle – For a day or a few hours, hit the “Shuffle” feature on your iPod or iPhone and see what you’ve been holding on to. You may be pleasantly surprised or really offended. Take the next step and put the music that surprised you into a playlist and junk the other stuff.
  10. Permanently delete – Go through your iTunes library and permanently delete the media that you don’t use. I suggest going through your music alphabetically, an hour at a time. Don’t just remove from your library, but from your backup as well. How many CDs do you own that you only bought because you liked 1 or 2 songs? Dump the other 10 songs or don’t even transfer them. Gone are the days where you have to save everything. Make room for the good stuff!


If your CDs are on iTunes and backed up to an external hard drive, do you need to save them?

What is your favorite “get things done” song?

What song takes you back to a favorite memory?

After going through this process, you might find that you don’t want more music, but you want time to enjoy music more. Simplifying your media will help you reach that goal.


  1. says

    This is a tough one, because I (like many) love music so much. I love a wide variety, and love having whole albums. The artist probably put a lot of thought into the entire album as a whole concept, so I have a hard time cherry-picking the songs I like and deleting the rest, even if I don’t like them. I love seeing how the artist transformed over time – from bad lyrics and unpolished production to something more mature and beautiful.

    At the same time though, I am losing my sentimental attachment to music. This is starting to remind me of the Minimalist Knitter guest post on Becoming Minimalist – attachment to books. I am starting to depend more on the wide variety presented by Internet radio rather than my own music. At the same time, Internet radio is somewhat limited, there is some obscure artist I haven’t heard that is waiting to be discovered.

    Definitely a point worth considering, especially seeing my progression towards Internet radio over owning whole albums.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Lynn, It is really tough! Music has always been such a huge part of my life that thinking about having “less” of it can be intimidating. That being said, I know it’s silly to hold on to things that add no value to my life.

  2. says

    i like almost everything about this. while i don’t use ITunes {too proprietary with the music you buy from them} i do follow most of these ideas with my media player, and have been amazed at the music i’ve found that i can weed out. even down to songs that i hated on an album i mostly love – it’s great to just have your favorite songs, playlists, and artists, readily available!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Robyn, It is really great when you can find what you are looking for…in your drawers or on your computer!

  3. says

    Timely post Courtney. The FIRST thing I did this morning was download 5 songs from the mid 90’s and I looked at my iTunes and realized that I have way too many songs. So this post is just really informative and thought-provoking for me. Permanently deleting the music I don’t listen to is going to be hard but hey, if it doesn’t get listened to, I won’t miss it that much! This is a really cool subject – thanks. Like you, most of my music is digital too now, but even though digital music takes up less physical space, as you know it can definitely take up computer space as well.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Reggie, You are so right! And even more than taking up digital space, it clutters up the way you think about your music choices.

  4. says

    Hi Courtney, this is such an important topic to cover I think, as so many of us have a huge love of music and so have the LPs/ cassettes/ CDs that go with that. It’s a similar argument to getting rid of books in some ways, though sometimes they can have an even more sentimental or emotional attachment than music.

    I’m struggling with this a bit personally. I’ve collected around 500+ CD albums over the last 17 years and I’ve always been really choosy and selective, and not bought a CD on a whim just because I loved one or two tracks. So I would say my music is more than a “casual” collection for want of a better word, and I know 90% of the music I own inside out.

    I agree with a lot of Lynn’s points. For me personally your no4 doesn’t work (yet!). I believe that artists (or at least artists that aren’t manufactured by record companies) deliberately create a whole concept with an album, and a part of is the lyrics and the album artwork. I have some gorgeous hand made album covers on the Constellation label, for bands like Do Make Say Think and Godspeed You Black Emperor, that for me add to the whole ambience of the album, and extend the art beyond “just” the music.

    These also inspired me to hand make my own CD cover for a compilation I made as a gift a few years back. It was very well received, and meant more than if I’d have just put the songs on a blank CD and given it in an empty generic jewel case.

    Having said that, I have been gradually purging my collection of some of the stuff I genuinely don’t listen to much anymore, and to be honest if I lost my whole collection tomorrow, I’d easily start to rebuild gradually, and wouldn’t need to immediately replace every last CD I lost. In a way it would be refreshing to start all over again.

    Amazing how much attachment we have to things, isn’t it?

    Thanks for a post that made me think much deeper than I thought at first it might, and continues to do so…

  5. says

    I have been thinking of cleaning out iTunes anyway, so this is a timely post! I have over 7 straight days of music…sheesh. It seems like an overwhelming task to sort through it but if I do it 30 mins or an hour at a time it might not take as long as I’m expecting. It’s one of those things that is SO easy to accumulate a lot of, and it’s not all stuff you really love. I have the same problem with digital photos…

  6. says

    This is a weird question, but do thrift stores accept donated cds without the cases? I put all my cds in a giant case years ago, but now I want to put them on my computer and get rid of the disks.

  7. jen says

    I love the idea of tossing out old “media.” Hubby and I let go of our cassettes 5 or so moves ago (we got tired of packing them). The only thing I regret is not jotting down the names of the cassettes I wanted to replace on CD/MP3. So we lost a lot of music. I am gradually remembering some of the songs I loved and replacing them on itunes. I’m not ready to let go of my cds yet. but we trashed the jewel cases as we imported them. I kept the artwork in the leather cd case in the pocket with the corresponding CD. We did the same thing with our DVDs. Organizing them with the artwork makes it easy to put it back in the right place if you remove one to watch or listen to it. One of these days I might be brave enough to get rid of the “hard copies” :)

  8. Nin says

    I actually don’t agree that you have to let go of your cd’s – because as you said, a lot of people end up just making endless playlists and saving lots of songs on their ipods, their computers or what-have-you, and I think digital space needs to be as uncluttered as physical space. I love to listen to music – without a computer distracting me or anything like that. That’s why I have a player and cd’s — but I only have cd’s that I love and listen to over and over (no skipping over half of the songs etc obviously). I use music to meditate as well. So I own enya’s cd’s (and only a couple of other cd’s). I do have a playlist on my computer though – one. One is enough :) Thanks for reminding me of this though because I do have one cd that I got as a gift and this reminded me that I have a friend who loves that cd and she can get it for the Holiday’s :) This really is food for thought though!

    The song that takes me back to my favourite memory is probably enya’s hope has a place.

    • Nin says

      Thank you again for making me think today! I actually managed to sit down and really think and managed to get rid of 3 cd’s (25% of my collection!) 😀

  9. Music Mad Matte says

    this idea is fine for some, but there are inumerable folks for whom music is more than just an aural experience. in my case, i have a logical attraction to music (studied audio engineering) and an emotional one (memories attached to certain songs, where i bought albums on holidays, gifts given from friends and family, etc). modern (recorded) music has always been about the tactile experience as much as the aural and visual ones. the variety of cover art and cd case designs, amongst many other factors, mean that having a physical collection makes the experience of music a broader, richer sensory experience. clicking on a string of characters on a screen and hearing sound is in no way the same experience as selecting, setting and hearing an album or cd…

  10. says

    New reader here, enjoying the archives as I seek inspiration in decluttering :)

    I’ve been using a (free) program called Audacity to convert my cassettes into files on the computer. I use desktop computer & old stereo to transfer the nearly 400 mixtapes I’ve made (mostly off of the radio) in the past 25 years.

    If I can find the track online (for instance, on YT), I’ll delete the copy I made, but it’s great for the many songs for which I cannot figure out the name or artist.
    Yes, it’s digital clutter, but It gets rid of physical clutter, and is a lot easier to delete-and I do go through & replay songs to find out which ones I still like best & wish to retain.

    It’s awesome being able to sort them in my iTunes (I mean the program that comes with computer as part of o/s, not the iTunes store in which one makes purchases)-just from comparing playcounts, it’s easy to see which are my favorites (and there’s no rewinding of a tape to play one song over & over).

    Never really switched to cds, thank goodness (in retrospect)-I only ever had a couple dozen, so didn’t have a bunch of those to grapple with.