[Moving Zeal] Album Sorting Algorithms

“Think of [moving] like Tetris. You’ve gotta fit everything into one space.[1]” In many puzzle games, you get bonus points for lumping similar pieces together. That sort of design philosophy carries over into album sorting as well. How strictly do you adhere to empirical alphabetical order? Do you count articles [the/el]? Do you lump side projects by members of a band with the band’s discography? Or do you loosely lump albums by genre or …mood?

These questions dictate your collection curation process.

For temporary storage, like these small boxes going into long-term storage, the question becomes: how can I easily find any album again? That’s where the design philosophies of puzzle games come in: while you certainly get more points when you lump together more blocks in similar arrangements, you lose if the screen is overwhelmed with random pieces. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta go for suboptimal moves to free up the space to return to more valuable lumps.

My optimal album arrangement is in a loose alphabetical order.

Rather than just A-to-Z, it’s subjectively how I’d think to find something: I’d look for any Zappa album under Z, rather than F for Frank Zappa or T or M for The Mothers of Invention. I’d look for Аркона under ARK, for its transliterated name Arkona, than after Z where Cyrillic script gets sorted in Unicode. I’d also look for any solo album by former Nightwish singer Tarja under Nightwish, not just because fame doesn’t matter; stylistically, Ozzy fits with Black Sabbath.

To free up space, this box became a folk metal genre box.

I used to be huge into genres, categorizing bands by their genre, and relating one band to another. It’s a highly subjective, loosely nebulous structure at best, which I’ve distanced myself from because it limits artistic expression. For a band to only play in a certain rigid structure might help listeners that only want a rigid listening experience, but it prevents experimentation for one, and after a while, leads to the cliché: Why listen to this album or discography? It’s all the same.

Similar to puzzle games, there are dangers in broad lumpings.

If the genre is too broad, it’s not descriptive enough; too specific, and it becomes esoteric. Similarly, if I want this box to have folk and symphonic metal, and get too attached to that notion, then I won’t make any progress, because I’m too focused on exacting details. While my intention would be to make it easier for me to unpack, the result is that nothing gets packed. That’s why in puzzle games and in moving, it’s alright to get those low-hanging fruits done quickly.

This is what I learned from moving furniture:

  1. Figure out what pieces are:
    • Big
    • Awkward
    • Fragile
  2. Anchor those objects in [the truck/box/whatever] first.
  3. Fill in the gaps with similar/smaller objects.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3.
  5. Rest when needed.
  6. Do a final pass, sweep, and close it up.

It’s tricky focusing less on lumping by alphabetical-bonuses or genre-combos and more toward clearing space.


Quotes: [1] Someone whose name I forget, but I remember the situation: we were unloading furniture from storage units whose owners had lapsed in payments. As we were unloading the contents into the dumpster or people’s trucks, another shipment came in to put stuff into a storage unit. The circle of materialism.
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: The title came up a while ago and today seemed like the day to use the title in an essay.
Related: Other Moving Zeal essays.
— CD essays:
1. Albums: Move, Sell?
2. Luxury of Ownership
3. “Close Enough” Lumpings
4. Last Heard: Pre-Cataloging
5. Album Sorting Algorithms
Photo: These boxes work better with the labels pointed sideways, but here I posed the CDs with the labels pointed up so you could roughly see the bands I’d lumped together. The music map in the background was something I’d printed out years ago, with each point on the world map being a city of residence/origin of a musician or band.
Written On: December 8th [1 hour?] – Perhaps. How I wrote this essay was I’d put away some CDs, write until I lost inspiration, put away some more CDs, or cooked breakfast, then wrote some more…
Last Edited: January 10th [5 minutes] – I reread this essay to refresh me on how I overcame the hurdle of sorting my CD collection as I begin to pack up my unorganized DVD collection. The same philosophy applies here. Now that everything’s collected, I’ll start alphabetically sorting them before packing everything up. Nothing really new to write…


Author: Zombiepaper [Anthony]

My big goal is to write. My important goal is to write "The Story." My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame a fear, which should have been today.

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