At the Tennessee home of Ann and Scott Johnson, the floor-to-ceiling entertainment unit (shown) was awkwardly filled with more than 300 CDs and various DVDs and VHS tapes, stereo components and cables. Knickknacks also hogged shelf space. When Scott found big scratches on five of his all-time favorite CDs, the couple decided to take a stand.
Install The Great Divide: Real Simple transformed the three lower cupboards into distinct zones: board and video games on the left, DVD player and movies in the middle, and CD player and music on the right.
MinimizeSpace Invaders: An upper shelf, once crammed with liquor bottles, contains a single tray of the brands the couple serve most frequently. Ann can take down the tray that holds the liquor bottles and use it as a makeshift bar on a console or a coffee table.
Employ containers To Have and to Hold: Fabric-covered boxes are now home to Ann's loose photos. Magazine files organize her favorite gardening, cooking, and decorating titles, plus Scott's stash of National Geographics. Designate a spot for remotes.
Use The Right Stuff:Real Simple removed Ann and Scott's CDs and DVDs from their plastic cases. CDs, categorized by genre, are now contained in canvas binders (shown). DVDs and cover art, slipped into dust- and scratch-resistant see-through sleeves that stand vertically in plastic bases, can be flipped through (in alphabetical order, under Comedy, Drama, Romance, etc.), à la Blockbuster. (The plastic cases were recycled; visit greendisk.com for more info.) A chalkboard mounted to the back of a cupboard door allows the kids to take turns designating the weekly movie.
Call in Inspector Gadget: The family transferred cassettes to CDs, and VHS tapes to DVDs. (For cassettes, visit audiomover.com. For VHS tapes―wedding videos, say―check out vhs-to-dvd.com. Or invest in a VHS-to-DVD recorder.) Meanwhile, Scott swapped his massive floor speakers for a pair of white bookshelf speakers, which blend in with the entertainment center. (Instead of tossing electronics, post them on freecycle.org, where you can give―and get―items for free.)
Find a place for Hidden Treasures. The roomy basket above the television set is deep enough to hide its contents: cameras, chargers, and memory cards for shutterbug Ann.
"I like that our entertainment center didn't lose its personality―it still showcases family photos and my collectibles," says Ann. "The shelves are so cheerful and family-oriented." And Scott is sold on the convenience factor. "The new system motivates us to put things back in the right place," he says. "And all the different media we enjoy are in one great-looking spot."