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What to do with your old CD collection

Is your CD collection gathering dust in your attic? If so, then it might be time to sell, donate, or recycle your outdated mode of music storage.

Matt Elliott/CNET

I felt like I was one of the last people in America who regularly bought CDs. I liked getting something tangible for my music-purchasing dollars that downloads didn't supply, even if I immediately ripped each CD into iTunes and rarely played it unless I was in the car. Plus, I liked having an automatic backup in case my laptop crapped the bed at the same time my backup drive went belly up.

I happily went about my iTunes library-building ways, CD by CD, until the day that Spotify landed on our shores. Here was a streaming service with a catalog large enough to pull me away from iTunes. Now, for less money a month than I typically spent on CDs, I listen to Spotify and rarely come up empty when searching for an artist, album, or track.

Since I'm no longer adding to my iTunes library, the question becomes: what do I do with the containers of CDs in my attic? I drive an old Volvo that offers either radio or a CD player for my listening pleasure, but it seems silly to hold onto hundreds of CDs when I might grab a couple to throw in the car a handful of times a year. More than anything, it's the sentimental factor that prevents me from discarding my CDs; there are a lot of memories in those jewel cases.

With a move pending this summer, I'm beginning to think it might be time for a clean break from my CD collection. If you have been pondering such a separation, here are your options as I see them.

First, I will assume you have ripped your CDs and have formed a music library in iTunes, Google Play, Amazon's Cloud Player, or another music service. I have my entire library in iTunes and portions of it also on Amazon and Google's online repositories. I do not possess a golden ear, so high-quality MP3s suffice. If you'd like to rip your CDs to FLAC, a lossless audio codec, before tossing your CDs, here's how to do just that.

With your CDs ripped to your liking, I see three options for ridding yourself of your CDs.

1. Sell locally

Haul your collection down to your local record shop, spent some quality time there reminiscing about the choicest cuts, and walk out with cash in your pocket.

2. Sell online

Avail yourself of Amazon's Music Trade-in service. It'll take longer than a visit to your local record store because you'll need to search Amazon to see which of your CDs are available for trade-in, but shipping is free and you'll receive payment in the form of an Amazon gift card. You could also see what return you'd get from a online buyer such as and CashForCDs.

3. Donate, trash, or recycle.

The easiest way out is to drag your boxes of CDs to the curb or the dump, but you might also want to consider donating or recycling your collection instead. Recycling means your treasured CDs won't meet an undignified end in a landfill, while donating also avoids the environment costs of the landfill and might give you a tax write-off at the end of the year.

In my home state of New Hampshire is the CD Recycling Center of America. You'll need to pay shipping to get your CDs to the Granite State, but you should be able to use USPS Media Mail Rate or UPS Ground Hundredweight to ship your boxes at a discounted rate.

Depending on your musical tastes, you could donate your collection, or portions of it, to your local library or children's hospital. You could also try the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Are you still holding onto your CD collection? Do you still play physical CDs? If not, what is the reason you are holding onto your trusted albeit dusty CD collection? And if you did cut the cord, where did your CDs go after they left your attic/basement/closet? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Editors' note: It's spring cleaning time! Week's four's theme: digitizing your life. Check back every day this week to see how best to bring your stuff into the digital age. And be sure to return next week for more spring cleaning tips and tricks.