Any collector of books or movies (and Lord help you if, like me, you collect both) will tell you that eventually there will come a time when you either have to purge your collection or buy a bigger house. Storage units aren’t really an option; you need immediate access to your stuff, right? So we try to cram things in tighter, maybe even double-stack or stack books/movies in front of other books/movies, store them on staircases, in bathrooms, etc. My wife has a rule (which I violate all the time): no books/movies stacked horizontally on any books/movies arranged vertically. She’s got a point; my collection looks much better her way. But I can still purge and run into trouble because – as we all know – publishers and companies keep putting out new stuff all the time.
I listen to several movie and comic book podcasts where people discuss the number of books/movies they own and are buying. And I see photos on Twitter and Instagram of peoples’ collections of comics, graphic novels, books, and movies. When I hear those podcasts and see those photos, I usually don’t feel quite so bad, but I know it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be in a similar situation.
So what do you do?
Here’s what I do (but I warn you, it sounds morbid):
Go through your book/comics/graphic novel/movie collection(s). Look at everything, even the stuff you have stored away. Ask yourself, “If I knew I only had five years to live, what would I want to keep?” I know many of you are rolling your eyes at this, but seriously, consider it for a minute. What would you want to keep? Seriously. Do you really need to keep that classic? (Your local library probably has several copies.) How about that 2008 travel guide to the Caribbean? Your old textbooks? And try not to think about, “Oh, I’m keeping this for my kids, family, library, etc.” I understand that and it’s a legitimate thought, but for now, we’re only talking about you.
See if this has ever happened to you: you’re looking through your collection and discover something you didn’t even know you owned. How long have you owned it? Would you miss it if it was gone? Would you even know it was gone?
“But I might want to read it someday… Soon!” Okay, then keep it, especially if it’s hard to find, out of print, etc.
“But it was a gift…” Okay, this is a tough one. You’re concerned that the person who gave it to you will visit, asking if you liked it, and fearing that the worst may happen: they may say “I don’t see it on your shelf…” Again, that’s a tough one, but how much of your collection really consists of gifts and how much consists of stuff you bought for yourself. (I am speaking to myself on all these points, mind you.)
Even if you don’t want to follow the morbid “five years to live” rule, honestly ask yourself, “Will I ever read/watch this again?” (or for the first time!)
For instance: I had a really tough time deciding what to do with my X-Files DVDs. I love many of those seasons, love the stories, love the relationship between Mulder and Scully (especially in the early seasons). I thought, “I’ll just watch them all again, and then get rid of them.” I finally decided to sell them all. Do I miss them? No. And if I do, the library has them and I can probably stream them. (Streaming is a whole other issue I won’t get into here, one that sometimes helps, sometimes doesn’t.)
I’ve done the same thing with many of my books. I still have a lot and still need to go through a lot, but it’s better than it was just months ago.
Movies are a little different. It’s much less of a time commitment to rewatch a movie than it is to reread a book. I’ve kept several movies that I know I’ll want to rewatch; the ones I know I probably won’t rewatch go away. (I do, however, tend to keep all my film noir DVDs and Blu-rays.)
I try to avoid buying TV shows on DVD/Blu-ray like the plague, but I often fail. I hope to always own the original Star Trek, The Twilight Zone and a few others, but I’ve made some pretty serious mistakes in the past, case in point: The Wild, Wild West. Here is a show I loved as a kid, so when the complete series was on sale on Amazon a few years ago at a ridiculous price, I bought it. How many episodes have I watched? Probably only about eight or nine. And that sucker takes up a lot of shelf space. Recently I’ve been tempted to buy Bearcats! The Complete Series, a lesser-known short-lived series that starred Rod Taylor and Dennis Cole, an adventure show set in the Southwest in 1914. On the plus side, it’s cheap. On the minus side, I was nine years old the last time I saw it, and we know that those nostalgic feelings often turn sour when faced with the reality of what you thought you liked at the time.
Now sales are another story… Last night I was looking on Amazon UK for Blu-ray deals (since I got an Amazon UK gift certificate for my birthday) and noticed their 5 Blu-rays for ￡25 sale. And I was off to the races… Until I realized I only saw one Blu-ray from that list that I really wanted.
Again, we’re talking about physical media, and I know that many people opt for ebooks, streaming movies, and other options. But some things you just want to keep. But the 5-year rule is working for me – at least for now.
Consider also your age. I’m in my 50s and somewhere in my 40s, time started becoming very important to me. I’m not saying that I’m super wise or that time isn’t important to someone younger – of course it is – but when you’re older you just look at it differently. I try to keep the things that resonate with me – books, movies, comics. If they don’t, do I really need to keep them? They may be things I really enjoy, but they no longer resonate with me, inspire me, anger me, make me glad to be alive on this earth. The things that don’t stir me on some level simply have to go. Your mileage may vary.
So, do you have a method for keeping your collection(s) under control? What works? What doesn’t?