« Throwback Thursday: "Bjork's Big Adventure" | Main | The happily brief film career of Charlie Haden »

July 11, 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Great personal essay, Glenn. I culled my CD collection years ago, but now it's the DVDs that are crowding me. Last week I disposed of more than 50 DVDs, all of movies released in the last 10 years, which I assume I can rent, buy or check out of the public library if I feel a burning need to see them again.

At least you describe your collection as "a library I really do use." The saddest collectors I've met are the comic-book fans who have dozens of longboxes full of comics they read only once (if at all) but won't part with. In some cases, this means comics they bought 30 or 40 years ago and haven't looked at since. This is more properly called HOARDING instead of collecting. I culled my comics years ago, too.

Michael Dempsey

Thanks for your enlightening treatment of this topic.

I've done likewise -- 2500 DVD titles reduced to about 215. The motive was a strong desire to be lighter on my feet if I decide to or must move. Plus, the availability of the discarded titles via downloading and streaming. Finally, a general desire in my later years not to own so much stuff.

The same thing has happened with books -- 2000 or so formerly, now about 150, and many of those short paperback volumes. The bookseller who bought most of them (the rest went to libraries gratis) told me that he himself owned just a few volumes that were special to him. This remark also influenced me strongly.

I thought I might miss the feel and heft of paper books, but this hasn't happened. Reading texts in e-book form hasn't been any different for me.

Basically, all this seems to stem from a desire to have movies and books (I've never been a big music collector) be non-material entities rather than objects filling bookcases and racks. Contemporary media make this possible. There are losses, but the aforementioned gains have come to outweigh them, at least for me now.

Thanks again for your commentary.


My rule of thumb: if I have a book, CD or DVD that I haven't touched in 10 years, I'm probably never going to read, watch or listen to it again. Might as well get rid of it.


After 20 years of audio-visual acquisitions -- beginning I believe with the Japanese laserdisc of 'A Clockwork Orange' (at the time withdrawn from circulation in Britain) -- my combined number of LD, DVD and Blu-ray titles still hovers around 200. It pays to be discerning.


Really enjoyed the Wondering Sound piece, Glenn. Over the last give years I've taken steps to consolidate the physical space taken up by my DVD/Blu collection (about 1,500 strong) - placing them in 500-capacity binders and boxing the cases for the attic - mainly for the same reasons as you (got married, decided that having shelves and shelves of DVD cases wasn't really compatible with my wife's clutter-free philosophy, which I can understand). But I haven't had the heart to purge myself of the discs themselves, mainly by convincing myself that I'll watch them again at some point, or that they have little resale value (the latter of which is probably true).

Regardless, this really hit home for me, as I've been thinking more and more about my collector's mentality (or obsession, you could call it). Though I've scaled back drastically in the last few years, my ability to covet still disturbs me to a pretty alarming degree. I just bought and very much enjoyed the Criterion Blu-ray of A Hard Day's Night, despite the fact that I have at least 200 unwatched DVDs/Blus on the shelf. And as I sit here I have a browser open that features reviews or discussion of no fewer than three discs I want - two of which I already own on DVD (The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Out of the Past), one I don't (Ophuls' Caught). It has to end at some point, right? Surely I know that these things won't make me happy beyond a few days? Because that's really what it comes down to - happiness. THIS is the one, I keep telling myself. Sure I've got all these hundreds of discs, but if I get THIS one, then I'll truly be happy.

Not really sure where I'm going with this, but there it is. Just some things I've been thinking about recently, all of which is to say I share your dilemma.

Clayton Sutherland

"The motive was a strong desire to be lighter on my feet if I decide to or must move."

This. So much this.

I've never been a huge CD collector (I've probably never had more than 80 CDs in total at any given time), but I was approaching 1000 DVDs/Blu-rays, and have now whittled them down to around 50 (and a few TV box sets that I don't think are worth much). If I don't think I'll watch a new film more than twice, I'll borrow whatever I can from the public library (which has been pretty useful in the past few years), and try to see certain films in the theater whenever I can.

Trying to collect many of the best arthouse films, in their highest quality form, is simply too expensive. I used to have hundreds of Criterion titles, but now I only have a handful: the films that I know carry personal, long-term replay value. There are many that I admired greatly, but didn't think I'd ever get around to watching again. And unlike typical studio releases, many of those C.C. titles held their value pretty well, and I got a pretty good return on my investment when I sold them.

My general attitude is I can't unsee them, and if someone brings them up in conversation, I'm more than capable of discussing them. And there are always good new (or old) films to discover, to occupy my time.

Music is somewhat different in this regard, in that if you are particularly fond of a piece of music, it will likely have more overall replay value than a film. And I can understand not wanting to part with the artwork (in some cases), if it adds to the overall appreciation of the music in some way. But, yeah, if you haven't listened to it in many, many years, perhaps it's best to send it out into the public on the off chance that someone else will get more enjoyment out of it than you do.

A lot of the time, there's this thought in the back of our heads that "this (piece of music or film) represents a big part of who I am", like some sort of stationary signifier, rather than just being something that, in whatever way, influenced what you chose to listen to or see in the future.

I suppose one advantage to having a big, diverse collection is that it (potentially) allows you to introduce different art to other people in your life, but if you're considering lending it out, you've got to get past the point of worrying what they're gonna do with the disc with their greasy hands. And perhaps wonder if you're ever going to get it back.

Either way, we can't take them with us when we die. And figuring out what things are truly essential in our lives (both in terms of the art we appreciate, and our day-to-day personal existence) can be quite liberating.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Great piece, and nice to find those links to your other writings at Wondering Sound. I would not have pegged you for a Springsteen fan, so I learned something today.

After a year with three apartment moves, I decided I needed a mediapocalypse. One thing that made it easier (for this particular obsessive-compulsive) was doing a little math:

[Size of media unit] x [$ per square foot in apartment] = [Amount I spend to store this annually].
If that amount I've spend storing the piece is more than the cost of replacing, then it goes.

Of course, in this digital era, nothing needs to be really gone---MacTheRipper let me digitize my DVDs in full quality, an RCA-to-USB box let me digitize the records with vinyl sound quality, and 1DollarScans ldigitizes the books that I really wanted (including Mr. Tom Carson's Gilligan's Wake, which I had in space-hogging hardcover but couldn't be without forever).

Now I have all my shelves set up, and a strict rule in place: I can own as much media as fits in the spaces for media. Once that limit is hit, any new piece coming in must be met by a piece going out. It's actually been a really interesting self-discovery process, not so different from the self-presentation that one longs for when accumulating all that stuff in the first place. "Would I rather keep my DVD of Clockers, or own the Blu-Ray of Inside Man?" As any poet knows, limits are fun!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad