Around the same time I developed a keen interest in the cinema in high school, I began purchasing a lot of movies on VHS. In 1999 I made the transition to DVD. I remember the first four movies I bought on DVD were “Saving Private Ryan”, “The Matrix”, “Three Kings” and “Being John Malkovich”. To watch these early discs I had to use the DVD drive in my brother’s desktop computer, which meant I could only watch them when he was either at class or at work (otherwise I had no hope, as Matt is a serious gamer and spends nearly every free waking moment engaged in video games).
At the end of ’99 I bought a cheap Orion VCR from Wal-Mart, and my father bought me an upscale Sony DVD player from the Best Buy store in Cedar Rapids, the nearest at the time. The DVD player retailed for $299, which seemed reasonable at the time. I still own that player and use it on occasion.
Even though the VHS format was falling in price during the early 2000s, I gave up on it to focus exclusively on DVD. During college I bought dozens of movies on a whim, often ordering them on Amazon.com when they first became available in DVD format. By the time I moved to Omaha in August 2003 I had around 100 titles on DVD and 50 or so on VHS. On one of my first nights living there I visited a nearby Wal-Mart and bought two small wooden bookcases with adjustable shelves. I used these to store the movies I had at the time.
I remember when I moved to Oxford in February 2004 I took all of my DVDs but only 10-20 VHS tapes, leaving the rest packed away in my parents’ basement. Many of these movies I later gave away to family and friends in what would be my first move purge, in 2004-05.
As I progressed into my 20s, depleted my savings, found gainful employment and rebuilt my savings, I became wiser with my spending habits. To put it bluntly: I grew to despise spending money. Still do. The rate at which I bought new movies slowed considerably as I grew older. I opted to pick up previously viewed DVDs from the local Blockbuster, which were cleaned and virtually assured to be playable from beginning to end. I can only recall buying one movie that did not meet this standard. Blockbuster allowed me to exchange it without issue.
By 2009 I had over 220 DVDs to my name. The two bookcases became so crowded that I had to conduct a second movie purge. I filled a shoebox with unwatched movies and gave them away over a period of a few months.
In 2010 I began to seriously unclutter my physical belongings. First it was the long file boxes containing all my notes from high school and college, various documents, clipped magazine and newspaper articles, et cetera. Then it was my large plastic bin of photographs, followed by a smaller but still unwieldy container of office supplies. My bookcase of books and magazines was decimated, so much so that the books that survived found a new home in the windowsill of the big picture window in my living room and the bookcase found a new home at the downtown St. Vincent. Closets and cabinets were cleaned out of unworn clothes and unused dinnerware.
I also got rid of all my lingering VHS tapes, at that point only a couple dozen oddball titles. I borrowed Micah’s EyeTV to convert a few hard-to-find titles to digital – “Breaking the Waves” (which I later found on DVD at the CF Library, natch), the 90s animated television series “The Maxx” and a PAL-to-VHS transfer of “Song of the South” with Thai subtitles during the song numbers. The tapes and the VCR were bagged up and dropped off at St. Vincent.
During this years-long process, my DVDs went untouched… until this summer. The bookcases were packed again. I eyed my movie collection and accepted the fact that, even if I wanted to watch them all again, I could watch one movie a night and it would take me the good part of a year to get through them all, without making any room for new movies. Not acceptable. Time to unclutter.
Scanning the collection, I could identify at least 50 or so titles that I could reason with myself I wouldn’t want to watch anytime soon. I boxed those up and took them over to my mother’s house in July to be sold at her garage sale. She picked through them and pulled out several to keep, as did my sister via telephone. I told mom to sell them at $2 apiece; she sold them at $3 (or 4 for $10 or whatever other deal she made with some buyers), pocketed a buck for each DVD and gave me the rest. The sale netted me over $120… not too shabby.
Of the ones that didn’t sell I tried to give away to friends and co-workers. This took another 20 or so off my hands. What remained were kept in the box and stuffed in the back of my bedroom closet. Steph V offered to take any unloved ones, so she will receive the box when she comes back to town for Xmas.
Back in July I put aside movies I didn’t really want to watch again but I knew I could probably get a little bit of money out of – mostly titles from the Criterion Collection or movies I knew to be out of print. In October I priced these movies on Amazon’s trade-in program and shipped all but three. Amazon accepted 10 of them and gave me $50 in in-store credit. I sold the remaining three (“Days of Heaven”, “My Dinner with Andre” and “The Battle of Algiers”) on ebay and netted $85.
I narrowed down the movies I wanted to keep to a much more manageable collection of 80-90 titles. They took up two rows on one bookcase with room to spare. I realized I could save space by ditching the bookcases altogether and moving the discs from their individual snap cases into a single binder. I found a nice one on sale at the Staples at Crossroads for $12 that held 128 titles, a binder that normally sold for closer to $20, so I guess they were clearing out old inventory or something.
I spent a Friday night removing the discs from their cases (a number of them had second “bonus” discs, which I almost never watch but decided to keep anyway) and inserting them into the binder. The next day I removed all the case inserts, booklets and various promotional material – more junk I don’t need. Almost all of it was tossed into the recycling bin.
The Evil Dead movies and “2001: A Space Odyssey” came in interesting and well-crafted cases: the 2001 case includes a cut still from a 70mm print and the Evil Dead cases are covered in a latex replica of the Book of the Dead prop from both films. These movies stay in their original cases.
I offered the empty DVD cases to family and friends but only one person expressed any interest. The Cedar Falls Library generously accepted them. My sister was the lucky recipient of the two bookcases no longer needed.
The zip-up binder now has only one blank pocket for a new disc, plus a few slots along the inside cover I could move a few bonus discs into. So I could add 4 or 5 more movies to it before it’s stuffed. Fine. Once it’s filled to capacity I’m instituting a one-in one-out policy. I’m well beyond the point of wanting to continuously add to my movie collection, now that I’ve re·examined my film-watching habits and have determined I care far more about watching new movies than re-watching old ones. [This dovetails nicely into something I wrote about movies I’d take with me to a deserted island… all of those movies made the cut.]