Updated on 09.09.14

The One Hour Project: Clean Out Your Media Collection

Trent Hamm

Most of my friends have huge shelves full of DVDs and CDs that they rarely listen to or look at. Not long ago, I suffered from the same condition – I had this huge array of DVDs that I watched once, shelved away, and didn’t touch for years. In other words, it wasn’t long before they became just something else to dust.

What most people don’t think about is that there is cash just sitting there on those shelves, just waiting to be collected. You might not get a great return on each one, but in just an hour, you can liquidate the collection and put some cash in your pocket – hopefully for the purpose of eliminating some debt or investing in something that will actually generate wealth over time.

Make a Profit Off of Media You Don’t Use

1. Go through your DVD or CD collection

Select a portion of them to liquidate. In the past, I found that choosing a certain percentage to keep is a great tactic to use. Try going through the first time with the goal of keeping 40% of the collection while eliminating 60%. I usually count each “box” as a single DVD for the purposes of this, but you can do it a different way if you like. The goal is to separate the wheat from the chaff – which ones will you potentially watch again and which ones will just sit there on your shelf?

Sell them off

For the most part, it’s not worth the additional effort to sell single DVDs on eBay or Amazon auctions, but boxed sets are often worth that extra effort. For the individual DVDs, even though your rate of return isn’t as good, I usually found the best method to be to just take them to a reseller of used DVDs. You might be able to get more per DVD online, but the effort per sale would eat up that gain very quickly (unless you made this into a hobby for a while).

Make an effort to enjoy the stuff you kept

If you kept this DVD because you intend to watch it again, watch it again! Go through your DVD collection and watch all of these movies and television shows that you chose to keep around. If you’re thinking, “Nah, I don’t think I want to,” it might be a good time to ask yourself whether you really want to keep any of them at all – you may want to do another round of purging.

The real key here is to use this money to actually pay down some debt or add to an investment. Some people may be tempted to just blow this money – don’t. Find something truly useful to do with it, something that will benefit you over the long haul instead of just sitting on a shelf gathering dust.

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  1. Javi0084 says:

    Or “recycle” them through friends and family, you get their unused media and they get yours.

  2. Michael Langford says:

    Go to game stop with them. Buy an “Edge” card, which will get you 15% per each. They do them quickly for you and sometimes at a good price.


  3. Kyle says:

    Great advice, I put all my music on my iPod and computer and have 3 boxes of CDs just collecting dust. I think I will take your advice.

  4. Sara says:

    I did something like this recently with my (overflowing) bookshelves. I took all the books I didn’t think I would re-read to Half Price Books, then took all of the cash from the sale and used it to open an emergency savings account. I was very proud of myself for not just buying a whole new round of books with the money I got back :)

  5. Louise says:

    I’m pretty sure I found this through one of your morning roundups: a Get Rich Slowly article about clutter. It’s partly a review of Clutter’s Last Stand: It’s Time to De-Junk Your Life and partly an explanation of how keeping clutter around is a bad idea.

    Just a little extra push to help people get rid of their extra CDs and DVDs.

  6. talisker says:

    I’ve actually done fairly well donating them to Goodwill and writing the donation off as charity. I’d rather dump a box off at Goodwill and get a couple of dollars in tax write-off from each item than to bother with going to a used music store or dealing with shipping them out.

    And Goodwill doesn’t care if you drop off that lame CD that ten used music stores have passed on, and the write off is the same.

  7. Justin says:

    I’m a fan of Half.com. Their “Re-Pricing” mode, which compares your prices to the competition and lets you lower them on the fly, is brilliant.

    Pre-buy as many padded mailers as you need, add your items to Half, then sit back and wait for orders. Try to bundle your trips the the post office to increase efficiency.

    I’ve sold several items on Half for much more than their buyback value. (Try getting $5.75 for a fair-quality “Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves” at GameStop!)

    eBay crapped their interface, but it’s still a great system.

  8. Chris says:

    Actually talisker, that lame CD DOESN’T have the same write off as a non-lame CD. You’re supposed to claim an item’s fair market value for the deduction. That being said, no, the IRS isn’t going to track you down and make you justify writing off the same amount for your Color Me Badd CD as you did for your Led Zeppelin IV CD…

  9. I keep a pile of books next to my desk, and I sell these through Amazon. Every now and again when the pile gets low, I stroll through the house, pick books we no longer want off the shelves, and add them to the pile. Keeps the book collection from growing out of control, and I make a few bucks on the side.

  10. Kevin Spring says:

    I have a friend who must buy two or three DVD a week. The walls of his house are covered with shelves full of DVDs. The idea is cool but once I asked if I could borrow a DVD, it took 3 hours to find it. Also, some DVDs just disappear. Too bad he doesn’t see the value that sits on his walls.

    I use to be this way with books, but just the other day I cleaned out my book shelf. They are sitting near my front door waiting for the weekend when I take them to Half Price Books.

  11. guinness416 says:

    I sold all my CDs prior to moving country. It’s easy for a music collection – stick it all on a laptop/harddrive and sell the originals. I made a lot of money which helped in my move and it really always feels good to clear stuff out. DVD collections on the other hand I’ve never really understood. Many people I know leave them gathering dust, because they’re just not all that portable in the same bring-in-the-car, bring-camping way music is.

  12. Danielle says:

    I’m also a huge fan of half.com for books and dvd’s. We made over $300 trimming down our collection and we could do more. I also made over $600 on ebay for certain items and another $400 on craigslist before our move. We used most of the $$ for the moving truck through upack and used $600 to pay off my student loan. It felt great and we moved less stuff!

  13. Justin says:

    Don’t forget to clean up any scuffs or scratches on DVD’s and CD’s you intend to sell.

  14. Monica says:

    I’ve sold CDs and later kicked myself in the head for doing so. I’ve actually gone out and bought the same CD again because I missed it. What else was I to do? I don’t think I’ll ever sell my CDs or DVDs again.

  15. Matt says:

    This is a great idea. I doubt it will only be a one hour project for me though. I’m one of those guys that has a thousand dvds. I used to collect them and lately I’ve been realizing that I only watch like 15 of them or so over and over. I’ve probably got a good amount of money on my shelves that I can use to pay down my truck or something…

  16. FIRE Finance says:

    This is a wonderful way to convert some of our non performing assets to liquid cash. We usually look at a CD, choose our favorite songs and buy them from the web at 99c each. Then we sell the CDs on either Amazon of Half.com. We never use ebay because of the high listing fees. Of late another useful service that is becoming very popular is SwapTree: http://firefinance.blogspot.com/2007/01/frugal-tip-turn-trash-to-treasure.html
    This is really catching up. Check it out.
    Also, we always use bubble wraps or special CD Mailers while mailing out the CDs to prevent the chances of the CD cases from cracking.
    FIRE Finance

  17. Bill says:

    No listing fees on ebay through 9/30.

  18. Brad says:

    My big chore is to take all my cd’s from the jewel cases and match them back to the original..they’re always mismatched!

    I don’t know if I would sell Rush Hour 2 on Ebay, but I am looking to get rid of Simpsons, Seinfeld, and MASH seasons that I never have watched (gifts).

  19. Marie says:

    The only problem with ripping your CDs to digital format and then selling them is that you no longer legally own the rights to have the music in digital format…

  20. Matt says:

    The biggest problem with these big media collections is although they might provide you with some extra cash when you clean them out you’re really loosing a lot of money on those purchases. Its wise after such a purging to simply keep yourself from buying movies you’re likely to only watch a couple times. I’ve gotten a lot better at this since I last purged my collection (with that said thanks for the reminder to clear out the DVD cupboard)

  21. shawn says:

    For those that are planning on selling your CDs after ripping them you do realize that you’re stealing right?

  22. steve says:

    shawn, that’s exactly what i was thinking as people were describing ripping their CDs and selling them (same w/DVDs). what my wife and i did was to rip all our CDs into iTunes (whole CDs, no matter what) then we just put all the CDs into cases and put them in a box we taped up and put in the basement.

    we did something similar with movies, we took the DVDs out of their cases and put the DVDs into a 100 DVD binder thing, then put all the cases in a box and stored it in the basement.

    for the music, what we did was to use iTunes’ rating system to give every song a value .. if an entire CD gets 1’s or 0’s, we could go back downstairs and find the CD to sell (i guess, lot of hassle though)

    my point is that we feel we must actually have the CD physically someplace in order to ethically have the song(s) in a digital format.

  23. AT says:

    I’ve found that the resellers don’t give you much money for CDs so unless you have A LOT of CDs to sell, you won’t be able to pay down much debt or add much to an investment. You might be able to buy a meal (alone) at a mid-priced restaurant.

    DVDs will give you a better return. I’ve found Craigslist useful for this- resell stores need to make money and thus will buy for as little possible- and have added the $25 (or whatever) to my savings account.

    Regarding putting your music collection onto your computer:
    Legal issues aside, what happens if your hard drive dies? I’ll tell you: You’re very upset, then realize that you didn’t listen to a lot of that music anyway.

  24. heather says:

    maybe i was misreading what people said they were doing, but what i thought they were saying was they were burning the music onto their hard drives and then selling the actual cd’s. you still have the music, but not the hassle.

  25. db says:

    I’ve recouped money and decreased clutter through selling books, movies and CDs through amazon.com.

    I’m not making a profit, but I’m reclaiming probably about 1/3rd to 1/2 of the purchase price in most cases. It’s made a huge difference in the amount of stuff I keep, it gives me an outlet to offload things I no longer need, AND it helps me pause to consider whether I really need to buy it (I always think about the amazon resaleability).

  26. Justin says:

    Shawn, Marie…you do realize that you already paid for the cd’s right? You have to be pretty stupid to think that it is actually stealing to put the songs from the cd onto your computer, no matter what you do with the disc afterwards. I mean, the music industry already has my $15 or whatever, so what if I decide to try to recoup a couple of bucks after keeping the one or two good songs from the cd on my computer? Its my right to do so.

  27. Justin says:

    Also, to follow up…how can it be okay to download a song from itunes, what not okay to buy a cd, burn a song onto your computer, and then sell the cd? The end result is the same! Either way you don’t have the disc any longer. And in both instances you paid for it.

  28. Trixie Belden says:

    Hey, once you decide to get rid of some of your favorite, or not so favorite, DVDs and realize you want to watch them again, why not go to your local library … they have many popular movies and TV shows disc sets. And what I have found that is great is that the library considers a whole box set as one disc, so you get a whole season of Grey’s Anatonmy or Law & Order: CI or Deadwood on loan for a few weeks instead of having just one disc from a box set through Netflix. (That always drove me insane.) So go to the library and enjoy! :)

  29. Christine says:

    We just culled the bookshelves and got $40 from Half Price Books. Might have gotten more money by selling them individually online, but it was much less hassle to just drop off that bag all at once.

    Trixie, amen – my husband recently discovered that our library has a TON of graphic novels. I’m shocked at how much “good” stuff is available through interlibrary loan!

  30. LeslieAnn Davidson says:

    Too bad I didn’t have this insight before I bought myself 12 books for Christmas. All I can say is at least I bought them used on Amazon and got them with free shipping.

    I have such a hard time selling my books. Books helped me survive my unsavory childhood. I read soup can labels if nothing else is available. I never travel without books….I think I’ll keep reading and find some other method of enhancing my financial liquidity!

    Thanks for all the good information!

  31. Another Justin says:

    Yeah, I know this is late, but it’s gotta be said…

    To the Justin who says that one must be “pretty stupid” to think that it’s illegal to rip music from CDs and then sell the discs, try reading up on what you’re actually buying when you purchase a song, either on CD or via a music service like iTunes (here’s a hint: it isn’t the music). Try reading about copyright law and all that it entails. From your comments, it’s fairly apparent that you haven’t done either.

  32. James says:

    Bookmooch (.com) is a great service a friend introduced me. I haven’t bought a new book since. You post books you wnat to give away, then mooch books from others. It’s free to join and the only cost involved is the price to mail a book when someone mooches one of your books. And shipping a book via media mail is just a little over $2. So basically, you give a book, and then in turn, you get a book, and it’ll only cost you about $2.

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