The Unused Library: Dealing with an Overspender’s Entertainment Collection

In early 2006, I had a DVD collection that numbered well over 1,000 discs. It featured complete television series, many different film series, a large portion of the Criterion Collection, and many other items.

I also had a video game collection that consisted primarily of Playstation 2 and GameCube games that numbered somewhere around 250 titles.

I also had an overstuffed bookshelf that was crammed full of books.

I know what it’s like to have a large media collection.

I also know what it’s like to be an almost compulsive overspender. Many of the items in each of these collections were basically untouched. I had unwatched DVDs, unplayed video games, and unread books by the dozen.

When I hit my financial bottom, I knew that such rampant media overcollection was a real problem. I had to change my habits. At the same time, I also knew that my shelves were loaded with items that had significant value just sitting there.

Here’s what I did with these collections. You can do the same exact thing with whatever you have collected, whether it’s Kindle books or Steam games or Bluray discs or Wii games.

First, I made a pledge to myself not to buy another DVD, book, or game until I had dealt with all of the collections. I would not add to any of the collections until I had figured out what to do with all of these media items I’ve collected.

If I decided I needed entertainment during this period, then I dove into the collections I already had. I found a DVD in my collection or a game or book on my shelf and enjoyed that instead of finding something new.

Next, I set a goal of “processing” each and every item in each collection. This took quite a bit of time, but it was worth it.

I simply went through each and every item in my collection and asked myself whether or not this was something I was ever going to read, play, or watch. Was I really going to set aside the time to actually enjoy this item in the future?

If the answer was “no,” it went immediately into a “sell” pile. There was no reason to keep those items any longer. I sold off every item that went into the “no” pile, which actually generated a nice amount of money.

(How did I sell them? eBay and Craigslist.)

If the answer was “yes,” I returned it to my collection.

If you take these two steps together, it becomes clear what happened next. I strove to watch every DVD still in my collection, read every book still in my collection, and play through every game still in my collection before acquiring more.

If I didn’t want to do this – if I’d rather be out there buying something new instead – then why am I keeping this item around at all? If I don’t have an item on my shelf that entertains me, why do I have these items on my shelf?

Over the next several months, I winnowed my book, DVD, and video game collections down over and over again. I sold off more and more of the items because I recognized that I genuinely had little interest in investing the time to read, watch, or play through them again.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t like those items. It simply means that the value of having a new experience is worth more than repeating this old one. I’d rather watch a new movie than watch this DVD on my shelf again, for example.

Once I processed my collections in full, I had another realization. Rather than acquiring new items, it made far more sense to just borrow them. Rather than paying $20 to watch a movie that I’ll probably watch only once, why not just rent it for $1? Rather than buying a book I likely won’t read again, why not just get it from the library? Rather than holding onto a game I probably won’t replay, why not just swap it with other gamers and get a game I’d enjoy playing again?

A collection means little if you aren’t enjoying the items in that collection. If they’re just sitting there gathering dust, they’re just “stuff” that you’re having to provide storage space for while they depreciate in value.

As I mentioned last week, you’re far better off collecting experiences. Instead of creating a giant collection of DVDs or Blurays, make a collection of films you’ve actually watched. Instead of collecting books, collect a long list of books you’ve read. Instead of buying more games, create a list of games that you’ve beaten and strive to add more to that list.

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