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Thoughts on a Life of Collecting Stuff

After recently moving from a large spacious apartment in Central Alabama to a very small New York one, it has become clear to me that I’m every media company’s wet dream.

While sales of physical media have sagged in recent years, I appear to be helping to prop up the music, movie and publishing industries all by myself.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that in terms of both volume and weight, items related to entertainment took up about 50 percent of my belongings in my move.

To try and quantify this, my CDs filled seven 12-gallon boxes, my books filled four 18-gallon boxes, my DVDs and Blu-rays filled three 18-gallon boxes, and only half my electronics would fit in the back of my Honda Fit hatchback (I had the movers take everything except the most expensive electronics which I drove myself). The movers of course, made fun of me. Most of their clients have lots of furniture and clothes — I’m the inverse of the typical person.

Thanks to digital technology and the internet, in theory I should have to never buy another book, DVD or CD again.

But I like packaging. I really enjoy reading the liner notes, the commentary by the artists, looking at the pictures of the recording session, etc. that come with CDs. It’s all part of the experience (and just think how much more elaborate the packaging was during the LP era). It makes it feel like I’ve purchased something special of substance, whereas downloading the music feels like I paid money for an off-air bootleg recording.

I’ve thought about buying a computer to use as a dedicated media server, ripping all of my CDs to it, and then putting the CDs in storage, but I haven’t done that yet because I know I’ll miss being able to page through the liner notes on occasion (and there’s also no way to rip the multi-channel content of the SACDs I own).

On the DVD front, a lot of my buying has slowed down due the wide availability of rentals, but I still like buying TV shows. There’s something strangely comforting and satisfying about having all of the seasons of The Sopranos, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, etc. just sitting next to my TV in their colorful shiny packaging — anytime I want I can watch any episode.

The books weighed by far the most, and it’s time that I embrace e-books and stop growing the size of the collection. It’s simply too heavy to keep moving them around and they drive up the cost of moving (for those who haven’t used movers before, you pay by the pound). But a lot of the book collection’s growth has been fueled by used book buying. I love going to a used bookstore, flipping through the books, and picking up a bunch of stuff that I think looks interesting for relatively little money. It’s going to be hard resisting that ritual.

When I think about what my apartment would be without any of the movies, books and music, things would be a lot more barren. Like the art, posters and pictures people have, all of this is a display of the kind of person I am. We all hang things on our walls as a method of self expression, and I don’t think anything accomplishes that better than putting all of the entertainment I enjoy in plain view. The DVD collection alone communicates my pretentiousness, love of dark humor and science fiction.

Despite my love of physical things, I hope that one day when I move I’ll have relatively few things to pack, few to unpack, and the flexibility to live in any apartments no matter minimal square footage. It would be pretty spiffy to just have to toss single external hard drive in my backpack.

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