How to Start Collecting Movies: The Clutter-Free Method

If you’ve ever stepped into my living room, there’s one thing that you’ll notice right off the bat. I own a lot of movies. DVDs, Blurays, a few rare VHS films that have yet to get a proper transfer — I’ve got them in all styles and formats. These videos are mostly alphabetized, save for the television shows (which are strewn about a private media tower in the corner of the living room), and my collection has everything from terrible guilty pleasures to Criterion Collection masterpieces. It’s a buffet of personal tastes and historically important works, and the collection rarely decreases in size, which becomes a problem after a quarter century of collecting. It’s also an expensive habit, especially when you’re constantly upgrading your personal library to reflect the most recent digital transfers and restorations. Yet, it wasn’t until about a month ago, that I decided that there had to be a cheaper, better way to collect films. For those looking for a clutter-free method on how to start collecting movies, I found an answer that works for myself, and it costs almost nothing. 

How To Start Collecting Movies

My wife and I were having a discussion a while back about how many times we had seen some of our favorite movies. Though I’m prone to estimating in the hundreds and even thousands (I talk big), I had to confess that even with my absolute favorite movies, I probably only watched them maybe once or twice a year. It wasn’t enough viewings to get tired of these films, but it wasn’t too infrequent to where favorite scenes would start to fade from memory. In reality, at a rate of once or twice a year, I couldn’t have seen my favorite films hundreds or thousands of times. If I was lucky, I had seen them dozens of times, just enough to keep ’em fresh, and it was a convenience to have them lying around on a shelf somewhere, waiting for that once or twice a year visit.

In the meantime, they’d sit there and collect dust. For the movies that weren’t among my favorites, they’d sit on my shelf for years before I’d pull them out for another viewing. In many cases, I own dozens of movies I saw in a theater or at a friend’s house that I hadn’t even watched once. These discs were nothing more than beautiful hunks of plastic taking up precious shelf space.

It's Beautiful!
It’s Beautiful!

I hadn’t thought about it, but when I look at my movie collection, I realize that I’m a bit of a hoarder. I have hundreds upon hundreds of DVDs and Blurays, and there’s no possible way I’d watch even half of them within a year, two years, three years, etc. So why own them? Just to collect them? Just to say I have them?

Collecting is habitual. It’s something we do because we’ve always done it. It’s a way to work toward “a goal” that sometimes involves a little bit of treasure hunting and wheeling and dealing. In reality, there’s little to be gained from this hunting, but in our own minds, amassing a gargantuan library of whatever it is that we’re into is akin to accumulating some non-monetary form of wealth. We’re rich on life, or in my case, rich on cinema.

But really, is it necessary to have all of these movies? I had to ask myself that question recently, and the answer I came up with is no. There are two reasons for this. For one, most of the films I want to watch can be streamed digitally from some legal (or illegal) source. Secondly, even if it’s a movie I’ve seen dozens of times, if it’s showing in a small art house theater near me, I’ll pay to see it again. Nothing beats that theatrical experience.

The challenge I was then faced with was how could I continue to collect films without buying them? I found my answer through Google, actually. For anyone who has a Google account, there is this thing called Google Sheets, which allows you to create a spreadsheet on Google’s cloud system that is directly linked to your account. You can access it for free from anywhere, and you have the power to keep it private or share it with whomever.

Personally, it was the answer to developing the clutter-free method for film collecting. Instead of buying movies, I list them in my Google Sheet (aptly named “FILMS”). I keep track of what films I’ve seen, when they came out, how many times I’ve seen them, and general thoughts about each one. It keeps the collector in me satiated, and it’s also a fun way to track my viewing habits with hard data.

For example, I started this Google Sheet on April 29, 2017. That just so happened to be the day of the Sci-Fi Spectacular Movie Marathon in Chicago, so I racked up a few movies in one day. Since April 29th, however, I’ve watched 26 different films. One of these films was a silent movie from 1911, and at least two-thirds of them were movies I had never seen before. I noted which ones I loved (Train to Busan!), which ones I hated (The Adventure of Buckaroo Banzai), and which ones meant something to me.

It’s a beautiful method, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to abandon the habit of collecting physical media. Seriously, try it. It’s surprisingly fun!


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