I knew it was coming. I’d been waiting for it to happen, dreading the moment I’d have to face up to it. I’d done all I could to put it off, to fight it, to stop it from happening because I knew it would be hard to handle. No, I’m not talking about the time I decided to read the comments on my Love Island feature. I mean that I’ve finally ran out of space in my flat. I officially have too many DVDs.
Refusing to accept this conclusion, I took to Twitter and asked how many DVDs other people own and the majority who answered said “200+” (never mind how many +) so I’m not alone. It’s completely normal to own a lot of movies. The reason I’m out of space is just because I’m storing them wrong.
I’ve put effort into trimming down the collection, incidentally. I’ve already gone through all the difficult questions like “Do I need four different versions of The Thing?” and “Do I need to keep the Nicolas Cage movies I don’t even like just because they’re part of the Nicolas Cage shrine, uh, I mean collection?” and I’ve accepted the answers are no. I’ve purged. I’ve purged big. My local charity shop has been blessed with so many diabolically bad DTV horror films I comfort-bought on late night supermarket trips just because they had a shiny foil sleeve that spoke to my soul.
So, if the problem isn’t me, then why is it so hard to find the perfect way to store a large DVD collection? And how do other people do it? Using the feedback I got from Twitter and some light research, I’ve managed to divide collectors into five main groups…
This is me. I keep my films on IKEA bookcases because they’re cheap and big. The Billy bookcase, in particular, is massive but clearly not designed for DVDs. The problem is that the holes that allow you to adjust the size of the shelves don’t go all the way down the case so, no matter how you configure them, you’ll always be left with awkward spaces. Aesthetically this looks pretty messy. In trying to make the most of the space, you’ll have some DVDs stacked vertically, some horizontally, some just squeezed in wherever they’ll go. The Billys are also at least two DVDs deep so I’ve ended up double stacking mine. This is good in that I can have twice as many discs but, on the down side, only half of them can be displayed.
If you’re a shelver, part of why you do it is practical but there’s also another part that’s bellowing “Look upon my badass DVD collection, ye mighty, and despair!” You want guests’ eyes to be drawn to it. You secretly take delight every time someone gasps “Oh my God, what the hell is DOCTOR BUTCHER MD and why is it in your living room?”
But, of course, the bigger your collection is, the worse it starts to look on inadequate shelving. Tragically there isn’t a single furnishings company out there (as far as I can tell) that makes bookcases designed to hold just DVDs but also lots of them. You either settle for the purpose-built ones that only hold 50 or 100, or admit that things are going to look less than they did in the golden shelves of your DVD dreams.
Some people put their DVDs in boxes it seems, and I guess this is probably the most space-friendly approach if you want to keep a lot of physical media. There’s a huge array of stackable solutions for boxing stuff up, and you can cram DVDs in there without worrying about how they look, but it feels like an ‘if I HAVE TO’ solution rather than an ‘I want to’ one.
There are other downsides to boxing too. While arguably there’s an excitement to opening up the box of hidden treasures and rooting through to find what you’re looking for, you’ll need a pretty tightly organised system to easily find anything.
Still, a side benefit is that it’s a great way to hide all those 90s erotic thrillers you’ve got – Night Eyes, Private Obsession, Dangerous Prey, Animal Instincts 1, 2 and 3 – that you maybe don’t want to admit to owning in polite company.
I have to admit, until the responses to my Twitter poll came through, I had no idea this was a thing. It seems several people out there take the DVDs out of their cases, THROW AWAY THE CASES AND THE SLEEVES, and just keep the discs in a wallet. Frankly, when I read people saying they’d done this, I turned pale with horror. To me, this is like walking into the Louvre, pulling the Mona Lisa out of its frame, rolling it up into a tube and saying “Well, I can store more paintings if they’re like this.”
Apart from the fact that a lot of DVD packaging is lovely, I shudder at the thought of just destroying it. Each film package is a piece of history to me and yes, I may have rather too many copies of things I’m keeping ‘for sentimental value’ but still. Throwing part of it away seems so merciless and renders it a lot less useful to future generations. I still regularly go on eBay looking for 30 year old VHS tapes of films that have never been released on other formats, and if it says ‘tape only’ I’m not interested. I want the artefact. I wonder if there will be an equivalent of a me in 30 years’ time looking for old DVDs? If there is, I bet they won’t want ‘disc only’.
Still, if there is a benefit to keeping all your discs in a wallet, it’s the obvious and unparalleled space saving. The wallets take up almost no room at all and you can store maybe a hundred DVDs in the space taken up by one TV boxset. But then if you’ve gone as far as destroying most of the physical artefact, why not just become…
Because yes, I know. We live in the 21st century now. People like me are dinosaurs. Maybe those future generations I’m talking about won’t even want DVDs, VHS, etc, at all because any kind of physical media will seem preposterous to them (although I’m sure it will live on as a kind of niche archaeological field if nothing else). And I get it. I really do. It makes perfect sense to digitize films. Environmentally speaking, it’s a positive thing to do and a hard drive of millions takes up about as much space as a single DVD. Life is short. We can’t take things with us so why bother owning anything?
But some would argue there’s something a little soulless about streaming endless content into your eyes on tap. It makes it less special. Less of an event. There are times when even I’ll stream or download movies (I’ve watched every Hallmark Christmas film on Netflix, for example, whereas I probably don’t need to buy these) but a big part of the DVD buying process for us sentimental relics is the pleasure of purchasing and welcoming a new film into your collection. It’s almost a ritual and this is lost if everything’s there at the touch of a button.
I also know where everything is with physical media, whereas trying to figure out (say) Netflix’s bizarro filing system is like throwing all your DVDs on the floor and putting arbitrary Post-It Notes on them with useless yet oddly specific descriptions like “Dark Acclaimed Thriller Comedy Romances With Female and Male Leads”. Also? I like my privacy. I feel judged whenever Netflix recommends films with phrases like “Because you watched Hostel III”. At least the bored teenager who works at HMV doesn’t remember me from one visit to the next.
Finally, on the opposite end of the spectrum, some people aren’t even interested in films. They make their own entertainment with ‘crafts’. But these people are strange and we don’t talk to them.
So tell me. How do YOU store yours? Are you one of the types above? Or do you have your own methods I’ve not covered? And does anyone, anywhere sell shelving that actually neatly fits hundreds of DVDs? Hit me up in the comments below.