Organizing Your Media


In my work as an organizer, I regularly help clients make decisions about their belongings. One category of belongings that we regularly encounter is media. By media, I am referring to music, movies, “home movies”, and books. How do you decide what media you need to keep and which ones to let go? How do you best organize and store media that you keep? What should you do with media in outdated formats? This article will address all of these questions. 

The way we listen to music has changed drastically over the years: albums (vinyl), cassette tapes, 8 track tapes, CDs, MP3 players, and music subscription services. When making decisions about your music, the most important consideration is how you prefer to listen to music now and whether you intend to continue listening this way. If you still listen to CDs, you can save space by ditching the plastic cases and slipping the discs into pockets in a binder. If you have a music subscription service like Spotify or Apple Music and you plan to always use one, there is no reason to keep your physical CDs, and certainly no reason to keep even older formats. For some of the old formats, you may not even own the devices on which to play them anymore. For example, how many of you still own an 8-track player? With a subscription service, you can listen to almost any music anytime. According to late 2019 studies, 80% of Americans are using music subscription services, and no doubt that trend to digital will continue. If you’re not using them, let them go. 

The way we watch movies has also changed drastically over the years. Remember going to Blockbuster to pick out a movie? Netflix and Redbox revolutionized the way we way we watch movies at home, initially still utilizing physical discs. Redbox realized that most people, with few exceptions, watch the most popular movies exactly once shortly after their release on DVD. If you haven’t watched that DVD your cousin gave you last Christmas yet, then odds are you won’t. So get rid of it. 

Most of us now choose to rent movies by streaming them at home. Though there are streaming services aplenty now (like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus), none of them are all inclusive, so we can’t necessarily count on being able to watch any movie or TV show anytime. The availability constantly changes. So if you want to be able to watch your favorites anytime, you might want to keep them. Again, you can save space by getting rid of the cases. 

Having said that, I still believe we should save very few of our physical movies. Why? For the most part, when we buy a movie, we watch it quickly after purchase and never again. There are certainly exceptions, favorite movies we watch over and over. Those are the ones we need to keep. If you still have VHS movies but no VHS player, that’s a no brainer. Let them go. 

Paying $3.99 or so to rent a movie is still better than paying $2 to buy the physical movie but not ever watching it again. Don’t forget that your local library has a good collection of movies you can borrow at no cost. If you still feel the need to purchase a movie, I strongly encourage not buying the physical movie. If you must buy, purchase it digitally so you can watch it on any device. 

Do you have home movies on VHS, 8 mm, mini DV, or other formats containing some of your most precious memories? If you haven’t converted them to digital format already, you are in danger of losing those memories forever because those formats are already degrading. Getting this media converted not only saves them from damage but also allows them to be more easily viewed and shared. Few people have the requisite equipment or expertise to accomplish this task. Companies like Legacy Box, Dijifi, iMemories, and Southtree specialize in this process. If you aren’t willing to risk your media being lost or damaged during shipment and would rather use a local company with personal customer service, I highly recommend Bays Media in Johnson City. Give yourself some peace of mind by converting your media. 

With movies, we are used to the model of paying to watch by renting instead of buying. Why don’t we use this same model with books? Why buy books if you aren’t likely to read them again? We are even less likely to read a book again than we are to watch a movie again; rereading a book requires a much greater time commitment. You can save money by checking out a book from the library in physical or digital format (ebook). If you must buy a book, consider buying the ebook to save space. Give away books you won’t read again. If you are unsure whether you will read it again, err on the side of discarding it. Then if you decide you want to read it again, check out or buy the ebook. 

I bet some of you readers are struggling with this advice. Nothing brings out the ire of a reader like suggesting they let go of their books. I can hear you complaining. “But she doesn’t understand. I like to hold a book, not read it on a screen. And I just can’t get rid of my books. I love them so much!” 

I understand. But consider these facts. Unless the book is a real favorite, it is very unlikely you will read it again. The book that is sitting on a shelf unread isn’t benefiting anyone. It’s much better to get it into the hands of someone who will read it. 

Our public libraries are a tremendous resource. Use them! Public libraries often take donations for book sales, the proceeds from which allow them to continue to offer their services. You can support your local library by donating books or purchasing books at these book sales. Book resale shops like Mr. K’s in Johnson City are another great option for donating and purchasing books, movies, and music at a reduced price. By trading in books you’ve already read for other books, you can utilize resale shops much like a library and keep just a few at a time. 

Everything you own belongs to you. You get to make the decisions of what stays and what goes. But if clutter is an issue, take an honest look at your media. Even thinning out a bit can help reduce your clutter and free up space. 

8 thoughts on “Organizing Your Media

  1. I bet this is one of the hardest areas for people to deal with! I got rid of a lot of books before we downsized a number of years ago, but once we arrived at the new place I realized I still had too many and let go of even more. Now I find I have to let them go on an ongoing basis or I will run out of room on my shelves, and I definitely don’t want to buy another bookcase!


    1. Thanks for the comment, Janet! Books are definitely difficult for many people to let go of! It is one of those items for which continual letting go is necessary, as well as coffee mugs, T-shirts, and many more!


  2. I just transferred a bunch of 8mm home videos for a client. It was very rewarding, and so fun to see them. If they hadn’t been transferred, they never would have watched them because they no longer have a movie projector. Great to truly analyze why we are keeping the media we choose to hold onto, and prioritizing the ones that mean the most!


    1. So true, Seana! So many times we keep something thinking we’ll watch it over and over again and we don’t! Then we lose the ability because the technology changes. I know your client is grateful for your help!


  3. Even I, as an organizer, kept my dutifully-recorded VHS tapes of The West Wing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more. And yet, I’m sure it’s been a decade or more since I used my VCR (I need to get rid of THAT, too), and certainly between Amazon Prime and other services, I could watch almost anything more easily by streaming. (AMC’s first original program, Remember W.E.N.N. about a pre-WWII radio station in Pittsburgh, though? I’m keeping that until I can digitize those episodes, as they’re not on DVD!) We all find it difficult to get rid of what we love, what represents our happy entertainment options, but yes, if we never watch/read/listen, if it’s just taking up space, a few rounds of minimizing can set us free.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Julie! It’s certainly a category that is easy to put off dealing with, especially if there’s no immediate need. I hate to hear stories of media that has been damaged either through just aging or disaster. Yes, minimizing can definitely set us free!


  4. Media is definitely a huge problem for most of us, isn’t it? I have to say books are hard for me as well, but your post is encouraging me to rethink. Libraries are always a great option, whether you’re a big reader or a movie fan, or both!


    1. Thanks for the comment, Sara! Books seem to be one of the most difficult categories for many people. I’m glad you are inspired to rethink. I love my library and am so thankful now to be living within walking distance of it!


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