One of my photos

Zipping up my life

November 21st, 2013 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Music · No Comments · Life, Music

WinZip is a program that takes a file on your computer and magically compresses it so that it uses less space, while still retaining all the information in it. At least it seemed pretty magical when its predecessor appeared back in the DOS days and hard drive space was tiny and expensive by today’s standards.

Over the last week or so I have been doing a WInZip on a large portion of my physical belongings.The thing is, I have a lot of CDs. I know plenty of people who have many more than me, but that still doesn’t detract from the ridiculousness of the amount of shelf space given over to them here. The same goes for DVDs. Matters came to a head when I decided that I would move all my stuff into the smallest bedroom because it would be more cosy, and enable us to make the 2nd bedroom a proper spare room and remembered why we allocated the 2nd bedroom as my den in the first place – so much stuff, combined with a decision to not have our living room walls given over to shelving as we had before.

I suppose I could just have binned all the CDs, since just about anything I am likely to listen to is ripped the PC hard drive and backed up on two different external drives but that is a difficult step for a collector to take. Collector is, of course, just a nicer way to say hoarder.

I worked out that all my bookshelves would fit into the small room, but none of the music or films. What I decided to do was buy some metal boxes with racks of plastic sleeves in them. I could put the discs in them and just get rid of the cases. It seemed to me that it was the equivalent of zipping them all up, packing the actual music into a smaller space by removing the non-essential packaging. I figured that would save a lot of space, but wasn’t prepared for exactly how much space it would save.

All zipped up!

All zipped up!

This is a picture of a pile of CD and DVD cases next to the three boxes that hold all the discs that used to be in the cases. I haven’t calculated the exact amount of space saved, but it looks like the discs now occupy about 10% of the space they used to.

I haven’t even finished yet. This is just the CDs plus music DVDs and british TV box sets and stand-up comedy DVDs. I still have to do all the movies and Jayne’s various box sets.

The compression ratio is even greater for DVDs because of the over-sized packaging. One of the smaller boxes holds 300 discs, but has the same volume as the cases for about 25 DVDs.

As a collector/hoarder I found the whole thing a little traumatic at first. Over the years you can build up an emotional attachment to some of these objects. You can look at a CD box and in some cases remember exactly when you bought it, what your state of mind was at the time, and what you felt when you first listened to the contents.

Although wasteful, some of the packaging is very appealing and part of the whole experience: there is the Pet Shop Boys’ orange plastic Lego-style box for Very, the unbelievably complicated origami-like box for Karl Bartos’s Communication, the beautiful and stylish cardboard creations that Lemon Jelly used, and the booklet from the recent Dr. Feelgood box set. Then there is the box from Pink Floyd’s Pulse with its (no longer) winking LED and the hardcover book inside. The greatest Hits package from Niagara has a similar hard cover book in it.

At first I was keeping a few of the better packaged items out of the metal boxes. I couldn’t bear to part with them, but after a while there was an internal battle between two parts of my brain and I decided that I was never going to read those booklets again anyway and if I wasn’t careful I would have to find room for another shelf or two.

My only concession to sentiment was that I kept the booklets for the collectors’ editions of the Depeche Mode CDs (the ones with the extra 5.1 surround mixes) and the Dr. Feelgood box set and managed to file them away in the metal boxes. I also kept the boxes for the two krautrock compilations and the punk box set 1,2,3,4.  The books in the krautrock sets are good enough to keep as books.

Everything else is waiting for me to decide how to dispose of it.

As you can imagine, I have spent a lot of time wallowing in nostalgia, even while I getting rid of the source of it. By the end I found that I had totally changed my attitudes. I always thought that I was an incurable hoarder, but now that I am left with only the discs I can totally imagine getting rid of them too at some point. I also think that I shan’t ever bother buying CDs from now on. I mostly listen to internet radio and music streaming anyway, but when I want to buy something I will just download the mp3.

The only exception will be for things that have to be played through the amplifier for full effect – like SACDs, DVD-As and the new Close to the Edge blu-ray with all the 5.1 mixes on it.

It all sounds a bit Buddhist, but I do now feel less enslaved by those physical objects. If somebody gave me the option to swap all my books for files on the Kindle I would seriously consider it.

It has made me realise just how doomed the music industry is, if even an obsessive record collector like me can consider not having a record collection as such.


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