While we may live in an era of streaming and digital downloads, some patrons of physical media still buy and compile large collections of movies. This has various merits: if one month Netflix has the film you love and the next it doesn’t, owning a physical copy can guarantee the ability to watch whenever you want. Digital copies, while great in theory, only last as long as the service they’re held on. Additionally, cult classics, older films, and niche movies can be harder to maintain on these services. A physical copy doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection (just a working device of some kind) and usually travels well. It also, unfortunately, takes up space.
Prior to 2014, I had a modest collection of movies I tended to watch over and over again. Then I discovered the joy of bargain bin films and secondhand sales and went overboard. While my space was limited, this collection was stored in a big capacity CD/DVD binder. This changed and expanded in 2016 when I had more room to grow and also began OcTerror. At the time, the shared movie collection was huge: two tall and two small bookcases full. Then it was downsized to just two BILLY bookcases at the beginning of 2018.
When I moved out on my own I knew movie storage was going to need some creative organizing. Not only because my personal collection is in the high hundreds but because the space I had to work with amounted to about one BILLY bookshelf. So, with this in mind, I sought solutions that would hit all my “must-haves” for movie storage.
- Must be able to store most (if not all) of my collection (with room to grow preferable).
- Must be able to downsize most (if not all) DVD/Blu-ray cases.
- Must make organization easy.
- Must be somewhat affordable.
- Must be safe and decent in terms of care for the movies (minimal scratching).
- Must maintain the cover art (if possible).
This automatically ruled out my earlier organization method of using the CD/DVD binder. Not only did it occasionally scratch the movies because they weren’t well protected, but it didn’t include cover art and made organization difficult. Every time I’d add a new film to the collection, the entire binder would usually have to be redone. So while that would check some of the boxes, it wasn’t sustainable in the long-term and would ultimately be annoying.
In late 2017, I’d seen a suggestion to use plastic sleeves for downsizing from movie cases. While the original poster hadn’t had quite the collection I was working with, I was intrigued by the idea. So I ordered in bulk from Amazon and began prep for downsizing. Without cases, my movies would need something else to set up in. I found baskets at Michael’s Crafts and, after repeatedly using coupons on multiple trips, it made the whole set more affordable than not. Aesthetically, it hides the movies, organizes them, and creates a “look” on the shelf as a whole.
Then came the tedious task of downsizing from the cases to the sleeves. This took hours due to the size of my collection, but I’m glad overall. It not only allowed me to keep certain discs together (DVD + Blu-ray sets, or DVD + Special Features) but also let me keep the cover art or other pamphlets. What had been shelves stuffed full with cases—difficult to pull a single film from—turned into organized baskets with room for more movies.
Each of my baskets is organized by genres and then alphabetically, with a few exceptions. I did keep the cases for box sets, unique designs, or steelbooks. The baskets include: movie franchises, horror, action, fantasy/sci-fi, Disney, kids, comedy, chick flicks, musicals, special cases, and Disney Sing-along VHS tapes. TV shows are out of the way by virtue of being on top of the bookshelf. Originally, my Disney/Star Wars/Marvel films were on a separate bookcase but—with the growth of Disney+—I finally downsized those particular cases.
Overall, this is a system that works well for me. If I ever move again I definitely think the sleeves will weigh less than the giant box of cases did, or could even just be moved in the baskets themselves. If I’m taking a movie out of the Bramford, it’s easy to slip it in my purse because it takes up minimal space. Flicking through the sleeves feels a lot like a card catalogue in a library, and it doesn’t take me long to find what I’m looking for. If anything it takes me longer to decide what I want to watch—the same issues we all have with digital media.
There are merits of course to keeping the cases. They have their own aesthetic and, if you have the room, having a shelf of movies can often feel like the very best Friday night at a Blockbuster. As for what I did with all those empty cases? I donated them to Grassroots Books—the cause of my initial buying frenzy in so many ways. Better to go back to the source and help a local business than end up in a landfill.
So if you need a space saver for a large movie collection then sleeves are my recommendation. A storage binder isn’t the worst, but doesn’t have quite the same level of satisfaction or sophistication to it. And, eventually, you will run out of space for all those new movies or need yet another shelf to put them on. Then again, you can just live off digital media and forego the need for this entirely.
As for me, I’m a little old-fashioned.