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Video Game Storage, Too Many Books, And The Cost Of Clutter

electronic storage solutions

Mental space

Update: A lot of people are finding this link looking for video game storage. If that is you, there are really only a few factors to keep in mind, particularly if your video game collection is large. Buy shelves, racks, or cupboards that are sturdy, that will not allow your games to be exposed to too much dust in the air, and don’t store your games in really hot or cold rooms.

I wrote more about this riveting topic in my opus, Video Game Storage Solutions For Dummies.

For the regular readers, please continue.

Once there was an untidy, tall child with an enormous head and slumped shoulders. He grew up to become a tall man with an enormous head and better posture. And although he made vast improvements in the cleaning-up-after-himself department, it was not for the reasons his mother wanted.

My mom always wanted me to clean my room up because it would “Teach responsibility.” What she actually meant was that it would mean less work for her, and that I totally get (now). But like a lot of kids, I was forgetful, frequently selfish, always self-absorbed, and although I did my chores, I usually had to be reminded to do them.

One of the reasons it didn’t seem that important to me was that I shared a small room with my brother. There were about 2 square feet of floor space next to our book beds and the storage units for our video games, books, and music.

It only took one errant sock on the floor to make the whole room look like a pigsty. “Why bother if it’s just going to get messy again?” was my lazy train of thought.

But even then, I realized that there was a psychological element to the amount of space and clutter in a room. The best instance I can give is from my relationship with the video game storage situation in that room.

Good times

From the time the Atari 2600 came out through High School when I was addicted to the Super Nintendo games, a large chunk of my free time revolved around video games. I still get a kick out of the oldies like Missile Command, Frogger, and the less-oldies like the Mario Brothers games, but it’s purely nostalgia at this point.

When Super Mario Brothers 2 came out for the Nintendo Entertainment system, I would wake up, play for about 30 minutes, put it on pause while I went to school, and then resume the game after I got home.

We were lucky kids. Between our birthdays, Christmas, and nice parents who were often pushovers, we were able to amass quite a hoard of games. And no matter how many video game storage units or racks my parents bought for us,  those games often just wound up on the floor. Or piled on the desk which was already overflowing with other electronic entertainments diverse and sundry.

Or we’d get a shoebox and create an impromptu storage unit. My dad bought us a video game storage cabinet that I quickly filled up with my growing collection of books instead. There was always something messy. It was rarely clean, and even when we straightened up, it still felt like there was just too much stuff.

It started to feel claustrophobic in that room. I’m not complaining about the conditions.  My grandfather lived in a tent with 7 siblings during the depression when they couldn’t muster $10 for their house payment. I had all the room that I needed, but the acquisition of more stuff started to get to me, even though more stuff was what I wanted.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was increasingly agitated when I was in that room for too long. Every book added to the shelves, and every Nintendo game added to the storage spaces just made the walls creep in a little bit closer.

Fast forward

These days, I can see what was happening. Max has a lot of toys and it is hard to take a step without landing on something he was playing with. We clean up after him constantly, but there’s only so much containment a two-year-old will be subjected to if you’re not willing to resort to parenting by wicker cage.

Compounded with my still-growing book collection, the last two years have been a period of instruction: clutter and the psyche 101. I am constantly amazed by how much better I can feel if I take 10 minutes and clean a room. Or put the books that are stacked on the table into a cupboard. Or onto some shelving, but that’s in scarce supply.

I don’t know how to explain it, but being in a cluttered room is not good for me. And when I was in that small room with my brother, being penned in by video games and books had a cost as well, beyond the sheer materialism that I try to avoid these days.

For those of you who have been there, who are there, who have escaped, or are trying to claw your way out, how do you deal with the accumulation of too much stuff? What effect does it have on your mind? Why? Is the answer just to buy a bigger house and let things air out?

Let’s talk.


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  • Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things July 16, 2010, 12:51 am

    When I have too many things in the room, I get distracted.

    I’m a terrible minimalist, I have way too much crap, but I enjoy the freedom that comes when I just get rid of my junk en masse (1-2x/year).

    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2010, 10:45 am

      Joel, the more chaotic a room gets, the more it reminds me of the Internet. Too many options. Faced with too many choices, I often submit to grabbing whatever and being a passive spectator.

      Unless I’ve got the cleaning bug!

  • Kris Wragg July 16, 2010, 4:48 am

    Moving out of my mums into my own house was the best thing ever in terms of reducing crampedness.

    But now I have a whole house to myself I notice that I am slowly filling it up too! Thankfully I still have room in my living room to fit another bookcase or two, so there are plenty more CD’s and books I can buy yet 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2010, 10:46 am

      Kris, moving out of your mum’s house is good for plenty of other reason, as I’m sure you know:) But I’m glad you’ve got space to be Wraggy Unchained now.

  • Grace July 16, 2010, 6:43 am

    On the flip side, it feels good to purge the stuff that is waiting for a someday that never seems to come, has stopped working, doesn’t fit anymore, etc. Clear spaces give you more room to groove, physically and mentally. It feels good because it’s a way of taking care of myself, essentially.

  • Heather July 16, 2010, 7:45 am

    Didn’t the late George Carlin have a whole routine dedicated to this? And hey, don’t parent by wicker cage, he’ll just chew through it, and the next thing you know, you’ve go the next Houdini on your hands! 🙂 I personally like to sort stuff and take it to Goodwill. I currently have an overabundance of high heels, some of which I have only worn once or twice. But yeah, storage seems to always been an issue.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2010, 10:47 am

      I just learned that George Carlin was the narrator for Thomas The Tank Engine.

      • Heather July 16, 2010, 1:59 pm

        COOL! I did not know that! NEAT! 🙂

      • Matt July 19, 2010, 3:52 pm

        I thought Ringo Starr did that. No, he was the station master. Never mind.

  • Boris Bachmann July 16, 2010, 8:07 am

    I just sold my comic book collection YESTERDAY. $150 for two decades, hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours, and 700+ comic books. graphic novels, paper back editions, etc. Parting didn’t seem like such a big deal, but last night I had a nightmare about the Hulk – he was trying to kill me.

    Yesterday, I picked up about 4 books from the library… and 4 books from the 1/2 Price Book Store..

    It’s tough to stop the accumulation of “stuff” (material, knowledge, experience, etc) – it makes me feel more secure. I guess it’s an “attachment” (in the Buddhist sense of the word) thing, as most probably things are. The attachment makes it harder to see them for what they really are (good, bad, indifferent,…), and in the end, it’s just “stuff”.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2010, 10:47 am

      Is that really why you sold them? A nightmare about The Hulk?

  • Eric | Eden Journal July 16, 2010, 8:31 am

    During my bout of unplanned unemployment last year, I sold all my Playstation 2 and 3 video games and sold the playstation 2 on ebay. Really, these days, I only play one or two video games at a time, and once I’m done with them (either having beat the game or gotten tired of it) I know I really won’t play it anymore. At that point it’s best to just ebay it for a few bucks.

    With books, I had a shelf full of books. I realized it was more of a trophy shelf proudly displaying all I had read. I detached myself from that idea and hauled most of them to the used book store.

    It actually about time for another round of ebay and another trip to the used book store. Sounds like a good project for this weekend.

    • Kris Wragg July 16, 2010, 8:37 am

      Eric, you are kinda right there actually. In some respects most of my books I will never read again!

      Books that are good for reference are obviously worth keeping, but novels… well I can probably count on one hand the number I have read more than once!

      Definite food for thought!

    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2010, 8:49 am

      I have more books on my shelves that I haven’t read than books that I have. If I maintain that balance, I think I’ll always be fine with however many books I acquire. Umberto Eco wrote a great essay about his library, but I can’t remember which book it’s in.

  • Chris Baltzley July 16, 2010, 8:54 am

    Knowing I had a serious book addiction, I started a policy for myself long ago that I would not buy anything but paperbacks. At least that kept the space they took up down a little bit! I have always been one of those who NEEDED to have my books around me to feel secure – it was never totally a “keep it because it was/may be useful” thing. Now, as I get older I guess, I am slowly starting to feel like it is time to let a lot of them go in some way. Not quite there yet, but it is definitely coming.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2010, 10:48 am

      I’ll probably get into a bigger house before I start getting rid of books. Even ones that I will never open again, not in a thousand years.

      • Chris Baltzley July 16, 2010, 11:38 am

        I used to swear that too – carried those books thru 5 moves and 4 states. And we are talking about at least 3 WALLS of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves!
        But my attitudes seem to be changing about a lot of my STUFF as I get older – and since a I have a few years on you , maybe I’ll check back with you in a couple of decades and see what you think when you reach my age!

        • Matt July 19, 2010, 3:55 pm

          I know what you mean. I’ve carted my books around a similar number of states. A couple years a go I became very minimalist and sold all on Amazon except for absolute favorites. I still do not regret it.

          • Mike August 17, 2010, 4:09 pm

            I did the same with my beloved paperbacks and moved them to many houses and states. This year I’ve gotten rid of 90% of them and only kept a few authors I still love. I figure I can always go buy them again if I have a strong need to do so. Next is my CD collection. Haven’t really listened to it for ten years. At least I could copy them off and get rid of the media.

  • Amy July 16, 2010, 9:12 am

    When I start to talk about clutter it gets long. I will post the readers digest version here and post the longer one on my blog in a few minutes if you want to read more about how I handle it.

    Basically clutter makes me feel awful. If I’m in a place that is super cluttered it makes me fell physically ill. How I’ve dealt with clutter has changed over the years, but currently my thing is if it’s not a seasonal item or an heirloom and I haven’t/won’t use the item within the month it’s gone.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2010, 10:48 am

      Wow, one month is pretty strict. My house would be empty, except for Max’s toys and the kettlebells!

      • Amy July 16, 2010, 12:26 pm

        Compared to how my place was even last year my house is close to empty. I absolutely love it.

  • Justin Matthews July 16, 2010, 10:25 am

    I had been an addict of the surplus book sales at the library. I still come home with 1 or 2 every time I go. When they have the big county wide sales I usually end up near the end when they say “A box full of books is now $2” or something like that.

    Last time I did that I ended up building a wall full of shelves in the basement to handle all of them. Then the hard part comes when I realized that there were several that I would never get around to reading and some that I wouldn’t bother with even if I had the time.

    I made the hard choice and purged a ton of books, many read, some unread, some I couldn’t figure out why I ever picked up. The hardest part is the purge, but with books or anything else, you don’t miss it after a while. We reclaimed 3 kitchen cabinets last year and the DI got a great donation.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 16, 2010, 10:49 am

      I’m the same way. I can’t resist the book sales, even though I know that most of the I won’t buy, and will never read. But I can’t help but look.

  • ami July 16, 2010, 10:29 am

    The clutter is one reason I’ve started going to the library more. I figure I can read a book for free – if I absolutely love it so much I must own it, THEN I can head to the bookstore. Otherwise, I save myself the trouble of donating a book I’ve read once to the library.

    With respect to kids’ clutter, less is definitely more. My kids react to clutter the same way we do: they feel antsy, they act disorganized, they get frustrated. They claim they can’t find anything. Having fewer toys means they have to be more creative with what they have. Boredom is a good thing in small doses – let them use their brains and figure out new ways to play.

    Getting rid of old toys or less favored toys helps a lot. I’ve also seen a good suggestion of putting away half or more of the toys into storage – and rotating. Perhaps have a ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ collection. That way all the toys get quality time 🙂

  • Boris Bachmann July 16, 2010, 11:39 am

    I sold the comics yesterday and then had the nightmare last night. I don’t really miss them, yet.

  • Craig B. July 16, 2010, 6:56 pm


    After a decade running bookstores, I did a move where we actually couldn’t manage the books intelligently…the pile that I sold took up the entire camper-shell covered bed of my brothers truck. I had 50+ boxes of books. This next move I will have three small boxes of keepers, and four boxes to sell. This has taken years to pull off. It’s why I use the library as much as I do.

    A nice goal is that 2 things leave for everything that enters..

    My suggestion is to move someplace smaller. This happens next weekend for us! We lose about 400 square feet. Selling off pretty much everything is the only way to make it work.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 18, 2010, 2:38 pm

      Craig, I had no idea you were a bookstore dynamo. We’ll have to talk more about this. My last move had 70 boxes. I moved them all myself because I couldn’t quite bring myself to ask the in-laws to do it.

  • Sylvain OBEGI July 19, 2010, 2:14 am

    Ahh.. clutter!
    My parents are hoarders, and it’s not easy to change these ingrained habits. 🙂
    Anyway, now I really get the value of getting games on Steam and books on Kindle, at least I don’t have to deal with all the space taking. Plus, I try to sell what I don’t use.. Still, not everything has a dedicated space here, and when it’s not the case, it creates clutter. I suppose consciously choosing where each thing should go is a good step. 🙂

  • Jason July 21, 2010, 11:15 am


    I have two boys ages 6 and 2. Kids are awesome clutter makers. They’re very good at leaving toys, books, and clothes out. They’re also great at generating paper messes from writing, drawing, and coloring. My wife and I are overwhelmed all the time.

    One trick that seems to work: Box up half their toys and have them play with the other half. Four months later (or whatever time you choose), bring out the toys you boxed and store the ones that were previously out. My kids go crazy for the toys they haven’t seen a while, it’s just as good as if they were brand new.

    And if your kids are constantly getting new toys, you can easily give away the ones they haven’t seen for a while. Most of the time, they won’t miss them at all.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 21, 2010, 11:19 am

      Thanks Jason. This one is squarely on grandma. We haven’t bought a new toy in about a year. When she visits, something new always comes with her. It isn’t a problem. We’re just rotating the older ones downstairs. You’re right–he wouldn’t miss anything if it vanished today.