The Cull Criteria

Presumption - we all know and grapple with the meaning(lessness) of physical possessions, particularly videogames and other media that can be stored in closer and closer to zero physical space, digitally.

But! Many of us collect stuff for lots of reasons, and there comes a time when certain objects in our collections gotta go. The sale thread is full of people trimming down. A recent post of a round of stuff by @exodus got me thinking - What are the different reasons you all are moved by to get rid of something that you previously went to the trouble of acquiring? Can be games or other stuff that can be otherwise digitally replaced.

My answer presently has been the physical dimensions of this CD rack I got for psx games. Similar to a deck of magic cards (which can be of unlimited size, but ~nobody plays with more than the minimum), I have had a few rounds of evaluation to condense this set of games to fit within the bounds of the shelf. It has made me evaluate what I have as to whether it’s the real oddball stuff that match my tastes, or something that I otherwise feel like I should hold on to. I somewhat enjoy the process of deciding what stays and what goes (though rules get bent), and I feel like the concentration of goodness by my measure has increased as a result.

Related questions:
What’s something you thought you’d never part with that you’ve purposefully released?

Biggest regret in having cut something out?

Who’s on the chopping block presently, and what’re the forces pushing either way?

Where/how do you put things out to pasture?

Converse topic - what inspires you to keep something despite having reasons to get rid of it?

And, to be clear, this is not meant to be a space for arguing against any individual’s choices of material possessions, or to bemoan the general materialism of our society. It’s about how people make choices, so we can consider our way of thinking and be informed by others’.

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I have a few rules:

  1. I’ll start with the biggest - I have to be able to both access it and put it away. Put it away means it has to have a place where it lives - a shelf, a drawer, etc. It can’t just be in a pile somewhere. Access it means it can’t be away in a box, because that’s when you wind up getting into storage spaces full of stuff you don’t even remember, and as the child of a classic hoarder, this is something I’m very careful about. The exception I’ve made is that genesis boxes are too big for me to have them all out, so those are in the shed. But all the carts are accessible. Basically if I can’t interact with it, it’s just an object taking up space and (for me!) there’s no point in my having it and I may as well just have roms/flacs/blu ray rips.

  2. I gotta like it. Mostly!! I go through my records regularly and cull the stuff I’m not listening to. One good song on a record isn’t enough, since I’m not a DJ. But this is kind of my “spark joy” rule. But for visual media (blu rays etc) I have to be sure I want to watch it again. If I buy the blu ray I get rid of the dvd. If I get the Laserdisc I get rid of the vhs tape. Very rare exceptions for my absolute favorites that may have little variations between them, in which case it’s a treat to compare them.

  3. I collect certain things. I don’t collect Nintendo stuff. I don’t collect vhs versions of movies for which there are better versions (I focus on straight to video and made for TV stuff mostly.) If I didn’t have rules about what kinds of things I go for I’d be swimming in nonsense and rule 1 would break immediately.

Now where it all gets confusing, especially point 2, is when something is “important” or “valuable” or “interesting.” Like a rare record I won’t listen to that’s going up in value. Do I keep it? (I didn’t, I sold them). A rare game that’s going up in value. That one is harder. I’ve had a boxed shantae for gbc for almost 20 years now. It’s now expensive enough that selling it is scary?? But the real kicker is “interesting.” Kaze no notam isn’t a great or fun game. But it’s weird and I love to have weird things. I’ve still got it, but should I? I think about this frequently. Why not let a mister take care of all that weird stuff?

As an aside, often when I’m selling things, even in a record store, people will ask me if I like x or y by the same artist, or what I think of this movie I’m trading in, etc etc. But I only sell things I don’t like or doubles! All the stuff do I like is still in my house! I guess this is a privileged position as a person who’s been scouring thrift stores for 30+ years, but it’s true.

That brings me to the last point, and part of how I got to the rule of point 1. A small but significant piece of my enjoyment in all this comes from finding things in the wild. I like to look for stuff and find something I think is cool. I learn about things by looking for them, checking them out, and keeping them or putting them back into the ecosystem for others to enjoy. At a record store I’m constantly looking up albums and listening to them on my phone to see if I want them. I have a list of “decent prices” constantly in my head so I know whether I’m getting a deal. I just got the first printing of the Conan The Barbarian soundtrack on vinyl for $24. That’s more than I’d usually like to spend but it’s $100 minimum on discogs! Heck, even the reprint costs more.

Finding things is fun, knowing about things is fun, and sharing those things with others (my recommendations on the show!) is fun.

But if I’m gonna keep up this thing-having lifestyle I gotta keep myself in check, so I follow those rules!

Very curious to hear what everyone else does and how they seek/cull their collections.

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People ask about my collection and its mostly discs in wallets with the artwork in folders. Or sealed games in stacked boxes with a reference spread sheet.

I let a decent portion of my stuff go over the last few years (to many members of this forum even) and basically as soon as I have the bandwidth will let a bunch more go (will post in the SALE thread). Anything I have ripped and backed up myself is on the chopping block. I paid my money. I am square with my god. Systems where backing up and playing back ups is difficult stay with me. I will probably have my Xbox 360 discs long after my PS4 discs are sold for this reason.

That said. I will hang on to portables until the end. My DMG to to GBA collection is 98% loose carts and that’s the way I like it. DS and up is all CIB though. In my dream retirement fantasy: Portable games are zines for company to browse through and read in a corner. Console games are a movie we watch on the big TV. For the more intimate experience I would like to have the real thing.

The other thing I am clutching tight is hardware. I don’t care if I have no legit games, but mannnn, I am not playing on the little brother controller.

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I I don’t really hold onto stuff. I moved once a year until 2020, was too poor for too long and i had my fairly impressive PS2 collection stolen out of my living room once so Stuff feels permanently ephemeral to me. i do like cassette tapes tho. I’ll buy things to support artists and so on

i have one friend who will never give anything i lend to her back to me. like it ends up on her shelves somewhere and I just assume she forgot about it. when i discovered that it didn’t bother me that much, if I ever have anyone over and they’re interested in some comic or book i have on the shelf, I’ll probably offer it to them. likely i read it the afternoon i got it, it’s going to bring more joy in someone else’s hands anyway

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I started culling during covid lockdown. My criteria was “am I ever going to use this again”? The answer was no to most things. There isn’t enough time in the day.

And I don’t subscribe to “I’ll save it for my kids to enjoy when they grow up” because generally they simply won’t.

Unless I do a bulk sale it will take me far longer to sell this stuff than it did to acquire.

We can see by the recent super rare NES games obtained in a house clearance, that you really need to sell your stuff because you can’t take it with you and nobody else in your family will value it as much as you do.

I sold a mint Samba de Amiga Dreamcast boxes set to a collector in France. It completed his Dreamcast collection. So now it’s his problem :sweat_smile:

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The real holdout for me here is the role of manuals. Games with just poor tutorialization are often part of what I like - the kinda thing that if pulled up randomly in a rom list is just too complex to jump into or make much sense of. Having the manual to flip through is key in that case. And it seems like so many games just don’t have their documentation scanned! If somehow all isos floating around the web had the manual pdf’d and bundled with it magically, I would probably be in a very different place collection-wise.

For me this criteria doesn’t quite suffice, because some stuff I get just a mental kick out of seeing on my shelf, being reminded of its existence, and enjoying thinking about its possibility space. I think that’s similar to exodus’ rule about being able to see the stuff. The value of objects are the emotions/thoughts they inspire, and a listed rom/iso title does little inspiring except in the case when you have the time to launch it. The physical presence of those things is a shortcut to thinking about them.

Policenauts is something I culled recently - I haven’t had the time or patience to get into it, and so it remains “just some adventure game” in my mind, plus it carries the baggage of “oh I oughta play it.” Seeing it didn’t give me anything to think of so its out. Kaze no notam stays tho cuz I like thinking about it, and if it weren’t there I probably wouldn’t think of it!

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the only thing i really “collect” is books, and i use collect loosely there because with a few exceptions, i don’t go out of my way to get anything rare or expensive. i’m generally only buying a book if i plan to read it someday.

that said, i already have more books than anyone could plausibly read in their lifetime and i know i’ll continue to buy more. i’ve done a few cullings in the past but i don’t think i’ll do anymore in the future because:

a.) books have an horrendous resale value
b.) i like being surrounded by books

i get a genuine sense of excitement looking at my bookshelf thinking of all things i have yet to read. there’s a lot of possibility there.

having a lot of objects does introduce limitations, though. the amount of books i have is easily the hardest part of any move. thinking now, i would probably get rid of them should the opportunity arise to move halfway across the world or own a house that couldn’t store them or something. i also should probably get rid of the various boxes of more books i have in my mom’s basement and in-laws garage.

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The shelves in my house are a monument to my tastes when I started working full time and could buy whatever media I wanted, but no longer had the time to actually use them. It only takes a minute to buy a game or book or whatever, and many hours to play or read it. Even DVDs take at least a couple hours. Consequently, I have many many books I haven’t read, games I haven’t played, and movies/TV shows I haven’t watched. Maybe I’ll get to them someday. I have had a few culls over the years, and a few things I’ve sold off and then bought again (what was I thinking selling my copy of Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap?). Sometimes I’ll read or play something specifically because I don’t think I’ll feel the need to continue owning it after I’ve finished it, which means my hoarding habits are causing me to engage with things I am less interested in instead of stuff I know I want.

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Looking at a game and seeing it as something I “ought to get round to” has become a pretty strong culling motivator for me. If I don’t actually care enough to get to it, it doesn’t really belong here. This is directly about ‘recommendable’ games. I suppose I dig myself into a bit of a hole of not being ‘informed’ for whatever cross section of gaming experience, but I’m at the point where I realize the sword cuts both ways - it’s not that I’m out of sync with the world of ‘good stuff’, it’s that the definition of ‘good stuff’ doesn’t keep up with the weird framework I’m thinking in. In reductive terms, you do you.

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I haven’t had to move my books halfway across the world yet, but I have recently had to move them halfway across Texas, which at the time felt like nearly the same thing.

I didn’t need to sell many of my books for practical reasons, but the move did mark a transition in my life that made it feel necessary to leave certain things behind. And like you, I prefer to keep the majority of my books unread, even if that means discarding a lot of books I really enjoy and may even try to revisit later.

Part of it has to do with preserving the sense of promise you’ve described, while another part has to do with keeping good stuff circulating in the secondhand ‘ecosystem,’ as @exodus says. I sold a few boxes full of books to a great used bookseller in the city I was leaving, who told me (gratefully, I think) that I was selling him some of the most unusual stuff he’d come across at his shop, and he gave me significantly more than I’d expected for them. That eased the burn of parting with it all for sure, but even selling more cheaply to a place like Half-Price Books keeps the system alive; things survive and travel, with or without you. At least it helps me to think of it that way.

All that said, I do like to imagine that there’s a secret faction of books in my collection, maybe 6 or 7 of them, that by a weird sort of magnetism attract other books that resonate or converse with them to my shelves. Like when I’m out scouting for more books, or dismissing the ones that no longer have a place in my home, I’m really acting on their behalf – I’d probably have more to say about this in the book thread, but it’s all vibes in the end, isn’t it?

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What was one of the cool books?

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ah i may have given the wrong impression—i prefer to hold onto the books i’ve read, maybe even more than the ones i haven’t. unread books are exciting, read books are nostalgic. i love rereading a book and seeing my old notes and marginalia even though they make me cringe.

but i’ve gotten similar “now we’re talking” compliments when selling or trading in boxes. i never thought much of keeping cool stuff in the ecosystem but it is cool to think of things that way.

pictures



this is what my collection is right now spread out across my office and the living room—i can’t imagine it getting much larger than this but book purchases do add up like snowflakes on a branch. like i mentioned earlier, the size and content of the collection fills me with equal parts pride and revulsion.

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This is how I feel a lot of the time. Sometimes my collection is useful! Sometimes it’s fun to browse! Sometimes I look at it and I’m like WHY do I have all this STUFF!? I do get a small sense of satisfaction from actually going through my movies and watching them though. in terms of DVDs/blu rays there’s maybe 20 I haven’t seen. that’s pretty good! Games though, are another story. I’m not sure I’ve played half of what I’ve got. (okay, maybe half, but probably not like… 60%)

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As someone with a sizable media collection (games, movies, books, etc), I definitely lean closer to hoarder than most. And as an individual with job prospects specific to LA, the thought of potentially culling for space has definitely been something on my mind.

Over time, I’ve set boundaries for myself as to what I need to buy and prioritize in terms of physical media. It just takes up so much space! When I started buying as a kid, I was happy to buy anything that looked remotely interesting as long as it was cheap. I’ve definitely been a quantity over quality person in that regard. Once it starts to fill up an entire room, however, you start to question why you have what you have. With physical games, there’s a nice sort-of defining boundary–once a console is retired, a game set is finalized. There’s a list. That doesn’t really exist in the same way for other mediums. Having a limit makes it much easier to establish a goal to collect for (this is why boutique labels do well for themselves when they can build and sustain an audience). There’s not a limit on things like movies or books I like. I collect games. I don’t really collect movies or books. I just happen to like a lot of things!

As such, I’m much less precious about my film collection than game collection. While I still have a huge number of unwatched films/tv shows, I’m not as attached to the watched ones that I don’t love and wouldn’t mind getting rid of a lot of them when time/space requires. For films, I try to limit myself to blu-ray releases I really want to watch (unless a blu ray version doesn’t exist; 4Ks are only a must if it’s an absolute favorite) and I’m happy to get rid of it if it sucks. Games, on the other hand, give me pause; in that context, it feels like a piece of history that I get to hold, a sliver of ephemera that tells the story of culture and time through games.

I definitely treat my collection in the Umberto Eco sense, a vast library of seemingly infinite knowledge surrounding me to peruse and learn from. For that reason, what isn’t played is just as interesting to me as what has been!

Game collecting in itself is a hobby for me. I like trying to find games on my lists in person. I also love the stories that come with acquiring physical media. While the internet is a place of seemingly infinite access, I like primarily confining myself to my surroundings and finding deals locally, outside of imports; it sets a nice boundary on impulse purchasing and helps my bank account lol.

Ultimately, though, games are meant for playing. While statistically speaking, I probably won’t finish all of them (I hover around 15%ish of games beaten at any time [digital + physical]; some health problems in the past year have slightly dinged that number), my intention is to touch everything at least once.

One of the benefits of physical media is the opportunity to share with others. I’m quite happy to let friends borrow things. If I don’t have an heir interested in my collection outside of monetary value, I plan to donate my library to a library / institution for the purposes of research.

I don’t know. I just really love games! There’s so much out there I want to play and learn, but only so much time and space. I just want to do the best that I can in the time that I have; that’s all that matters.

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This resonated strongly with what I value in owning a collection and in the act of pursuing things to collect. It’s all about the imagined possibility space for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

A thought your post inspired for me is that something gets culled rapidly for me when its imagined possibility space is shown to not match its actual possibility space - the ghost I’ve conjured in fact does not reside in that object.

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I’ve never liked culling any part of the things that I have but making rules for myself over the years has made me more comfortable with doing it when it needs doing. I recall recycling the entire run of UK’s N64 Magazine and some 10 years worth of EDGE magazine when I finished university and it was one of the more difficult things I had to do.

I have slightly different rules for different media.

Books: I keep it simple by asking myself if I’m ever going to read something again, or at all if it’s unread. If not I prioritise giving it to a buddy, otherwise it’s going to a charity shop. That only really applies to novels though and things like coffee table books, reference books and so on I generally want to keep - I’ll get rid of those if I run out of space within the area that I’ve allocated for them (which I haven’t yet because I don’t have many).

CDs: Getting rid of these has been the most difficult for me as I’d amassed 2,000+ over about 25 years. I’ve recently done by far my largest cull of them - getting rid of about 700 at once. My rules for this cull were to keep soundtracks and keep things that I really, really like and if I want to actually experience using the physical product too. It’s effectively left me with the most of / the entire discographies of my most favourite bands and a smattering of others across about 200 CDs at most now. Again, I’ll prioritise giving them to friends first, then selling them on, and then taking them to the charity shop.

Movies: I recently started buying blu-rays by the dozen thanks to the prevalence of boutique labels in the UK so it feels a little counterproductive to managing a collection. Having said that I will keep things that either aren’t widely available or weird as heck and it’d be inconvenient to have to pirate something to watch it again, or I’ll keep it if it’s a real favourite of mine. Typically that’s the reason I will buy a blu-ray or UHD too - convenience or favouritism. If I upgrade from DVD to blu-ray or UHD then I’ll get rid of the DVD too. I’ve managed to curate a decent, relatively concise collection from all of the nonsense DVDs that I bought when I was younger. I’ve regifted a few of my watched blu-rays to my sister’s partner but I don’t expect I’ll get rid of many after collecting with intention.

Games: Things are a lot more nebulous here but the “am I going to play it again” rule usually takes precedence. Accessibility and convenience is also important too. The only real reason I have my 360 and Xbone is to play XBLA and disc games, for example. It also sort-of depends on the genre too. Fighting games and puzzle games in particular I’ve started consolidating onto PC, with fighting games in particular I got fed up with the cycle of a dying community once hardware is no longer contemporary. Other genres with theoretical infinite replay value are more likely to be kept too. Certainly with the modern era, single player, one-and-done games are least likely to be kept - more so than similarly structured games on older hardware. Other than that I also have limited space to store my games so I try to follow a one in, one out policy depending on the hardware and it’s meant that I’ve been able to curate hardware collections that are specific to those platforms.

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I was never a big collector or big have-lots-of-media-on-shelves kinda gal; I had a mishmash of games and books and stuff but more or less always only the things that I felt a deep connection to. And as time went on and digital “””””ownership””””” became possible I stopped buying physical media hardly at all

Somewhere I do feel the need to regularly cull is with clothes and shoes. I’ve tried all the tricks: one-in-one-out, capsule wardrobe, only one type of each thing, etc but it’s still so so hard! Essentially what I have to do to cull is have my wife be my accountabilibuddy about things :joy:

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I sold all my games except for three switch games recently. I have a PS5, PC, MiSTer, 3DS, and a Switch. All of those guys bar the switch I buy or download digital copies. I kept them two Zeldy’s and Dragon Quest XI, because I really think those games are great and would be fun to play handheld again.

Most of my games were in storage all the time, and I never played them, or the console required to play them was busted, or had busted controllers, or didn’t connect to my TV. Since I got the MiSTer and a little CRT, whenever I feel the pull of some old weird game, I can just boot it up.

I also got rid of all my CDs, and DVD/BR discs. It felt weird and bad initially, but now it’s great. This stuff being missing is just not a problem that comes up for me.

I think the only thing physical I collect these days is the books that I love, but they have to be fantastic. I just read all my books on the Kindle, but the allure of a battery free backup for the apocalypse is too compelling to resist.

It honestly feels very freeing. I think maybe my only regret is selling my Dreamcast. I don’t know why, but it just made me feel real cool to own one. But the lack of current possession does not take away the cool factor I once had.

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i have been (very) slowly selling my CDs for the past 4 years or so. i don’t have anywhere to play them with and getting a USB drive just to copy them to my library like i used to do isn’t a very attractive thought anymore. even more so now that since my bedroom was remodeled, they’re all sitting in a fruit box in my mother’s wardrobe.

we’ll be moving in two or so years to a bigger place, if i can get a sound system to play them and a shelf or rack to display them on i will start the collection again

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What beautiful shelves!! And great books. I’d like to post mine for comparison but they’re in terrible shape right now. Maybe I’ll have time to tidy up later.

My whole collection probably amounts to 3/4 of what you’ve got in your first photo, with some spillage onto other shelves, tables, my desk etc.

I’ve got a pretty limited space to store my books, basically a smallish bedroom, so if my collection gets out of hand it pretty quickly affects my everyday life. This is where the revulsion comes in for me, and it’s a great motivator for keeping the flow of books in and out of here as steady as possible.

Eco’s such a great example – I recently chilled with a nice documentary on Eco’s library, part of which emphasized that his library wasn’t just vast, but was also built to contradict stodgy collections of Great and Important Books: his was an anti-library of ‘wrong’ books, occult sciences, quack theories of the fourth dimension, adventure stories for children, etc. A good reminder that the weirdest and most undervalued stuff in your collection is really what opens it onto the infinite.

If you’re asking about some of the books I sold – I don’t remember most of them lol, I’m pretty good at pushing them out of my mind once they’re gone. It helps with letting them go. I remember getting rid lot of Black Sparrow stuff (Eshleman, Wakoski, Yau), and I remember, with a twinge of regret, selling a handy edition of Philip Sidney’s poems, an old Clarendon hardback with the dusty blue paper jacket.

If you’re wondering about those mysterious books with a clandestine influence on my reading and thinking, Maurice Blanchot’s Work of Fire comes to mind, along with Borges’s Labyrinths and the slim collection of Pierre Reverdy’s poetry put out by NYRB, which went everywhere with me when I’d bought it.

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