My Mammoth Bookcase and Dresser Declutter Mission Part 2 ~ By Moni Gilbert

Its hard to believe it has been a month since I started on my mammoth mission to declutter my bookcase and DVD cabinet.   If you missed it, I have a large bookcase – the last one of three – that was stuffed full of books, CDs, video cassettes, photo albums, reference books all of which need to be sorted thru or digitised.   In our other lounge is a Balinese dresser that houses our huge DVD collection.   The master plan is to have these two items plus contents eliminated by the summer holidays.
I am at a space with this project where there isn’t much in the way of transformation to be seen and I have wondered several times if I have bitten off more than I can chew as I seem to be generating a lot of chaos in the name of minimalism and serenity.
The bookcase is a little bit daunting because it contains everything that has been put in the ‘too hard pile’ since I began decluttering.   Some things need a lot of time on my behalf to sort thru, some projects are outside my range of knowledge and some items just don’t seem to fall in with my usual guidelines for being kept or being hiffed out.
The video and camcorder cassettes are a good example.   If electronics and cables are involved I’m out of my depth, but I hoped that between the big box of cables, a box of instruction manuals and the right theme music going thru my head (something like ‘Chariots of Fire’) I would emerge victorious.   Alas, after two days of trying my husband suggested that I send them to a professional and although I admit I felt a bit defeated it only took a couple of days to get back a neat bundle of dvd disks containing footage we had never seen before.   I am hoping that my son will help me edit these into something more watchable and that ultimately they will be stored on the external hard-drive, but for now it is a step in the right direction.
The box of cables wasn’t included in this original mission but ended up spread all over my lounge floor, and as soon as I am confident that all consoles and appliances have a working set of cables which have been labeled, I hope to Freecycle them out.  This box lived in the entertainment centre and this space could possibly be used to store the DVDs we decide to keep or gaming consoles that we don’t want to keep out on display.
Our CD’s which were also housed in the bookcase have been uploaded to iTunes but as I am trying to set a good example to my teenagers about respecting copyright laws, I need to keep the physical copies.   Once they were boxed, I was faced with the dilemma of where to house them now.   My hubby suggested a freestanding cupboard in our garage as a temporary location – I was against this idea as I’d spent a lot of time emptying this cupboard and it seemed wrong to fill them up again, but I eventually caved as the boxes were stacked on my desk and thinking of options was taking me away from the bigger project.
A number of reference books were donated to an organisation who supported us with my son’s learning style during his early school years but apart from that I have come to a bit of stand still on the book front.   There are some reference books we have had to face the fact we are obligated to keep and there are revision books for Year 10, 11 and 12 for school that we should keep available for our currently Year 10 youngest child.   My hubby doesn’t want to part with his collection of Asterix and Oblix books as they were treasured gifts from his father during a time they lived apart and so I need to consider how we are going to house these, if they end up being the only items left in our bookcase.
I have made some inroads with our DVD collection too but I will focus on that in my next post as I need my international cheering squad to tell me how they dealt with cd’s, reference books and cables?   Is there anyone who has managed to eliminate their bookcase(s) from their home?
Can anyone tell me if they have had success with video editing?   We have a mac laptop with iMovie, but I don’t know if I edit movies on the mac, will they still be playable on the pc?   Is there a pc based software that someone can recommend?
I’m also returning to my photo digitising project I undertook two years ago, that needs a bit of time for me to add the photos that have emerged since – what I am interested to know from anyone who has done similar, what did you do with the original photos?
365 member Jane recommended a Mac based program RipIt to upload DVD’s onto an external hard-drive.   I have read a lot of good reviews on it but I was wondering if anyone knew a PC based software that could do the same?   And that allows movies to be paused when playing?   I am hoping to get my hubby helping with this project but he is Mac illiterate and would like to be able to present him with some options.   Any suggestions?
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About Steve

Steve writes occasional posts for 365 Less Things and is Colleen's husband, web designer and tech support.


  1. I really wish my husband would let me get rid of all of the jewel cases for his CDs. *sigh*

  2. Moni, I can’t help you with giving answers to your questions but I can wish you the best of luck with this huge project. It tool me years to whittle down my many shelves of books. I still have a Ikea Expedit 5 cubby X 5 cubby bookcase with 18 of the 25 cubbies still full of books and scrapbooks. It looks good where it is standing yet knowing I still have so much is irritating me. You are inspiring me to look it all over again.

    • Hi Deb J – we don’t have Ikea in New Zealand and I wish we did. I’m with you that its knowing that I still have so much irritates me but not having the magic wand to make it just go away!

      • Wouldn’t it be great to have a magic wand?! Of course, you still have to make decisions and that is what usually holds me up not anything else.

  3. Do you really want to own copies of all the DVD’s and music? An idea you may consider is to empty all three out, get rid of the two you don’t want and only put what you can fit in the other and get rid of everything else. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, focus on what you do want. I worked with a woman that has a real problem with clutter. As we went through each item, each one was so special to her. I finally was getting frustrated and found a box and told her to only keep what can fit in the box. It worked! She went through her stuff and found the most important things and we finally made headway. You can always go to the library and check out books if you really want to read one. You can get things through inter-library loan too. Sell the other two bookcases and the CD’s and DVD’s that won’t fit and use the money to get music from itunes for the songs you really want.

    • I’m with Spendwise Mom on this. When we first started burning copies of our music & movies did we sit back & come to the realization that the odds of watching most of the DVD’s we had and listening to all the CD’s we owned was probably not gonna happen. We kept individual songs we like & kept a few DVD’s (very very very few) and have yet to watch those again.

      • Hi Jane – I tried to explain to my hubby he wasn’t going to listen to “Boys II Men” again, but apparently no he isn’t going to part with it! I’m hoping that the CD’s being housed elsewhere ie not in sight is the first step in ultimate seperation.

    • Hi Spendwisemom – I have managed to weed out some DVD’s but have two members of the household who are resistant to me getting rid of the rest.

      It is funny you mention re-buying on iTunes from the proceeds – that idea did get a favourable response though my thrifty husband did grumble a little.

      Another idea was that if I was to upload our Disney Classics and loan the originals to my sis-in-law so they are still in the family. As her children are a lot younger than mine, it would take them off my hands for a good 10 or so years. My younger daughter was favourable to that idea too as she loves movies and will still pick out something random to watch on a blob day.

      The area we live in – when we moved here 15 years ago – there wasn’t a library and there wasn’t a video rental store but there was a TWH and we could buy a dvd on new release day for a discounted price…..and this is how we came to have so many. 🙂 I very rarely buy a dvd these days and the preference is to buy it on iTunes BUT my hubby is still stuck in 2001 technology.

  4. Grace from Brazil

    Wow, Moni, you have worked hard! I think you are doing a wonderful job! The reality of getting down to the nitty gritty of stuff is that it IS hard work. Nothing easy about what you are doing. I really hate the seemingly, no-win situations, (uploading everything yet still have to keep the originals!) but it sounds like they will be in a place where they won’t need to be dusted or seen. Congratulations. I have made tiny progress on my desk and shelf so I applaud your valiant efforts. I don’t call what you are doing baby steps. Rather they are uphill-climbing -kind-of-steps.

    • Hi Grace from Brazil – glad to hear you are still working on your desk. I meant to have a photo for Colleen to go with this but have been out of circulation from my computer for the last three days. Hopefully by next update I will have something to show.

  5. I have successfully digitized some 8,000 family pictures and I chose to throw away the original copies. The digital images are housed on both flickr (I pay $25 yearly for unlimited picture storage, but there may be free options out there) and on my computer. I went through and weeded out the ones where I didn’t know who the people were, repetitive or the bad(blurry, etc) shots. I did this myself at home with a picture scanner. It helped to have the pictures organized before I started and I was able to break the job down into small sections so it wasn’t so overwhelming. Once I made the decision not to keep physical copies and I removed all the photos from the albums to scan them, it wasn’t difficult for me to throw them out as I had already made the decision and I was so happy to see the space created by the removal of the albums. Good luck!

    • 80oo! Wowza!
      Awhile back I went through a zillion digital photos I had & purged a few thousand as well, plus I culed through a few thousand “regular” photo’s & had those digitized. Since I’ve done…haven’t looked at a single photo nor forsee any reason to any time soon either. I got so burned out messing with the photo’s to the point of disdain. LOL

    • Hi Henave – I’ve always wondered what flickr was. I have an external hard drive BUT I learnt the hardway that they can be dropped and broken. I was thinking maybe I should have a 2nd one to store elsewhere – especially as they are so small and portable since my first (and then current one) were bought. As I want to store family videos on them too I really wanted to get it right. Will look into that.
      8000 photos – wow! That must have been such a big job scanning them. We were on a time deadline when we first started ours 2+ years ago as we needed them for a family event so I bundled up the negs and sent them away to be digitised but others surfaced and need to be added to the hard drive.

  6. Hi everyone – I’m just back in this morning and discovered this post was up! Perfect timing as I have just asked my son to spend half an hour or so going thru the box of cables with me before he disappears out the door.
    Thanks for the feedback so far, keep the ideas rolling!

  7. Moni, I’m of no help with iMovie – that’s one program I’ve literally never used or even looked at on my Mac & I’ve had a Mac for decades.

    • Hi Jane – my kids tell me it is super easy, even I could manage it, but just not sure about whether mac movies can be played it on a pc.

  8. Hi Moni, box it all up and put it in you freestanding cupboard in the garage, if there is room. Revisit that cupboard in exactly 12 months. It sometimes takes a little longer to part with items that we may feel will be used one day. I know when I decide that something is going, I want it gone yesterday, maybe so I don’t have time to change my mind.
    Don’t forget to say the Declutter Prayer, which is usually pertinent points made on this blog.
    “it is not that precious or rare, why am I worrying about its storage when it belongs to someone else? How easy would it be to replace? If I was paying to store it, would I keep it? Can someone else enjoy it? If it was stolen would I replace it? If there was a fire would I save it? Do I get enjoyment from it? ”
    It helps me to remind myself of this when something is a bit of a stumbling block.
    Is there a major Apple store near you? One of those big interactive stores? They may help with your questions or alternatively try an Apple forum were tech savvy Mac experts will be happy to help you( just 365less things) Try
    I live with the IT crowd, someone to load music to my iPod, someone who has a hard drive loaded with movies etc. which makes me think you should skip the DVD creation and have a hard drive with everything loaded on it. I googled how to load DVDs to a hard drive and there is lots of info. If you need specific info I will see if the boys can help you:)

  9. Oh my goodness! This is a huge project! I certainly do not envy you (having been there, to some extent), however, I do cheer you on 100% for tackling this. Yah! Just keep up with the baby steps, one at a time, ‘slow and steady’ (Colleen’s wise words!). It will be really fun to ‘see’ the results; so PLEASE post photos!!!! The before and after effect really is awe-inspiring! Keep going! Go Moni! Go Moni! Go Moni!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Thanks Annabelle – my hubby isn’t entirely convinced as all he can see is a big jumble but I have reminded him that the rest of the house has turned out ok……

  10. Hi Moni,
    wow for being so persistent. I find myself demotivated easily if I know there is much worked involved and there will be little visible results (so digitally I am horribly cluttered still but will leave that till the very end – or to situations when I can’t do anything else).
    Just a suggestion: If there are books, your husband’s comics and cds and dvds you need to keep (at least for now), why not keep the bookcase for now but get rid of the dresser asap? That way you would have a visible success soon and maybe you would get more of your family on board if the saw results like that.

  11. I have the same dilemma with family videos. I need to hire the VHS-to-DVD guy so that we can watch them again. After all it seems kind of funny to keep a VCR around just to watch home movies.

    • Hi Creative me – I couldn’t get over how fast it happened and yes it has occured to me that the VHS could go too. Apparently the tape in the video cassettes has a life span of 8-10 years before it begins deteriorating.

  12. I’ve been out of town this weekend and just read this post, Moni. I can’t imagine having to do the photos. I’ve been trying to push myself to scan our photos and I just don’t seem to get that organized on a large scale. We did start work on the project last summer but school started and then, you know, the scanning stopped and hasn’t resumed. Instead of beating myself up about it, I decided that project will just have to wait until I retire. Best of luck to you. I hope you’ll post updates so I can learn from your process.

    • Hi Willow – certainly will! I think people young enough to have started out with digital cameras and digital camcorders etc are very lucky to have bypassed this whole problem.

  13. I don’t use iMovie anymore, but I use Final Cut Express and Pro on a regular basis (although I’m still a professional amateur!). However, iMovie is absolutely easy to use. When you finish doing the edit, you export it as a Quicktime movie, then burn it to discs using iDVD. Or, you save the Quicktime movies on your storage place of choice (hard drive, in our case). Quicktime movies can be used on pcs or macs. And the burned discs using iDVD can be used in any current DVD player. I had some problems playing our burred dvds on older players, but that was close to 10 years ago, and I think everything works together now. Hope that helps!

    • And there is NO WAY I would get rid of my bookshelves. Maybe one day, we can get rid of one or two (we have 10 currently), but no way do I see myself getting rid of all my books and whatnot. It’s too easy to store other things on, too… two of our bookcases are filled with puzzles and games (yes, we play most of them). One day, I will have an office at work so I can move five shelves of those books out of my living room, though. Guess I have to start work for that one! My two cents!

      • Hi Lynn – holy moley – 10 bookcases WOW! I have to admit if there hadn’t been the advent of e-readers I would not be eliminating all of my books as I re-read my favourites each year.

        • Five bookcases are work books for both my husband and me. We have gotten rid of half of what we had, so I’m content with it now. We won’t always have them in our home; as soon as we get jobs with offices, they will be moved there. One is DVDs and VHS tapes (culled from two bookshelves!). Two are puzzles and board games. Kids are getting older, so they will start getting culled. One is from my father-in-law. After he died, we got his very extensive sic-fi library, and my husband just hasn’t dealt with it yet. That just leaves one of books that we care to keep. We’ve been brutal with getting rid of things, but it’s also just not time for most of it. I don’t doubt we’ll purge more, but I don’t ever see us with empty shelves.

          • Hi The Other Lynn – I like what you’ve said about its just not time for most of it.
            That is true – there is a time for everything and sometimes it’s expiry date hasn’t passed yet.
            I know what you mean about board games and puzzles, ours got culled back this year as it was really only our youngest who is still interested in them (she’s 14) and many of the games that went to much younger nieces and nephews. They don’t get played much but she feels her brother got to 17 before we started getting rid of stuff, so we can give her a bit more time.

            To me it sounds like when you get your offices and your husband deals with his father’s collection your place will empty almost over night, its just all in the timing.

    • Hi The Other Lynn – this is gold! Thank you. Our family movies are often long and tedious – like the 15 minutes of footage taken by my (then) 6 year old son, taken completely out of focus and looking at insects in the garden and the 10 minutes of footage where my hubby didn’t realise it wasn’t switched off and filmed his feet. The good stuff is usually bite size and it would be great to be able to just watch that and not all the other useless stuff.

      • Hahaha Moni, this one I can definitely relate too. My late father was a champion at leaving the camera on whilst walking or packing it in the bag hahaha. Although we have some great live footage of the babies before they became ‘Silverbacks’ Cecil B. DeMille my father ain’t heehee! We still have a giggle when ever one of the movies gets thrown in to the player but the time is coming when I shall tackle them and get them all onto one disc. I know I can do this because inbetween the ‘feet and bag shots’ we get about 2mins of actual footage to watch. I’m estimating 2 discs tops for the family to watch snippets of life!!!

        Keep up the great work. I’m still ploughing through the ‘Scrap Room of Doom’ inbetween that I am packing the house up, we have 2 weeks left before the big heave ho. Under much pressure we found a house to rent, just as my hubby was stepping on the plane we got the call. Thank goodness, and I have been packing and sorting since. Nothing is going that doesn’t need to so it is a great chance to offload the extraneous, stuff, stuffity stuffs!!!!! Next stop the building plans and block sites. I can’t believe I’m doing this again hahaha. We have decided to include the boy in everything to do with building this time as it will eventually be his place hahaha, I hear ‘Man Cave’ loud and clear !!!!! hahahahaha
        🙂 🙂 🙂

  14. One thing that has helped me tremendously is advice I read in the first book by Brooks Palmer (he’s done 2 so far). When it comes to something in more than one (like clothes, shoes, books, movies, etc.), first take it out of its space. We think “It fits, so why mess with it” and think we can’t get rid of any of it. If we remove the clothes from the closet to the bed, it’s in an odd space and the connect is broken.
    He then suggests picking up one thing at a time and asking “Do I like this? Will I use/wear/watch/etc. it?” If it’s a clothing item, “Money being no factor, if I were in a clothing shop would I buy this item today?”
    We did the above for our “can’t part with” movies. We started with 4 cases that held HUNDREDS of movies. Once I go through our Disney ones (just need to sit down and go through…hubby’s chosen {via email} what he doesn’t want), we will be down to a SINGLE case of ALL our movies. *sigh