DVD Shelving Systems: Where All Collectors Agree to Disagree


Alphabetization is my friend, but it doesn’t rule everything I own. Honest.

I understand why people would own multiple DVDs and organize none of them. Their ways are not mine. Not everyone cares to expend the effort required to achieve that level of control. They have better things to do with their free time. Meanwhile on my end, when I want to pull a specific movie from the shelf, I never have to spend several minutes sifting through randomized stacks, staring at rack after rack in vain, or checking under the furniture in desperation.

In a brief side discussion after a previous entry, I mentioned in passing how my DVD organizational system suits me but not necessarily my family. If they watched DVDs more often, this might be a more pressing issue. They’re well aware I’m happy to help them locate specific titles, just as any helpful librarian, curator, or clerk might. Besides, if I allow them too much input into the process, they’ll do as they please, sticking any given DVD in any open slot, turning it all into a pell-mell pit of chaos. Everything would be ruined and I’d cry.

For those of us who have a system, my theory is that no two of our systems are alike. Somewhere out there on Earth is exactly one (1) guy who keeps every single DVD he owns in strict alphabetical order by title — no exceptions, no grouping, no separated collections, every item slotted into its exact position between its letter mates. The rest of us have our own styles.

Two sections remain immutable and subject to no other categorical bylaws:

1. Stuff my wife owns. I helped with the initial setup, but I try to let her use her own space as he sees fit because I love her very much and would prefer not to be seen as an overbearing household menace.

2. Holiday movies and specials. The majority are Christmas-themed, though the Peanuts gang represents for a few other major occasions.

The sections reserved for DVDs not fully considered in “100% completion” status by my standards each break down as follows:

3. Stuff I bought but haven’t watched yet. This is subdivided as follows:
3A. Those watchable with company guilt-free; sub-subdivided between DVDs and Blu-Rays, with each sub-subdivision alphabetized.
3B. Those with content-related issues, most likely to be watched on my own time. (Among others, GoodFellas has been waiting patiently for me to carve a three-hour chunk out of a vacation day when I’m the only one home. Someday I’ll see what the big deal is.) This subsection is also sub-subdivided between DVDs and Blu-rays, respectively alphabetized.
3C. Cheap DVDs of movies I’ve already seen, bought to replace old VHS copies, eligible for revisiting in hopes that I can appreciate the difference in picture and sound quality next time around.

4. Boxed sets in progress. We try to keep this pile small and manageable.

5. Feature presentations I’ve watched, but whose extras I haven’t finished sorting through yet. I don’t sit still and consume every single minute of every single extra, but I attempt more than anyone probably should, even for the bad films.

6. Feature presentations I’ve watched, whose only remaining untouched extras are the commentaries. With few exceptions, I use those as backdrops while performing other activities. I again separate by format, because different equipment setups lend themselves to different activities. The turnover in this section is glacially paced.

Once I consider myself officially finished with a DVD, it graduates to one of the appropriate sections:

7. Items I’ve had autographed at conventions or other special events are relocated to another room with other similar artifacts. Sometimes this does mean breaking up sets and collections. Alas.

8. Mystery Science Theater 3000 sets any any related products have their own special multimedia community, from the Rhino VHS sets to the current Shout! Factory DVDs. The Rhino tapes are alphabetical; the DVDs are chronological by set number.

9. Academy Award Winners for Best Picture, organized chronologically. Longtime MCC readers are likely unsurprised, if not necessarily sympathetic.

10. Criterion Collection films. I’ve only become a fan of these within the last year and have a scant selection at this point, but the production quality of the few I’ve acquired has been impressive.

11. TV series, strictly alphabetically. Live-action and animated series coexist side-by-side here.

12. Animated movies and specials, subdivided as follows:
12A. Walt Disney films, alphabetically.
12B. Pixar films, chronologically.
12C. All other companies, alphabetically.

13. Any and all movies not belonging to any aforementioned groups, all alphabetical from Airplane! to Zodiac. I try to keep movie series together; if their titles begin with different letters, the majority letter wins.

14. Any other misfit items without a large grouping to call their own — e.g., instructionals, music video compilations, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

…and our old VHS tapes have their own ways.

Upon further reflection, all of this looks daunting now that it’s set in print and numbered. Even so, I’m fine with my choices. I know where everything is, no “thrill of the hunt” required. It allows me to showcase themed sub-collections to no one in particular, while helping me keep track of which things I’ve viewed and which I haven’t. It works for me.

I realize no one else uses a system precisely like mine. I trust you have your own methods, suitable for your own ways that would be alien to me. More power to you, and I’m curious to hear the details of your system, even if it clashes with mine and is therefore wrong, wrong, wrong.

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