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As a kid, I had a total of two music albums on cassette.  ZZ Top's "Eliminator" and The Cars' "Heartbeat City."  They weren't legit, store-bought.  Couldn't afford the real thing.  My two cassettes were bootlegs.  And not good ones, but ones made by putting two mono recorders borrowed from a family friend next to each other, hitting play on one and record on the other, using a wired mic from one, placed next to the speaker of the other.  The recording, made on both sides of a Maxell XL-II 90-minute cassette, was a poor reproduction with mono sound and the ambient sound of the room it was made in.  But I listened to those a lot.

Years later, I was given an inexpensive Emerson double-cassette boombox for a Christmas present and realized that for only a dollar and change in blank tape, I could start my own music library.  So I did.  Every weekend at the flea market was me buying cheap blank tapes, again and again.  Built up a hundred audio cassette tapes in what felt like no time.  Then I did the same with two VCRs and VHS tapes, fashioning a video-store's worth of movies that I had to create a spreadsheet for with an Apple II-E, even "renting" (free borrowing) them out to other kids in school.  Some of us wanted the lifestyles we saw in FERRIS BUELLER, RISKY BUSINESS, WEIRD SCIENCE and WARGAMES.  Rooms full of tech, doing cool things with it all.  (I never got the handle on basic programming, though.)  

I did spend too much on comic books, that I ended up selling in order to finish college.  (And yeah, I got screwed on the deal in a big way.  It happens.)  That was an eye opener.  I never really collected seriously again, though I still read them on random occasions.

Then I went nuts with laserdiscs, renting them and taping the films, commentary tracks and bonus features by the dozens.  Then CDs and DVDs, getting them cheaper, quicker, on the "used" market.  Then file-sharing music.  Then downloading movies.  Then vinyl records.  Then blu-rays.  But by then I started seeing what I was really doing.  Granted, as a guy who grew up with the accumulation of physical media being a regular event, buying felt good.  It gave me something to do, using time I should've been writing, dating, working harder and enjoying life more fully.  Activating pleasure centers in the brain, increasing self esteem, the hunt for the item being successful and adding to self image ("Yes, I found and felled my prey, and at a good price, too!  I rock!")  Plus, I'm a studier, and to really learn and know a film, it helps to have a copy to study, to appreciate, to give you a goal of understanding and knowledge to strive for.  

Collecting was a way for me to get what I could, as inexpensively as I could, and amassing the library and media room that I'd wanted as a kid.  Coming up in Reagan's 80s it was all about owning, getting, maintaining the material things.  As said in the lyrics of a song from RENT, "When you're living in America, you're what you own."  Maybe I was making up for what I felt was having "less" than others.  Or filling a void from being sort of unpopular.  Not having a "life" so filling one with "things."  Probably a combination of all of the above.

Realizing patterns is important.  I mean, sure, I love movies.  This is known.  But it took me a while to realize that I didn't have to own every damn movie.  I once knew someone who's hoarding put mine to shame.  Piles of media from floor to ceiling in every room, multiple rooms and then storage units in addition to all of the rest.  Seeing that situation made me realize that I didn't have it so bad, in a physical ownership sense.  But if I had had his resources, would I have had the same amount of "things?"  I dunno.   Maybe.  I hope not, but I just don't know.

I've been on a purge, lightening the load of personal items.  With the sale I'm having, selling off large swaths of my still-great condition stuff and all, moving-on is getting easier.  It's taken a few years to get to a point to be able to rid myself of the things.  But "the things that you own end up owning you" and all, so out they go and hopefully into the hands of others who can appreciate them as much as I did.  

Don't worry, I'm keeping enough for me.  Most of the DVDs are in binders, so they take up next to no space. The comics, books, records, laserdiscs and CDs are getting down to very much more manageable - and much less embarrassing - numbers.  Things being digital now makes storage space much easier, too.   
I still have "things," but keeping them down in numbers is a struggle that's getting easier and easier.  I'll allow myself the Shout, Arrow and Criterion blus, the Miles Davis and John Williams records, the Hunter Thompson and Haruki Murakami books, the Scorsese movie soundtracks and a few select categories of other items that still continue to "spark joy" as the modern parlance goes.

As you get older, the stuff you accumulate means less.  Minimalism has a real draw, a comfortability.  Less chaos.  Less worrying about your things.   Soon, all you really want is somewhere warm and safe to live, maybe by the sea if you're lucky, with heat and hopefully air conditioning, some coffee and inexpensive nutrition, health and if you're really, really lucky, someone to love.  Offsetting the unnecessary is part of figuring things out.  Moving on.  Hopefully, maturing, evolving and strengthening yourself.   Losing weight, figuratively and literally.  And that's healthy. 

Less really can be more.

Amen. I still have a ton of stuff, and I still indulge, but I've dialed it back significantly. I still hang on to physical because I don't trust that I own it if it's not. The older I get the more I look at my collections and think, "When am I going to have time to watch all of this...more than once?" There are certainly the movies I will watch over and over until the end of my days, but some I really liked but I may never watch again yet I bought it. Honestly if digital copies started to drop significantly in price I'd probably just adopt that despite my concerns about "owning."
I have probably two hundred VHS, LaserDiscs, DVDs and blu-rays (and all the accompanying bonus features) I haven't watched yet. Dozens, maybe a hundred, books. And several hundred music albums on vinyl, CD and mp3. Again, this is just the "haven't watched yet" number. I'd be too embarrassed to give the "library archive" number.

I just turned fifty. How long do I really have to get through these things, and also find time to write and live a real life? And yes: how much will I return to? I feel like I'm thirty and have no health problems to speak of, but I know math and averages. I just read a book I've had since maybe 2001. That's how long it takes, sometimes.

Back when William Friedkin's THE HUNTED came out and we saw Tommy Lee Jones' little cabin, I thought to myself, "I kind of envy that." And yet I'd always joke - half truthfully - that I would want the only cabin in the woods with strong wifi and a 5.1 surround home theater addition. That really would be great, however unlikely it may be! But when I was picking up Ikea Kallax shelving for a whole bunch of LPs that I bought, I remember thinking to myself, "Do I need more shelves or do I really need less stuff?"
I'm currently at Peak Stuff for the space I have. My metric is that I be able to lie down flat on the floor somewhere in each room, and I still have that, but barely.

If I got the right shelves, the books could stack to the ceiling instead of filling boxes under my tables and bed. The big (second-hand) TV is currently inaccessible-- it's still my dream to turn the back room into a mini-theatre.

But then there are the toys. Call them 'collectibles' or 'memorabilia,' but really they're toys and it's high time I moved that stuff out. At least the Lego sets appreciate reliably.
Something that helps is getting this stuff to the right people. Sometimes, that means selling to collectors for the right price (since I'm raising money for an apartment move soonish), sometimes it means taking a loss of a few bucks, and sometimes there's another option...

A friend of a friend's nine year old loves BACK TO THE FUTURE, so for a solid price they picked up my selection of eight DeLorean matchbox cars, the Re-Action Marty McFly figure, a making-of book for the trilogy, a large stainless steel DeLorean with terrific detailing and a few other BTTF doo-dads. Hearing how the child went nuts when the stuff arrived just in time for his birthday... That was a nice thing.

Another friend of a friend got most of my GHOSTBUSTERS stuff; my original one-sheet poster from 1984, my run of IDW comics, my twelve-inch Venkman (which sounds like a euphemism, but isn't) a Pop! Vinyl figure and my old CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND board game. She and her fella are huge GB and CE3K fans, so it was fun getting it all to a new, loving home.
Sweet! Good luck on the new space!

I try not to buy things I haven't seen, but there are a couple. I did the IKEA thing and surrounded every wall with shelves. DVDs went to a binder. My board games, books, blu/4k movies, and video games fill that space, but it is insane that my office is my media room and not an office. 

Thankfully, I'm a minimalist otherwise!
I can tell you one fairly subtle life change that's been enormously beneficial: ditching blu-ray/DVD/CD/video game boxes.

I just have a bunch of those huge CD binders that you can store hundreds of disks in. Holy fuck was it getting out of control. I love my media rooms as much as the next guy, but as the collection grows into the many-hundreds it becomes cumbersome, tacky (depending on title selection), and a space-hog.
Yep, have six binders full of DVDs, more on a shelf or two, and am considering moving the blus into binders, leaving only the Criterion Collection and maybe the Shout Factory ones out for display. Def makes a difference.  An old girlfriend told me staying over with me was like having sex at Blockbuster.  That was when I was like, "hmmm, maybe I should clean up the stacks here a little."

That's the best argument I've heard so far.
I pretty much stopped collecting DVD's years ago because I just wasn't watching the movies enough to justify the money.  I still have gobs of them (and I have no interest in selling the Criterion ones), but many have either been gifted to others or sold for a few bucks.  Some teenager got a lot of my Halloween DVD's about a decade back, and he reminded me of myself at that age so I threw most of the sequels in for free.

Music's a different story.  I have a cheap record player that a friend found years ago and fixed up as a gift to me.  It still runs, and my vinyl collection is very manageable, thankfully.  I try to limit how many I purchase per year because of the price and size.  Most of my vinyl comes from a friend's mother.  She kept all the Cure stuff because she's a massive fan, but she sent me lots of Smiths; Black Sabbath; Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails - pretty cool!

My CD collection, however, is gargantuan.  I actually won a CD player in a raffle when I was a young kid, so I started collecting early.  Then, my Dad randomly won a Bose CD player in a raffle a few years back and gave it to me since he had no use for it; that became my unneeded excuse to keep on trucking.  Weirdly, I don't think either one of us ever won anything again.

Over the years, I've had plenty of friends who were moving and didn't want to bring their collections with, so I'd inherent whatever I wanted after helping them move.  I also have a used DVD/CD store close to the house, which always has "buy one, get one free" specials.  Excluding the CD's I actually spent full price on, I'd still have a big collection.  Now, I don't think the collection is too unmanageable yet, but COVID hasn't helped either.  I've still been working a lot this year, but getting out and seeing people is usually what keeps me sane.  Without those get-togethers, I definitely started collecting a bit more than usual, so I've clamped down lately (outside of that, um, new Iron Maiden live album coming out this week).  I always make sure to listen to a ton of music, so I don't necessarily feel like my stuff's just collecting dust.  I still have a CD player in my car, I listen to music while exercising or showering or eating, etc.  I'm lucky enough where I can listen to music at work too.  And I did invest in some pretty cool, revolving shelving units that sort of make the place not look like a disaster.  But this collection will look pretty crazy in another ten years if I keep the same pace.  I'll have to reckon with that sooner rather than later.
Over the weekend, I sold off some vinyl, some laserdiscs, a few books, CDs and a still in excellent condition laserdisc player.
It felt damned good. Plus it was going to someone who really appreciates it all, which means a lot.