The Top Shelf

I think it’s really useful to consider, if you had to throw out nearly everything, what you’d keep. Only through hard choices can you truly know what’s important to you.

In the future, I plan to live in a tiny house. When I first heard of the small house movement, it made so much sense to me. This short PBS video tells the story well:


Houses should be designed to serve people’s real needs, not to serve as temples of over-consumption. Since 1950, the median size of houses in America has doubled, even while the average number of people per household has decreased 25%. The average American house emits more carbon dioxide than a car1. Not only are oversized homes a waste of resources, they’re too expensive for average people to afford without going into debt. All I want, when I finally settle down, is a nice, efficient, and cozy tiny house. No mortgage, no huge heating bill, no massive waste of resources.

But wait, what about all my shelves of anime, manga, and doujinshi? I’m the sort of person who loves collecting, and I’ve built up heaps of cherished stuff over the years. Sure, for a lot of things, I can just rip or scan them. Digital storage on a hard drive is ridiculously more efficient than physical storage on a shelf. BD encryption has been cracked forever, and it’s not too hard to make a DIY book scanner. There’s even a whole community dedicated to them: But I’ll still have that longing for the physical copies, the fancy LE packaging, and the tactile nostalgia of books…especially for my favorite series.

So I’ve had to think about what I’ll keep. With my BDs, I figure I’ll have space for at least one shelf (I don’t even want to think about the manga yet…). So while I organize my discs alphabetically, there’s one top shelf set aside: the things I’d keep if I had to get rid of everything else. Only through hard choices can you discover what you truly love. I think about buying things differently, too. With every item, I think, “Will I just be getting rid of this in a few years?” It might seem that would discourage otaku-ish consumption. But it actually encourages me to buy premium items, with a high cost-to-volume ratio, of my absolute favorite franchises. Like, one imported JP BD (with English subtitles), instead of a bunch of R1 DVD sets that could be bought with the same amount. Quality over quantity.

At first the storage issues troubled me. Now, though, I’m actually glad for the chance to focus on what’s truly important to me. Even for people who’re set with traditional housing, I think it’s an interesting mental exercise. Life is full of clutter, and I don’t just mean the physical kind. Reorganizing my mental shelf will be my first step past it.

(Still though, it’s gonna be soooo sweet to have an HD widescreen and surround sound up in that tiny house.)


1 p. 26. Shafer, Jay. The Small House Book. Sebastopol, CA: Tumbleweed Tiny House, 2009. Print.

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  1. As for me, I plan on living in an apartment for the forseeable future. No risk of going underwater on a mortgage and no lawn to mow.

  2. I am reminded of this story a while back:,9171,1812048,00.html

    From minimalism comes less tying you down and thus a greater feeling of freedom… perhaps. While that looks like an excellent way to live, and is something I’ve always considered, I have to wonder if that really is so (a better life) or just another case of ‘grass is greener on the other side’?


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