Realizing the pattern -
It seems like every time I stop collecting for whatever reason and choose to sell my video games whether I have to for money, just do it because I run out of space, or get some wild idea that storing everything digitally will be better for me in the long run I get this urge to start up again half a year later. It's like an impulse to buy things I am familiar with and remind me of good times. Those shiny golden Zelda cartridges for the NES; those colorful front covers and labels on any game; those neatly organized bookshelves just filled with items - they all "speak to me" in a figurative sense saying "we missed you, take us back please."
Some people look at nostalgia as a gloomy thing but for others it brings us joy. It depends on whether that nostalgia can be satisfied by getting those lost things back or not. For us who find nostalgia in gaming, music, movies, collectible toys etc. it's easy because most of the stuff can be found again. If our nostalgia is caused by longing for a person or pet we miss that is not as easy to deal with.
If you think about it some of us collect because we feel nostalgic about the good times we had on a game system. It could be possible that years down the road, former collectors might become nostalgic simply about being game collectors in general if they miss the good times hunting for games they want.
My memory is usually very good and detailed when it comes to my main interests so I get nostalgic about various points in time during my life instead of just one. Due to that fact it seems I am just quicker to snap back. It gets me thinking everything would have been better or easier if I never got rid of anything in the first place. Some of it just couldn't be helped when the adults in my home sold things at yard sales when I was a child or reclaimed gifts they had given to me because I stopped using them.
Rebuilding, and tips for the new collector so you don't make my mistakes -
The main thing I could tell myself I should have done differently was to save up a lot more money and buy the games and systems much more slowly. I'm still only 26 so I should have years to save up money, buy back what I liked and do a better job at using everything I buy. There is a sense of relief that many of the items have not changed in value much over the years; only a select few.
Once you realize you want to collect games again in a different way, you tend to want to do a better job. You tend to want to keep things cleaner and more organized. Besides budgeting money and only using a percentage of leftover money each month after bills for collecting, there are additional steps I now realize will be necessary to make this nice:
1. Set up storage space, display space and play space -
Number one if you are going to collect something is to make sure you have a place to put it. In this case, the higher your ceiling the less cluttered the collection will seem. Your significant other will be more concerned about clean floor space to move around in than how tall you make your shelving system(s). It makes sense because we can walk around in a room, but we can't walk on the walls and ceiling. Make sure your type of storage is safe to use, sturdy and secure so your prized game collection will not fall on the floor in the case of an earthquake (right now, it looks to me like metal rack shelving will be easier to disassemble in case of a move, weigh less and have a sturdier footprint than wood). Another good idea is to use measurements or mock-up units the size of the items you are collecting to use as placeholders for when you do acquire those items. That way you will have the right size storage shelving at the start and not have to destroy and replace, sell and replace, or modify your unit later on. Knowing you will be able to hold everything you are looking for will ease your mind and make it so you do not have to worry about running out of space. Figuring this out ahead of time will also help you determine exactly how you want to display favorite or special items for all to see. Take note of odd-sized releases that will need their own unique display configurations (i.e. Earthbound and Mario Paint for SNES, Aladdin Deck Enhancer games for NES, Sonic & Knuckles cartridge only and so on). It is also wise to leave a little bit of extra room with a bookend of some sort in case a homebrew release you might be interested in or an unknown old rare game is discovered (as is the case with Atari 2600 sometimes), unless you would rather keep extra rare items like that in a separate place.
2. Keep the storage, display and play spaces clean -
This might be hard sometimes, especially when resisting the temptation to place items that do not belong onto the storage rack. If you use wood, you'll have regular dusting to do. If you use grated metal racks with a cardboard or plastic layering, not so much. If you want to leave systems hooked up those will have dusting or cord management to deal with as well. As long as you keep your storage area clean and in some kind of order, your significant other shouldn't be bothered about it or nag saying "this place is a mess." It helps distinguish the difference between a collector and a hoarder and you won't be accused of being the latter if you don't like that particular title. If you can find a way to keep things uniform it will look that much nicer.
3. Buy or make protection for fragile items -
If you are going to collect mint or very good copies of easily damaged items such as cardboard boxes it is wise to buy plastic box protectors, extra manuals, and spare cartridge/disc only play copies of the games to avoid damaging the boxes, cartridge labels, disc play sides, and pages of the manuals. Most of the time these extra parts only cost a fraction of the price you pay for a mint game so in theory if you can afford a mint complete copy, you can easily throw a few extra dollars down to protect your item from damage. Otherwise might as well buy one in "Good" or "Acceptable" condition to start with. Most of the time, the cheapest thing to buy separately is an instruction manual. If you don't find it necessary to buy extra game systems or cartridges just to keep a box from getting damaged, then the next best thing is to just always keep these things out of their boxes in a separate spot to minimize opening and closing the boxes. You only risk wearing out the more common part of the item that was intended to be used. Keep casually used, shared items separate from the mint complete storage section to prevent others in the household from messing up your good stuff. It's best to keep the shared games / play copies closer to your play setup.
4. Create a checklist of your collecting goals so you can highlight or check off items as you go -
For this step I use a digital checklist in Wordpad. That program allows me to add any new entries to the list and arrange them any way I want. I can highlight things in any color so I can color code its status according to my custom definitions. Years ago I used to print physical lists of all games for a system and highlight those as I bought games. Keeping a checklist will prevent you from buying multiple copies of the same thing by mistake if you don't want them. You can include everything that is available or you can set a smaller goal by only adding entries for games you want to play. If your checklist is digital you can always place new entries in between others whenever you find out about a new game you find interesting. Just remember to update your checklist and place the new item on your storage shelf as soon as you can so you don't forget about it and leave a mess somewhere else in the home.
5. Set up some kind of rule to prevent yourself from straying from your goal -
Maybe you don't want to pay over a certain amount for any game, or maybe you only want to collect or buy what you want to play. You can always buy random games to try but not count them as part of your collection or even give those games an entry in your checklist. My main rule this time around is to only try to get a collectible condition copy for games that I have completely mastered. This makes it so I actually enjoy everything I collect and defines everything I have that I haven't played through as a part of my backlog section rather than my collection. It separates my favorites from the stuff I just bought because it looked good, was cheap or came free in bundles and lots. It also gives me a direction to aim my collection funds for the month. People who want to collect everything probably won't have this same setup and will probably buy the first thing they see that they don't have like I used to, but it works great for me. If I want to buy something that costs more than my collecting budget per month, I can always choose not to spend my max and carry over the leftover funds to the following months.
You can always make different kinds of rules for different systems or game types too. If you love RPGs or platformers you can give yourself an exception to always buy those complete, or buy all of that game type even if you haven't played all the games. You can choose to buy every Atari game you come across, but put restrictions on what kinds of Playstation 2 games you buy. Just tailor it to your interests and the possibilities are endless. You can even place restrictions on buying games for one system until your collection for a higher priority system is complete, then lift those restrictions for the next system. The rules you make for yourself are just to keep yourself focused so you don't give up.
I believe these tips will help keep anyone from feeling overwhelmed by a collection or placed into a situation where they have to give something up. Being prepared, responsible, clean, organized and self directed is the path to success as a collector. Don't take too risky gambles - they are usually not worth the chance of losing everything and starting over.