Andy Fleming writing on simple living

Whether you’re prepping for a move to a smaller space to save on mortgage or rent – or just trying to simplify the space you’re in – everyone can benefit from a good paring down. And one of the biggest challenges can be the media you’ve accumulated over the years. Even the thriftiest among us probably owns a decent sized collection of books, movies, CDs, photos, cookbooks, and magazines.

Most of these can be transferred to digital formats, backed up for safekeeping, and moved to a computer or USB drive the size of your thumb. This will not only free up plenty of valuable living space in your home, but also lighten your load for traveling, camping, or RVing.

Your media library will be easier to organize and you will be able to quickly find what you’re looking for. It’s impossible to lose a digitized CD or film if they’re properly backed up, all you have to do is type the title in a search box and you’ll be good to go.

Magazines and Newspapers: Going from print magazines and newspapers to digital is a quick and easy process. Just cancel your physical subscriptions and start reading them online. Even if you like the feeling of a physical magazine or newspaper, consider that digital versions are actually easier to read, as they offer better contrast and the text can be zoomed for those of us with less than perfect eyesight.

There’s thousands of magazines and newspapers to choose on Apple Newsstand and Google Newsstand. Many of the apps are free of charge so you might even save some money. You can also subscribe to over 5,000 magazines through a service called Zinio. They offer frequent sales, so make sure to keep your eyes open to get a good deal on your favorite publications.

If you have an extensive collection of back-issues you want access to, try searching for them on Google Books, which has a robust archive. Check out their instructions for some tips on how to search for specific issues.

Books: While it’s true you can’t beat the feel of a real book; carrying around an 800-page hardcover novel isn’t always convenient, especially while travelling. Instead, consider buying yourself an e-reader. You can increase text size, download apps that help you keep track of characters, and look up words while reading. You don’t need to hold the e-reader open like you would a conventional book, freeing your hands for other tasks (this can be a great way to view a recipe book while cooking). Some of the best e-reader libraries include the Amazon Kindle Store, Google eBooks and the Barnes and Noble Nook Store. It’s also worth checking out Project Gutenberg. Their library of over 53,000 titles is “DRM-free” which means they can be downloaded to any device completely free of charge.

Movies: Transferring DVDs and Blu-Rays to your computer, a process known as “ripping”, can be easily accomplished with a free video transcoding program like Handbreak. Simply downloading this will allow you to rip unprotected DVDs, such as home-made films, to your computer.

You can also easily rip copyright-protected DVDs to your hard drive by obtaining a file called “libdvdcss” and copying it into the folder where Handbreak is installed (usually C:\Program Files\Handbreak). You’ll need to obtain the right version of the file depending on weather you use a PC or a Mac. Check out this page for instructions on obtaining the correct version.

Digitizing Blu-Ray discs can also be done using Handbreak, but you’ll need another program called MakeMKV to do the initial rip. Step by step instructions for using these two programs in conjunction can be found here.

Need to digitize your old VHS tapes? This costs a little more as you’ll need to purchase a VHS/DVD combo player which costs around $100. Once you have one, you can transfer VHS tapes to a DVD with the touch of a button and then rip that to your computer using Handbreak.

CDs: CDs are probably the easiest media to digitize. The best way to go about this is to download iTunes for free and install it. With iTunes open, place a CD in your computer’s CD drive and wait a few seconds. iTunes should immediately recognize the CD and ask if you’d like to import it to your computer.

If for some reason you don’t receive this prompt, you should be able to easily locate the cd from a menu on the left side of iTunes. Once you click on the CD, iTunes should display the tracks along with a button which says “import”. iTunes is constantly being updated and often changes its format, but the button is usually on the lower right side of the program’s window.

Image: ©iStock.com/JurgaR

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