Ten Space-Saving Tips for the Digital Home Dweller
Whether you’re moving into a smaller abode or simply want to make more efficient use of existing rooms, there are at least 10 things you can do to free up space. By digitizing the piles of physical media in your home and relocating or replacing some equipment, you stand to become the big-time beneficiary of an analog-to-digital makeover!
One: Transform VHS and Camcorder Tapes into Out-of-Sight Bits
If you were ever a VCR power user, you probably still possess hundreds of hand-labeled video cassettes that continue to consume valuable shelf or closet space. Why not selectively convert programs to digital files that take up almost no space, and then ditch the physical evidence? You can use a computer with composite video and stereo inputs, attach a USB peripheral with analog inputs or get a dedicated device that saves files to discs, cards or flash drives. Do the math: several 2 x 2 x 1-foot cartons or one 4 x 2 x 1-inch USB hard drive?
While digitizing home recordings of Star Trek: the Next Generation episodes complete with commercials and crawling weather alerts might seem like a lot of work for preserving readily-available programming, a home video of a child’s birthday party is unique content. So, you should prioritize what to digitize based on what’s irreplaceable. Old camcorder footage will most certainly be in an analog format, so the same digitizing options apply as with a VCR tape. In the mid-1990s, camcorders were introduced that that used miniDV cassettes with the signal in a digital format. The camcorder may contain a mini-FireWire (1394) output. To maintain the digital quality, you’ll want to have a FireWire input on your computer rather than going through the camcorder’s analog outputs.
Two: Turn Audio Cassettes, LPs and CDs Invisible
Boxes filled with audio cassettes and crates stacked with record albums can similarly be discarded once the contents are converted to digital files. You may want to take pictures of LP covers, too. Though compact discs already store music in a digital format, 5-inch discs and jewel cases require shelf space—unless you transform the music into MP3 files or another computer-friendly format. Feel free to turn up the encoding bit rate to 256 kilobits per second or higher for better-sounding results. Songs on CDs are the easiest to move to your computer since you can do the conversion silently in the CD-ROM (or optical) drive at speeds considerably faster than the real-time playing of a record, for example.
Three: Convert Photos to Memory
Snapshots can deteriorate over time. The colors fade, the paper warps. So, scanning them into a computer or using a service to convert them to DVD-ROMs or CD-ROMs not only lets you repurpose those shoeboxes for, say, shoes, but the process will also help preserve the images. Another benefit is that you’ll be able to organize and retrieve your pictures more easily once they’re digitally searchable.
Four: Leverage Your Home Network
Storing video, music and photos on a computer is the least you can do. If you have a home network, you can share your media with other devices including a Wi-Fi-enabled media player you hold in your hand or a media receiver you attach to a TV or stereo system. You can copy everything to a network attached storage (NAS) device. Think of it as a central archive dedicated to serving files to other computers and devices on your network. A NAS device can also be used to backup your data.
Five: Store Locally or Stream Globally
With a broadband Internet connection, you can store personal media like photos or video remotely on a website and retrieve or share them at will. You may also be able to stream content from home to your notebook computer when you’re away. As for Hollywood movies, it remains to be seen whether anyone but serious collectors will have a desire to keep a copy on the shelf when, at the rate things are moving, you’ll be able to stream or download virtually any title on demand.
Six: Replace Your CRTs with Flat-Panel Displays
The girth of an old TV or computer monitor is ample. The savings gleaned by replacing each cathode ray tube in your home with an LCD or plasma screen can be each measured in feet. Suddenly, you can get rid of a deep TV stand; now there’s room on the desk for things besides the monitor.
Seven: Liberate Ground Space by Utilizing Wall Mounts or Ceiling Mounts
Home-theater buffs favor the enormous picture created by a front projector. Most projectors can be mounted to the ceiling, affording the dual benefits of more tabletop room for refreshments and less likelihood that a guest will cast a shadow on the action. Similarly, a flat panel mounted to the wall occupies less space that a TV attached to a stand squatting on a tabletop.
Eight: Get Creative with Speakers
Turning on the virtual surround sound enhancement that employs the TV’s internal stereo speakers is better than using no external speakers at all, but you can get extra speakers and have your space, too. Small speakers can be wall-mounted, and rear speakers often can be connected wirelessly. A sound projector can be mounted under the TV for directing discrete audio channels to listeners. A sound bar and subwoofer can be added to the TV to improve on the TV’s own speakers.
Nine: Replace Multiple Components with a Hybrid Component
Get a TV with a built-in DVD or Blu-ray player. That way you don’t have to plug in a separate player. Get a TV with built-in Wi-Fi reception to select sites like Netflix and YouTube. That way you don’t have to add a media receiver. For external sound, get a home theater in a box that combines the receiver with a Blu-ray player. The latter may even have Internet connectivity for streaming entertainment, too. For the home office, get an all-in-one printer, scanner, fax machine copier instead of dedicated devices. Think of all the desk space you’ll save.
Ten: Replace Multiple Remotes with a Universal Remote
The more components you have, the more remotes you’ll have strung out on the coffee table by the couch. Reasonably-priced remotes can learn the codes of your other remotes or be programmed from a computer with an Internet connection. By first selecting the device—such as your cable box/DVR, Blu-ray Disc player or receiver—subsequent button presses apply to that device. So, instead of always having to reach for a particular remote from an array spread out in front of you, you’ll be able to get through the evening with just one remote.