It all starts so simply: you buy a few packs to learn the game, maybe a Fat Pack or a Deckbuilder's Toolkit. Next, you attend your first prerelease and win a few more packs. This gets you into drafting, which you do on a regular basis. Now you've got all these cards, so you figure: why not play Standard? But that means acquiring Standard staples, so you start filling out playsets. Before long (maybe after a rotation or two), you realize that's not an efficient use of your money, so you start acquiring eternal staples instead. Maybe you play these in Legacy, or Modern, or Commander, or whatever.
Along the way, maybe you get into MTG finance. You start buying cards by the dozens or even hundreds. Sometimes these hit and you sell out, but sometimes they fail, so you throw them in a bulk box and forget about them. Repeat this process any number of times. On top of that, you buy a few collections from former or quitting players, and after picking all the good stuff, you've got thousands and thousands of bulk cards sitting around.
I have collector tendencies, and I'm willing to bet a more-than-average number of Magic players do, too. It's probably a reason many of us got into the game in the first place.
In the last few years, though, I've decided a more minimalistic approach is better for my organization, finances, and general sanity. I've cut down on the number of books, DVDs, videogames, and yes, Magic cards that I own, and not being weighed down by these material possessions has been extremely freeing.
This isn't some pseudo-spiritual message about the evils of materialism, mind you. Half the reason I like to get value from my stuff is so that I can buy more stuff.
So Why Cut Down My Magic Collection?
By cutting down on excess Magic cards, I save myself several minutes every time I need to dig out a card that I do still have. I save space, and I don't exactly live in the largest of residences, so that's an huge factor. I save stress, for if my Magic cards were to be ruined in a fire or a flood, or stolen by a thief, my loss would be minimal—at least compared to what it would be if I weren't taking this line of action.
And most importantly: minimizing my Magic card collection helps me focus on what I really want to get out of Magic. I used to keep four-ofs of every set that I drafted, and the longboxes were piling up. Then I realized: I'm never going to use these Abbey Griffins or Kingpin's Pets. So I got rid of the obvious bulk, keeping the "playables," although with a very generous definition of the word. That didn't prove good enough for long, so I got rid of everything that wasn't already undeniably a staple in some format.
For a year or two after I stopped playing Standard on a regular basis, I kept at least one deck ready so I could play the random PTQ or other event, but I never actually did play any Standard events, even FNMs, and I realized that there was no point to having a deck ready for a format that I had no immediate plans to play. (My only regret is that I no longer get to play Game Day events, where I have had a disproportional amount of success.)
Commander is a popular format, and I think a big reason why is because deckbuilding is kind of a blast. When I was introduced to the format, I quickly built three decks, but after a while, I realized that I was not actually playing with them. Multiplayer Magic just really isn't my thing, and even though I like the idea of Commander, in practice, I wasn't using these cards. So I cut down my Commander collection to just one deck, which has been perfect—it's comforting to know that I could jump in a game if I really want to, but I don't have tons of excess decks that I feel guilty for never playing (and yes, when I had three decks, I would feel actively bad to choose my favorite over one of the other two, which barely ever got played. I'm glad that dilemma is over now).
I had a lot more specs this time a year ago, but I sold the ones that made me a profit (or were never going to) and now have a fraction of what I had previous. I've bulked out all my draft leftovers, and continue to do so every time I fill a longbox. I've buylisted cards at lower prices than I should have, just in the interest of freeing up the physical and mental space.
The only part of my collection I'm actively building at this point is my Cube. I enjoy watching other formats, but for actually playing Magic, Cube is where my interest lies. By downsizing the rest of my collection, I've brought focus to the aspect that's most important to me, which has improved my Magic experience immeasurably.
Sometimes we can get a little carried away with our favorite hobbies. It certainly happened to me, but I recognized it and took steps to combat it. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the vastness of Magic, try cutting back on formats, or decks, or staples that you might someday use (but realistically never will). You can only play with so many cards in one lifetime—you might as well ship out the ones you won't use so somebody else can enjoy them! And I think you'll be surprised how nice it is to have fewer cards for once, as opposed to more. Give it a try.