Tech has a way of moving on and leaving its artifacts and obsolete parts in your house. Here are a few tips for how to reclaim your space from a future that has become outdated.
Things that cost you a bunch of money a few years ago are rendered useless when a new version comes out. It just feels like a waste to throw out something you were so excited to get or saved up for. You want to declutter so this is a good time to mentally separate “but this cost a lot” from “I don’t really need this.” Otherwise, your house is going to become an e-waste purgatory. There will be no collectors items, very little to salvage and use later. Just move these items out so you can have more space, or get them back into daily use.
Start by gathering the electronics in one big place. Spread it all out on the living room floor and give yourself space to work. The dining room table might not be enough space if you are doing a serious cleanout.
Figure out what cords and adapters go with what piece. Try to make a full set. If you can’t, that’s an important clue for if you should (or should not!) keep it.
Group duplicates: You will likely find–if you pull items from all over the house or your office–that you have multiples of several items. Cords, adapters, flash drives, mice, keyboards, remotes, adapters, the list is endless. You get to choose the best among your set to keep and toss the rest.
Ask yourself these key questions to help you sort:
- Does this work? If it doesn’t, it’s easy–toss it. If it does work, then you have to make a few other decisions.
- Can I fix it? Not since 1985. Really. I know many of you are good at fixing things and you want to not waste things that should be functional. But modern tech is not meant to be fixed. It was built to be disposable. You can’t access screws, you void the warranties if the case is open and the parts are so small or scratched into microchips that you don’t have the tools to fix it. There is a different ethical discussion about this trend toward disposable products, but that’s for another place. For your house, if it doesn’t work, you probably won’t fix it, so toss it.
- Does this still work with my new stuff? Obsolescence means even functioning things need to be discarded when new versions come along. I lost count of how many USB charging cords I had to replace with Apple changed and then Samsung changed their charging ports. If it works but not for your stuff, consider selling it.
- Do I use this? Even the best thing won’t do you any good if you just don’t use it. Functional items should be sold on sites like RubyWantAds.com. We have a whole section under Household stuff for Electronics, Games, TVs & Phones.
The biggest heartbreak in unloading my electronics for me was my CDs. They were such a great part of my life only a few years ago. And now I’ve got everything uploaded into my computer or cloud library, access online to anything I don’t have, and new music comes on the radio.
There is zero resale value for 99% of CDs. If you’re a real aficionado, you could sell the very best ones on eBay to a worldwide specialty audience, but most are just taking up space. I don’t have space in my car anymore for them and they’re collecting dust in the house. I wanted that space back, I had to consider some painful options.
I dubbed everything I cared to have over to my computer. It took a most of a day. And then made three piles: Keep, Maybe Keep and Good Riddance. I gave my teenager the pleasure of shredding the ones I wasn’t keeping in the CD-ready shredder, and then I put both the Keep and Maybe Keep piles into a watertight storage box in my garage with a nice label. I still have them for sentimental indulgences, but they are now vastly fewer and out of the way.
Prepping for Disposal:
The items you choose to recycle, throw out, donate or sell need to be prepped to leave your possession:
- Set the phones back to Factory Settings. Follow the prompts for erasing all data.
- Do a back-up first: Plug in that hard drive or old laptop one last time and either transfer all the data to your new computer or upload it to the cloud like Google Drive or Dropbox. Then erase all data files and even system files if you’re not
- Just deleting data isn’t enough. You need to go through a procedure to properly wipe the hard drive of a computer and make sure that data can’t be recovered by someone with bad intent.
- Lifewire has a pretty good article on how to do a complete wipe. There is a step to download a file destruction software. Local IT service companies can probably help you, too if you’re uncomfortable with this process.
- Wipe off all personally identifiable data. This isn’t an issue with a printer generally, but phones and hard drives and computers have a ton of data about you that you don’t want in other people’s hands.
If you’re dealing with user manuals, the questions become not just about having or not having the thing but also asking yourself if you can get that same info somewhere else. Some would be appropriate to scan and store digitally. Others, like Epson and HP have invested quite a lot in providing more info online than in paper. You could probably get higher quality info from online forums and FAQ pages.
Ask yourself if you would ever look at the users manual if a need arose. So many devices are built to be “intuitive” so you don’t need a lot of directions, and they are not intended to have a long life that keeping the paper around is just a waste of space.
If you do keep the manual, keep them all together in a central file so you reduce the clutter and reduce your time looking for the manual when you do need it.
Disposing of Electronic Waste:
Where to take it is a challenge, too. Not everything can be safely trashed. Hazardous or toxic chemicals might leak into the landfill or create a risk to sanitation employees. Or they might just never degrade. Some community recyclers have ways to shred the devices through massive shredders. but not all have them.
In town, Elko Sanitation has a nifty Waste Wizard to help you figure out which items can be trashed, which have to be handled in a special way, and which are not accepted. If you click on “List materials” in the Wizard’s lower-left corner, you can see a whole list of materials and get info that way, too. Call (775) 738-3771 for detailed questions and to schedule pick-ups.
If you can get to the Reno, Carson City, Twin Falls or Salt Lake City Best Buy stores, they will generally take your items, as drop-ins. Their recycling page has a handy list of what they take and usually offer incentives on new products if you bring in your old items. As an added service, you might be able to get them to come pick up your bigger items like TVs and appliances.
Consumer Reports has a great article on what pieces to recycle where.
Good luck. Please share your suggestions in the comments below.