Minimalism Mini-Project: Evaluate Your Technology
How I love technology...until it spreads and clutters my life. Once a year, I evaluate the devices I use and go through my box of extra cords and peripherals. Sure, there are some items that get donated or recycled as soon as they are replaced, but I find that systematically taking inventory of my electronics once a year allows me to pare down meaningfully.
1. Start with an inventory.
If you've never logged serial numbers for devices, creating an inventory is a good idea. Just snap a few pictures, and create notes in Evernote. You could create a folder for the pictures labeled as "Technology Inventory" as an alternative.
The important thing about storing the serial numbers is for them to be accessible in the Cloud. Don't just store your inventory photos on your hard drive. If your computer is stolen, you have no information to give to the police.
2. Gather the cords and peripherals too.
Before buying my first home, I generally moved into a new apartment every few years. I had extra power strips, extension cords, coaxial cable of various colors and lengths, and various other cords for connecting several different devices. I had boxes of these extras that I knew I needed to rethink.
I don't keep a detailed inventory of all of these items, but I do store the relevant "extras" together in a media box.
3. Evaluate what's used and what's collecting dust.
Go through everything.
Have you been meaning to take that extra charger to work? Or were you supposed to give that charger to Aunt Jenny?
Do you have any obsolete items? Did you get rid of your VCR, but you still have the RCA A/V cables? You know, the ones with that are red, yellow, and white?
Maybe a device is obsolete because you have the newer version or maybe you've adjusted your lifestyle and use a different device. Whatever the case may be, if you have three iPods that you never use, then recycle or donate them.
I've taken old cell phones to Staples before. Staples offers free recycling on many electronic devices. And they make dropping off the items easy. If you don't have a Staples nearby, check with other electronic stores, including computer repair stores. They may not have a recycling program, but they can probably point you in the right direction.
4. As you designate some items as obsolete, be sure to find their matching cords, chargers, or other peripherals.
It stinks to recycle a phone, then find the charger months later and wonder why you have the charger. If you're prone to being forgetful, then you really need to match up cords with their tech. Otherwise, you're going to confuse yourself later.
Of course, if you're staring at an extra Lightning cord, you may want to keep that as a spare.
5. Create your "extras" box. Be thoughtful.
I don't want to keep yards of extra coaxial cable or extra power strips. If I'm not using the cords or the cords are for obsolete electronics, then I recycle those.
However, I do have one media box that nicely fits some smaller tech items that come in handy. My extras:
- An extra extension cord
- A spare Lightning cable for an iPhone or iPad
- An Apple 30-pin to USB cable for my iPod
- An iPod dock, which I don't use often, but comes in handy when I do need it
- An extra set of earbuds
- A couple of extra flash drives
All of these smaller items can get easily lost, so I like corralling them together, which also makes them easy to find when I need them.
6. Decide upon your "planned obsolescence" buying strategy.
I used to buy high quality electronics and use them until they broke. I still have my original second generation iPod, which I was using daily until I merged households with My Person. His electronic purchasing philosophy is different than mine. He likes having the latest and greatest gadgets, so he plans to wipe and sell "older" devices to offset the price of newer purchases.
We're still figuring out our overall plan. I like running a device into the ground. Dead. Then when I recycle it, I know that the purchase I made is being recycled in a responsible program. If I sell the device to whoever on eBay, that person could chuck the device into a landfill. Even though it's technically not my device any longer, as the person who made the original purchase, I feel like Karma may come take a chunk out of my butt for that one.
What are your thoughts on evaluating your technology and electronics? How do you handle planned obsolescence? Please share in the comments below.
Read the other Minimalism Mini-Projects: