Every household has different organizing challenges. Sometimes people have too many clothes, books, or toys and not enough space for them. Other times, a home’s kitchen cabinets aren’t properly organized, or the home office is full of stacks of paper that no one wants to look through. But the one organizing challenge that seems to exist in every house is a box of old cables, plugs and other miscellaneous tech equipment that no one wants to contend with.
These bins get moved from home to home and hidden away so that no one ever has to decide whether to keep an old cord. It’s akin to opening a box full of snakes. The client will back away and utter something about the contents being too overwhelming to deal with. But guess what? None of the cords bites, and someone eventually has to decipher the contents. Here are some tips.
Empty the bin and sort
First dump everything out of the box. Set aside items such as old batteries and that computer mouse for disposal. Then separate computer and phone cords from TV and other media- related cords. Chances are you don’t need any of the old computer, phone or iPad chargers because the most current ones are in use.
If you have an old tablet, phone or computer you’re hoping to take information from or pass along to someone else, find the correct cord and put it with the device. Attach the two with a rubber band. Set aside all others to be recycled.
Keep one or two HDMI and USB cords, not 10 — they’re replaceable. The same goes for cable cords. And if there are ear buds or headphones in the bin, it’s safe to assume they don’t work. Place them in the discard pile.
Set aside cords that are unfamiliar or that you think may belong to that old video camera and ask family members whether they know which device each works with. Match up the components immediately if you can. Or, even better, set a deadline to get what you need off the old device so you can recycle all the components. This is another task that is endlessly postponed for reasons unknown, but the sooner you try, the better. It’s probably possible to get what you need to make a device work or to remove some data from it, but the longer you wait, the less your ability to do that will be.
If there are cords you think are important but don’t know what they’re for, put them in a clearly labeled box with a date. If you find a device elsewhere in your home that is missing its cord, you’ll know where to look. If you don’t look in the box for the next two years, you can discard the contents without worry.
Dispose of electronics
Old phones and tablets can often be taken back to the retailer to be “wiped” and recycled. If you choose to clear the device yourself, look online for proper instructions and be sure to remove the SIM and memory cards in case they still have information on them.
Cords, chargers, plugs and old devices shouldn’t be thrown in the trash. They can often be recycled at stores such as Best Buy or at local businesses in your community. Also keep an eye out for local e-cycling events near you. But if you want to get rid of the old items quickly, you can take them to your local dump for disposal. Check your city or county’s website first to learn what items they accept and when.
Avoid the issue in the future
Technological advancements continue to move exceedingly fast. Take steps to make sure you don’t end up with another box of tangled cords in two years. For items that aren’t used daily, such as a manual camera, put all of the accessories in a labeled plastic bag when you buy them. Label cords by wrapping a piece of masking or washi tape around them and writing on the tape.
Keep a paper bag in your basement, garage or home office for old or broken electronics. When a gadget is replaced, dispose of the old one immediately. If you’re ready to recycle it, recycle both the device and the cord at the same time. If you plan to pass it along to someone else, get it wiped and give it away as soon as possible. If you put it off, it will never happen. Put broken ear buds and headphones and splintered cords in the recycling bag when they are replaced or upgraded.
If someone in your family is constantly misplacing chargers, cords and ear buds and, create a lost-and-found bin in your home for working and unclaimed tech accessories. Another way to help decipher which cords belong to whom is to use a color-coded system to label cords for each family member. This can be done with colored washi tape or a rubber twist tie.
Tackling the scary box of random electronic gadgets and cords is much easier than you imagine and should only take between 30 minutes to an hour. If you haven’t opened the box to look for something in two or three years, you probably don’t need anything inside. And your memory is probably not going to improve as the years pass, so it’s better to cross this one off the list now. Your sense of accomplishment — and relief — will be immense.