It's easy to hold on to old tech; most was either expensive, useful, seemingly essential to our lives, or special to us at one point. That's why learning to let go is an important skill to develop, one that can even help improve your quality of life.
Are you one of the three million people who have read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying?
Inside the New York Times bestseller, author Marie Kondo coins the KonMarie Method.
Its basic premise is to get rid of clutter by discarding anything in your life that doesn't serve a purpose or spark joy.
She shares detailed explanations on how to get started (start by sorting through items by category, like books, instead of by place, like your hall closet), what order to follow (clothing, books, etc.), strategies for storing (stacking things vertically lets you see everything inside of a drawer) and even how to fold your clothes.
As I easily applied the KonMarie Method to most of my belongings, I hit a speed bump when I got to my electronics.
What if I might need this AV cable in the future? Do I know anyone who needs a super-cute Samsung Galaxy S5 case? I spent so much money on this 250GB hard drive when I was in college, maybe I can use it again in the future? Does this original Xbox still make me happy?
Applying the KonMarie Method to your electronics can be a bit more tricky, but the same rules hold up: you're better off without it if it serves you no purpose, or if it no longer makes you happy. The following is an easy, modified guide for applying the KonMarie method to the tech in your life.
The KonTechie Method
Tidy all at once
Once you've decided to get rid of your old tech, do it in one fell swoop. Try to get it all done in a day if you can. (Packrats can get away with an entire weekend.)
Visualize your destination
Is your media console a glorified DVD storage for old seasons of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"? Do you want your living room to be your family's favorite place to spend quality time?
Think about the end goal of this project, and why you want to live the way you envision, whether it's just an organized media library or a central place to put all of your chargers.
It sounds a little cheesy, but it actually helps. If you realize you want to do this to make your lifestyle easier or to help facilitate more family time, it's easier to stick to the goal.
Tidy by category (not location)
Begin with the small stuff, like USB flash drives, cables and manuals, then move onto items that are bigger or have sentimental value (like your first Tamogotchi).
Tidy in the right order
This is the fun part. Dump (or gently place, if you're less dramatic) all of your tech items on the floor in one big pile. Then, by category, put them into smaller piles.
If you have any original packaging, throw it away already -- it's just taking up more space.
- Cables (cords, chargers, etc.)
- Miscellaneous accessories (old phone cases, Kickstarter investments you don't use, manuals or warranties, etc.)
- Mobile devices (phones, MP3 players, USB drives, hard drives, point-and-shoot cameras, etc.)
- Big/sentimental items (old keyboard, gaming console, Tamagotchi, etc.)
Figure out what to keep and what to get rid of
One by one, pick up an item and hold it; if it has a purpose, like your phone charger, put it in a "keep" pile. If it doesn't, but it makes you feel happy, you can also place it in the keep pile. If neither, put it in a discard pile. The more you do this, the easier it becomes to decipher what to keep and what to get rid of.
Don't keep things "in case you need them." Just buy what you need when you need it. If you're keeping stuff around you think you'll use again, like an old Xbox or Ethernet cable, chances are you won't. Dump it.
And, importantly, don't feel bad about letting go. At one point that device brought you joy, whether it was the person who gave it to you or the way you felt when you first bought it.
Even if it still has the tags on it and you never took it out of the box, it served its purpose when you bought it and were excited about its potential. Be grateful for the happiness it brought into your life, and let it go without guilt.
If you really want to get your money's worth, you could also turn an old device into something new. If you have an old phone you don't need anymore, you can turn it into a security camera. Extra tablet lying around? Use it as a remote control.
Do this before you get to the recycling phase, in case you end up making use of one of those extra cables or batteries in your discard pile.
If you've finally come to terms with the fact that you will never use that old laptop, phone or flash drive again, make sure to erase any personal information on them before doing anything else. If you're backing up or transferring data from an old hard drive to a new one and then wiping it clean, this may take a few hours. Good thing you're taking an entire day (or weekend) to get all of this tedious stuff out of the way. (:
Recycle, discard or donate
After the stuff you don't want is out of the way, then you can start to organize what you kept.
Organize what's left
Everything you keep should be easy to find. If not, you're less likely to use those things often or again.
The KonMarie Method recommends using shoe boxes to easily organize small things (like socks), and I also found them to work well for neatly storing cables, hard drives and other small devices.
Another useful tip is to put all of your essential everyday items, like phone, sunglasses or wallet, in one place at the end of the day -- so you always know where to locate the important stuff. To take this a step further, set this space up as a central charging station, for your phone, tablet, smartwatch, or laptop. Having one consistent place to charge your devices nixes any confusion of whether you left your phone charging in the kitchen or living room.
The author suggests that if you follow her instructions to a T, you'll never go back to your messy ways. I don't know about all that, but I do know my home has never been cleaner, and my tech never tidier.