Too Many Gadgets? Clean Your Tech House Before the Holidays

Are you already eyeing the next new thing? Before you bring more devices home take time to take stock of what you already own

Electronics manufacturers always tempt us with their latest offerings. Whether new phones, computers, tablets, gaming systems or TVs, each year brings us faster, smaller, bigger, or cooler new playthings. Before you add something to your wish list take the time to take stock of the items you already own and come up with a plan for those soon to be forgotten former most-wanted items. Whether recylcing, re-selling, re-gifting or donating makes the most sense is up to you.

My family loves gadgets. We have drawers full of chargers and devices gathering dust. We recently decided that a digital camera that was cutting-edge eight years ago didn't need to keep a spot in our office and that an old video camera that hadn't been powered up since my now senior in high school was a seventh grader probably should be put out to pasture. I'm sure each of you has at least one old cell phone or laptop that got replaced by a newer model, and probably many more than that.

So what should you do? Let's go through your options below but in all cases you will want to be sure that you clean your old data off the device. Check your device's manual (most are available online at the manufacturer's website) on how to clear data off the device and check the resources listed at Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's e-cycling page to ensure that your private data doesn't get into public hands.

Re-gifting or passing down the line

Oftentimes you replace electronics because a newer model comes along but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the device. Would it be something appropriate to hand down to your kids, your parent or another friend or family member? What seems like old technology to you might be a great improvement over the tech that your loved one is using. Ask around and if it wanted or needed by someone who could put it to good use it can make sense for both of you.

Sell your devices

Don't assume that just because you don't find your tech new or exciting that others wouldn't be willing to pay cold hard cash or store credit for your tech. You can go the direct seller route and sell it via Craigslist, eBay (either directly or via their instant buy back program) or yard sale. For cell phones you can try your carrier (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint ) to get either cash or credit towards new products. Reseller sites such as Gazelle.com and NextWorth.com will give you instant estimates so you can value your used electronics. You can also sell back many used electronics to Radio Shack, Target (via NextWorth) and Amazon.

GameStop buys more than just used games and gaming consoles and relative newcomer 2nd & Charles will give you cash or store credit for your old electronics in addition to non-electronic books and music.

Do good by donating

You may find that the money you can earn by reselling isn't worth the hassle or you may just want to have your devices make someone less fortunate's life easier by donating your devices that still have a lot of value in them. You can donate your old cellphones to organizations such as Cellphones for Soldiers or help victims of domestic abuse by sending your phones to Hopeline from Verizon. Organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army are happy to accept donations of working electronics. Be sure to check each to find out any restrictions on the types of electronics.

Computers may be of use to local non-profits if they are more recent models and in good working order. Try Reboot Reuse Rebuild, Computers4Students, or Computer Core which can use many peripherals including mice, some cables and flat screen monitors in addition to computers and laptops.

Responsible e-cycling

Don't throw your electronics out in the trash. There are many toxic elements contained in most modern electronics and valuable components that can be harvested even from non-working electronics. Best Buy has an extensive recycling program for electronics no matter where they were purchased. You can find other options for e-cycling at Greener Gadgets resource page.

Fairfax County schedules Electric Sundays about once a month where county residents can responsibly dispose of their unwanted or broken electronics. In Prince William County, the landfill accepts electronics from Prince William County residents on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Don't wait until obsolete

The value and use of older electronics declines rapidly. Unless you wait until your old PC becomes of interest to museums or your ancient cell phone becomes a thing of wonder to your future grandkids, it is better to find a new home for your formerly beloved device sooner rather than later. Be honest about whether you will really use it again. My husband is a bit of a hardware hacker so our collection of potentially useful items is bigger than most, but even I draw the line on that old CRT monitor.

Jean Westcott November 22, 2012 at 04:22 PM
When visiting with relatives this Thanksgiving, see if they are interested in your tech hand-me-downs. It is up to you whether or not to include free tech support!


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