Week 12 of the Clever Girl Organizing Challenge: Electronics and Technology

Week 12!  That’s right: At the end of this week, we’re 75% done with this challenge!  I hope you’re sticking with it and making progress across all the spaces of your home each week, and you see how you’re truly making a difference in your home and life! 

This week, we’re going to spend our time on electronics and technology.  First – a note:  I know that, in some houses, “who is in charge of technology” might not always be the person who is taking on this challenge.  So, this may be one that requires collaboration with others in the home.  You may need to plan for a two-stage process — one of you gathers items and makes some decisions, but you need to schedule time to review with the other stakeholders in the house to make final decisions.  

So, we’re going to dive into devices / equipment and all the assorted apparatus that go with them.  We’re going to assess what we have, why we’re keeping them, how we’re storing them, and how we’re disposing of the “not keeping” items. READY???

16 challenge

Week 12:  Electronics and Technology

Level 1 Challenge: The equipment and devices themselves. This week, we’re going to go through all the electronics and technology items you have in your home. Maybe they’re on a shelf, or maybe they’re tucked away in a drawer, or in a basement (and you said you’d deal with it “some day”).  We’re going to kick the tires on all of them:

  • Mobile devices (cell phones, tablets)
  • iPods / mp3 players
  • cameras (still and video)
  • video games — handheld and gaming systems 
  • early learning devices / leapfrogs
  • stereo equipment and speakers
  • laptops and computer equipment (don’t forget the “I’m not using this anymore but don’t know what to do with it so I’ll just put it in the closet” laptops)
  • printers, scanners, fax machines
  • tv / monitors
  • Cordless phones and answering machines
  • VCR / DVD / BlueRay players
  • GPS devices
  • digital watches or other “wearable” technology
  • conventional or engineering calculators
  • electronic games and toys
  • baby monitors
  • clock radios
  • … whatever other plug-it-in-or-charge-it-up treasure you have around!


How to tackle this one:  Think critically about the role that the equipment plays in your life TODAY. Technology changes so fast that items that meant something 3 years ago may now have been replaced by a single app on your phone.  

  • Does it still work the way it is supposed to?
  • Do we still use this, and regularly?
  • When is the last time we used this? 
  • Do we have other things that do what this once did for us?
  • Could someone else be making better use out of this than we are now? 


Beware of:  “We paid good money for this” or “This was expensive.”  This can be an easy slope to slip down when working with technology.  The technology moves so fast that something that cost you $1,000 5 years ago might be worth so much less now. They money spent in that decision at that time was real and significant, but the money is gone. Holding onto the device does not mean the value is retained. It is a common pain point in technology review; be aware of that voice inside your head when that pops up, and remind yourself that the value it has now is actually negative: it is robbing you of valuable storage space that you’d need, or a more streamlined or empty look that you crave. 


Level 2 Challenge: The cords, chargers, adapters, remote controls, plugs, headphones, etc.  You know what we’re doing here. It’s all the apparatus that goes with everything in the house, or things you don’t even own any more, but you’ve held onto the accessories.  

Lots of devices come with extra plugs or cords and we keep them because, well, they look like we may need them some day.  I mean, I bet you’ll find a handful of those red and yellow ended cords that get plugged into cable boxes or stereos and you’ll think “Am I sure I WON’T need these?”  If you’ve had the device for a while, and you haven’t needed it, the chances are ENORMOUS that you don’t need these and WON’T need them.  And, if you reeeeeeally did need them in the future, they are likely borrowable or easily replaceable. 

How to tackle this one:  Not surprisingly, we’re going to want to gather all the items and sort them. And, also, not surprisingly, I bet you have these in LOTS of places around your home.  The list includes, among other things:

  • chargers – those big bricks as well as the usb types
  • cords – connectors between devices (like the one to hook your video camera into the tv, even though you’ve never ever ever done that)
  • adapters – this attachments helps turn your charger for this thing into a charger for that thing
  • ear buds — good ones, or airplane kind, how many do you really need?
  • remote controls – when you’re lucky, you know what they control
  • … and so on. 


The goal:  Sort out what you have into 4 categories: 

  1. “I know what this is, and I know I still need it”:  KEEP, and LABEL so that you and everyone else knows what it is.
  2. I know what this is, and I don’t need it any more”: TOSS / e-CYCLE
  3. “I know what this is, but I don’t know if I need it.”: Set aside, research or ask someone else who knows, group these together.  Get to an answer, and then get to a decision.  Then take action. 
  4. I don’t know what this is”: Set aside, research or ask, group together as “MYSTERY” and consider an expiration date if you don’t figure it out. Get to an answer, and then get to a decision. Then take action.

Remember — what you’re keeping, you’ll want to label and organize, so that you can find it when you need it.  There are a thousand ways to do this, from using an over-the-door shoe pocket organizer to using old toilet paper rolls in a shoe box, and many other approaches. 

FOR BOTH LEVELS:   What to do with what you’re letting go of:

  • Sell — Is it in good enough condition that you could sell it? Maybe! Research first. But make a plan TODAY! Take that picture, find that online description to use, write the post and POST IT!  Get it out…. 
  • E-cycling — check with your town or city for what their options are for dropping off or picking up items that may be recyclable through e-cycling programs. Many stores like Best Buy and Staples will take electronic items (some for a charge, but sooooo much for free) and make it easy to drop off.  Make that appointment or put it in the car TODAY and take it down there. 
  • Free-cycle or give away items through craigslist or Facebook yard sale groups or at the swap station at your town. Take that picture, write that post and POST IT!
  • Donate — if it is in good working condition, but not worth selling, consider donating it.  Get it in the car TODAY or schedule that pick up TODAY!
  • Getting rid of a computer and worried about privacy? Remove the hard drive (many youtube videos can help you with this if you know what kind you have) and find a hard-drive shredding service. In the spring, you’ll find a lot of community-based shredding events, and many of those trucks and devices will take them from you.  Some services will accept a drop off or mail in, and then they send you a certification of destruction.  You can also research “hard drive destruction” for some creative DIY approaches. 




How The Challenge Works:
As With Every Week, Your mission:

1) Take on Level 1, and if you’re feeling up to the challenge, Level 2. If you’ve already got those covered, identify a challenge for yourself that you know you should be tackling.

2) Whenever possible, take BEFORE and AFTER pictures. You don’t have to share them with anyone but yourself, but it is a fantastic way to (a) identify clutter that’s become invisible to you over time and (b) truly measure and appreciate your progress. 

3) We’re all about letting things go…  be critical about what you’re keeping and why you’re keeping it.  Always ask yourself these critical questions to help decide if you should hold onto items: 

  • Is using this item part of my current life or likely future?
  • If I didn’t have this item and needed it for some reason, is it easily replaced or borrowed?
  • Can someone else use this more than I seem to be using it now? 
  • Am I keeping it for a “maybe some day” or a “just in case” option? How likely is that situation? And am I keeping more in that category than I should, given the space constraints I have?
  • Is it part of my past, and holding onto it reminds me of a former self? And am I keeping more in that category than I should, given the space constraints I have?

4) Stay FOCUSED on this task.  Know what FINISHED looks like, and don’t get distracted by other projects or areas of attention that cross your path while you’re on this assignment.  

5) Have a plan on where things will go — give away to someone you know, donate, sell, recycle or trash.  This Challenge isn’t just about creating new piles that don’t have a future!

6) Work in manageable chunks of time and energy. It’s a marathon, not a sprint! 

7) Celebrate and reward yourself for a job well done!



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